Category: Accessories

By on September 13, 2019

best steam cleaners for car detailing

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.


Every single gearhead reading this enjoys a clean car. Whether we take the time to actually remove life’s various and sundry detritus, well, that’s a different story. We all know people whose engine compartments are tidier than their passenger compartments.

Hoovering the carpets and seats only removes so much dirt, as those ads for commercial-grade steam cleaner rentals used to so graphically demonstrate. These days, portable steam cleaners abound, meaning those of us who decide to give our car a really good scrub needn’t venture to the Kroger across town that’s really scary after 4 pm.

Keep in mind these units can be used in the house, too, in case your other half is questioning your financial investment on one of these things. Dirt begone!

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By on September 9, 2019

best car escape tools

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.


It’s a scenario no one wants to think about: being trapped in a car for some unspeakable reason. Fire is, was, and always has been my  biggest fear. I can’t imagine what it would be like for someone who’s claustrophobic.

Like car insurance, something we buy but hope to never use, the best car-escape tools are an investment worth making. In situations where seconds matter, whether they’re your seconds or someone else’s, having one of these tools in the glovebox of your car is a solid plan.

And, with that alarmist hyperbole out of the way, your author feels like mentioning these things can be used for much more entertaining purposes, such as knocking the windows out of a $200 Crown Victoria before it is disposed of in a particularly violent demolition derby. Am I the only one on staff who’s been in derbies? Perhaps, though I did talk a former Managing Ed into one.

Here are a few good choices for safety or derby preparedness – your choice.

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By on September 6, 2019

best auxiliary lights

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.


If you’re eating from the instant ramen end of the automotive menu (*ahem Ace of Base ahem*), chances are your new whip won’t have all the snazzy options a manufacturer has to offer. While economy of scale and common platforms increasingly ensures that base cars have some kit they would not have had just a few short years ago, costs have to be cut somewhere.

Binning fog lights or auxiliary driving lamps is usually one of the first stops on the Cost Cutting Express, causing a certain amount of forward illumination on cheap wheels to vanish like an ice cream cone in the sun. Sure, not all of those things are efficiently designed to cut though fog (recall the useless but stylish bumper buckets on the 1993 Bonneville SSEi) but the loss of light can’t be denied.

It’s important to note that some of the aftermarket fog and auxiliary lights on this list are intended for off-road use only, so be sure to check your local laws before lighting them up out on the freeway. Also, don’t be a Chad or Kyle and blind people ahead of you in traffic. Dim these things for oncoming cars, in other words. And seek installation help if you’re unsure what goes plugged in where. Car electrical fires are never fun.

With that legal mumbo jumbo out of the way, let’s check out the best auxiliary lights available. As Gul Madred asked Captain Picard: “How many lights do you see?”*

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By on September 4, 2019

best sunshades for the car

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.


You’ve seen plenty of vehicles with completely nuked dashboards in Murilee’s Junkyard Find series. After a lifetime of baking in the sun, these cars end up with cratered and cracked interiors that resemble the moon’s surface. It’s not pretty.

Sunshades are derided by some as useless items deployed only by Floridian seniors after parking their 1992 Chrysler New Yorker at the Golden Corral. Closer inspection actually reveals these things pop up on cars deposited in sunny climate long-term lots in an effort by their owners to keep the vehicle interior temperature from reaching those normally found on the sun.

An informal survey also taught this author that some delivery drivers deploy sunshades during a stop to try and keep their office cool and avoid a furnace-like blast every time they open the door. It adds a measure of security from prying eyes as well.

Here are an octet of the best sunshades we found on Amazon.

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By on August 27, 2019

best rear view cameras

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.


In 2019, most new cars and trucks come with a backup camera as standard equipment. Daddy Goverment decreed the rearward lens to be standard safety equipment about a year ago, with the effort pushing for this law gaining steam in the early 2000’s after a tragic driveway accident. Having more visibility astern is never a bad thing.

Not all of us are driving new cars and, this being TTAC, a good number of the readership would likely rather pilot a knackered 1993 Ranger Splash 4×2 than splash out on a new set of wheels (hey – I’ve been around here for nearly 10 years; I know you lot). A twenty-five-year-old Blue Oval pickup is unlikely to have air conditioning, let alone backup cams.

With that in mind, we present the best backup cameras – eight good options for fitting six o’clock peepers.

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By on August 20, 2019

best blind spot mirrors

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.


If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: check yer bind spot! More than a few collisions (notice we didn’t call them “accidents”) occur because drivers heedlessly heave their car over into the next lane only to find themselves occupying the same time and space as another vehicle. This leads to Expensive Noises.

