On Wheels

Each year at this time, I like to offer advice to those who have a 'car person' on their holiday shopping list. We automotive types have a reputation for being hard to please - and it's no wonder why.

Unless you're one of us, trying to make sense of the bewildering array of tools, supplies and other items on the market is nearly impossible.

Here are a few suggestions that are sure to please:

• You can never go wrong with high-quality car care supplies. You can choose a premium brand such as Meguiar's, available in any automotive section.

But if you really want to impress, consider a gift pack from Griot's Garage. This company is based in Washington state, and it made its reputation with a catalog of high-end car goodies.

'We've got a kit that's really popular right now for basic car care,' says sales manager Jason Matthew. 'It's also a popular holiday kit because it includes free shipping, and no sales tax in Oregon.'

For $29.99, the Griot's sampler maintenance kit includes 8-ounce bottles of car wash, wheel cleaner, interior cleaner, window cleaner and 'speed shine.' Speed shine is the product that produces that distinctive car-show shine.

You also get a sponge for the wheels and 10 special lint-free paper towels to use with the window cleaner.

Call 1-800-345-5789 and order package 11060.

• If your shopping takes you to Sportsman's Warehouse or REI, consider an in-car safety light from Portland-based Coast Products.

'Everyone's looking for a flashlight they can keep in their car,' says Coast marketing communication manager Kevin Corcoran. 'With these lights, you never have to worry about batteries because they charge in your car.'

The Car Lenser and the Auto LED Cigarette Charger both are designed to fit into your car's 12-volt accessory port. The car's electrical system keeps the lights charged up and ready to use.

The Car Lenser also comes with an emergency orange wand attachment for maximum visibility. Both lights are priced under $20 and make great stocking stuffers.

• In Portland, we don't get regular practice driving on snow and ice, and we've all seen what happens when road conditions get slick. So one gift idea I always mention is a SkidCar training course from Pro Drive Driving School.

If you know a new driver, there is simply no better gift than a certificate for the school. It's just as good for experienced drivers, too.

The SkidCar is an ordinary Toyota Camry, outfitted with a set of hydraulic 'training wheels' that enable the instructor to simulate driving on wet pavement, snow or ice.

The student experiences reduced-traction driving, but the course is offered in a safe environment under the control of an experienced instructor.

'We've designed the course to get the most out of the time in the car,' says Todd Harris, owner and chief instructor at Pro Drive.

The course is offered year-round, but the holiday sale price of $199 is marked down by $100. 'The recipient has an entire year to use the certificate,' Harris says. 'We're running six days a week, two classes a day through the holiday season, and we'll run weekends through March, then on weekdays through the summer.'

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