Vehicle tuning

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

With car tuning ( "Tuning" derived from English , to tune 'for (the) vote , reconcile ) refers to individual changes and modifications to passenger cars , motorcycles and trucks that serve the purpose of improving the performance or handling or to change or to change the optical and acoustic design .

The term tuning literally means fine-tuning and, in a narrower sense, refers to the fine-tuning of the engine, the aerodynamics of a body or the chassis to increase performance. In a broader sense, this also includes, for example, the boring of the cylinders to increase the displacement, the installation of compressors and turbochargers for charging , nitrous oxide injection or the installation of engines with larger displacement .

Vehicle tuning using the example of the Audi TT :
Audi tt.jpg Audi TT Sport Edition.jpg
Standard model TT 8N Modified vehicle of the same type


In general, tuning is understood to include changes and modifications to the engine as well as changes that affect the chassis properties and pure design aspects (e.g. body shape and color). Companies that professionally provide vehicle tuning are commonly referred to as vehicle tuners or simply tuners ; however, this term is also common for the owner of the vehicle, especially if he (partially) made the modifications himself.

For extensive interventions in the engine and / or body in connection with extensive custom-made products, the term customizing , which is common in the USA , is now also used in German-speaking countries . A clear distinction between the terms “tuning” and “customizing” is ultimately not possible. See also Custom Car and Custombike . On the other hand, the word "tuning" in English means rather "fine adjustment". The use of the word in the way it is now used in the German language would have led to a lack of understanding in the USA for a long time. There, the word “tune” in the automotive sector was only used in “tune-up” (regular inspection) and “tuned-port injection” (pre-chamber injection used by GM); meanwhile the German expression and meaning are also understood, e.g. B. with the term “tuner cars” for completely tuned vehicles offered by companies like Brabus .

When tuning vehicles, a distinction is made between engine tuning, chassis tuning, body tuning and interior tuning.

Differentiation from kit car

Vehicle tuning is changing what is already there. If, however, a vehicle is not converted, but completely rebuilt and differently, with parts of a “donor vehicle” often also being built in, it is called a kit car . The aim here is usually to achieve the appearance of a very expensive sports car or classic car at an affordable price, or to realize a completely independent body shape.


Opel Kadett C with plastic
add- on parts from the 1970s and lowering

Tuning in the true sense of the word has its origins in the 1950s. The first companies, so-called car tuners, dealt with tuning and increasing the performance of engines. At that time the VW Beetle was a popular tuning object as a widespread vehicle.

In 1953 the Kamei company produced the first spoiler for the Beetle. This should ensure a higher contact pressure on the front axle at speeds of over 100 km / h. The name for this first spoiler was "depth tax".

At the beginning, the vehicle tuning was mostly limited to performance increases, possibly combined with necessary chassis modifications that took the higher performance into account, such as B. sports shock absorbers or, in a few cases, more powerful braking systems .

Vehicle tuning has become increasingly popular since the 1970s, which led to the establishment of numerous tuning companies. The many extreme conversions offered were noticeable. Sedans , coupés and sports cars , but also all other types of vehicles with attachments up to a width of two meters , were not infrequently offered. The term show tuning was coined.

A heavily modified Mercedes SL (optics based on the SLR )

"GRP bomber" was a derogatory term for a vehicle on which the original body parts (often front and rear aprons, as well as the side skirts and bonnet) were removed and replaced with conspicuously shaped glass fiber plastic (GRP) parts , the design of which was very different from the original distinguished.

Since around the end of the 1990s, vehicles that deviated greatly from the respective production model were offered less and less. The trend was towards discreet conversions, in which greater emphasis was placed on detailed work and the installed technical components.

For a list of well-known vehicle tuning companies, see list of vehicle tuning companies .

Tuning scene and the reputation of the scene

For enthusiasts, vehicle tuning is a serious hobby that can have fan character. Tuning fans are networked in many ways, they publish magazines, organize events and meetings, so that one can speak of a tuning scene or regional tuning scenes. In connection with the tuning scene and tuning meetings, illegal car races are reported again and again .

Certain car brands and models were and are particularly popular with fans of car tuning (e.g. Opel Manta , VW Golf GTI , BMW 3 Series , etc.). Tuning fans of these models often come together in regional clubs .

