GTA 5 Car Setups

This page aims to document all setup options for cars in GTA 5 that can have an impact on the way players extract the maximum performance when racing.
Written by: Broughy1322

Introduction

One main thing that is important to keep in mind when reading the rest of this page is that it’s very possible for you to try some of the setup changes mentioned here and not notice a difference. While everything mentioned on the Car Upgrades page have a very obvious effect on performance, like engine upgrades making the car go faster in a straight line, everything mentioned on this page is much more subtle.

If you’re racing around a track and are 2-3 seconds or more per lap off the pace of the winners then nothing on this page will help you close that gap. My old Racing School series on YouTube will be much more useful, alongside practising racing lines and general driving ability around the track. The setup options on this page will only be something you’ll notice changing the behaviour of the car when you’re pushing it close to the limit.

Changing setups on a car won’t make the car itself be able to achieve a better ultimate lap time, but are instead intended to make it easier for any given driver to achieve the theoretical maximum by tailoring the handling of the car to their liking. A lot of experimentation is also required to find what suits you best, and it’s a waste of time to do that until you’re already achieving top lap times.

With all that in mind, let’s talk about some of the nuances of GTA 5 car physics, with the assumption that you’ve already read the aforementioned Car Upgrades page first.

Starting Point

If you want a balanced setup that will work for most cars in the majority of cases without feeling the need to delve any deeper into the subject beyond this point, do the following:

  • Body Modifications - Smallest spoiler and everything else left stock.
  • Neon Lights - Full (front, back and side) neons in any colour.
  • Wheels - Cosmo (Tuner) or Raider (Off-Road).
  • Everything else not mentioned should be left stock.

This is also a good starting point to get a baseline setup for the car, before changing things to suit your preferred driving style one at a time from here.

Why This All Works

Everything we’re about to talk about, with the exception of wheels and brakes, has to do with any given car’s Centre Of Mass (COM) and using modifications in Los Santos Customs to change where that COM is located. The COM of any object is a single point where it could be balanced on a pin if placed exactly correctly.

Think of a cube balanced perfectly on the end of a sharp pin. Now imagine you stick a small ball to the right hand side of the cube. The cube then falls off the pin to the right. Attaching the ball to the right hand side of the cube has moved its COM to the right, and therefore the point at which it would be balanced on the pin has also moved to the right to compensate.

Now instead of a cube imagine a car in GTA 5 balanced perfectly on the end of the sharp pin. And instead of a ball, imagine you attach a massive spoiler to the back of the car that extends beyond the rear bumper. Would you expect the car to remain balanced? No, because the spoiler has moved the car’s COM towards the rear.

Keep in mind that in GTA 5 the only thing weight governs is collisions, with a heavier car being able to push a lighter car when they collide. Different body mods don’t affect a car’s speed because a bigger bumper is no heavier than a smaller bumper, and even if it was it wouldn’t matter. But they do affect where the weight of the car is being distributed.

The Effects

Changing the COM of a car will change the way it handles at various speeds, as well as whether you are within the traction limits of the car. In general you’re always looking to have the car be relatively well balanced, with a slight bend towards understeer (front won’t turn enough) or oversteer (back end steps out) depending on your preference.

The most balanced car will be achieved by having the COM right in the middle of the four wheels, and understeer or oversteer behaviours can be induced by moving the COM towards the front or the rear.

  • Understeer - Experienced when the COM is towards the rear because there’s less weight pushing down on the front wheels.
  • Oversteer - Experienced when the COM is towards the front because there’s less weight pushing down on the rear wheels.

The effect switches when you’ve gone beyond the traction limits of the car (which means you’ve pushed too hard and the wheels are no longer gripping the surface, so only the weight of the car is determining where it goes). At this point you’ll experience understeer for a car with COM towards the front, and oversteer for a car with COM towards the rear.

The best thing to do is have the COM of the car be as central as possible, then add or remove modifications based on what you’re experiencing as you’re driving around. For example, if the car has too much oversteer (while staying within traction limits) bring the COM rearwards. This will naturally take a lot of time and fine tuning for each car.

Body Modifications

Take a Feltzer and drive it around a track at high speed with the small spoiler option, then do the same with the large spoiler option. Because the large spoiler on the Feltzer is so large, it completely changes the way the car feels by shifting its COM to the rear significantly. What is a normally fairly planted car with a small spoiler becomes quite difficult to control.

That is an extreme example of how body modifications change the way cars behave. While most modifications affect things to a much smaller degree, changing a lot of things all at once can bring about extreme results. No setup is better than another, it’s just about what will end up suiting your preferred way to drive.

