GTA V Car Upgrades Explained: Car Setup Guide

In this car setup guide, I'm going to take a look at how car mods affect car setup and performance in GTA V. There are mods that affect handling, here are our top tips for the perfect car setup in GTA V.

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GTA V Car Setup Guide

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GTA V and GTA Online really are open-world playgrounds for car enthusiasts, and even sim racers looking for racing that is a bit more explosive than is found in racing sims such as Assetto Corsa and iRacing!

While GTA V certainly isn’t designed to be an out-and-out racing game, you can upgrade and customise most cars in the game. And yes, these car upgrades in GTA V do affect your car’s performance, as well as make them look better.

It may be obvious to many that engine upgrades will improve your car’s straight-line performance, and brakes will slow your car more efficiently. But there is also a hidden world of car setup tuning in GTA V.

In this guide, I’ll run through all of the car upgrades for GTA V that affect your car’s performance. And I’ll also show you how to adjust your car setup in GTA V to find that extra bit of performance.

GTA V car upgrades

So let’s start this guide by giving an overview of the car upgrades in GTA V, along with an explanation of how each one will affect your car’s performance. A lot of these are relatively self-explanatory but are all worth considering before we move on to tuning our GTA V car setup.

Engine upgrades

Starting with engine upgrades. These will change your car’s straight-line performance. The better the engine upgrade, the faster your car will be. This should be maxed out if you are trying to create the highest-performing car possible.

Transmission upgrades

Transmission upgrades in GTA V change just how fast your car changes gear, resulting in faster gear shifts and faster acceleration. The transmission upgrades also add an additional gear for added top speed.

Turbo upgrades

Turbo upgrades work in a similar way to engine upgrades, by boosting your car’s power output, resulting in higher top speeds and faster acceleration.

Brake upgrades

Brake upgrades will allow your car to slow faster, reducing your stopping distance. This upgrade is especially useful for competing in races and will help your car’s handling in the braking zone.

Spoiler upgrades

Spoiler upgrades are designed to affect your car’s handling and will be shown in the traction bar in GTA V. There are a variety of different spoiler options available for a range of cars. Each has a different appearance, but will also affect your car’s downforce levels to a different degree.

Depending on how you are setting up your car in GTA V will dictate which spoiler upgrade you go for. Larger spoilers will increase the downforce your car generates allowing you to race around corners at higher speeds thanks to increased grip.

Front & rear wing upgrades

Much like spoilers, front and rear wing upgrades work in a similar way for open wheel cars in GTA V. There are a large number of both front and rear wing spoilers for all open wheel cars, with each having a different effect on your car’s overall downforce.

There are wing upgrades that lower your open wheel’s downforce, resulting in higher top speeds. Then there are upgrades that give you more downforce such as the legendary and extreme wings.

  • If you are racing on a track that has fewer corners and longer straights, opt for a low, lightweight or shortened wing as these will give you faster top speeds.
  • If you are racing on a track with more corners or short straights upgrade your car with the maximum grip, legendary or extreme wings, as these will help you corner faster.
Suspension upgrades

Suspension upgrades are tricky as some cars don’t benefit from suspension upgrades at all. However, many cars will benefit from having a lower suspension. The cars that do benefit from lower suspension and negative camber are generally the tuner cars.

If in doubt, upgrading your car with the lowest suspension and the most extreme camber will often provide the best performance gains in GTA V.

Wheel upgrades

Wheel upgrades can also have an effect on your car’s performance in GTA V. Off-road tyres, in particular, can help your car’s performance over bumps, kerbs and when driving offroad.

Low grip tyres were introduced to improve drifting car builds in GTA V. These will negatively impact your car’s grip levels when racing so aren’t recommended for putting in the fastest lap times. But they are almost essential when creating a drift car in GTA V.


Car setup upgrades in GTA V

All of the upgrades mentioned above are performance specific and have a very noticeable effect on your car’s overall performance. However, there are also a range of additional car upgrades that have smaller impacts on your car setup in GTA V.

The car setups below all affect your car’s centre of mass (COM) which will change the way your car handles.

Centre of mass (COM) and why it’s important

Before I look at the specific car upgrades that affect your car setup in GTA V, I’ll touch on what centre of mass is and how it changes your car’s handling.

The centre of mass of your car in GTA V, is the point at which the overall weight balance is. In some cars, this will be towards the front of the car, as parts such as the engine will weigh a lot more than parts of your car that sit towards the rear.


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If you move this centre of mass, it will change the behaviour of your car’s handling. If the centre of mass is more towards the rear, your car will start to understeer more, while if the COM is more frontward, you will experience more oversteer.

What is understeer and oversteer?

