uying a car is a large, emotional decision fraught with layers of research and deep thinking. Finding the right accessories to complement said vehicle can be an equally dizzying process,
whether it be for adventuring or just daily maintenance. Layer on the shifting circumstances of 2020, and there’s a whole new list of must-have accessories that pacify problems previously not considered, such as batteries that drain from disuse. Different times, different priorities.
Most people don’t keep tabs on battery tender or roof rack technology, but in the coronavirus affected year of 2020 cars are parked for longer periods of time and road travel is ever more important for weekends and vacation days. That’s why we compiled a list of 10 all-star products that provide lots of value to a wide range of drivers during such unprecedented times.
Many are practical additions to any driving universe that will come in handy right away and you don’t have to be a car enthusiast to appreciate or need them.
Cold weather drains batteries, as does leaving a car sitting unused. Classic car owners often use battery maintainers to keep infrequently-used vehicles charged with a low but constant supply of power. The past year unexpectedly disrupted the driving habits of thousands of commuters, keeping vehicles parked in driveways or garages for longer periods of time, suddenly highlighting the benefit and necessity of owning a maintainer.
Deltran’s Battery Tender brand of chargers and maintainers are among the best, and the 1.25 Amp charger a standout. The Deltran Battery Plus 1.25 Amp unit is strong enough to maintain large pickup batteries and also adjusts voltage to compensate for temperature, ensuring even charging and prolonging battery life. Once it fully charges a battery the system sets itself on trickle mode, replenishing charge that naturally dissipates.
The Battery Tender Plus 1.25 Amp retails for $50, but Deltran also has a range of models for lighter and heavier duty applications.
Road trips have increased in popularity this year with the shrinking availability (and higher risk) of air travel. Spending more hours in the car can mean more mess inside it. Floor mats are a good solution to keeping a vehicle’s native carpet clean, but a few provide superior protection such as WeatherTech’s Custom-Fit Floor Liners. WeatherTech’s liners don’t come cheap relative to other manufacturers, but they have many advantages in construction, fitment and variety.
WeatherTech uses digital laser measurements to create floor liners (not “mats”) that overlay the vehicle’s carpet from wall-to-wall, and in some cases even up the sides of the footwells for a higher level of protection. The liners are made from a durable, patented plastic and typically are deep enough to retain liquid from major spills. In most cases they’re available in multiple colors.
Floor liners from WeatherTech range in cost, but most models range from $170 to $200 range and come with a limited lifetime warranty.
Often times road trip destinations require bulky equipment that demand the cargo space of a large SUV or truck. For drivers that want to transport kayaks, surfboards or stand-up paddle boards but don’t want to compromise interior space or who operate a smaller vehicle, an affordable, flexible rack attachment is key. It’s also important to find one that works with various crossbars, even the factory-installed kind.
The Inno Long Board/SUP/Kayak carrier securely and easily stows one kayak or canoe, two longboards or three short surfboards. They also have a locking mechanism for overnight storage. Easily maneuverable straps and a ratchet-type fastener make it easy to for one person to load and unload. Installing the system on the crossbars also is a cinch.
Inno makes other rack attachments which can hold larger loads, but the 445 is a versatile and high-quality piece for quick weekend trips, especially for solo weekend warriors or those that travel in small packs of two or three. The 445 retails for $191 on Amazon.
You never can be sure what you’ll need to haul, and in 2020 more time at home means more home projects. For many do-it-yourselfers, that translates to moving oddly-shaped items back (and forth) from the home improvement store, or hauling mounds of cardboard boxes or old junk to the dump.
To effectively carry unusually-shaped loads on the roof of a vehicle or to secure items to the bed of a pickup, quality straps—like the Yakima 8005006 Heavy-Duty Straps—are a must. They also will work with a naked roof, making them extra versatile. One of the major pitfalls of most roof rack straps is that the ends are made of metal. Inevitably the roof or sides of your vehicle will take a beating. This $33 set of straps conveniently encases the metal parts in soft rubber.
A 16-feet long, Yakima’s heavy duty straps are made of box-stitched polypropylene webbing. The cam-type steel buckles are easy to feed the straps through for a secure fit and easily detach when unloading without the use of pliers or screwdrivers. Notably, these aren’t ratchet straps, so they’ll need one good final tug before starting your journey.
Carrying a high-quality flashlight in a glovebox or console is never a bad idea for road trips or daily commutes. Even if you never wind up peering into the engine bay in December darkness, the Coast G19 LED inspection beam flashlight is a well-made and durable pen light.
