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At Hearst Autos, we’re constantly trying out new gear for cars, trucks, and motorcycles—and for the people who love them. The staffs of Car and Driver, Road & Track, and Autoweek are in the trenches week after week to bring you the best in automotive news and information. In the process, we use a lot of stuff. That includes tools for working on vehicles; aftermarket products for improving them; and the gadgets, tech, cleaners, and accessories that make them more user-friendly.
There’s a ton of automotive gear and products out there—and plenty of places to buy it all. But if you haven’t tried something yourself, how can you know whether it’s worth spending your hard-earned money on? That’s why we’re sharing our personal recommendations for the car gear and automotive accessories we use ourselves.
Here are our picks for the best car gear of the week.
Simpson Hybrid S Safety Device
A Head and Neck Restraint (HANS) greatly reduces the likelihood of head and neck injury after an on-track crash, though it can only be used in a car equipped with a racing harness. In other words, you can’t use one with your road car’s three-point seatbelt. That’s a real problem on track day.
For a few years now, Simpson has marketed a device called the Hybrid S, which meets all the same safety standards as a HANS. Unlike a HANS, the Hybrid S doesn’t need to be held down by shoulder belts, instead anchoring around the torso.
GM has mandated these for track testing for a few years now, and we just started using them at Road & Track as well. At nearly $1200, the Hybrid S isn’t cheap, though it’s a small price to pay for safety. I think it’s essential for anyone tracking their road car. —Chris Perkins, senior reporter, Road & Track
Pittsburgh Wobble Socket Extensions
Wobble extensions are a true game changer for accessing a fastener that is just enough off kilter to be a pain. They aren’t meant to bend corners or 45-degree angles, but to provide just enough wobble for your socket to fully seat itself in tight spaces. Say what you will about Harbor Freight, but this set is affordable and perfect for a weekend warrior on a budget. Plus, saving a few bucks will allow you to spend more on car parts. —Scott Olman, Hearst Autos marketing manager
Star Tron Enzyme Fuel Treatment
Look, I’m not a fuel scientist. I haven’t analyzed Star Tron Enzyme Fuel Treatment in my laboratory and independently verified its claims—that it preserves fuel, revives stale fuel, and prevents phase separation. But I can say that when I’ve used it, bad gas-related things haven’t happened. And when I haven’t used it, sometimes those things did happen. I take a “can’t hurt” approach to Star Tron, and it’s served me well.
A few years ago, I had a gas pressure washer that escaped a splash of Star Tron and subsequently developed acute carb gunk and varnish that required a thorough cleaning. Whereas I’ve used it consistently in my Honda generator (which sometimes sits for six months or a year) without encountering any ill effects from old fuel. See, it’s the enzymes, I guess!
A standard eight-ounce bottle treats 48 gallons of gas for up to two years, so one bottle lasts a long time for the likes of motorcycles, ATVs, and lawnmowers. Thanks to the shape of the bottle and the small-diameter spout, Star Tron has no need for a funnel. Got some extra? Pour it in your car. Or leave it on a shelf in the garage. You’ll find a use for it. —Ezra Dyer, senior editor, Car and Driver
Aircat Stubby Impact Wrench
I wrote about this handy little guy for Autoweek back in 2019, but it’s so great I’ll say it again: A half-inch stubby impact wrench changed the game for me. Impact wrenches no longer need to be unwieldy monsters that weigh a ton and are so huge they often can’t get where you really need them. I use the Aircat 1056-XL in the picture above, which is an older model. But Aircat has plenty of new and improved ones. Despite the size (slightly longer than a deep impact socket) and weight (under three pounds), it hits hard.
I hooked mine up with some high-flow air fittings and connected it to a 3/8-inch hose, and it has no problem zipping off lug nuts. And it gets places larger impact wrenches, especially pneumatic ones, just can’t go. I use it way more than I deserve to. For general use, it’s the first impact wrench I grab. Sure, you’ll have to pony up for an air compressor if you don’t already have one, but those can be had for less than you think these days. —Wesley Wren, associate editor, Autoweek