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"Grand Theft Auto Online": Car Upgrades for Better Performance to Win Races ("GTA V" Car Customization)

Kain writes video game articles that include tips, tricks, and tutorials. He is especially enthusiastic about horror games.

Cars are an important aspect in the world of Grand Theft Auto Online. Car Customization is very detailed and you can do whatever you wish with your cars. Whether you want to change the paint job, engine, spoiler, horn sound, exhaust pipes, windows, brakes, and so much more! Some of the car customization is used mainly for cosmetic reasons.

However, some car customization, such as an upgraded engine, will improve the performance of the vehicle. Some upgrades are essential if you want to increase your chances of winning races with your custom car.


The following have an effect on your car's performance in Grand Theft Auto Online:

  • Armor
  • Engine
  • Brakes
  • Transmission
  • Turbo
  • Wheel accessories (bulletproof tires)

The other upgrades are only for cosmetic purposes. They will change the look of your car, but will not change how well the car drives when you are racing.

There are also upgrades that do not change the look of your car or increase the performance. Car insurance, GPS tracker, and explosives do not. It should be noted that those upgrades can only be bought in GTA V Online and not on single player.

How to Unlock Car Upgrades in Grand Theft Auto Online

Vehicle upgrades cost money in GTA V, although, some upgrades need to be unlocked at a particular level. For instance, a player must be level 100 to unlock the 100% armor upgrade for cars. Once players reach the level required to unlock a particular upgrade, they can then purchase the upgrade with money at Los Santos Customs.

Other upgrades in Grand Theft Auto Online can only be unlocked by winning races. And when I say winning races, I mean getting 1st place, not second or third! Engine upgrades, for example, can only be unlocked when you win a certain number of street races (regardless of how much cash you have or what level you are).



For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Who is the main character of GTA Vice City?
    • Victor Vance
    • Niko Bellic
    • Tommy Vercetti
    • Carl Johnson
  2. When year did the original GTA release?
    • 2000
    • 1997
    • 1998
    • 1995
  3. Was there dual-wielding in GTA San Andreas?
    • Yes
    • No
  4. What GTA had a main character who did not speak?
    • GTA Vice City
    • GTA San Andreas
    • GTA IV
    • GTA III

Answer Key

  1. Tommy Vercetti
  2. 1997
  3. Yes
  4. GTA III

Types of Upgrades to Go Faster

The faster your car is, the better chance that you have of winning races that have enabled custom cars. Of course, a good driver is also important, but having a car that is upgraded will help tremendously. Upgrading a car's engine, transmission, and turbo will increase the acceleration. Acceleration is the time it takes to get to a certain speed (e.i. 0–60 mph in 3 seconds). Turbo will significantly increase the acceleration of vehicles in Grand Theft Auto Online. In my opinion and experience playing, turbo is the best performance upgrade for cars in GTA V.

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Turbo (best upgrade for acceleration)

Turbo can only be unlocked by winning a certain number of races. Once you have won the required amount then it will be unlocked. Los Santos Customs tells you how many races you need to win (or other requirement) before unlocking a particular upgrade.

Armor for Cars in Grand Theft Auto Online

Armor upgrades will not make a car go faster in GTA V, however, armor makes cars much more durable. Cars will be able to take much more damage if hit by other cars, get shot at, or crash into buildings or obstructions in the game. This will help in some of the street races in GTA V.


Better Brakes

In some races in Grand Theft Auto, there are some really tricky turns to make. If you upgrade your brakes for your car then you will have better chance of making turns without crashing into something. Some players say it does not make as much of a difference as it should, though.

Some cars have better breaking by default in Grand Theft Auto Online. Chose cars with better breaking because some cars spin out easier and do not turn around corners when going faster.

Bulletproof Tires

This allows your vehicle to take wheel damage without them getting destroyed by gunfire. An absolutely amazing upgrade in Grand Theft Auto Online (especially for motorcycles). If you do not have bulletproof tires then other players can shoot your tires and the handling of the vehicle becomes very poor. Turns will be harder to make and the top speed of the vehicles will dramatically slow down.

The cost of bulletproof tires is expensive, though ($25,000). It's worth it!

Why Upgrade Engines if Turbo Maxes out Car's Acceleration Stat?

There has been a lot of speculation about just upgrading turbo and not purchasing the engines level 4 upgrade. Mainly because the acceleration stat will max out when upgrading to turbo. Some people say that having both engine 4 and turbo is faster than just having turbo when using the same car. Others say it does not make a difference. I have yet to confirm this, but if you want to be on the safe side, upgrade everything (turbo first).

Good luck racing in Grand Theft Auto Online with these upgrades! Just keep in mind, some races have custom vehicles turned off. Make sure you play races that have them enabled. Otherwise, you will not be able to test out your custom vehicle!

Try hosting your own GTA V racetrack so you can enable custom vehicles if you have trouble finding games with it on!

