Lifestyle

101 things worth the money: Auto Accessories

Wheeled wonder

Confident at the car dealership… impervious to rip-off artists… able to make mincemeat out of shady mechanics. With the Automobile Protection Association (APA) at your back, you’ll feel like a superhero behind the wheel.

As a member (the initial fee is just under $60, then annual renewals cost about $40), you get free consultations with APA lawyers and advice from knowledgeable staff, as well as expert new-car ratings and reviews from Lemon-Aid, the APA’s magazine. Got a dispute with a mechanic or car dealer? The APA offers arbitration and advice. For more information, log on to www.apa.ca.

Armor all

Tough luck for auto thieves, good news for you — an immobilizer makes your car nearly impossible to steal. Unlike run-of-the-mill car alarms, steering-wheel bars and other devices, an immobilizer wraps electronic “chains” around your wheels so once your car’s shut down, no one can start it without a special key or code. Even hot-wiring is unlikely.

At $200 to $400 installed, an immobilizer is a bargain, especially since having a Vehicle Information Centre of Canada-approved model will save you money on auto insurance. More than half of new 2002 vehicles have the gizmo built right in, but if you’re interested in protecting the wheels you’ve got, go to a VIC-approved installer and choose one of these four after-market models: Autowatch 329 Ti, MagTec 6000, Powerlock or Theftbuster TB300V.

Crash course

Funny how everyone complains that no one knows how to drive anymore. And even if you’re as good behind the wheel as you think you are, how do you avoid all those other maniacs on the road? Collisionfree Driver Improvement Program is the answer.

Transport companies such as Purolator and FedEx sign their drivers up for this seven-and-a-half-hour session, which includes a thorough run-through of collision-avoidance techniques, how to use ABS brakes properly and how to regain control during a spinout. Combining in-class and in-car instruction with a trainer, the course can be completed in a day or two and will not only help you stay in control of your car, it could reward you with lower insurance rates. $249. Check www.yd.com for course locations across Canada.

Trunk triage

Even if you already have an auto club membership (see Car crusaders below), you still need a few self-preservation staples in your trunk in case of a mishap. We hate to sound like your mother, but what if you break down in the middle of the night with no cellphone reception and not a soul in sight? The Emergency Roadside Safety Kit will get you going again with a lantern, first-aid kit, booster cables, a 12-volt air compressor to re-inflate your tires, wrenches, pliers and more. $59.99 from Canadian Tire (www.canadiantire.ca).

Driven to distraction

Can’t stomach another verse of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall”? Quiet your road-weary kids by playing their favorite videotape, right inside your car or minivan. The Audiovox VBP2000 ($599) is a portable viewing system that powers up with juice from your vehicle’s cigarette lighter. Bundled in a carrying case, the kit comes complete with videocassette player, five-inch viewing screen and speakers — or, to better your enjoyment, have the kids plug in their headphones.

Car crusaders

Locked your keys in the car? Out of gas at three in the morning? No problem — that is, if you have a membership with the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA). As well as playing Lone Ranger to stranded motorists, Canada’s premier auto club offers a passel of services and rewards, including discounts on car rentals and auto repair, free advice on auto insurance claims and access to its Canadian Black Book guide to used-car values.

Heading on a road trip? They’ll work up a personalized TripTik for your journey anywhere in North America, with maps outlining your route, plus the locations of food and fuel stops, and CAA-approved (and discounted) lodgings along the way. Going abroad? CAA is your one-stop shop for international driving permits and budget passport photos. Basic coverage starts at $65 a year. For specific rates, check with your local CAA chapter or log on to www.caa.ca.

Brown out

As Neil Young once wrote, “rust never sleeps.” The folks at Krown Rust Control have obviously taken these words to heart. Since 1986, they’ve been a leader in automotive rust prevention, with 230 locations across the country. Kirk Robinson, a garage owner and master mechanic from Mississauga, Ont., uses Krown exclusively on his own vehicles.

“They really know what they’re doing and stand behind it,” he says. Unlike some competitors, which use a “no-drip” spray wax that can easily miss spots, Krown’s rust inhibitor penetrates into every crevice and cranny, creating a self-healing barrier around your vehicle’s body as well as its working parts. The company charges flat rates of $110 to $130 per vehicle, leaving you with a simple decision — pay a little now to prolong the life of your vehicle or pay a lot to your mechanic later on.

Va-va-vroom

Tired of sitting in traffic? Why not one-up those gas-guzzling SUVs and hop on a sexy motorized scooter instead? For the price of a serious bicycle ($2,500), you can zip to the coffee shop or post office, no pedaling required, on a Honda Jazz.

Beneath its smart looks lies a 49cc engine that’ll get you through a couple weeks of errands on a $5 tank of gas, while zooming up to 60 km/h.

“We got some in this summer and they were sold before they even arrived at the shop,” says Ryan Porteous of Burlington Cycle in Ontario. You’ll find complete specs online at www.honda.ca.

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