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The Latest Trends in Car Customizing
By Jason Helferich

Over the years, many different trends have come and gone in the car accessory field. Trendy fads that were once popular include neon under body kits, 13” wire wheels pushed out, neon washer nozzles, headlight and taillight covers, air shocks and huge rear spoilers, just to name a few. These days, many of the same styles from the past are still popular but with a slightly different interpretation or style.

One such item that has come and gone over the years is smoked headlight and taillight covers. These items were very popular in the mid to late nineties and sales slowed down early in the new millennium. However, many people still like the look of blacked out headlights, just without the many downfalls of lexan covers such as bad fitting parts, issues with the covers coming off due to installation with double-sided tape, and the biggest downfall of these items: dramatically reduced light after dark. These products also came under close scrutiny by local law enforcement officials over the years for their reduction in light that caused many accidents.

While many customizers still like the look of blacked out headlights and taillights, the newest fad is to actually tint the factory or aftermarket headlights, marker lights and taillights. There are companies that sell kits that use a type of film to accomplish this project; however, the problem with these kits is that they are hard to get full coverage, often leaving gaps uncovered around the edges. The most reliable way to tint automotive lenses is to actually spray-tint them with automotive paint. Starting with a black basecoat, the painter reduces the transparency of the paint by adding reducer and then sprays that onto the light. The light is then clear coated and wet sanded to create a very glossy, glass-like finish. In the past many of the custom lighting options on the market were only available to owners of popular models such as the Honda Civic, Mitsubishi Eclipse, Dodge Neon, Ford Focus, etc. By painting the factory lights, this is a custom lighting option available to the owner of any vehicle, not just the most popular models.

The next few items that are popular today in the car accessory field actually had their beginnings in the truck accessory industry and only recently made a crossover. One trend that is making a comeback in the car accessory field is chrome trim products. In the past, many saw cars that had chrome edge trim on every conceivable edge on the car including the door edges, gas cap, trunk lid, rain guards, etc. Rather than using universal stick on chrome trim, many parts today are custom made for specific vehicles and are designed to appear as if they are factory made. These items include chrome door handle covers, mirror covers, pillar post trim, Chrome Mustache, rocker panel molding, headlight and taillight trim and even chrome rain guards and bug shields. Most of these items are easy to install, installing over the top of the factory parts using double sided adhesive. These items are made specific for each vehicle and can greatly enhance the looks of a base model vehicle when used in moderation.

Another item that also had its beginnings in the truck accessory market are custom grilles. Over the years, custom grille packages have been popular among many car enthusiasts. However, these items were often hard to find for cars, and many vehicles that featured these products had items that were custom made by custom auto shops or by their owners.

Today, there are a wide variety of grilles available for cars, trucks and SUVs. These include billet grilles, chrome mesh grilles, honeycomb style speed grilles, chrome factory style grille shells, chrome custom aftermarket grille shells, aluminum mesh, and many different styles of grille overlays including flames, “punch-out”, and many other different designs. The current and most popular style is the chrome mesh that resembles the mesh grilles found on Bentleys. Among the companies that offer this style of grille are EFX, Grillecraft, T-Rex, Strut and Precision Grilles. These grilles often are more expensive than the billet style grille, but the finished product on many vehicles is much more impressive than what the billet grille can offer.

Many companies have recognized the appeal of upgrading the grille on the vehicle to consumers and have made tremendous strides in the availability of items in this area. Today, there is a custom grille option for just about any make and model of vehicle, allowing this type of customization on just about any car.

These items are just a few of the newest trends in the car accessory industry. As described earlier, many of these items have been around for years but have found different styles or interpretations in today’s marketplace. Hopefully some of the items of the past will never return, but only time will tell.

Jason Helferich is the owner of Street Style Customs, an aftermarket accessory and performance business located in Cincinnati, OH. He has over 10 years experience in this field and is knowledgeable on any topics related to the automotive aftermarket. Be sure to visit Street Style Customs website at for more information.

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