At Hearst Autos, we’re constantly trying out new gear for cars, trucks, and sometimes motorcycles, and the people who love them. This includes tools for working on vehicles, aftermarket products to improve them, and gadgets, technologies and accessories that make them more user-friendly. Our publications staff—Car and driver, Road & Trackand Automatic week– are in the trenches week after week to bring you the best automotive news and information. And in the process, we use a lot of things.
There are a ton of automotive gear and products out there, but if you haven’t tried something yourself, how do you know if it’s worth buying? We are lucky enough to be able to get our hands on a ton of cars every week. That’s why we share with our readers all the equipment, products and accessories that Hearst Autos staff use and recommend.
Here are our picks for the best car and automotive gear of the week.
BlueDriver Bluetooth Pro OBD-II Scan Tool
Here in the Car and driver testing department, we have a plethora of electronics to log data as we extract every ounce of performance from a vehicle. Things generally run smoothly, but on rare occasions the dreaded check engine light comes on during testing. Is this a harmless misfire or something more serious? We need to know before we can continue.
The Lemur BlueDriver is more than just a code reader, it’s a diagnostic tool that has found its way into many of our backpacks. The compact dongle plugs into your vehicle’s OBD-II port and connects to an Android or Apple device via Bluetooth. It monitors various on-board sensors and displays selected channels on your device. As you drive, it even records live data that can be exported to another device. If it finds bugs in the systems, relevant trouble code-based repair advice is at your fingertips. And if you live in a state with emissions testing, the BlueDriver can check if your vehicle is up to snuff. For DIYers or anyone who just wants to add a digital readout to their dashboard, Lemur’s BlueDriver is a must. —David Beard, Technical Writer
$119.95 at AMAZON
iOttie Wireless Phone Holder and Car Charger with Auto-Sensing
Gadgets are constantly evolving and iOttie’s latest car phone holder is among the best holders we’ve used. With Qi wireless charging and auto-sensing, a feature that senses your phone’s presence in the cradle and secures it securely in place, it solves a host of issues that have plagued phone mounts of the past.
We’ve tried them over the years: suction cup mounts that lose suction within weeks (if not sooner), vent mounts that broke the fins straight from our Honda CR-V’s vents, door mounts – cups that are terribly misplaced. Not to mention the cables, to hell with those cables! The iOttie solves all of these problems in a relatively affordable package that fits almost any vehicle.
It attaches to the dashboard (or windshield) with a strong suction cup that shows no signs of letting go. The mounting mechanism is strong and easily adjustable. Charging, although slow, keeps a phone charged. And the clamping function proved to be surprisingly reliable, with phone cases and all.
Once we place a device in the cradle, two side clamps shear off and hold it in place until the trip is over and we click the two release buttons on the sides. True, the stand itself needs to be plugged in from time to time. But once the internal Li-ion battery is charged, the iOttie continues to charge wirelessly for at least an hour.
Sometimes when you upgrade a technology, you immediately regret it. But for us, the iOttie Wireless Phone Holder and Auto-Sensing Car Charger brings car phone holder one step closer to perfection. —Jon Langston, Trade Editor
Lego Technic BMW M 1000 RR
Lego Technic sets are no joke – they’re messy, tricky and require every ounce of concentration in the tank. But they are worth it. Now, Lego’s biggest motorcycle to date has just raised the bar, in a whopping 1:5 scale. With 1920 pieces and two full sheets of stickers, the box contains a ton of stuff to put together. And I assembled, spending several nights connecting the parts. My thumbs still hurt.
The price is high but deserved. The quality of this set lives up to the Lego standard; the pieces fit together perfectly, the directions are great, and the result is a showcase of the years of development Lego has put into the set. It is an excellent exercise for the mind and not for the faint-hearted. Assembly will take days and lots of “Wait, did I do it right?” hesitation.
Fully assembled, the bike weighs three pounds, so heavy that Lego designed an all-new suspension setup to support the beast. When you just want to admire it on a shelf, the set comes with a stand that features a spec sheet plaque to display with pride.
All in all, this is the ultimate Lego challenge. It will keep you engaged for as long as your thumbs last. In the heart of winter, it’s the perfect opportunity to test yourself, and that’s why I recommend it.—Collin Morgan, Associate Trade Editor
Megababe Squeaky Clean Hand Sanitizer
Who knew that in this decade we would not only walk out with our keys, phone and wallet, but also with a mask and hand sanitizer? For the latter, consider Megababe Squeaky Clean Hand Sanitizer.
What makes this herbal product a great gear for your car? The 16-ounce pump bottle fits neatly in a cup holder for immediate access, saving you the step of unclogging a tiny on-the-go spritzer that could fly through the cabin during sudden braking or a release of industrial size that will roll forgotten in the cargo area.
Despite the girly brand name, the paraben-free sanitizer inside has a subtle citrus scent that’s easily gender neutral — in fact, it was my husband who suggested we keep this 16-ounce pump bottle in our Central console. The product has lasted entire summers in my car without the leaky plastic meltdowns I’ve experienced with cheaper packaging. Now that it’s winter, the marula oil and aloe balance out the alcohol content to nourish my hands instead of drying them out further. —Adrienne Girard, copy editor
$18 at ULTA
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