Outside of their scene, tuning fans often have a clichéd, sometimes negative image. According to this cliché , characteristics such as impressive behavior , cheeky manners, aggressive driving style etc. are associated with drivers of tuning vehicles. In particular, the "Manta driver" was a popular subject in film comedies (e.g. Manta, Manta ) and jokes that had these stereotypes as their content.

Types of vehicle tuning

Engine tuning

One part of vehicle tuning is engine tuning .

Chassis tuning

Chassis tuning using the example of a modified Opel Ascona A.

As suspension tuning refers to changes especially in the area of the springs and shock absorbers of a vehicle. Usually shorter springs with a higher spring rate and harder shock absorbers are used in order to reduce the body tilt when cornering. As a rule, the ground clearance of the vehicle is also reduced, whereby the "lowering" shifts the body and thus the center of gravity of the vehicle downwards - usually a sportier appearance is also a goal.

In off-road vehicles , the ground clearance can also be increased by tuning the chassis (" raise ").


Lowered Volkswagen T5
Tuned Mercedes-Benz W 109 at the Retro Classics 2018

Lowering is the lowering of the entire vehicle body by replacing chassis components. In principle, several variants are possible here.

Lowering springs

This variant only provides for an exchange of the suspension springs with shorter and harder springs .

As a rule, the standard shock absorbers can still be used. Depending on the vehicle, the standard shock absorbers may no longer be used when the suspension is lowered by about 50 mm or more, as the preload is no longer sufficient with these significantly shorter springs and, in extreme cases, the suspension springs can loosen during rebound. To avoid this, the stroke of the standard shock absorbers can be limited with a rebound . For this purpose, a sleeve - the so-called rebound - is placed on the piston rod inside the shock absorber between the damper piston and the tube closure, in order to shorten the length of the sleeve's excavation of the extending piston rod. This conversion is not possible with all shock absorbers, which is why other "shortened" shock absorbers are usually used. In addition, the series shock absorbers are not designed for the new stroke and the new spring stiffness, which can lead to losses in driving behavior and the service life of the dampers. It can be unfavorable for the driving behavior if the usually higher spring rate does not harmonize with the hardness of the original shock absorber ("underdamped"). With MacPherson struts , additional transverse forces act on the piston rod during compression, which are largely compensated for by the appropriately dimensioned original springs. As a rule, only high quality lowering springs have the same transverse force compensation and thus prevent premature wear of the damper seals. The use of inferior springs can impair the function of the shock absorbers in the long term.

Sports suspensions

With a sports suspension , both springs and shock absorbers are replaced. Components that are matched to one another by the manufacturer generally offer a better function than if only individual components are exchanged or tuning parts are combined with standard parts. Some damper components also allow the rebound and / or compression damping to be set individually.


Coilovers are sports suspensions that can be adjusted in height using adjustable spring plates. They are very similar to racing suspensions and can also be partially adjusted in terms of rebound and / or compression damping.


If stabilizers are installed on the axles , the side inclination when cornering (rolling) can be greatly reduced by installing harder stabilizers (bars with a larger diameter) without having to accept the hardening of the suspension caused by lowering the carriageway transverse joints. This simple and inexpensive measure, which improves the dynamic driving characteristics even without lowering the vehicle's center of gravity, is often used by automobile manufacturers in combination with factory-made sports equipment (e.g. BMW M sports package).


Lowriders should be mentioned as a special form of tuning . This form involves far-reaching conversion measures in the area of ​​the chassis. The standard running gear will be replaced by:

Hydraulic trolleys

The standard suspension and damping elements in classic lowriders are replaced by hydraulic rams. Even operation via a (cable) remote control is possible, which enables the vehicle height to be set externally, and sometimes also the individual shock absorbers, for show purposes.

Air suspension or Airride chassis

These undercarriages have a pneumatic system with which the lowering level can be changed in a few seconds. This requires two air suspension shock absorbers on each axle. The setting is made using compressors, which are usually integrated into the car. But there are also external constructions in which the air pressure is permanently set using normal tire pressure inflators at the petrol station. This type of chassis change is preferably used for the variable appearance of the lowering and less for the variable driving behavior due to the vehicle height, although the hardness of the latest Airride chassis is also adjustable. Such undercarriages are now also available with technical reports and are street legal.

