Most truck owners like to make their truck their own by customizing something on it and some like to customize everything about it! There are so many things you can do to really make it your own with so many products on the market these days, how do you choose?
Here are top 10 upgrades you can do on your truck:
- Custom Wheels – They don’t have to be expensive wheels, but getting something unique will make your truck stand out and can make it look completely different.
- Lift The Truck – A 6-inch lift on a truck is kind of a standard upgrade that most truck owners will do, and so can you but how about a 3-inch lift, or how about an 8 or 10 inch lift to make it different?
- Aftermarket Headlights – The “face” of the truck will change as well as visibility at night if you swap out your stock headlights for some aftermarket LED lights.
- Custom Off-road Bumpers – Talking about the “face”, bumpers will also make the truck look different with the rough looking off-road bumpers.
- Towing Mirrors – These extended mirrors really take the truck from sporty looking to heavy-duty looking serious truck.
- Window Tinting – It is hard to tell these days what is popular, some like their windows blacked out, others like theirs completely clear.
- Car Audio – Some trucks come with a pretty good sounding sounds system from the factory but adding a couple subs to the system will really add to the sound quality.
- Bed Liner – Spray on bed liner will add durability to your truck’s bed and upgrade the look. It will also hide some dents and scratches that it may have.
- Towing Package – If your truck didn’t come with a towing package, this may be one of the important upgrades you could add to give your truck more abilities.
- Custom Wrap/Paint – New custom paint is not cheap but doing a custom wrap could be a cheaper solution to give the truck a new look
How To Figure Out The Best Upgrades For YOUR Truck
The best way to decide if you are not sure what upgrades to do is to visualize what you like. When I was trying to decide this same thing for my truck I must have watched every video on YouTube about “custom GMC Sierra” and found every photo and video on Instagram of my truck. There are so many ideas out there to choose from but the best way is to see them visually and get a feel for how it makes you feel.
Don’t look at the truck as a whole, although it is important to note that, but after you see that you like the feel of the truck you are looking at, figure out what component on it makes it stand out;
- Is it the stance of the truck?
- Is it the wheels?
- Is it height of the tires?
- Is it the color?
- Is it some custom parts on it that make it look good?
Write down all the details you note that you like and then do some research on the cost of each and anything else that is involved in acquiring or installing it. This will give you some tangible facts that you can use to prioritize the list so you can start as soon as possible. Because I know it is an exciting process, I’m my self in the middle of one now.
The Truck Upgrade That Makes The Biggest Impact
It is hard to figure out what to upgrade first because getting something out of order may affect something you will upgrade later so making a list of upgrades you want to do and working through how they affect each other and prioritizing based on that is important.
Start with wheels and tires because they are considerably inexpensive compared to some other upgrades but will make the truck look significantly different. Also new wheels and tires rarely will affect anything else you upgrade in the future unless you want to lift or lower the truck.
If you are planning to change the height of the truck, you will need to do that and the wheels and tires at the same time. I would say this is the best way to upgrade the stance of the truck for the money and what I would do first.
Wheels and tires could run you about $2,000 to $4,000 depending on what you decide to go with. A lift kit can cost about $1,000 to $1,500 installed.
Paint or wrap is the other big-impact upgrade that makes the truck look awesome. Paint could cost more thank wheels and tires, running about $5,000 to $10,000 but a wrap can be about $3,000 to $5,000 so something to think about there.
What Makes A Truck Look More Aggressive?
Trucks that look aggressive are more popular across the country except for California and Texas. These 2 states lean more to lowered sporty trucks rather than the lifted heavy-duty, mud slinger trucks.
To make the truck look aggressive, you need 2 things, big mud terrain tires and a suspension lift. A 6-inch truck lift is commonly paired with a set of 33-inch MT tires will do the job.
When it comes to tires and wheels, there are 2 camps that you need to decide which you fit into. One is big wheels with low profile tires and the other is big tires on normal wheels.
If you are more of a mud terrain kind of driver, you may want to choose the big 33-inch or even 35-inch tires on 16-inch or 17-inch wheels to give you more tire sidewall to crawl mud and rocks with.
If you are more of a street driver, you may want to go with some 20-inch or 22-inch wheels wrapped with low-profile 33-inch MT tires or 35-inch more moderate looking tires. This is a common look for trucks these days.
Most of the trucks will need to be lifted to fit 35-inch or bigger tires in the wheel well. Some people fit them in without lifting the truck but that requires modifying the fenders to allow the wheels to turn without scraping.
The Most Popular Truck Upgrades In The US
The look of the truck continues to be the most important factor in a truck owner’s upgrades budget. SEMA does a survey each year of car and truck owners in its show about their preferences and purchases.
