donour (Donour Sizemore) writes "I recently bought a high-performance automobile that has a reputation for its tuning potential. Before making the purchase, I joined several online forums for enthusiasts in order to get a good reading on how happy people are with the particular model. I was amazed at the vibrant communities built around websites such as evolutionm.net and nasioc.com. A wealth of information is available, but the data is surrounded by noise. For every knowledgeable enthusiast, there are many more misinformed or incorrect speculators whose opinions usually spring from personal preference or a need to hear themselves talk. Enter David Vespremi's Car Hacks & Mods for Dummies." Read on for the rest of Sizemore's review.
In general, I steer myself and others away from the "for Dummies" book series since I believe a lot of material at this level can be found on the internet for free. HOWTOs and tutorials abound for using and modifying most consumer products. In this case, the time saved from filtering online discussion is well worth it. The book is well organized, with separate sections devoted to handling, power, braking, engine management, safety, and cosmetics. There are 26 chapters spread across 360 pages. As you can see, chapters are short and can be tackled easily during lunch or a short taxi ride to retrieve your broken car.
Slashdot readers may be surprised to learn that there is no discussion of entertainment electronics such as stereos or car-mounted computers. This should not be confused with engine management units (ECU). ECUs are discussed at length. Car Hacks & Mods for Dummies main focus is making your car go, stop and turn. Sections were added for safety and cosmetics, but performance is by far the emphasis.
The book does not actually explain how to do any specific modifications whatsoever. Instead it serves as a guidebook to learn what options are out there and compare one upgrade path to another. For example, there is a great explanation of the differences between a turbocharger and a supercharger, but you're not going to get an analysis of the mods required to support your brand new 10.5cm hotside. Instead there are careful treatments of the pros and cons associated with almost any upgrade car car enthusiast may be considering. The coverage of jargon and rating systems used for various products is especially useful. Whenever a new subject or car component is mentioned, the author goes over regulating and standardizing bodies (the DOT, EPA, and SAE) as well as explains how parts, pieces, and fluids are rated. While this is useful when thinking about a new project, it isn't the information someone would want to rely on once they begin such an undertaking itself. The author clearly states, "this book is not intended to be an instruction manual."
The author gets high marks for addressing safety -- both the driver's and the vehicle's -- before any modification. The emphasis on maintaining legal and effective safety devices on a tuner car is something you are not likely to get during an argument about which upgrade path is optimal, nor is it obvious that many safety 'upgrades' -- 4-point harnesses, flashy roll-bars -- actually decrease driver safety when used on the street. In addition the author consistently gives warning when introducing a mod that could put added stress on a vehicle.
If you are a professional mechanic, this book is not for you. You already know most of the contents. Mechanics would be better served by product literature and shop manuals. If you are thinking about modifying your car, but don't have any idea where to start, this is probably a good place. Just be sure to read the first chapter. Car modding quickly becomes expensive, and jumping in without knowing the attached costs (which this book addresses) can be a financial nightmare.
You can purchase Car Hacks & Mods from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.