Other chassis tuning

Strut braces

As an extension to lowering, strut braces serve to stiffen the body, which is exposed to greater loads than is the case with a series chassis due to the changed center of gravity and the often harder suspension. Strut braces either connect the two so-called domes, which accommodate the shock absorbers, or are mounted directly on the shock absorbers and connect them to one another. This improves cornering behavior in this context.

Chassis bearings

Another possibility for improvement after installing a lowering is to replace the bearing rubbers ("rubber buffers") (for example those of wishbones , stabilizers or dome bearings ) with harder ones , for example made of Teflon- coated plastic. Replacing these chassis bearings means that steering movements are implemented somewhat faster and more precisely by the vehicle. The handling of a vehicle that has a correspondingly harder chassis and whose chassis mounting bushes have been replaced by harder ones enables a significantly sportier driving style and is similar to that of a kart .

Rims and tires
Alloy wheels on a Peugeot 306 Cabriolet

Chassis tuning also includes the use of other rim / tire combinations. As a rule, light metal rims made of aluminum alloys , in rare cases also magnesium or CFRP , with a larger width and larger diameter are used here. The light metal causes a reduction in the unsprung mass. The tires often have a smaller cross-section and are wider than the standard models. This increases the vehicle's grip and stability on the road, so that significantly higher cornering speeds and shorter braking distances can be achieved, especially on dry surfaces. In terms of mass reduction, wide tires are counterproductive. For purely show purposes, extravagant rims, often chrome-plated and often decorated with gold applications or even precious stones, are used.

Body tuning

Body tuning using the example of a Toyota Paseo

Body tuning is the term used to describe changes to the vehicle body. These range from attaching a spoiler to completely changing the body, which is usually done by attaching parts or replacing series parts. A distinction is made between measures that serve the sole purpose of changing the visual appearance of the vehicle, measures that improve the driving behavior of the vehicle at higher speeds due to their aerodynamic properties, and other measures. Extensive conversions concern the replacement of entire body areas with conversions, for example the installation of hinged doors or scissor doors .

Hot rod

Chopping (also known as chop-top) is a technique in which the A, B, and C pillars of a car are shortened in length. This is intended to raise the vehicle's optical beltline. In addition, the window area is reduced and the roof is lower.


The channeling (also "lowering"), from English. channel , causes the entire body to lower over the frame of the vehicle. This is done by welding a recess (channel) into the underside of the body.


During sectioning, a horizontal strip is removed from the body of the vehicle.


The Cleaning (engl. Clean = clean), called the disassembly of moldings, door handles, lettering and covers as well as the subsequent closing of the resulting holes with metal. The body is “cleaned” of “optically disruptive” (functional) elements.


The lowering includes the visual and technical lowering of the body (see lowrider ). For this purpose, a vehicle is provided with channeling or a hydraulic or pneumatic chassis.

California look

VW Beetle in Cal look

The term Cal Look ( Engl. For Californian appearance ) referred converted Volkswagen models in a particular style, especially the VW Beetle . This style shaped the VW Beetle scene worldwide. This type of Beetle tuning was developed in Orange County , south of Los Angeles, as early as the late 1960s . The style did not gain international publicity until a few years later, when Jere Alhadeff gave the style a name in the 1975 February issue of Hot VWs magazine : “California Look”.

The intention of the Cal Look is simple: The Beetle should be made even more inconspicuous by dispensing with unnecessary decorations and ensure high performance at the traffic lights and on the drag strip using a powerful motor . De facto, all older air-cooled Volkswagens are used as the basis for “Cal Looker”.

Professionally made fabric seat covers in an Opel Corsa B

Interior and audio tuning

Changes in the vehicle interior are called interior or interior tuning. Often higher quality or more unusual materials are used than in the production vehicle, e.g. B. leather or Alcantara , installed or parts added. Sometimes dashboards of a different type are installed.

A special type of interior tuning are changes using multimedia devices such as car hi-fi systems, loudspeakers , DVD players or the like.

However, important vehicle elements such as the car seats (sports seats, leather seats) and the steering wheel can also be modified. Occasionally, the back seat is completely removed for the installation of a complex hi-fi system. In addition to larger and clearly recognizable redesigns, there are also numerous smaller details, such as the openers of the glove compartment and doors, the light switches or the speedometer rings , which can be individually designed.