Performance and Special Purpose Tires are at the top of the list for 2021, followed by body upgrades like fenders, hoods and paint. Although performance is important, the look of the truck has to be right for the performance to matter is what I make of it.
The third place is taken by suspension upgrades as well as steering and brakes. All important stuff but I am surprised that the performance upgrades like transmission, clutch and engine component upgrades are half the budget of what is spend on looks. People like sys candy so it is worth spending more on getting it to look right.
Many truck owners install the riveted fender flares to add to the rugged look over their big tires, to help prevent slinging rocks and dirt onto the truck body and destroy the paint but also to add to the look. They make the truck look wider and more aggressive.
How To Make Your Truck LOOK New
Some trucks are harder than others to make look brand new, but it is still possible. With a little elbow grease and time, any truck can have a new life as a daily driver that also smells like a new truck.
Three main things are needed to make a truck look brand new, exterior paint, new interior and new wheels and tires. Doing these main three things will renew the truck and make it look like it can go another round but this time being loved instead of “used”. This will not be cheap to do but it can be done.
There is a way to do it on the cheap also, but by no means will that make it look like new, it will make it look clean and fresh. New is left for the serious energy and financial backing.
Exterior Body & Paint
In this step, you need to fix any body imperfections like dents, scratches, any body panels that are not straight, replace or repair body panels that have rust on them. Then give it a nice new paint job. Don’t forget to do a nice wet sanding and buffing job on it after it is painted to perfect the mirror like shine. If course if the body is straight already and the paint is not too bad, you can wet sand it and buff it and get about the same new look.
This part you cant go without because it will be visible and if the inside does not match the outside, the truck will not look new. If the interior is not too bad, it can be cleaned very well and it should pass as new. If doing this, make sure to clean the seats, shampoo the carpets, clean out all the dusty spots and give a nice wipe down on the dash with some Armor All®.
Otherwise you will need to reupholster the seats, buy a new carpet for the floor and clean the dashboard very well. If there are cracks in the dashboard, you can get it repaired by sanding down any edges that are sticking out around the cracks and then fill them with Bondo. The next step is to fiberglass the entire dash and finish it off with a nice coat of paint.
New Wheels and Tires
This one is easy and most of the time the funnest part. Pick out some nice wheels and tires. After they are on the truck, make sure to clean the wheels well and wash the tires good. Then apply some tire shine on to the tires for the perfect look.
Some times the headlights and taillights will look faded with time. Buying a set of new headlights and taillights will finish off the look to perfection. If you already went this far, so this step to give it that new truck look.
How To Make Your Truck FEEL New
Making a truck feel new is a little different than making it look new, this is because feeling new requires you to actually believe that everything on the truck is perfect, but looking new is just making other people believe that it is new on the outside.
Making an old truck feel new will require renewing the outside and also the inside – Make it look good and make sure it also drives well. Body and paint, new wheels and tires and a new interior will give it the look but then also, repair the engine or even rebuild it if need be, make sure the transmission works perfectly and the entire drive train performs well.
We already discussed making it look good in the section above but let’s take a look at making it drive well too.
Perfecting The Engine
The engines on old trucks usually have great bones. You can take the old block and rebuild the entire thing into a brand new beast. The other option is to buy a crate motor which is a brand new motor coming from a manufacturer or a company that rebuilds them to factory or custom specs.
Either way you go, making your engine perform is very important to making the truck feel new.
Smooth switching of gears as you floor the gas pedal is the other part of the drive train that needs to be perfected. Your options are to have the transmission rebuilt or to buy a new one. Some like to upgrade it while they’re at it for a small difference in cost to give it better performance.
Feeling the smooth and powerful switching of gears while driving the truck will put a smile on your face.
The roads can be rough and while you drive on them you shouldn’t feel any of it if you have a good suspension. This part can involve changing the trucks stance if you wish. Replacing the suspension with some updated components, like front and rear shocks, control arms and rear leaf springs if need be will smooth out the ride quality, giving you that new truck ride.
When you drive it and you can feel that it is perfect and also you know the truck looks great on the outside, you can really feel like you are in a new truck.
No A/C In Your Truck, No Problem
I remember the days of A/C being optional and expensive option. Those days are gone and modern solutions are available for most trucks, some custom and some universal. These systems will usually bolt right on to the firewall and provide some vents for you to route into the dashboard. The controls will usually bolt on below the dashboard for easy access.
Summit Racing has many options to choose from that range from $500 to about $2,000. Small price to pay for and investment of endless comfort.
