Buying and owning accessories

Autocar India
First Published: 15:12 IST(18/9/2012)
Last Updated: 12:48 IST(5/12/2012)
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Revamping your car

Let’s face it, we spend a lot of time in our cars, either commuting to work or travelling out of town. How well you accessorise your car can make all the difference. Here’s our comprehensive guide.

Words Sambit Satpathy

Accessorising is not only about adding new parts to your car, but also about adding personality. Yes, these days features once only found on luxury cars are now standard equipment on entry level hatchbacks, but as ever, aftermarket manufacturers are finding new and interesting ways to add comfort, performance, luxury and convenience to your daily commute. Customisation is more popular than ever now thanks to the wide variety of accessories available in the market, and the sheer choice at your disposal can make the experience a little daunting. So here is our guide on how to go about customising your car.

The first thing you must do before you set off is decide on a realistic budget, which you must not breach. Next, make a list of all the things that you require, nothing more, nothing less, keeping that budget in mind – there is no point buying accessories you won’t ever end up using, so decide beforehand and spend wisely.

Stick to your guns and your list, and bargain hard. There are a number of standard tricks dealers will pull and it pays to stay on top of them. They will more than likely quote a price that’s higher than the MRP. Visit a couple of stores to compare and then select the one quoting the least. Even then, it doesn’t hurt to say you saw a cheaper price somewhere else.

There will always be cheaper alternatives and knock-offs of the product you’re looking for, but they are cheap for a reason. Dealers may also try and push inferior quality products to clear stock, but if you are unhappy with the product in any way, don’t buy it. They will also try and make you buy additional products, but stick to your list and you won’t overshoot your budget.

With all these in mind, let’s have a look at the different accessories you can put in your car.

Car Security Systems

Even entry-level cars these days are offered with remote-lock systems wherein you can lock and unlock the car’s doors with a press of a button. Some even feature keyless entry, where you only need to have the keys in your pocket to be able to open the doors. However, remote locking systems like these don’t always come with anti-theft measures like alarms and immobilisers.

If you are not satisfied with your car’s security system, there are plenty of aftermarket products which can help.

A lot of aftermarket systems these days come with features like alarms, shock sensors, engine immobilisers, and multi-frequency systems in which the transmitter frequency between the key and the car is variable, making them difficult to break into.

A new security measure in today’s smartphone age is the mobile tracker. With no more than a text message, you can have the precise location of your car sent to your phone. Some systems even give you the option to remotely disable the car’s engine. This service is on the expensive side and you often have to pay a subscription fee, but it is a very handy tool to have in the event that your car gets stolen.

You could also opt for good old mechanical devices like steering and gear locks. Apart from protecting against theft, they also prove to be a visual deterrent to potential thieves.

Audio system

In the stressful traffic that you encounter in cities every day, good music can go a long way to keep you both calm and entertained. So it’s important that you have a decent sound system in your car to make your favourite music come alive. Select a system that fits your budget and has all the features that you will use on a regular basis. Look for features like USB and Aux ports to play music from your iPod or other music players. Check if it supports most music formats. Bluetooth connectivity allows you to pair your phone to the system to make and receive calls.

Next, you have to see what kind of space is available on your car’s dashboard, as that will determine if you can fit a single-DIN system or a double-DIN system. A single-DIN system fits all the above features in a compact package. The advantage of this is that it could save you precious stowage space in the dashboard, and the removable face-plate is easy to carry in your pocket. The double-DIN system, should your car’s dashboard support it, does allow for a richer media experience. These days, double-DIN systems come with full colour touchscreens, some of which support video playback, display the feed from a reversing camera and sometimes even have built-in navigation systems. The disadvantage, of course, is cost.

Next, you need to decide on the number of speakers you want in your car. A good basic setup is four speakers, but if you are on a tight budget, two decent-quality speakers placed properly are often more than enough. For audiophiles who want to tap into the full audio spectrum, a 6.1 system – four speakers, two tweeters and a subwoofer mounted in the boot – is a good configuration. It will use valuable boot space, and subwoofers require a receiver and an amplifier as well, so think carefully before investing in one. Whatever your preferred setup, the quality of components – right down to the cables – reflects the quality of sound, so shelling out for a better brand could go a long way.

Seat Covers

Once out of their plastic protective covers, it can be difficult to keep your car’s seats looking new especially in our country where dust is such an issue. Well-kept seats not only keep your car looking as good as new, but also increase its resale value. There are a variety of seat covers available in the market and no matter what specific size, colour or material you are after, you will be spoilt for choice. You can pick the colour to match the interiors of your car, but be advised, lighter colours are easily stained and will be difficult to keep clean. That said, darker colours heat up faster when your car is parked in the sun, so bear that in mind if you don’t have covered parking.

