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Which Accessories are Useful?

Today’s cars are loaded up with all manner of accessories that aren’t really necessary for normal driving. They reduce overall reliability and can be a pain to operate. For instance, the BMW I-drive leaves many owners frustrated, many traction control systems are very trouble-some, rapid-down-only driver’s windows don’t allow half open positions.

Looking back, we’ve had automatic headlight dimmers (Cadillac), swivel front seats (Chrysler), freewheeling transmissions, colored tires, push-buton chassis lubrication (Lincoln), and many other items that turned out to have no useful value.

The ones I like are power steering, power windows, electric mirrors, trip computers and a few others such as backup distance beepers.

What are you favorite good ones and pet peeves?

I just wish they still made the triangular vent windows.

This was actually a non-option, but I really like the “speed alerter” thing on my 64 LeSabre. The speedometer has a little knob on it you can use to dial in a speed and if you go over it, it makes this terrible buzzing noise. It’s a non-option because it’s what you got if you didn’t get the electro-cruise option, but I really like it because I don’t generally like driving with cruise control, but is nice to have a little reminder if you start going too fast. As a youngster, I was annoyed to no end that you couldn’t dial it any higher than 90, though. I’ve heard if you had a Wildcat or a Riviera, you could dial it up to 120.

I don’t really like power mirrors because I think for something that I only actually adjust every few months, it adds an enormous amount of complexity versus just the reach-out-and-move-em type. I do appreciate having the power right mirror for parallel parking, but I can live without it.

I also really actually like the automatic headlight dimmers. If they’re working right, they’re really handy for long night drives on rural roads. I don’t really understand the headlights that automatically turn on when it’s dark-- the only advantage I see in those is that it might prevent you from getting pulled over when you pull out of the bar parking lot at 2am and forget to turn your lights on.

I guess that’s why they used to call them options-- everyone has their own set they like and dislike. It would be nice if you could still actually buy a car a la carte.

According the The Insurance Institute For Highway Safety, Vehicle Stability Control is the most significant advance in auto safety since…I don’t know when.

One of the reasons why I bought my present car was the fact that it came equipped with that feature, and I can tell you that it works very well. If not for that feature (Subaru calls it Vehicle Dynamics Control), the original crappy Bridgestone Potenza RE-92 tires would have put me into some really bad situations. And, even with good winter tires, it is a very valuable advance in auto safety. As to reliability, my car has been in service since December, 2001, and I have had no problems with that system. Personally, I would never again buy a car without that feature.

I also like power steering, power windows, power mirrors, and power seats. And, I could not imagine life without air conditioning.

Air conditioning! That’s my favorite, followed by electric rear window defroster/defoggers.

Power steering is nice, and I like power windows, too, but I can live without them. Power seats are nice because you can fine tune the seat position better than with manual seats. Power side mirrors have spoiled me; no more wet, freezing hands trying to adjust them.

One of my cars has automatic climate control, but I prefer the manual HVAC system in the other car.

My vehicles have ABS and minimal (2) airbags, but I’d be just as happy without them. I don’t care at all about electronic stability control, traction control, or navigation systems.

One I like is climate control, if it’s done well. My '96 ES has a single temp control knob, I set it at 70, leave it there year-round, never have to change anything. A number of my friends have GMs with climate control, but they always have it set on manual. ???

I like the electric windows, electric locks, AM/FM/6CDchanger radio and the electric mirrors. The manual A/C and that is about all. That is what my truck has and I am satisfied with that. Electric seats, I am the only one that drives it so it is set to my short legs and is not moved from there, so what is the use of something else?

Happy with what I have.

My favorite goes to power doors locks with remote. I haven’t locked myself out of the car since owning cars with remotes.

Remote starter seemed like a good idea, but after having it on one car 10 years ago I’ve never had another.

I don’t care for built in Navigation systems. A dashboard dominated by a TV screen isn’t aesthecially pleasing to me. I’ll watch TV from home. I have a stick up GPS that is fine when I’m in unknown territory and it works on rental cars when we travel.

Not sure about sliding moonroofs. I have them and use them but could easily live without. If they cause problems (non yet) then they could go on the least liked list.

Oh yeah, most favorite is the convertible top on the T’bird!

I count the air bag feature to be the best Option I every bought…I was unfortunate enought to be in 2 head on collisions and walked away without a scratch the first time and a broken thumb from air bag second time. Totalled both vechicles and I bought them for there 5 star rating…and was without accident for 30 years!

I think we tend to spoil ourselves as we get older and like all the power gizzmos and such, as a result when we buy something else we include all those goodies all over again.
Did I forget to mention ‘lazy’?

When power assist steering came along, I thought it was the next best thing to s**!

So, when I bought my first brand new car (a '74 Impala custom) I found it had power steering, power assist brakes and a rear window defogger. WOW!

Everything else was standard on it and had ziltch in the way of major mechanical problems in the 7 years I owned it.

Nowadays there are too many doodads available and most come in a ‘package’ that you DON’T want. Too many things to break down.

Point in hand: I recently bought an '04 Toyota Matrix XR off-lease with 41k miles on it.

It has enough goodies in it for me.

All seats are manually adjusted. One less thing to go haywire and neither the wife or me miss the power seats.

No overhead computer to act up either, no stability control, traction control or ABS to go down and drive you nuts. (AND drain your bank account trying to repair it)

The A/C is nice, but with only a couple months of humid weather up here, I can live without it. I guess that’s one advantage of being retired.

