Pickup truck customization is not only a huge industry at the moment, but it’s also a way of life for many truck owners. Truck modifications run the gamut from cheap and handy additions to help with towing or offroad adventures to complete builds costing as much as some houses. Today, we are examining some of the most common as well as the most outrageous customizations out there.
There tend to be two types of pickup owners – those who immediately begin planning their upgrades, and those who keep their rigs stock and never think about making any changes. This article is strictly for those in the first camp; the people who love improving every aspect of their vehicle, whether it’s for aesthetic purposes or all about utility.
And, to further enhance your reading experience, I have included pictures of some of the best custom pickup trucks on Instagram. So sit back and enjoy this list of eye candy for all of you custom truck enthusiasts!
Tires and Wheels Adjustments
Whether you buy new tires and wheels for performance or looks, there are few upgrades you can make to your pickup that pack as much punch as new tires and wheels. Add to that the fact that this is one of the most effective ways to improve your truck’s on-and-off-road performance, and this is hands down the top way to customize your truck.
When it comes to upgrading your truck tires and wheels, there are two main schools of thought: 1) big wheels with lower-profile tires or 2) small wheels with bigger tires. I would guess you already know which option you prefer, but in case you don’t, let’s study the advantages of each.
Large Wheels, Low-Profile Tires
This option will appeal to those who love bling and don’t intend to venture into too tough of terrain. That’s because large wheels require the sidewall, or profile of the tire, to be much smaller. This gives you less grip offroad but does wonders for your street cred. Will these trucks still be able to haul your family and belongings around? Without a problem. Are they able to perform 99% of what most truck owners use their pickups for? Again, yes. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some downsides. First of all, those big wheels and thin-sidewall tires get super expensive. Hey, no one said ballin’ is cheap.
Small Wheels, Big Tires
On the flip side, we have the hardcore offroaders (and those who want to appear to be hardcore offroaders) who prefer small wheels with huge tires. When the going gets rough, you want to have as much tire under your truck as possible to help you grip sketchy surfaces and roll over huge rocks. Large tires also allow you to air them down so that they become softer and grippier offroad. For the truly dedicated, there are “beadlock” wheels that secure the tire to the wheel with bolts that sit around the edge of the wheel. This keeps the tire from coming off the wheel when driving hard on super low pressure. Of course, those tires, like these Vision Offroad Manx wheels, will cost as much or more than those big blingy wheels we talking about earlier.
Suspension Pickup Truck Customization
Your truck’s suspension can have a huge effect on many aspects of driving. From ride comfort to towing to offroad performance, it can all be improved by selecting a great suspension system. While most pickup owners are after a taller ride height, there are a surprising amount of low-truck enthusiasts out there as well. Either way, suspension modifications are the first thing on these guys’ lists. Let’s look at some examples of both lifted and lowered trucks.
Lifting a truck
Fundamentally, lift kits are used to give your pickup additional ground clearance. By adding height between the truck and the ground, they minimize your chances of scraping your truck on rocks or any other obstacle you might encounter. Situating the body higher above the tires also gives you the ability to fit larger tires to your truck, which in turn help you roll over those obstacles.
It’s clear, then, why so many truck owners choose to install a lift on their vehicles. Another reason people love lifts, however, is for the way it makes your truck look. Compared to a stock pickup, a lifted truck with larger, more aggressive tires looks completely transformed. And, of course, there are always the folks who love to take their truck customization to the extreme. For example, check out this quasi-monster truck creation:
Lowering a truck
If the low-ride thing is more your speed, there are plenty of options out there for you as well. If you are wondering how one would get around town with such a truck, many lowered truck owner opt for an air suspension that allows them to raise the vehicle for normal driving or when navigating obstacles such as speed bumps and driveways. Whether it’s a clean, old-school ride you are pining after, or a modern masterpiece, there are all sorts of lowered trucks to peruse.
