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auto accessories

For the first time, ever, I've worn out a heavy duty car mat. I always buy the big sludge sucking, corrugated, high-sided rubber ones, to immediately take the place of the floor mats that come stock with nearly every vehicle: the ones you can spit through.

Actually, I wonder who thought carpeting in cars made any sense at all – probably the people who put plastic on their furniture. We really haven't come up with anything better after all these years? You're destined to have to forever cover every inch of car carpeting that might come in contact with, well, anything.

When it comes to aftermarket products, floor mats are pretty much your required first purchase after leaving the dealership. Note: Do not put them on top of the crappy mats and make sure your pedals are clear of the new and improved ones.

Even if you've been successful in securing an upgraded set of mats from the dealer (the ones they give you after you've asked for a better price or financing rate, or a different model, and your sales person disappears into another office, then comes out half an hour later all giddy telling you that, because you're extra special, they'll upgrade your floor mats, and you glance around wondering what happened to your better price) you'll still need better mats.

That might be the only aftermarket item I've ever been happy with. As we're clear of Father's Day and not yet into Christmas, here's a warning: if it didn't come stock with the car, your attempt to augment most of the stuff on your vehicle from the aftermarket aisle will fail miserably, especially if it's gizmos, widgets and decoration.

If you've ever put seat covers on, you know what it's like to hang upside down in the dark playing cat's cradle. Getting those contoured ones on is like putting pantyhose on a pig; incredibly hard, and not worth the effort. Pay attention to the seats during a test drive; you can't fix cheap seats, and your back will pay the price. Leave one-size-fits-none for freshening up older cars.

I have a wire hanging looped around my rear view mirror. A year ago, I was asked to test a back up camera. It took four hours to install. I pulled out of the service bay, did a single loop around the parking lot and pulled back in. I told them there was something wrong with it. They tried two more. For the $250 price tag, without installation – not the most expensive available, but also not the cheapest – it was garbage. The image showing in my mirror was shaking enough to make me car sick just glancing at it. I asked if it could be my vehicle. The technician shook his head. "Nope. None of them are worth the money." I couldn't do a fair comparison with other models, because I didn't want any more stupid holes in my car.

If you want a back up camera, order it stock. Same with a GPS. I didn't and I should have. I know; I think it sucks that you have to take packages of extras you don't want to get the ones you do, but our lives are apparently now bundled. Oh, and it's 2012. Why isn't every car manufactured being kitted out with Bluetooth?

I don't get little socks on side mirrors; I don't get reindeer antlers; I don't get cars dressed up like Christmas presents. At least all that stuff is relatively cheap, but if you're venturing into expensive add-ons, or worse yet, contemplating springing them on someone else, be careful. The automotive aftermarket industry is worth nearly $49-billion in Canada. Much of it is worth it. But some of it isn't.

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