Everyone loves to put their own personal touch on things they own, a vehicle is no different. Beyond the decals, stuffed animals and dashboard bobble heads, these are the top five accessories that can give you a better driving experience.
Navigation systems use Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites to pin-point the car’s location and built-in maps to find addresses and get directions. Some can even route you around traffic jams! With a navigation system, it’s virtually impossible to get lost — if you make a wrong turn, the system figures it out right away and updates the route. Many new cars are offered with navigation, but there are a plethora of portable add-on units that offer more features at surprisingly low prices. Newer units also give details about gas prices at nearby stations, menus for nearby restaurants, and posted speed limits.
Most states have a hands-free mobile phone law, including Maryland. Bluetooth hands-free system should be considered a must-have. Many cars offer built-in systems that turn the car into a giant speakerphone, but a small headset that fits into your ear works just as well. Bluetooth allows you to keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road, where they belong.
Years ago, when cars were lower, longer and wider, it was a lot harder to back into something — but today’s more aerodynamic designs and safety regulations mean that rear visibility has taken a back seat. Side and rear-view windows are sometimes smaller and tilted in a way that hinders a clear view of what’s around your car. A rear-view camera (also known as a backup camera) lets you see what is immediately behind the car; they can prevent you from backing over something or, more importantly, someone. And they also make parallel-parking a cinch.
Tire Pressure Gauge
This may seem like a rather low-tech device for this list, but it’s important. Tires lose air pressure over time (around 3% per month) and as the temperature drops (3% per 10 degrees). Low tires use more fuel and are more likely to have a blowout. With a tire gauge, you can check the pressure yourself and make sure that your car drives more efficiently — and more safely. To learn your car’s optimum tire pressure, check the owner’s manual, or the driver’s side door jamb, which usually has a sticker stating correct pressure for both front and rear tires.
You may have seen the commercials for OnStar — one push of a button connects you to a live operator who can help you with directions, roadside assistance, and can even remotely unlock your car should you happen to leave your keys inside. But what makes OnStar really worth having is its collision detection system. If you have an accident, OnStar automatically calls for help, reporting your car’s exact position using a built-in GPS (Global Positioning System), allowing the OnStar people to send help. Even if you don’t know where you are, OnStar does. OnStar is standard on General Motors cars, but if you’re not driving GM you can buy the OnStar FMV rear view mirror unit for about $100.
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