Jon LangstonCar and Driver
At Hearst Autos, we’re constantly trying out new gear for cars, trucks, and motorcycles and 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 and trust.
Here are our picks for the best car gear of the week.
Purpose-Built Driving Sunglasses
I’ve tried ’em all over the years—Ray-Ban, Randolph, Foster Grants from truck-stop mini-marts, and countless others—but no matter how much my sunglasses cost or how great they look, it’s clear now that the best shades for me are ones I can afford to break or lose. Then I tried sunglasses from the Miami-based brand Gresso. These I’m not losing. And so far, I haven’t been able to break them.
With bendable titanium frames and straight but snug arms that don’t pinch behind my ears, Gresso sunglasses weigh just 16 grams. Mine are by far the lightest pair I’ve ever worn, and they just might be the most comfortable, making them perfect for driving. And it’s the nylon Zeiss lenses, providing stellar optics and 100 percent UV protection, that are the real heroes here.
Alas, luxury does come at a price. I opted for the California frames ($395), classic aviators in black with gradient dark lenses. There are dozens of styles for men and women to choose from. Gresso does eyeglasses as well. Some of the frame styles are a bit too mod for my taste, and the price could be considered prohibitive. But there are plenty of traditional designs too, and with such a wide selection of frames and lens styles, there’s bound to be one for everybody.
I never imagined I’d own a pair of luxury shades or care about them so much, and I suppose it’s only a matter of time till they disappear or get stepped on. Until then, I plan to look cool as hell behind the wheel. —Jon Langston, senior commerce editor, Hearst Autos
Superthin Right-Angle Ratchet
I could sing the praises of this superthin Kobalt ratchet all day. I’ve had it for years, and I end up using it all the time. You can put a socket on it and get into spots where a regular ratchet is too thick. I used to use it to get the top on and off my Bronco because it was the only way I found to get into the gap between the roll cage and the cab to get the forward bolts out.
The set doesn’t look like mine; it appears the packaging and presentation have changed over the years. And I’m guessing yours won’t come with all my dust and debris. But Kobalt tools are still a great deal for the price. —Ezra Dyer, senior editor, Car and Driver
Brake-Caliper Compressor Rewind Tool
Plenty of cars still have a mechanical parking brake integrated into their rear brake calipers. Now, that doesn’t really mean a whole heck of a lot—until you’re doing a brake service and your rear calipers are turning your trusty C-clamp into an ampersand.
That’s because mechanically integrated brake calipers need to retracted into the caliper. Sure, you can probably use needle-nose pliers or one of the cubes that fit on a 3/8-inch ratchet. Or you can invest in a caliper compressor tool.
This kit from Orion Motor Tech probably isn’t the strongest, but when you’re rewinding calipers, you don’t need strength (if you have to force your caliper’s piston back home, there’s probably something wrong inside). This kit’s wide array of adapters has helped find the indentations on caliper faces on plenty of brake services, and the left- and right-hand screws might come in handy one day. Regardless of the excess, it’s better to have too many adapters than not have the one you need when the time comes.
The kit also comes with a flat adapter to push back pistons on traditional brake calipers, if your C-clamp didn’t survive trying to push back a parking-brake caliper’s piston. —Wesley Wren, associate editor, Autoweek
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