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10 Car Accessories to Streamline Your Next Journey

No matter how far you’re going, improve your experience behind the wheel with these gadgets.

car accessory
Staff, Courtesy of Viair

As the Autos editor at Popular Mechanics, I’ve spent countless hours behind the wheel of various automobiles on and off-road. Having cracked the oil pan in my Volkswagen GTI daily driver after pushing it slightly past its comfort zone in the dirt, I know that it pays to be prepared regardless of what you’re doing and where you’re going. Despite all the compilations of goofy car gadgets that exist on the internet, there are tons of great items that slipped through the cracks. Below you’ll find accessories that can improve your automotive experience—many of which I’ve purchased with my own money and use on a day-to-day basis.

Having raced mountain bikes all throughout college in the southwest United States, I was no stranger to logging long hours on the highway. While just about any road trip can become arduous around the five-hour mark, it's the small things that make the biggest difference. Whether it was treating my windshield with a hydrophobic coating, fitting a new set of wiper blades, or even purchasing a dedicated mounting solution for my smartphone, all of these items combined made a substantial difference.

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Phone Mount
Quad Lock Car Mount
Quad Lock

There’s not a lot that smartphones can’t do. Unless your vehicle comes from the factory with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, your mobile device is an invaluable resource on the road, whether it’s your navigation system or music player. Unlike many solutions on the market, Quad Lock’s phone mount offers the greatest compatibility I’ve seen yet—easily attached to your windshield using the suction-cup mount on the back. As an added bonus, pair it with the wireless charging unit for an additional $50. However, before you buy either product, you’ll have to purchase a Quad Lock case for your device.

  • Easy to install on any vehicle

  • No charger included
Wireless Phone Charger
Quad Lock Wireless Charging Head
Quad Lock

Many of the apps that you’ll use behind the wheel, like navigation, can sap a ton of battery life from your device. For smartphones that feature wireless charging, this unit is a great tool to keep your battery topped up. It supplies up to 7.5 watts to charge your iPhone and 10 watts for Android devices—a considerable improvement over most built-in USB ports.

  • Compatible with Apple and Android devices

  • Limited power output
Key Chain
KeyBar Key Holder Multi-Tool

As someone who carries his keys on a carabiner, I’ve experienced the torturous jangling sound my keys made during a multi-day road trip from Texas to Pennsylvania. Silence the noise and simplify your everyday carry with this organization system. It essentially functions like a Swiss army knife for your key ring and can store up to 12 keys.

  • Clever design
  • Great compatibility for keys and tools

  • Complex setup
Air Pressure Gauge
Viair 3-in-1 Air Down Gauge

Look after your tires, and they’ll look after you. Maintaining the proper tire pressure for your vehicle promotes optimal longevity and performance. While this gauge from Viair is oriented toward overlanders who air down their tires before venturing off-road, it remains suitable for everyday use as well.

  • Gauge is easy to read

  • Tough to make micro-adjustments
Air Compressor
Viair 88P Portable Compressor

A portable tire inflator lets you skip your local gas station and air up easily. Great for apartment dwellers and mobile usage, the Viair 88P is a fantastic tool for keeping your tires at the right pressure. The included alligator clips allow you to power the compressor directly from your car battery, meaning you can add air essentially anywhere.

  • Portability

  • Slow to inflate larger tires
Wiper Blades
Michelin Endurance XT Wiper Blade

Contrary to popular belief, wiper blades are one of the most important parts of your vehicle. At some point, we’ve all been caught in a torrential downpour so aggressive that the wipers can’t clear the water fast enough. In our testing, these wipers from Michelin were easy to install and provided a considerable performance advantage compared to your existing set. Unlike many wipers on the market, the endurance XT applies a hydrophobic coating as it runs along the glass to improve clearing ability. 

  • Great value

  • High noise level
Glass Cleaning Kit
Adam's Perfect Vision Glass Cleaner & Sealant Combo
Adam's Polishes

Keeping your windshield clean can improve the performance of your wipers, but nothing beats a dedicated hydrophobic coating. Rain-X is often referred to as the industry standard, but this kit from Adam’s Polishes includes everything you need to clean and coat your windshield—the kit includes glass cleaner, glass sealant, two applicator pads, and two microfiber towels.

  • Improved visibility

  • Needs to be regularly reapplied
Jump Starter
Michelin Jump Starter and Power Bank

This jump starter from Michelin will get you home following the unfortunate event of a dead battery, and it doubles as a power bank. Small enough to fit in your trunk or even underneath a seat, this power pack gives you peace of mind on long road trips through remote areas.

  • Peace of mind

  • Needs to be charged regularly
SureFire G2X Pro Flashlight

Although flashlights don’t jump to the top of the list for automotive gadgetry, I’ve found them invaluable in countless situations. Whether you’re changing a flat tire in the middle of the night or setting up camp after a long journey, it’s important to see what you’re doing. This pocketable flashlight shines up to 600 lumens, an impressively bright beam for its size.

  • Portability

  • Limited battery life
Portable French Press
BruTrek OVRLNDR French Press

thermos is a great passive solution for keeping your coffee warm, but for a fresh cup mid-road trip, get the BruTrek OVRLNDR. After brewing, a clever system called Bru Stop seals the beans at the bottom from your coffee up top. This prevents the sour taste associated with coffee that sits for an extended period of time. However, for someone like me who consumes coffee quite rapidly in the morning, I would like to have a slightly larger cup. Thankfully BruTrek's Basecamp doubles the 24 fl oz capacity of the OVRLNDR but will set you back another $20.

  • Clever Design

  • Limited Capacity
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