Include changes in lighting

  • Replacing the headlights with those with clear glass lens and / or parking light rings
  • Replacing the rear lights with those with LED lighting
  • Replacement of light sources with those with color filters or other light sources
  • " Evil eye ": the bonnet protrudes over the headlights on the upper grill side, so that the front section looks more aggressive.
  • additional lights
    • Lights in the outside area (e.g. fog lights , daytime running lights , additional lights , additional position lights on trucks, fluorescent tubes under the vehicle in passenger cars, additional lights)
    • Lights in the interior (often fluorescent tubes or light emitting diodes )
      • So-called plasma speedometer dials which, as soon as you switch on the light on the car, illuminate the speedometer in different colors (mostly blue or green). If the light is switched off, the speedometer instrument appears white.

Additional lights may not be approved, including brighter interior lighting if it shines outwards.

Tuning in model making

Tuning is not only practiced in the area of ​​real vehicles. In the field of model construction, too, tuning fans are concerned with the numerous possibilities of refining series vehicles. Particularly noteworthy is the tuning of model cars . This hobby has been enjoying increasing popularity for years. The 1:18 scale model has become particularly popular.

Legal position


The regulations of the FZV and the German Road Traffic Licensing Regulations (StVZO) that are relevant for tuning :

StVZO § 19 (issue and effectiveness of the operating license) : The operating license of the vehicle expires (only) if changes are made by the

  • a) the type of vehicle is changed,
  • b) a traffic hazard is expected, or
  • c) the exhaust gas or noise behavior is worsened.
  • d) “Fourth alternative”: The fourth alternative relates to the consequences of a failure to carry out an acceptance inspection according to Section 19 (3) StVZO. Example: A component is subject to approval, but the approval was not carried out.

The operating license does not expire if the installed parts (according to a, b, c) have their own German (§ 22 StVZO) or EC-wide operating license or a type approval (§ 22 a StVZO) which expressly does not require any attachment acceptance, or if the Installation of the parts has been approved by the vehicle manufacturer as part of an operating license or an addendum for the vehicle in accordance with Section 20 StVZO. An expired operating license can only be restored without dismantling by accepting the change at a vehicle inspector. With ABE according to §19.3 StVZO or by individual acceptance according to § 21 StVZO. This does not apply to parts according to §22a StVZO, as a new type approval must be issued here.

StVZO § 22a (type approval for vehicle parts ) : Certain devices must always be of an officially approved type: tires, windows and films for windows, headlights, lights, light bulbs, etc. a. These vehicle parts may only be offered, sold or acquired for use in public transport if they are marked with an official test mark. In the case of used vehicles, it is sufficient in individual cases if the "approximately effect" is fulfilled or if the facility cannot be converted or can only be converted at great expense. Such parts must not be changed. Painted tail lights, for example, are very popular. Here, the design of the lamp is changed in an impermissible manner.

StVZO § 69a (administrative offenses) : An administrative offense within the meaning of § 24 of the Road Traffic Act is committed by anyone who intentionally or negligently fails to observe these restrictions.

Conclusion: As a rule, many self-made conversions (subject to type approval or operating permit-relevant but unchecked) include an individual acceptance by an approved expert ( test engineer ). To avoid this, you can buy vehicle parts with ABE, ie “general operating license ”. These are often independent of an installation acceptance. Part certificates are an assessment aid for the test engineer. In the case of changes that are subject to registration and for which there is no ABE or type approval or which are dependent on an installation acceptance, the expert must carry out the assessment independently. An installation approval is often necessary for rims, chassis and aerodynamic components. Then the registration certificate part II (vehicle registration document) is supplemented by the extensions and the entered modifications no longer affect the vehicle's operating license (BE). As proof, the acceptance should be entered in the registration certificate part I (vehicle registration) at the registration office. According to § 13 FZV, legally relevant changes must be entered "immediately" by the approval offices. In other cases, the papers with any installation instructions and installation confirmations must be carried.


In Austria, tuning is only permitted if it meets the legal requirements of the Motor Vehicle Act (KFG), the Road Traffic Act (StVO) or the Motor Vehicle Act Implementation Ordinance.


In Switzerland, changes to the vehicle may not contradict the Ordinance on Technical Requirements for Road Vehicles (VTS).

Web links

Commons : Vehicle tuning  - collection of images, videos and audio files

See also

Individual evidence

  1. Report on interior tuning ( Memento from September 6, 2012 in the Internet Archive )