Like a tiny Hollywood-style spotlight, the G19 gives a perfectly circular, high-intensity beam that illuminates only what you want to see. It’s usefulness extends to travel, providing overnight flight or back-seat passengers nighttime visibility with little disruption to others, and serves many purposes for outdoorsy types. The G19 illuminates objects 65 feet away and runs for two and half hours on a single AAA battery. The case is water and impact resistant.
The G19 runs just $14 on Amazon. For those with more space in the glovebox, look to the similar 2-AAA Coast G20inspection beam light, which offers a longer battery life.
Fuel economy, safety, ride quality: they’re among the many to reasons keep tires topped up and at optimum pressure. And in 2020, with vehicles just sitting around or getting less use than is normal (especially in regions with large temperature swings) keeping tires inflated is even more important. The Viair 88P portable compressor / tire inflator is a cheap, easy-to-use and reliable portable compressor that can help maintain your tires wherever you store your vehicle.
The 88P is a tad more expensive and heavy-duty compared with other inflators, but in a world increasingly populated with SUVs, it can fill tires up to 33 inches in size. The compressor’s long cords make moving around the vehicle mostly hassle-free.
Some tire inflators can be powered through interior 12V outlets, but they usually need more power than these outlets can provide. The 88P connects to the vehicle’s battery terminals, providing it plenty of juice without any risk to internal systems. The Viair 88P sells for $66 and comes with a one-year warranty.
In 2020, road trips have become a much needed escape from the house. That means lots of people want to take their pets with them, especially if there’s nobody at home to watch them. This brings up a familiar dilemma: how to take your pup on a trip without ending up with mud, fur, or other debris on your seats. It’s also important for your dog to be secure and comfortable, not sliding around or nervous.
The solution is a durable, hammock-style seat cover, which adds a forward flap to standard rear-seat covers. The 4Knines Dog Seat Coversare durable and easy-to-use hammocks that come in 54- or 60-inch widths. The straps quickly latch around your front and rear headrests and form a semi-enclosed pen for your pooch with Velcro openings for seat belts.
The hammock covers are made of heavy-duty, colorfast polyester and are free of any heavy chemicals or harmful dyes. They’re soft and comfy but tough, and easy to clean with a moist towel or in a washing machine. 4Knines’ regular-size hammock seat cover costs $60 on Amazon.
Not everybody feels confident enough to do their own vehicle service, but in 2020 some people have taken to do doing basic maintenance tasks at home. Every D-I-Y mechanic really wants a $3,000 shop-style garage lift, but if you can’t swing one of those, these durable Race Ramps RR-40 ramps can greatly alleviate some of the hassles of working under a vehicle, and safely too. Ramps are safer and easier to use than jack stands when you need to get under a car, but choosing the right ramp is important.
Race Ramps’ products are made of high-density foam. They can bear lots of weight and are rock tough, but are easy to move around and store. At 6 pounds each, they’re 80 percent lighter than equivalent steel ramps and more stable when a vehicle rolls onto them thanks to their grippy foam construction.
The $160 RR-40 ramps provide 7 inches of vehicle lift, support 1,500 pounds each, and can accommodate tires up to 8 inches wide. They’re well suited to a wide range of vehicles, but Race Ramps also offer larger models for bigger machinery.
As with kayaks and paddle boards, bikes are a popular items for road tripping or just a daylong jaunt to the trailhead. In August Americans took 37% more road trips in 2020 than they did in 2019, according to the Department of Transportation. With such limited travel options this year, more people are using their bikes to get back to nature.
The hitch-mounted, American-made 1Up USA heavy-duty bike rack has an industrial look and isn’t cheap at $849.95, but it’s strength and durability make it a good investment. This rack works with vehicles that have a 2-inch trailer hitch mount. 1Up USA also makes racks for 1.25-inch mounts on smaller vehicles.
The rack itself weighs 46 pounds and it can support up to 200 pounds of weight, enough for a pair of very brawny e-bikes with wheelbases up to 54 inches. It’s made of anodized aluminum, so it won’t rust, and folds out of place when not in use. 1Up USA also includes a re-usable storage box, and offers attachment to expand its capabilities.
You’re out driving on a mountain road and hear a grinding noise from your left rear wheel and pull over. You’ve only got one bar of signal on your phone. Maybe you’ll reach someone.
Wilson’s WeBoost Drive Reach system, about $500, consists of internal and external antennas and a signal amplifier inside your car, can provide up to 50dB of signal gain. It also has quite a bit more uplink and downlink signal power than earlier signal boosters including Wilson’s own Drive X. These abilities can turn one bar into two and allow your phone to work more effectively as a mobile hotspot. Multiple phones also can use the system simultaneously.
The amplifier box and antennae are easy to install on your own, but you may be more satisfied in the long running spending an extra $100 or so to have the amplifier and cables installed out of sight.