© 2013 David Patrick


frosty turd 03 on April 06, 2015:

nice one guys

anon on December 03, 2014:

To the idiot who thinks catch up doesn't affect the race leader...

It does. You can actually hear your car (if it's a maxed out super) drop revs on a straight when in the lead. Its like being in a 5 gear car and not being able to to use 5th gear. You get this droning sound like if you were stuck in 4th. Try it.

Catch up is a cancer to GTA V. But its there because game companies like to help casuals/noob and kids. It means more money for them.

Games ceased to be about skill years ago.

David Patrick (author) from United States, PA on January 13, 2014:

@ The Sprawl

Hey I kind of see what you mean about the mountains. GTA V is pretty big, but half the game is taken up by rurals. It's good they have it in the game, though. But I suppose another bigger city would have been nice besides Los Santos.

As for customization, I think it's quite good EXCEPT for characters! Saints Rows has much better character customization. I do not like the ancestor idea in GTA 5 that much.

I probabaly like Skyrim better than GTA V. I thought I might like GTA V better. But prefer the 1st person view, exploration inside places, magic and side quests in skyrim etc...

Skyrim is a game you can play longer in single player than GTA V. But Skyrim has no online of course. I mean you can literaly put hundreds of hours into Skyrim (but it depends if you want to replay I have 150 hours on 1 character).

Kind of hard to compare the two games, but I do think both are amazing in their own ways. But if I'd choose one it would be Skyrim.

The Sprawl on January 11, 2014:

My biggest gripe with GTA V(and I still think it's one of the greatest games ever made) is the LACK of customisation options - clothes, car mods, haircuts, tats. There really doesn't seem that much, and shitty little tricks like Binco clothes and 'Discount' clothes selling the same stuff, as well as Beekers and Los Santos Customs being identical too really felt cheap to me. And this complaint I KNOW is unreasonable but the map still feels too small. Not fair on Rockstar I know but a hell of a lot of it is taken up with empty mountainsides and hills. It just feels SLIGHTLY pokey. Skyrim by comparison, even though I bet the map's smaller, felt genuinely huge and I think that's due to a) 1st person perspective gives it scale, GTA's default camera doesn't, b) Cars cross land more quickly than horses or even your Skyrim avatar on foot(how I play it), and c), most importantly, exploring brings you tangible rewards - new dungeons characters, missions, treasure. Rockstar could definitely have spread the shops around the map, so you come across unique, for example, sunglasses ONLY in one hard-to-find, UNLABELLED-on-the-map shop. If they'd done that with everything, exploration would be naturally more interesting. As it is exploration is just for the views, and even if it wasn't everything's marked on the map so there's no surprise.

I've enjoyed every single minute of GTA V but these little flaws nag more and more.

Jay from Europe on January 05, 2014:

The fact that there isn't one obvious path to maxing out a car once again demonstrates how large and complex the GTA V world truly is.

I played a few hours of GTA V online a few weeks back, when I finished the story mode. I did enjoy it but I haven't played PS3 in a few weeks already.

I'll be starting soon, because I'm awaiting the arrival of a 42" TV for better gaming. My 26" monitor is ruining the experience for me. It doesn't do the game justice at all.

I'll be back online with GTA V soon, and I'll be using this guide as a way to win some races (and some money) quickly!

Thanks for the tips!

@trdyuyhoji on December 31, 2013:

Catchup does not affect leader vs loser speed. Catch up allows for drafting off the person in front of you to get a speed boost. Race position has no effect on catch-up.

Aaron Layson Jr on December 25, 2013:

I barely try races, I always get beaten. I will take these tips in consideration though. I need the help. I also help anyone that needs it. I'm on PS3, profile name Sabremayne. I am not a Hacker, I just play. I Love GTA. Since I started playing online, I've been Addicted. Let's all have Fun, I'm bouta jump on now, Merry Christmas Everyone. Please state where U got my name from B4 adding me, I've been getting bogus friend requests.

trdyuyhoij on November 27, 2013:

@Prime The only reason is because of Catch-up which is on by default. It reduces the max speed of everyone in front so everyone in the back can obviously "catch up". I hate it, whenever I host a race its never on. Rockstar should change the settings so its off by default and people have to turn it on themselves, though I think people would still use it. :(

fuochista83 on November 03, 2013:

thx anyway!

fuochista83 on November 03, 2013:

so?what's the meaning of the post?

Prime on November 02, 2013:

The only actual performance upgrades it feels like you take into an online race with you is Armor,Brakes and B-proof tires..everything else like engine upgrades,turbo,transmission ect is dropped when you enter an online race w/custom vehicles,which is really unfortunate. Almost makes you feel like modding is pointless if you can't actually races it performance wise.

Dnilox on October 30, 2013:

The wheels do change handling, try high-end vs muscle, high end will make you slide like butter

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