Living

Seat massagers

And 16 other gift ideas from the automotive aisle

Years ago, as my birthday was approaching, I hinted for and received a $100 torque wrench. In 2000, I was delighted to get a pair of fire-resistant driving shoes, similar to the ones worn by the world’s top race-car drivers. (That present took some of the sting out of turning 40.)
Sure, these offbeat gifts might meet with a frosty reception in some households, but my husband knows I’d rather find gold tickets for a Formula One race under the Christmas tree than jewelry. When it comes to original and useful gift ideas, you don’t have to be a gearhead to enjoy an auto-related present. Next time you’re trying to get more mileage out of gift-giving occasions, take a trip to your neighbourhood Canadian Tire or automotive specialty store and consider the following items.

The venerable scent-soaked pine tree has been joined by a dizzying array of air fresheners, including cartoon character designs, cowboy hats, angels and sports themes that add both fragrance and fun to vehicles. Everyone needs a tire gauge, although not all motorists have one. Help brighten up the task with a stylish, vividly coloured gauge.

Have you ever spilled the windshield washer fluid when you tried to top it up? So has everyone else. Beat the dribbles with a screw-on no-spill spout. You can help to protect licence plates from dings and rust – and ultimately save your friend or loved one the cost of replacing the plate – with a clear plate protector.

Eliminate car clutter with folding or hanging organizers for the glovebox, seat back, trunk or to store compact disks. Commuters will appreciate a stainless-steel coffee mug and you can make a long trip more bearable for a passenger with a curved neck pillow. When summer temperatures soar, a fold-out dashboard sun shade can keep steering wheels from becoming scorching hot. Or consider a steering wheel cover with massaging grips.

Perk up an aging vehicle and protect it from excessive wear and tear with a set of seat covers. Styles run the gamut from classic tones to leopard prints and cartoon characters. A booklet of car- wash vouchers can also come in handy for keeping up appearances. Prepare for the unexpected by giving family and friends a pre-packaged safety kit with booster cables, a blanket and other emergency supplies. For nights when the drivers in your life really want to celebrate, gift certificates for taxi rides are a welcome indulgence.

Heated seats are de rigueur in luxury vehicles. But you don’t have to own a Jaguar, BMW or Mercedes-Benz to keep your buns toasty in winter. Heated seat covers that plug into the cigarette outlet are widely available. Some even have a massaging feature. For friends who love to have a flawless car finish, an orbital polisher takes the elbow grease out of waxing jobs. Give someone special a little peace of mind with an auto-club membership.

As used-car dealers know, nothing rejuvenates a car and boosts its resale value like a good detailing job. It’s the auto equivalent of a spa retreat. A top-of-the-line treatment (including thorough interior cleaning and exterior polish and wax) will set you back well over $100, but the lucky recipient will enjoy the benefits for months to come.
With a little probing and research, even car klutzes can tune up their shopping skills. Better yet, you may spot neat gifts you’ll want to hint for.

Maryanna Lewyckyj is consumer advocate for the Toronto Sun. She conducts car care seminars for women through her company, Autophobics Anonymous.