Don’t let your auto accessories fool you

Most people love their new cars and some of them try to show off by fitting them with jazzy accessories that they believe will make them even more eye-catching. I once saw a small car that had a sticker with the message ‘14-VALVE TURBO’ pasted on its bonnet in bright letters. Not only is a 7-cylinder engine an impossibility but it is very unlikely that a small car would have a powerful turbo charged engine. So, instead of making the owner look like a daring fast driver the sticker would make him look like a slow witted fool.

Many auto accessories are useful but some of them are not only useless but also downright dangerous. To protect the yielding plastic bumpers of their new cars some buyers add big metal bumper guards that stick out and can snag a passerby and hurt them. As they are also welded to some metal part of the car they transfer the impact of an accident directly to the body of your car and can damage it. It will also shake you and your passengers up and cause you to lose control. It is better to let your scientifically designed plastic bumpers get slightly dented than to have worse damage with an extra bumper fitted by a roadside welder.

Some car owners also add shiny fancy wheel caps little realising that if these are not properly designed they can create increased air resistance that will generate noise and also reduce fuel efficiency. The same goes for shiny alloy wheel rims. A good brand is lighter and will improve your ride but the castings of a cheap one might crack and cause your wheel to collapse leading to a bad accident.

Unless you drive a taxi, you do not really need a roof rack and you should know that a fancy roof rack will greatly add to the wind resistance of your car and therefore increase your fuel consumption. If you also load the rack with a big heap of baggage, the effect will be much worse. Also remember that the extra weight on top of your car will raise your centre of gravity making your car unstable when taking a turn. In addition, it can be positively dangerous if the road is wet and slippery. A set of shiny chromed roll bars may also look ‘Macho’ and give the impression that you are going on a dangerous road rally but do not forget that they will also affect wind resistance.

Your car may come with a decent music system and if you are a music buff you might be tempted to replace it with a superior system bought from the market. But this can be dangerous if your music shop technicians do not really know your car. Modern cars are loaded with so many electronic gadgets that a technician could make a mistake and completely ruin your electronic system. Last year an enthusiastic buyer of an expensive BMW thought that he would save money by buying a music system from the market instead of from the dealer. The technician, who predictably said ‘No problem sir’ snipped a few wires that completely immobilised the complete car resulting in very expensive repairs. Stuff from car dealers may be rather expensive but they cost much less than costly damage.

Retrofitting a reversing camera or big roof mounted searchlights is usually quite easy but the fitment may also affect your car’s electronics so be careful and ensure that the mechanic doing the job really knows what he is doing. Many things look very easy until there is a mistake and then things can become very difficult, and expensive.

The author is the region’s most celebrated automobile columnist