By Brian Turner
Vehicle accessories are a billion-dollar business, and that’s because relatively few of us are satisfied with the equipment levels our vehicles come from the factory with. This is especially true with truck and SUV buyers, who tend to be the biggest consumers of accessories, either at the time of delivery or shortly afterward.
Still, there are some popular add-ons with hidden drawbacks, and few consumers are aware of these when they request and authorize their installations. Before you order these items, be aware of the potential issues.
Reaching up and in
Side steps and trailer hitches can disable hands-free doors and liftgates. These let you open a crossover or SUV’s rear door, and also the sliding doors on a minivan, by kicking under them when your hands are full.
These can be rendered inoperative when trailer hitches or running boards are installed, as they block the sensors used in these systems.
Roof racks may mean the end to silent drives. It may seem obvious immediately afterwards, but before they have these installed, few drivers ever think of the wind noise that roof-rack crossbars can create.
If you absolutely need these handy roof-top carrying racks, make sure both crossbars are mounted as far back as possible when not in use. Better yet, have the installers show you how to remove them completely to store at home.
Front end covers or bras are still popular for drivers that want to reduce stone chips on the leading edges of hoods, fenders, and bumper covers. But when installing one, make sure it is compatible with any sensors your vehicle has.
There may be sensors in the vehicle’s nose to activate forward collision warning, emergency front braking, park assist, adaptive cruise control, or other features. You need to find out exactly where these sensors are located and what type they are.
Seeing the light
LED headlight conversion kits are quickly becoming as much of a headache for other drivers on the road as those HID (high-intensity discharge) aftermarket kits, which were outlawed in Ontario in 2017. Hopefully it’s only a matter of time until these LED systems get the same boot, but until then, they’re flying off store shelves.
These bulbs may run cool at the shiny end, but they develop a lot of heat at the rear. Manufacturers either install an aluminum heat-dissipating device or small electric fans on the backs of these bulbs to keep things from melting. This can cause a clearance problem for headlamps that have a removable cover over the bulb’s access point. The choice is to either run the LEDs without the protection of a weather cover, or stick with the original bulbs.
An insurance tracker device can kill your battery. These are the little electronic nannies that plug into your vehicle’s under-dash diagnostic port to keep track of your vehicle speed and other variables. It then lets your insurance company know, so it can determine how good or bad a driver you really are.
The problem is that this nanny won’t let a number of on-board computers hibernate. If the vehicle sits unused for extended periods of time, this can drain the battery. If you absolutely have to have one to keep your insurance bills in line, consider using a battery trickle charger when your vehicle is sitting for a few weeks without use.
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