Plenty of machines on the road today are equipped with blind-spot monitoring systems, most of which use a system that detects when another vehicle is in one’s blind spot and flashes an amber light, usually on the face of the car’s sideview mirror. One of the best alert systems is employed by Audi, which places a big amber light on the inside of the mirror housing instead of on the mirror itself. That light then fades in and out like an Iowa radio station rather than winking abruptly like a horny teenager.

Still, there are plenty of cars which don’t have this tech — and more than a few rolling around in which it was not available when they were built — so we assembled eight options found on Amazon.

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By on August 16, 2019

best racing simulator cockpits

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.


It’s a fantasy harbored by every single gearhead on the planet: the ability to jump aboard any supercar or race machine in the world and rip off a lap of their favorite racetrack. The likes of Forza, Gran Turismo, and iRacing now affords us that opportunity, albeit digitally. Still, you’re left with steering your way around Eau Rouge with a joystick or d-pad and mashing the throttle of a McLaren Senna with your right index finger.

The advent of sim steering wheel and pedal kits solved that problem and the units shown here take that a step further. You’ll need a healthy amount of footprint space dedicated to one of these racing sim cockpits, so expect to be banished to the garage or basement with it once the novelty has worn off for the rest of the family.

Presented here are seven of the best we could find on Amazon. Note that some units being hawked online don’t come with a seat, so read the fine print carefully. All of the ones listed here do have a chair as of this writing.

Your author also wondered how long it would take writing these posts for him to unholster his Visa debit card and buy one of the units on which he is writing. The UPS truck arrives next Thursday.

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By on August 9, 2019

best head units

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.


Several lifetimes ago, your author was the first person in his small town to install a good set of subwoofers, plunking them in the hatchback area of a rusting Ford. Aftermarket stereos had been around for ages, of course, but banging woofers? Not so much. All hands quickly followed suit, one-upping each other and generally infuriating the community’s rapidly aging populace.

Back then, it was easy to source an aftermarket head unit because all cars had either a DIN or Double DIN sized hole in the dash. Today’s interior styling choices have put a knee in the groin of this accessory segment but there are still a few machines into which one can swap a good receiver.

Popping the extra bit of cheddar for an installation kit is always a good idea, as it precludes the need for hacking into your car’s factory wiring with the élan of Edward Scissorhands by turning the affair into essentially a plug-n-play situation. Your author speaks from personal experience in this regard. Before the presence of such kits in the stores of his home province, many a wiring harness met with particularly graphic deaths by bludgeoning.

And, for the love of all that’s holy, use good wiring practices if you’re doing this install yourself. Simply stripping the ends, twisting stuff together, and shoving it all back into the dash isn’t good enough. Familiarize yourself with the wonders of heat-activated shrink wrap or, even better, improve your soldering skills.

Now, crank it up and annoy the neighbors.

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By on July 30, 2019

best trickle chargers

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.


What did the bartender say to the set of jumper cables that walked into the bar? Why, he said “You’d better not start anything in here tonight,” of course!

Hey. I’m a dad and am allowed to make dad jokes.

But here’s the thing – there’s an excellent chance that natty set of thick 2-gauge jumper cables actually won’t start anything if you’re working with a battery that’s constantly flat. Constantly running a battery flatter than the Prairies is a one-way ticket to the town of No Start. That’s why trickle chargers were invented.

Designed to feed a small but measured amount of juice into a car battery, trickle chargers – also called battery maintainers – use electricity to replenish batteries at or near the same amount of self-discharge. Try to find one that shuts off at appropriate times, called a ‘float’ mode, so the battery doesn’t get overcharged like festival goers trying to buy a bottle of water.

Their most common use is to be connected when a car goes into winter storage, allowing the battery to remain at the ready for the first flick of the key next summer. Some also advocate the use of a trickle charger to boost a flat battery, since the gradual re-introduction of juice is easier on a battery than a sudden jolt. It takes a helluva long time, though.

We’ve gone through the options on Amazon and present our findings here. No more dad jokes, we promise.

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By on July 22, 2019

best trailer brake controllers

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.


If you’re thinking about using your truck or SUV to tow anything more than a child’s inflatable dinghy, it is an exceedingly good idea to invest in a trailer brake controller. These units, generally about the size of two stacked smartphones, manage the amount of braking force being produced by the electric brakes fitted to your trailer’s axles.

Not sure if your trailer has electric brakes? Check the plug size on the end of its electrical pigtail that gets connected to the tow vehicle. If it is rectangular with four metal connections, it is only tasked with providing the trailer’s lights with juice. If it is round with seven pins, your trailer has electric brakes.

These controllers allow the driver to monitor the braking situation astern and, in all but the cheapest examples, set the level of braking aggression provided by the trailer when you apply the brakes on your tow vehicle.