RestoModAir is another company that specializes in vehicle specific and universal A/C kits. Theirs are a little more but are made specially for specific vehicles and with a brand name behind it you can count on the quality a little more than generic kits. These start at about $2,000 and go up from there.
ClassicAutoAir is another one that offers vehicle specific A/C kits that also start at about $2,000. Looks like they are specializing more in classic cars and trucks and are also offering original factory kits as well as non-factory.
Making Your Truck Look Cool Inside
Older trucks can get rough inside after years of heavy use and you want to make it look and feel like new and cool again, this would be a fun project to take on. Take it a step at a time and one component at a time to give it the love it deserves.
Updated Audio System
I would start with a new updated audio system to bump up the sound so you can quickly enjoy something new in the truck and feel the coolness coming out in just one step haha. A new deck in the dashboard with updated options like a GPS navigator and a backup camera, maybe a BlueTooth connection for your phone. These modern conveniences can feel very nice all in one update.
New speakers and a more powerful amplifier to drive them will take the sound in the truck to a new level. This is a second step in the same upgrade that you can roll in and do at the same time. Most car audio places will give you a nice package deal if you get these 2 things together.
Nice Floor Mats
The next step can be some nice floor mats to cover that raggedy old carpet. There are some cool truck floor mats out there that will cool up the interior of the truck real quick. It is an inexpensive way to make the truck look cool without too much work.
This step can be expensive but well worth the money. There are a few options here you can go with, replacing the seats with some new aftermarket ones is a way to go, getting new upholstery for the existing seats is another, but also don’t dismiss an inexpensive option of getting some nice seat covers. It is amazing how far the seat cover industry has come and how nice they can look these days. Spend some time and do some research and you will find something that will work within your budget. But please, get those seats taken care of one way or another. You know you need to. ;)
The next level from floor mats is replacing the entire carpet. This will really make your truck feel awesome, especially if you already did all the other upgrades in it. This will finish out the new feel very nicely. There are companies that sell molded carpets for your truck that will slide right into place.
There are also cheaper versions that you have to mold your self. But my favorite is the one that comes in sections. No molding necessary. They come in pieces that meet perfectly in the places where the topography changes and they just come together meeting in those places and look professional. The seams are usually under the seats so they are not visible. This option can also be cheaper to buy than a molded carpet.
If you are not into this step by step business and just want all of it to be done at once, you can order a custom interior from a shop that will redo your entire interior just like you invision it. They will pull everything out and start from scratch, from the dashboard, gauges, audio system, carpet, new seats or reupholstered ones, new door panels, new ceiling, everything!
When you see your truck next it will be a brand new truck inside. Even with the smell of a new truck coming from all that new leather on the seats.
What Upgrades Makes A Truck Look Mean?
The mean look on a truck can mean many things to different people but to the majority of truck enthusiasts, mean look can be narrowed down to just a few main things.
To make your truck look mean you need to replace your headlights with some updated ones, replace the grill with one that has rivets in it, get a new off-road bumper, lift the truck 6 inches and get some big wheels and tires. These simple things will make the truck look mean.
There are so many more things you can do to get it to look meaner like get some additional lights for the front of the truck or maybe a big light bar. Tinting the front windshield about one third of the way at the top will give the truck “eyebrows”. Roof top lights can help not only look mean but also give you lots of light while driving at night. Wide body fenders is another overlooked option that can widen the trucks stance. Wheel spacers can push the wheels out more to give the truck a wider stance. Here is a list:
- Updated Aftermarket Headlight
- Custom Grille
- Off-Road Bumper
- 6-Inch Suspension Lift Kit
- 12-Inch Suspension Lift Kit
- Big Wheels And Tires – 33″ or 35″ or even 37″ if you can get away with it
- Riveted Fender Flares
- Light Bars
- Truck brow – Tint the top 1/3 of the front windshield
- Roof top lights or light bar
- Wide Body Fenders to widen the stance
- Wheel Spacers to widen the stance
- Loud Exhaust
- Performance Cam Upgrade
- Dyno Tuned Engine
- Aftermarket Hood
- Underglow & Rock Lights
Loving Your Truck, Make It Unique
Whatever you decide to do to your truck, just the idea of making it better is already loving your truck. Make it yours. Don’t be pushed into something that the society thinks is cool, figure out what you like and do that. Be unique, don’t do what everyone else does. Make something different that stands out from the crowd. It will make you feel proud of what you have accomplished. Love your truck!
Valik loves tinkering in the garage and is currently restoring a 2000 GMC Sierra 1500 truck. He also writes about the progress on this blog. When not in the garage, Valik is also a web developer and a blogger. I know, strange, a hand in two completely different worlds. And that is the way he likes to keep it.