At Hearst Autos, we're constantly trying out new gear for car, trucks, and sometimes motorcycles—and the people who love them. That includes tools for working on vehicles, aftermarket products for improving on them, and the gadgets, tech, and accessories that make them more user-friendly. The staffs of our publications—Car and Driver, Road & Track, and Autoweek—are in the trenches week after week to bring you the best in automotive news and information. And in the process, we use a lot of stuff.
There's a ton of automotive gear and products out there, but if you haven't tried something yourself, how can you know whether it's worth buying? We are in the fortunate position to be able to get our collective hands on a ton of car stuff each and every week. That's why we're sharing with our readers all the gear, products, and accessories the Hearst Autos staff uses and recommends.
Here are our picks for the best car and automotive gear of the week.
BlueDriver Bluetooth Pro OBD-II Scan Tool
Here in the Car and Driver testing department, we have a plethora of electronics to record data while we extract every ounce of performance from a vehicle. Things typically go smoothly, but on rare occasion, the dreaded check-engine light will turn on during testing. Is it an innocuous misfire code or something more serious? We must know before we can carry on.
The Lemur BlueDriver is more than just a code reader—it's a diagnostic tool that has found its way into many of our backpacks. The compact dongle plugs into your vehicle's OBD-II port and connects to an Android or Apple device via Bluetooth. It monitors various onboard sensors and will display the selected channels on your device. As you drive, it will even record live data that can be exported to another device. Should it detect any bugs in the systems, relevant repair tips based on trouble codes are just a tap away. And if you live in a state with emissions testing, the BlueDriver can check whether your vehicle is up to snuff. For fix-it-yourself types or anyone who just wants to add a digital readout to their dash, Lemur's BlueDriver is a must. —David Beard, technical editor
iOttie Wireless Phone Mount and Car Charger with Auto Sense
Gadgets are constantly evolving, and iOttie's latest car phone mount is among the best mounts we've used. With wireless Qi charging and Auto Sense—a feature that senses the presence of your phone in the cradle and clamps it securely into place—it solves a host of problems that have plagued phone mounts of the past.
We’ve tried 'em all over the years: suction-cup mounts that lose their suction within weeks (if not sooner), air-vent mounts that snapped the fins right off the vents in our Honda CR-V, cupholder mounts that are woefully misplaced. Not to mention the cables—damn those cables! The iOttie resolves all of these issues in a relatively affordable package that suits almost any vehicle.
It secures to the dash (or windshield) with a strong suction cup that shows no signs of letting go. The mounting mechanism is solid and easily adjustable. Charging, while admittedly slowish, keeps a phone juiced up. And the clamping function has proved surprisingly reliable, with phone cases and all.
Once we set a device into the cradle, two side clamps scissor together and keep it secure until the trip is done and we click the two release buttons on the sides. True, the mount itself does need to be plugged in occasionally. But once the internal Li-ion battery is charged, the iOttie continues to wirelessly charge for at least an hour.
Sometimes when you upgrade a piece of tech, you regret it immediately. But for us, the iOttie Wireless Phone Mount and Car Charger with Auto Sense inches the car phone mount ever closer to perfection. —Jon Langston, senior commerce editor
Lego Technic BMW M 1000 RR
Lego Technic sets are no joke—they're complicated, difficult, and require every ounce of concentration in the tank. But they're worth it. Now Lego's biggest motorcycle yet just raised the bar, coming in at a whopping 1:5 scale. With 1920 pieces and two whole sheets of stickers, the box contains a ton of stuff to assemble. And assemble I did, spending multiple nights connecting the pieces. My thumbs are still sore.
The price is hefty but earned. This set's quality lives up to the Lego standard; the pieces fit perfectly, the directions are top-notch, and the result is a showcase of the years of development Lego invested into the set. It's an excellent exercise for the mind and not for the faint of heart. Assembly will take days and a lot of "Wait, did I do that right?" hesitation.
Fully assembled, the bike weighs three pounds, so heavy that Lego engineered a brand-new suspension setup to support the beast. When you just want to admire it on a shelf, the set comes with a stand that features a spec-sheet plaque to display with pride.
All in all, this is the ultimate Lego challenge. It will keep you engaged for as long as your thumbs last. In the dead of winter, it's a perfect chance to test yourself—and that's why I recommend it.—Collin Morgan, assistant commerce editor
Megababe Squeaky Clean Hand Sanitizer
Who knew that in this decade we’d head out with not just our keys, phone, and wallet but also a mask and hand sanitizer? For the latter, consider Megababe Squeaky Clean Hand Sanitizer.
What makes this plant-based product a great piece of gear for your car? The 16-ounce pump bottle fits perfectly in a cupholder for immediate access, saving you the step of uncapping a tiny on-the-go spritzer that might fly across the cabin during sudden braking or an industrial-size version that will roll around forgotten in the cargo area.
Despite the girly brand name, the paraben-free sanitizer inside has a subtle citrus fragrance that's easily gender-neutral—in fact, it was my husband who suggested that we keep this 16-ounce pump bottle in our center console. The product has withstood entire summers in my car without the leaky plastic meltdowns I’ve experienced from cheaper packaging. Now that it’s winter, the marula oil and aloe balance the alcohol content to nourish my hands instead of further drying them out. —Adrienne Girard, copy chief