Car Toys That Will Pamper a Driver Too

Got some wheels you want to protect and pamper? Then check out some unusual auto products on the market this season. They include an innovative snow tire, an emergency fan belt, mini booster cables, a fire extinguisher that doubles as a tire inflator, a quick auto cleaner and a duster for the dash.

Let It Snow

Skiers and mountain dwellers will want to take a look at Bridgestone's new studless snow tire, Blizzak.

Manufacturers have been scrambling to come up with a better studless snow tire because 31 states, including California, restrict studded tires and nine prohibit them due to the damage they cause to roads and the environment. Last year the Blizzak was introduced in Japan, which bans studded tires.

There are other studless snow tires available, but Blizzak is different. It's made of a rubber compound with thousands of microscopic cells, says a Bridgestone representative.

"They create thousands of biting edges that grip the road surface." The micro-pores also soak up the thin film of water that makes ice slippery, so the tire can better grab the surface.

"This special rubber compound provides acceleration on ice essentially as good as studded tires," says Mike Cerio, Bridgestone's consumer products marketing manager. "And it provides better acceleration in snow than studded tires."

The Blizzak's multi-cell compound lasts about three snow seasons, according to Bridgestone reps, but then, when the surface compound wears down, the tire becomes a regular tire. Other tires have tread depth indicators that show when the remaining tread is at 1/16 of an inch. The Blizzak has one of those plus an indicator that tells drivers when the multicell compound has only 5% remaining depth of snow tire.

Blizzaks ($65-$120 each) are available sized to fit the 13-to-16-inch wheels on most domestic and imported autos. In Southern California they are available at Bridgestone dealers or Four Day Tire Stores or can be ordered from the Tire Rack in South Bend, Ind., at (800) 428-8355. If you can't find them in your area, call Bridgestone, (800) 543-7522, Ext. 3526.

Emergency Kits

Andy Cohen of Beverly Hills Motoring Accessories came up with the idea of helping customers build their own car emergency kits and contracted with manufacturers to sell the products nationally. He offers eight items, and if you buy three, you get a free padded nylon bag to store them in.

Here are three of his choices:

* The V-belt is an emergency replacement belt for the fan, water pump, alternator or power steering on cars, vans, trucks, RVs and boats. The orange polyurethane reusable belt is 5 feet long, and can be shortened to any length because it is made of interlocking links that snap together like Lego pieces. The price is $19.99 plus $5 shipping and handling.

* Tiny Tigers are about half the diameter of regular jumper cables because they're made of a high-tech wire, Cohen says. The pliable cables are 10 feet long and have smaller clamps than standard boosters, making them easier to place in compact engine areas. Cohen says the small size of the clamps also prevents voltage loss and gives 30% more boosting power. Tiny Tigers are UL-rated up to 600 volts. They come in a water-resistant storage pouch that fits in a glove compartment. Cost is $29.95 plus $6 shipping and handling.

* The Safetymate is a portable combination fire extinguisher/tire inflator filled with carbon dioxide. It has an air gauge with a hose to inflate tires. To use it as a fire extinguisher, you just need to screw on a fire cone. Safetymate's manufacturer in Livonia, Mich., recommends the unit should not be exposed to heat or stored in a trunk where the temperature might exceed 120 F. It also should be refilled immediately after use. (Companies that do this are listed under Fire Alarm Systems in the Yellow Pages.) The combo, which comes in a heavy vinyl carrying case, costs $69.95 plus $9 shipping and handling.

All can be ordered from Beverly Hills Motoring Accessories, 205 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills 90211. In California, call (310) 657-4800; out of state, (800) 421-4513.

Squirt and Polish

If you want your car to have that "just waxed" look in no time, try Meguiar's Quik Detailer. It doesn't take the place of a serious wax and polish job, but will keep a waxed car looking shiny.

Meguiar's (pronounced McGuire's), an Irvine company that has been making numerous kinds of waxes, polishing and buffing compounds since 1901, has just introduced this mist-and-wipe product for fast cleanups on painted surfaces and to remove water drops, bird droppings and tree sap before they can harm a car's finish.

Quik Detailer should be sprayed on one section of the car at a time and immediately wiped off with a 100% cotton terry cloth towel. A full-size car can be cleaned in about 15 minutes.

A 16-ounce bottle of Quik Detailer ($4.95) will detail a car body five or six times. It is available nationally at Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target, Pep Boys and Trak Auto or by calling Meguiar's Consumer Helpline, (800) 347-5700.

Dashboard Duster

The Original California Car Duster Co. in Chatsworth, which introduced a big duster for car bodies three years ago, has come out with California Dash Duster, a mini-version of the large mop for cleaning auto interiors.

Like its predecessor, Dash Duster is made of cotton fibers treated with paraffin that will lift up dust, not just move it around. It doesn't need to be washed and it seems to clean better with age. It also handily fits under a car seat or in the glove compartment.

California Dash Duster ($9.95) is sold at Target, Wal-Mart and Pep Boys stores. Or order it from the Original California Car Duster Co., 21125 Superior St., Chatsworth 91311. In California, call (818) 998-2300; outside California, (800) 282-8828. Add $2.95 for shipping and handling.

New and Useful runs the first Thursday of each month. Lynn Simross welcomes readers' comments and suggestions for columns. Because of volume, she cannot respond individually to calls and letters. Writer to Lynn Simross, New and Useful, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, Calif. 90053.

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