  • Front Bumpers - Move the COM towards the front of the car.
  • Rear Bumpers - Move the COM towards the rear of the car.
  • Side Skirts - Decrease body roll at high speed.
  • Spoilers - Move the COM towards the rear of the car.
  • Other - Most cosmetic mods will change COM too, for example bug catchers in muscle cars will move the COM forwards, while big shakotan exhausts will move it rearwards.

Obviously different effects will come from the relative sizes of these modifications. A larger front bumper will shift the COM more towards the front than a smaller front bumper will. The opposite effect can happen too, where an option to remove a front bumper will actually shift the COM towards the rear.

Piling on every modification possible will make most cars feel more restrictive and steering response will feel worse. For example supercars largely don’t need side skirts because they already have minimal body roll, and a Feltzer doesn’t need a big spoiler because its COM is already rearwards. That’s why the starting point from earlier went with everything left stock.

Neon Lights

I know I know, it’s difficult to believe. But it’s true! Neon lights will shift a car’s COM towards whichever light you have applied, and by a pretty significant amount. They also help to bring a car’s COM closer to the ground to improve overall stability, without the negatives associated with doing the same thing using suspension (below).

A Pisswasser Dominator with full neons will be much more stable than one without, and a lot of cars that naturally oversteer will feel a lot better with just a single rear neon applied and everything else left as is. If you want neons for setups but don’t want the actual lights you can join a crew with a pure black crew colour - the neons with that applied will be invisible.

Suspension

Suspension will bring the car’s COM closer to the ground. The closer to the ground the COM is, the more stable the car will be when cornering. However when doing this with suspension the steering response will feel heavier the lower you go. The car will still turn just as well, but it won’t feel as responsive. A balance will need to be found through experimentation.

Brakes

While applying the maximum braking upgrades will give you more braking force, that can sometimes be a bad thing. An obvious example of this is the Slamvan, which has a tendency to lock its brakes very easily when applying full brake pressure. When brakes are locked you’re not slowing down as effectively as the wheels are essentially sliding to slow down.

In cars where full brake pressure will lock up the brakes, applying the brake upgrades will only make it so that less brake pressure is needed to lock up the brakes. If you could depress the trigger 80% of the way down to stop a Slamvan without locking up when stock, full brakes will mean you will lock up at 40% for example. You basically have less of a window.

Apart from these obvious exceptions, some drivers actually prefer less braking force in general to allow them to trail brake into corners for smoothness, while others prefer full brakes to get stopped quickly before the corner and sort it out when they get there. It’s worth experimenting when you start getting used to a car to see what you prefer.

Wheels

A lot of wheels in this game don’t do anything different, but a lot also do. For the purposes of this section I’m going to ignore the specifics around bump absorption from Off-Road wheels as discussed on the Car Upgrades page. This section relates to cars where that isn’t applicable or when any particular racing event in GTA doesn’t allow Off-Road wheels.

Wheels in GTA can affect three different things:

  • Traction Bias - Whether the front or rear wheels have more grip.
  • Slip Angle - The amount of steering angle needed to reach maximum grip.
  • Anti-Roll - The amount of grip being sacrificed to improve stability.

A reminder is needed at this stage that none of these aspects will change ultimate lap times for cars, and that these changes in grip & stability are extremely small. We’re not talking the difference in grip between having a spoiler and not having a spoiler here. They’re barely perceptible differences that change the way the car behaves more than anything else.

It’s best to show via an example how three different types of wheels can change things, and we’ll use the three wheel types that were mandated for use during MCEC seasons, all from the Tuner category.

  • Cosmo - Default. A balanced option that doesn’t alter the way the car feels from a stock perspective.
  • Fujiwara - Traction bias moved towards the rear. More likely to make the car understeer as less grip is on the front wheels, but also makes the car feel more stable due to the increased grip on the rear wheels.
  • Rally Master - Traction bias moved towards the front and slip angle increased. More likely to make the car oversteer as less grip is on the rear wheels, but also makes the car feel more responsive due to the increased grip on the front wheels. More slip angle makes the car more loose but also more responsive to steering inputs.

The problem is that there are hundreds of wheel options and each one has a different effect (or no effect at all). For example one wheel might influence the slip angle of the car much more than another. Or one wheel affects all three aspects in one way while another affects each of them in the opposite way.

It’s all about testing to find out which wheel does what. Thankfully there’s already a database of sorts which allows you to at least choose a wheel that might have the effect you’re looking for. Read below for more info on that.

Further Reading

This page has been written with the aim to break things down and make these concepts as understandable and accessible as possible for the majority of players, even if most won’t actually get any tangible use from them. However a lot of excellent work has been done by CHILLI for a long time on this subject and he maintains a document (accessible here) that goes into more depth on some of these aspects if you want some further reading or a deeper understanding. I’d like to thank him and the general high level GTA racing community for continually testing and finding all of the aspects written about here, which I’ve then been able to verify with my own testing and experiences.

That or it’s all just placebos :D