We’ve picked out eight of the best for you to consider before getting hitched and hitting the road. Be safe out there, kids.

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By on July 12, 2019

best car covers

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.


Whether it’s a sports car or snazzy truck, chances are you’ve invested a lot in your ride. If you’re serious about preserving its value, whether for trade-in time or simply for extending the life of its paint, slapping down a few bucks on a car cover falls squarely into the category of a Very Good Idea.

Like most security items in life, a cover isn’t perfect but it certainly acts as a good deterrent. That ne’er-do-well with the keys in his hand will find it more difficult to carve epithets into the paint of a covered car than one which isn’t comfortably ensconced in some form of man-made polypropylene. Same goes for the miscreant who wants to haul open the door and drive away.

We’ve searched Amazon to unearth eight good examples of the breed. As you’d expect, some are cheap while others are uber-expensive. Read on to discover what we found.

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By on June 28, 2019

best trailer locks

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.


Yes, I know it seems we got our pithy phrase backwards in the title. What we mean by it is that after loading your trailer, you should lock the thing, geddit? We’ll be here all week folks; try the veal.

It doesn’t matter what’s in the tow behind — boxes of tools, camping equipment, or a Hemi ‘Cuda — it all makes a tempting target for the criminal element. This goes for actual camping trailers, too. A retailer near your author’s hometown has to deal with loss prevention more often than anyone would care to admit. After all, in most cases, the theft is as simple as a hitch-up-and-go.

In the same way The Club steering-wheel lock is used to simply provide a deterrent, rather than making your ride theft-proof, so do these hitch locks for trailers. If there are two units side by each, a thief will likely make off with the one that provides the least resistance to an easy payday. A person should still lock the doors on the thing or, if it’s a flat deck, find some other way to secure the valuables.

Meaning, of course, that none of these are a total waste of money. Something is always better than nothing and we waded through a few different options so you don’t have to.

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By on June 27, 2019

best floor mats

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.


Floor mats are, much like your author, routinely ignored until needed or they fail to work properly. These things serve faithfully to keep your car’s carpets clean yet are hardly given a second thought — unless they’re annoyingly bunched up near the base of your seat, at which time they’re cursed to high heaven. They’re the Rodney Dangerfield of car accessories, I tell ya.

Okay, maybe that’s too much hyperbole but you get my point. A good set of floor mats make the difference between a salt-stained mess that scuppers your car’s trade-in value and a clean whip that you’re proud to show off.

You guys know my flamboyant personality, so there will be a mix of practical and retina-searing suggestions on this list. We don’t care which one you choose, so long as you choose something. A clean car is a happy car and, if the placebo effect is of any consideration, it runs better too.

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By on May 30, 2019

best hitch cargo carriers

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.


There’s a theory that the amount of stuff parents need to carry with them is inversely proportional to the age of their kids. Newborns generally require at least 500 diapers and wipes plus a mandatory assortment of toys and attention grabbers. Toss in an ergonomically correct jogging stroller and a pediatrician-approved collapsible play pen and you’ve suddenly no room left in the car for humans.

Fortunately, there’s an answer. It arrives in the form of exterior cargo bags. After all, these types of storage solutions have been around for ages in some form or another. Fun fact: the shape we know as the modern sedan was created when an enterprising person bolted a rectangular chest to the back of their pre-war rig for extra storage.

Who says TTAC isn’t educational?

We’ve covered rooftop carriers in a previous installment of this series. Today, we have scoured the web for hitch-mounted carriers for those people who need extra storage space but don’t want to lose sunroof functionality. Here’s our picks.

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By on May 23, 2019

best bumper guards

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.


It’s not your driving habits or parking skills that are in question here — it’s the other guy’s capabilities (or lack thereof) from which we need to guard ourselves. The cynical amongst us will say these types of bumper guards also fortify your own bumper to inflict maximum damage on others. Verticalscope’s bedwetting lawyers are reminding me not endorse that activity.

We’ve not limited ourselves to a single make or model in this post when selecting contenders for this list, so please be certain your bumper guard of choice fits your vehicle before ordering. Most of the ones shown here are of the “universal” variety. However, a lifetime of installing (and then removing and re-installing) vehicle accessories has taught your author that “universal fit” doesn’t always mean exactly what you think it does.

Not all of us are fortunate enough to have a garage, or even off street parking, so there is a measure of usefulness to these items. In fact, there must be a fairly big market for this type of car protection if the array of available options is any indication. Your author used to be proponent of the phrase “bumpers are for bumping,” but today’s styling decisions often render that belief more obsolete than a Commodore 64. Note well: the non-adhesive versions of these things should only be deployed when the car is parked.

And don’t worry, in addition to the best bumper guards, we’ll have a list of off-road bumper guards coming up soon.

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