Materials also play an important role when choosing seat covers. You can choose a material from among a number of fabrics, rexine, artificial leather and genuine leather. A leather seat cover will be more expensive compared to fabric or rexine and will also require more maintenance, but nothing imparts that luxury feel quite like it. You will also require special cleaning products to keep your leather seat covers spot-free.

Car Perfumes

You can make your car look and feel as good as you want, but if you have to hold your nose every time you step into the car, it will ruin the whole driving experience. Opening the windows regularly will only go so far towards eliminating foul odours inside your car. To ensure that your car feels fresh every time you step inside, use a car perfume. They come in three types, either in a tin that sits on top of the car’s dashboard, a spray can or a bottle that is affixed to the AC vents. There is a wide variety of flavours you can choose from.

Navigation Systems

Gone are the days of asking for directions when driving to an unknown place. Today, tonnes of maps have been condensed into a device no bigger than the palm of your hand. What’s more, this device even talks to you and tells you when to make your next turn.

A navigation system which until recently was the stuff of high-end cars can now be fitted into any car. You can either go for a standalone device or choose an audio-video system with integrated navigation. The standalone systems are easy to install – plug it into the 12V socket, and mount it on the windshield via a suction pad and you’re ready to go. Audio systems with navigation are more expensive, but are a much more elegantly integrated into your dashboard, and won’t block your view of the road ahead.

Performance Products

For some, performance is more of a priority than comfort or luxury, and more often than not a stock car can be given a decent bump up in performance without damaging its components. There are several upgrades, small and large, available in the aftermarket. Bear in mind however, most of these modifications will void the manufacturer’s warranty, and the more significant the upgrade, the greater the wear on your car’s existing components.

Power upgrades can be as simple as fitting a performance air filter, which will improve the flow and quality of air going into the engine resulting in a slight increase in power and efficiency respectively. Then there are free-flow exhausts, which add performance by reducing the pressure build-up found in conventional exhausts, but the noise they make might get you in trouble with the law. Finally, serious enthusiasts can fit a turbocharger (or a bigger one, if your car already has one) to simply force-feed air into the engine for more power.

You can also improve your car’s handling by having the suspension modified and fitting larger wheels and wider, thinner tyres, but this comes at the cost, most of which will be to the ride quality.

Other accessories

As we said before, the aftermarket is overflowing with things you can buy to make your car faster, more convenient, more luxurious or just different from the rest. Here are a few more interesting modifications available today:

In crowded metros like Mumbai and Delhi parking is a pain, so to make the task easier, you can get yourself a set of parking sensors. These come with three to five sensors which are fitted at strategic points on the front and rear bumpers, although for most cars a rear-only setup is enough. Depending on your budget, you can get one of two kinds of parking sensor. The more basic one alerts you with a series of beeps that gets faster the closer you get to an obstacle. More expensive systems add a rear-facing camera, whose feed is displayed either on the infotainment screen or in a specially fit rear-view mirror.
Although phones today are smart enough to be your personal assistant, they still depend on a battery that needs charging once or twice a day depending upon the usage. Hence a car charger is an equally essential accessory to have in your car. These chargers plug into the car’s 12V socket and are available for most phones available in the market. If you can’t find the right plug type for your device, look for a charger that has a USB port built in – you can then use the device’s USB transfer cable to charge it.

A nice set of alloy wheels is another accessory that not only makes your car stand out in the crowd, but can also improve handling and help dissipate heat from the brakes better. The other advantage is that they are lighter than steel wheels, and this in turn helps in reducing fuel consumption. When selecting a set of wheels, try keep the outer dimensions of the car’s original tyres the same, because wheels and tyres too large might foul with the car’s wheel arches.
One final bit of advice before we wind up – a dealer might offer you a price that is significantly lower than the MRP. This usually means that he’s giving you the product without a warranty. Do not fall for that trick and make sure you get a proper bill and warranty for even the least expensive items.the heat is on
Sun-films, that are a popular aftermarket add-on, especially in the country’s sweltering summers, are now completely illegal nationwide. Thanks to a recent Supreme Court ruling, sun-films have been banned to curb crimes commited under their cover. First-time offenders will be fined as per the local traffic police regualtions and repeat offences and could even result in a driving license confiscation. However, window glass that is tinted by the car’s manufacturer within regulations, is just fine.

Accessory buying tips

Decide on a budget and the list of accessories you need before you hit the market, or you might end up spending more than you can afford.
Try and buy as many of the items on your list as you can from the same store – you then have a better chance of talking the dealer into a discount.
The market is flooded with inferior products at a cheaper price. Don’t compromise on quality – as far as possible buy from an authorised retailer selling branded products.

Insist on a proper bill and warranty. In case something goes wrong with the product, you can get it repaired or replaced free of charge.
Though car dealerships sell accessories, it is better to buy aftermarket. The dealership won’t have many options
and they will be more expensive than what is available in the market.

When accessorising your car, be careful not to overdo it. You have to be careful that any accessory you buy doesn’t affect the car’s dynamics or affect the warranty.


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