I had my independent tech check out my long defunct A/C in my van (selling soon) yesterday. He phones and says noisy compressor and both a/c lines leaking.
Rebuild and replace lines (or new A/C) plus labor…about $800 to $900. FORGET IT!

How did we ever manage to drive a vehicle without ANY of these things way back when?

I don’t remember having much trouble to parallel park with standard steering and you didn’t need a wrestlers’ arms to do it either.

The older folks here know what I mean and also know what we did to make turning easy.

You mentioned sunroofs.
The biggest fault with this feature is the rubber seals dry out with time (and too much sun) and then you wind up with water leaks.

The trick with saving these is using an emulsifier of some type to keep the seals pliable (soft).

Oh yeah, if you have the sliding sunshade too? These tend to start rattling in time. Just a heads up is all.

I don’t like power windows and power locks. I would rather wind my own windows up and down and operate my door locks manually than deal with the inevitable malfunctions. The same goes for automatic transmissions. Why pay more when I could just do it myself and never have to fix its overcomplicated alternative?

I suspect my next car will have it as well.  I have not had the chance to try one out yet, but I have been very impress with two things on modern cars based on test and reports.

Stability control and the overall quality and trouble free life of the new technologies on the hybrid cars.

Air conditioning! That’s my favorite

Yea. I can remember driving through Texas in a Corvair with no air in the early 60’s.

My list of Accessories I’ve found useful. My first car I owned was a 71 Vega. I bought it new when I got back from Nam. That car had NO features what-so-ever. Many of you younger people may find my list laughable. But remember 30+ years ago those accessories were NOT available or an Option.

. AC
. Reclining seats.
. Power Windows.
. Radio beyond the AM 1 speaker radio.
. Intermittent wipers
. Rear-Window Defogger.

These are just a few that I can think off of the top of my head.

Yes, Mike, I’m old enough to remember our family’s very first car, a 1941 Chevrolet Stylemaster. The Stylemaster part referred to a chrome strip down the side, and carpet in the rear but not the front. This car had no ashtray!, no turns signals, manual “vacuum shift” transmission, litle lenses over the tailights in the trunk served as trunk lights. Needless to say, there was no radio, no clock, no powwer steering, no power brakes, but we had a retro-fitted bypass oil filter. with a pull-out element. The wiper were vacuum operated and promptly stopped when going uphill with the gas pedal depressed.

I like most of the options listed by others above and want to add another: Memory seat positions. My wife is 5’0 and I’m 5’8" and it’s nice to have the seats automatically adjust. In one of our cars ('92 Mercedes) you push a memory button when you open the door and in our minivan ('97 Chrysler) it’s tied into the remote–my remote automatically adjusts the seats/mirrors to my position and her remote automatically adjusts them to hers.

We like the feature enough that we’d like it in future cars. We buy used and this is usually only available on higher end models. It’s not a deal breaker but we sure like it.

Although I am probably 20 years your junior, I learned to drive in a 69 Dodge Dart. It was missing everything on your list, but I didn’t bother to notice. In 1989 when I learned to drive in Dallas, TX, I was able to get one “classic rock/oldies” station on that single speaker AM radio. They played lots of Al Green and Van Morrison on the weekends which was perfect date music.

My girlfriend would sit in the center of the front bench seat where I could put my arm around her. Can I add bench seats to my list of accessories I miss?

The features I used to think were great on cars when I was growing up:

 1. passenger side sunvisor
 2. armrests on the doors
 3. passenger side windshield wiper (this was an option on Ford pickup trucks 
 through the 1950 model)
 4. turning signals
 5. back-up lights
 6. AM radio (radio was a rather high priced option for the times)
 7. Fresh air heater (many heaters were just boxes under the dashboard that 
 recirculted the air inside the car)
 8. oil filter (This was an option.  The 1955 Pontiac I bought in 1962 had 
 not been equipped with an oil filter from the factory)
 9. oil bath air cleaner
10. carpeting on the floor
11. electric windshield wipers (even my 1965 Rambler had vacuum wipers)
12. trunk that opened from the outside (this was an option on the Henry J)
13. station wagon that had an all steel body instead of a wood body
14. interior lights that go on when the doors are opened.
15. automatic choke on the carburetor

I’m not really very fussy about accessories today. I can crank windows up and down, lock and unlock doors with a key, and shift gears. I do want a good heating and airconditioning system, a good sound system, and of course the standard safety equipment (turning signals, etc). On the other hand, I miss the vent windows on the front doors.

One accessory I hated was on a rental car about 10 years ago. The car (a Chevy Corsica) would illuminate the headlights (driving lights) AND the dashboard lights (but not the tailights) every time you drove. The first night I had the car this led to me driving without my lights on because I saw headlights and an illuminated dash. A few people honked at me and I only realized what was going on after I left the car running while dropping something off at a doorstep. While returning I saw that the back of the car was completely dark. For the next few days that I had that car I had to be very careful at night to make sure that I had actually turned the lights on. That setup was very dangerous in my opinion. I’ve had other rentals since then that illuminate headlights/dash/tailights when you drive and this is a vast improvement.

I remember driving through death valley with no air and the heat on so the engine didn’t overheat! PS I love automatic windsheild wipers and electric start (Model T reference), and padded dashboards, as they used to be all metal.