The two terms understeer and oversteer refer to how your car behaves when turning through a corner.

  • Understeer is the sensation of your car not turning into a corner enough. You will often turn into a corner, but your car will push on forward, only turning correctly when you slow your car down further.
  • Oversteer is the opposite of this. Oversteer is when the rear of your car wants to turn too much through a corner. You will turn into the corner like normal, and mid-way through or on the corner exit, the rear of your car will slide out. This is oversteer.

Generally, a car that understeers will be more stable and less likely to spin out of control. However, a car that understeers will typically be slower than a car that oversteers as you will have to reduce to a slower speed through a corner.

How car upgrades affect COM and change your handling in GTA V

While in a real-world car, or in a racing sim such as Assetto Corsa, adding car upgrades and modifications will change the overall weight of your car. This will shift the weight balance forward and backwards, changing the handling as I just mentioned above.

However, in GTA V, car upgrades don’t change your car’s overall weight. Cars with smaller parts weigh just as much as cars with larger upgrades. Instead, upgrades will change how the weight is distributed by changing the centre of mass.

If you add larger spoilers to the rear of your car in GTA V for example, this will shift the COM rearwards, and result in a car that is more likely to understeer. The effects of centre of mass in GTA V are as follows;

  • More rearward COM: This will result in more downforce at the rear of your car, and cause more understeer.
  • More frontward COM: This results in more downforce at the front, and result in more oversteer.

Adjusting your car setup in GTA V

So now we have covered how car setups work in GTA V with the centre of mass and weight distribution, we can look at the car upgrades that change your car setup in GTA V.

Bumpers and body mods

Starting with the body modifications. Items such as front and rear bumpers and side skirts will change the centre of mass.

Adding larger rear bumpers will move the COM rearwards, increasing understeer, and larger front bumpers will move the COM forward. Rear spoilers will also move the COM rearwards.

Essentially, any upgrade that sits towards the rear will move the COM rearwards, and vice versa. This is a useful tool when tinkering with how your car is set up in GTA V. You can shift the COM forward and rearwards using a variety of body modifications.

Brakes

Both brake and wheel upgrades will change your car’s overall handling and can be used to further tinker with your car’s handling.

While braking, you will want a car that feels comfortable under braking, and the last thing you’ll want is for your brakes to lock up regularly. This is the sensation of your wheels locking and stopping from turning. This will cause your car to slide and not slow down as quickly.

By adding brake upgrades to your car in GTA V, you will increase the stopping power. However, this comes with the addition of a higher potential to lock your brakes. You will often find many racers using lower brake modifications for this reason, to avoid their wheels from locking.

Neon lights

The final car upgrade that I want to talk about is neon lights. This is an upgrade that has a pretty major effect on your car’s centre of mass. While you may not think about neon lights when tuning a car setup in GTA V, you really should, as they have a large impact.

Much like body modifications, the neon lights will move the COM towards whichever neons you have installed. If you run with neon lights at the rear and not the front, your COM will shift rearwards.

Neon lights also have the effect of lowering your car’s centre of mass towards the ground. This will reduce the amount of body roll you feel when cornering, and can have a strong impact on the way your car handles through turns.


Performance impact of COM in GTA V

As mentioned in the segments above, the centre of mass has a big impact on how your car handles in GTA V. The performance gains from tinkering with your GTA V car setup aren’t nearly as strong as the upgrade parts such as engine and turbo upgrades.

However, if you want to get every last bit of performance out of your car in GTA V, adjusting the car setup using the tips above to move your COM will really help you fine-tune the overall handling characteristics.


GTA V Car Setup FAQs

Do spoilers make cars go faster in GTA V?

Spoilers don’t have an effect on your car’s top speed in GTA V. However, they do adjust how much downforce is generated and will change your car’s centre of mass. This will in turn allow you to potentially take corners at higher speeds, which can result in faster lap times.

What are HSW upgrades in GTA V?

HSW stands for Hao’s Special Works and is a car upgrade shop in GTA V, which is accessible on next-gen consoles. Only a small selection of cars can be fitted with HSW upgrades, but these upgrades will affect the performance of your car.

Do roll cage and chassis upgrades affect handling?

Roll cages in GTA V don’t change the car’s handling. They will make the car stronger in case it flips over and they do adjust the overall appearance of your car. However, they do not decrease body roll like they would in a real-world car.


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Article written by Rich

Co-Founder of SimRacingSetups.com

Rich is the co-founder, and one of the main F1 setup creators and content writers for SimRacingSetups. With over a decade of experience as a graphic designer, marketing director, competitive sim racer and avid motorsport fan, Rich founded SimRacingSetup.com to share his passion and knowledge of sim racing and Formula 1 with other sim racers.

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