Lights Customization for Pickup Trucks
Anyone who has ever taken their rig offroad at night can attest to the importance of great lighting. Being able to see the obstacles you are about to drive your own personal vehicle over is super important, and that’s why so many pickups today are outfitted with not only upgraded headlights, but aftermarket LED lightbars as well. And there are tons of great and inexpensive options on the market, like this Yitamotor 24-inch Spot-Flood Combo:
Unlike the halogen lights that used to be the standard for off-road lighting, today’s LED units are super bright and efficient. Add in the fact that they are becoming very affordable, and it’s no wonder every other truck you see seems to have aftermarket LED lights affixed to their roof:
Or maybe you will find it on the grill or bumper like the one on this Ford:
It’s not even that unusual to see them in more than one spot, like on this Chevy Silverado:
Bumper Adjustments on Trucks
Other popular items you can customize on your pickup truck are the bumpers. Replacing your factory bumpers with aftermarket units can have many benefits, such as:
- Better approach/departure angles
- Protection from obstacles
- Winch and/or light holders
- Hi-jack jacking points
Plus, these big metal bumpers have a way of making your rig look that much more intimidating than the standard bumpers. Now, there are some different options when it comes to these aftermarket bumpers. There are the common and generally well-reviewed ARB bumpers:
Or, for a cheaper option, you can affix a bull bar to the bumper you already have. While this won’t improve your offroad angles, they do add that extra bit of protection against the elements as well as a nice aesthetic appeal.
Here is one more front bumper option. Some find these more discreet the most appealing option because they look like they came from the factory, yet they are still effective for offroading.
Rear bumpers offer the same benefits as the front, plus they can often be outfitted to carry accessories such as water and gas cans, ladders, and even tires. By moving your spare tire up from under your truck to the bumper, you are giving your truck that much more clearance for getting over obstacles, plus the tire is much easier to access should you need to change a tire.
Bed Accessories for Pickup Trucks
Another area on your pickup begging for customization is the bed. There are tons of ways you can enhance your cargo area, whether you are looking to enhance your work, play, or both.
For starters, a simple cover secures your possessions in your truck, away from prying eyes and the elements. LEER, for example, makes a great folding bed cover for GM’s mid-size trucks:
For even more space and cargo protection, you can opt for a bed topper. These nifty products, while not cheap, can completely transform the way your truck looks. Just check out this truck’s before and after pics:
Racks are another popular way to spice up your truck’s behind. Truck owners use all sorts of racks for just about everything you can imagine. You can use them to haul camping gear and rooftop tents, for example.
Or, to up the ante even more, some owners use huge racks called decks to actually carry other vehicles. Usually, you will find an ATV up there, but you never really know what some people will decide to put on theirs.
Of course, you’ve got to pay for all of those toys, and a rack is also a great way to get some work done. Hoisting your equipment on a rack instead of simply throwing it in the bed is a great way to stay organized, keep your tools in good shape, and create extra space in your bed.
Paint and Appearance Upgrades
On to some purely cosmetic enhancements. Repainting or wrapping your pickup in a new and exciting color scheme is the next best thing to having an all-new truck. And, if attracting all sorts of attention is what you’re after, a bold paint job is a surefire way of accomplishing your goal. Just check out some of the amazing and odd creations out there:
Other owners seem to take issue with the corporate grills that come fitted to their pickups, opting to install a custom unit that better matches their personality. This truck features a nice clean mesh grill with fender flares, lift, tires, and bumper to match:
Other Modifications for Pickup Trucks
Finally, let’s discuss a few other mods that are popular but don’t fit nicely into any of the above categories.
You have probably seen a truck outfitted with one of these funny-looking devices affixed to the hood. They function just like their name implies – by allowing the engine to breathe from up higher, they allow trucks to wade into deep water.
Not only can a new exhaust system give your engine a mean growl, but they can also boost your fuel economy and give you a slight power bump as well. And plenty of folks like the way a big shiny new exhaust looks. Whatever the purpose, this is a very popular upgrade for every type of truck out there.
If you want to create the ultimate snow hauler, why not swap your wheels and tires out for tracks? While this might sound like a farfetched idea, there are actually people out there who do this, and it is totally awesome and insane.
And finally, don’t forget to check out our post about pickup truck grille guards and brushes.
Looking to upgrade inside the truck? We have a great list of cool items for the interior of your pickup truck right here.
How’s That for Inspiration?
I hope this article has given you some great ideas for taking your pickup truck to the next level. As a modifier myself, few things are as entertaining as looking at all the different modifications you can install on your truck. It’s a wide world of truck customization out there, and you could easily spend just about all of your money on it, so choose wisely when you are making your list of future upgrades. But, most importantly, have fun and be safe no matter what you decide to do!