Car owners have always found ways to modify and customise their vehicles with car body kits. It could involve adding a louder exhaust, new bumpers, wheel rims and tyres, or lowering the suspension – the possibilities are designed to thrill and excite.
If you’re eager to give your car a fresh, personalised look that will make it stand out from the crowd, installing a car body kit could be just what you need.
In this guide we will look at different kinds of car body kits, the different materials available, how best to install them, and the effect this may have on your car insurance
What is a Car Body Kit?
A car body kit refers to the numerous customised parts and components that are used to replace a vehicle’s stock components. Front and rear bumpers, side skirts, and performance spoilers are all typical body kit parts aimed at improving a car’s aesthetic appeal and performance.
Most people purchase a body car kit to improve their vehicle’s appearance or change its proportions so it looks wider, lower, more aggressive or sporty. Certain body kits are also designed to improve a car’s performance by making it more aerodynamic so that it reduces drag and handles better. Other kits make a car lighter by removing rear seats or replacing the factory bonnet with a carbon fibre version.
There is no shortage of options when it comes to customising a car. There are multiple types of body kits in a wide range of materials, each product can vary in durability and whether it improves overall performance.
How Does a Car Body Kit Work?
A car body kit works by altering the appearance and boosting the performance of the vehicle. The installation process generally involves removing factory parts and replacing them with alternative materials to achieve a customised look.
As well as changing a car’s shape and appearance, body kits are used to improve its aerodynamics by altering how air flows around the vehicle. This reduces drag, promotes better handling around corners, and helps achieve an exhilarating experience.
Before you begin your car body kit project, you need to first identify if you only want to modify the look of your vehicle, or if you also want to increase the power and improve its driving performance. This will help you set a realistic budget for your body car kit before you factor in any additional expenses such as installation plus any extra maintenance and insurance costs. You might also need to make any modifications internally before you can fit external features.
The choice of materials in your car body kit will also determine the cost of the project and this can vary greatly. Budget-friendly kits are available, but they are only likely to improve the aesthetic appearance of your vehicle, whereas performance-enhancing kits typically use stronger and more expensive materials that have been specifically engineered to produce great results. You’ll also need to account for a specialist if you look at upgrading your inter-cooler or want to modify your exhaust manifold.
No matter how big or small your budget is, there is likely to be a car body kit that suits your needs.
What Type of Car Body Kits are Available?
There are four types of body kits that have become the go-to for car owners looking to modify their vehicle. All these kits are designed to enhance the appearance and/or performance of the vehicle.
Lip body kits
Body kit beginners often start off with lip body kits because they are simple to apply. Lip kits are relatively inexpensive but can dramatically improve the look of the car. They can also be bolted onto the car beneath the bumpers and side skirts and are quick and easy to install. Not only do they improve the aerodynamics of the car, but they also provide added protection from scrapes.
Bumper body kits
It is easy to alter and improve the profile of a car with a bumper body kit. These usually include front and rear bumpers and side skirts, while some also come with spoilers and other parts. Replacing factory bumpers with a bumper kit is an effective way of enhancing the character and overall appearance of a car. Bumper kits are available in a variety of materials, designs, and colours and are also relatively simple to install.
Wide body kits
As the name suggests, wide body kits – also known as ground effects kits – make a car appear wider, almost as though it’s spent time in the gym. The muscly look is achieved with bulging wheel arches, chunky bumpers, and other additions that make it an aggressive presence on the road. Wide body kits also improve a car’s aerodynamics and traction and are often installed on race cars.
Full body kits
Without doubt the biggest modification investment is a full body kit. This typically involves a full and complete redesign to alter the entire appearance of the vehicle including the bumpers, bonnet, wheels, and roof. It is also likely to involve adding new bumpers, side skirts, spoilers, and even graphics in a variety of customised designs and colours. Full body kits can change the look of a car dramatically and there are so many options available you are likely to find one that is a perfect match for any project requirements.
Which Four Materials are used in Car Body Kits?
Car body kits are generally manufactured from four types of materials: carbon fibre, fibreglass, polyurethane, and composite. Each material has its own advantages and understanding what each has to offer will help you decide which one to use.
1. Carbon fibre car body kits
Pros: Carbon fibre is exceptionally strong for its size and weight. This combination of lightweight features and strength makes it a popular choice for high-performance cars used for racing and motorsports, as well as vehicles for display.
Cons: Carbon fibre kits can be expensive due to the high cost of production. Most kits are also clear-coated and unpainted so painting costs must also be factored into your budget.
2. Fibreglass car body kits
Pros: Fibreglass is affordable, lightweight, and effective, making it a popular choice of material for car body kit enthusiasts. Fibreglass weighs so little it won’t slow a vehicle down and is also resistant to temperature variations so that it performs well near engine hotspots and under direct sunlight. Another advantage of fibreglass is that is easy to paint so you can turn your body kit into your favourite colours.
Cons: Because fibreglass is a rigid material which can shatter or break it can be difficult to install. Therefore, fibreglass is best used in driving environments where the danger of damage is extremely low.
3. Polyurethane car body kits
Pros: Polyurethane is more expensive than fibreglass but has a high degree of flexibility making it easier to install and maintain. As polyurethane is form of durable plastic, it can withstand minor scratches and dents. It also comes in a variety of colours and designs to suit any modification taste.
Cons: Polyurethane is heavier than other materials so you may find your body kit may affect the speed of your vehicle. Even though it is durable, polyurethane tends to warp when exposed to extreme heat, so where you live and how your vehicle is stored are important factors.
4. Composite car body kits
Pros: Composite body kits are made by combining two or more materials such as fibreglass and plastic in order to create a new product with characteristics that could not be realised if the materials were used alone. Composite materials usually have excellent strength-to-weight ratios and thermal resistant properties making them ideal for body kits.
Cons: Materials can be pricey and modifying composite body kits or changing their shape to fit a vehicle can be difficult due to their rigid nature.
How do you Install a Car Body Kit?
You have chosen your materials and purchased your car body kit – now it’s time to install it. The installation process is crucial to the outcome of your modification project and the quality of the installation can have a huge effect on the end result.
Unless you have modification experience it is best to leave the installation to the professionals and take your car to a certified body shop and pay them to carry out the work. Be aware that some body shops only work with certain materials, so some may specialise in fibreglass but rarely work with carbon fibre kits. Therefore, not only do you need to pick the right materials, but also the right body shop to work on your car.
However, there is nothing stopping you from tackling the installation work yourself if you feel confident enough. This informative guide on car modifications for beginners will help you get started.
Does a Car Body Kit Affect Insurance?
Modifications and car body kits change a car so it no longer matches the manufacturer’s original specifications. In the UK, some car modifications are illegal such as certain neon lights, headlight and rear light tints, window tints, and loud exhausts. Owners could be fined if they make these modifications, so it’s important to follow legal guidance before starting the work.
Any modifications to a vehicle can also affect insurance and car body kits are no different as they are considered to be a higher accident risk along with spoilers, engine changes, and sports seats.
Whether you’ve added specialised paintwork, stripes and badges, bonnet vents, alloy wheels, flared wheel arches, or made even more radical changes, you will need to inform your insurer.
All factors that affect the value of a vehicle increase the likelihood of it being stolen or involved in an accident. This will be taken into account when an insurer quotes a price for a policy. Modifications including car body kits can lead to higher insurance premiums with many mainstream insurance brokers. However, specialist insurance companies like Keith Michaels can provide cheaper policies and help keep costs to a minimum.