Most of my automotive conversations, especially those with other car addicts, tend to go the same way: We discuss our latest dream cars and what new BMW is on the horizon. Occasionally, someone has actually purchased their object of desire, and we all get to ogle pictures and drop not-so-subtle hints about getting a ride—or better, handing over the keys for a drive.
Recently though, I had a rather peculiar discussion with a good friend and fellow car nut that went something like this: “Hey, Chris! What’s new and awesome in the automotive world?”
“If you have a concussion, I can drive you to the doctor right now.”
“Seriously, tire technology seems to reach a new milestone annually, but I just experienced a quantum leap forward after installing new wipers on my wife’s ride.”
“Um… my car is already warmed up. We can be at urgent care in ten minutes flat.”
“Rain-X Silicone AdvantagEdge. They are game-changers.”
“Remote start initiated. Follow me!”
Okay, the real conversation was a bit less dramatic, but the wiper blades are really good. Indeed, they work so well that I am highly considering replacing my nearly-brand-new blades with a set of those top-of-the-line Rain-X wipers. I just never knew that clearing rain, snow, and road grime could be done so much more effectively that the difference would ruin regular wipers for life. They noticeably make the windshield surface more resilient to rain, the water beading up and sailing off the glass with ease even without using the wipers, and mud simply refuses to cling to the surface. And unlike many of my experiences with Rain-X blades, there is zero streaking. $60 for a pair of wipers? Sure.
The new wipers set me to thinking about other modest investments that can improve your relationship with your BMW. In the grand scheme of automobile ownership, a hundred dollars of your hard-earned dough is a relatively low investment for most of us, and there are plenty of items out there that provide a similar benefit-to-price ratio.
The first that comes to mind is also a must-have for those of us storing our cars during the winter months: the venerable Deltran Battery Tender. I prefer the clamp connectors, which work brilliantly with the single positive terminal in the engine bay; personally, I like to use the beefy base of the Hartge strut bar as the ground.
BMW throttle, brake, and clutch pedals have improved over time, but an upgrade that perfectly fits your feet and adds some grip can go a long way. I opted for UUC items a ways back and found them most useful on the track, where consistent heel-and-toeing is oh, so important. And they look pretty good, too.
How about tire valve-stem caps? I suspect that every new BMW would come with all-metal textured caps, if only the odds of a bunch of unscrupulous thieves taking them in the middle of the night were less than 100%. There are many, many options that look a bit better than the factory Alligator caps, including a good variety through your local BMW dealership, and the ease of operating the caps with gloves on is more than worth the upfront cash.
Speaking of gloves, you simply must source a nice set of leathers for your hands. I am sure that a certain well-known editor would be more qualified to recommend street gloves, but my two cents is to try on candidates if possible, and pick whatever feels the most comfortable. The same applies for track driving, and don’t be deterred by the thicker fireproof gear, as most any pair has the magical quality of actually improving feel through the wheel. It ranks as one of the spookiest experiences involving automobiles.
If you want to go the do-it-yourself route, there are a number of solid improvements that can be made for only a little coin, especially on older machinery. One of my favorite projects was upgrading the air intake on my E36 3 Series using the heat shield from a kit, a carefully chosen K&N air filter, and some black PVC piping from the local Home Depot. I am not sure how many extra ponies make it to the wheels, but the sound it generates is still an absolute delight.
If you want to properly pamper your ride, there are plenty of options out there. And many of these ideas work rather well as gifts for your favorite gearhead. I highly recommend starting with buying a new set of wiper blades.—Chris Doersen