5 Car Accessories That Could Be Unsafe

Prioritizing function over form can be a smart play.

Pink fuzzy stuffed dice hang from rearview mirrorGetty Images


From Hello Kitty headrests to eyelashes for headlights, automotive aftermarket products are a nearly $52 billion industry. New trends are constantly popping up on social media, prompting consumers to customize their cars with gadgets, organizers, and even jewelry.

Just because something is popular on TikTok, however, doesn't mean it's safe. In fact, some common automotive accessories are potentially dangerous and could compromise vehicle-occupant safety.

Steering Wheel Covers

When properly fitted and installed, a steering wheel cover can give drivers better grip. But not all steering wheel covers are performance driven. Some options are primarily for looks and may actually make it harder to steer the vehicle.

Loose or ill-fitting wraps could slip while driving, and watches or jewelry could get tangled in crocheted steering wheel covers. Rhinestone decals can also interfere with safety. When placed in the center of the steering wheel, they can cover an airbag and could even act as a projectile or turn into shrapnel during a collision and injure the driver.

Poorly Integrated Phone Mounts

Hands-free mobile-device laws in many states have made it illegal to hold smartphones while operating a vehicle. Installing a cellphone holder might help you comply with local laws, but poorly designed holders can introduce new problems. While vent clips are a popular option, some phone holders affix to the dashboard or windshield, obscuring the view.

Certain device mounts designed for large pickup trucks and SUVs have articulating arms that extend from the dashboard or windshield and can become dislodged, possibly hurting occupants in the event of a collision. And even if the holder stays put, smartphones can become projectiles during a crash.

Hanging Air Fresheners or Car Decor

Despite the ubiquity of air fresheners dangling from rearview mirrors, in states such as Arizona and California, they're illegal. Traffic laws in those states prohibit anything that obstructs the driver's forward view. These laws also apply to other dangling car decor that impedes a driver's ability to operate their vehicle safely or that could become a dangerous projectile during crashes, such as transparent crystals that could reflect into drivers' eyes or fuzzy dice.

Vehicle Seat Covers

Car seat covers can be a good way to protect expensive seats, but this simple upgrade could also compromise a vehicle's safety equipment. Many new vehicles have side-impact airbags built into the seats, and aftermarket covers could interfere with their ability to deploy in the event of a collision.

Buyers should check with the manufacturer for compatible car seat-cover options that are tight fitting, flame retardant, and don't interfere with seat belt or airbag operation.

Universal or Loose-Fitting Car Floor Mats

Universal car floor mats are often advertised as a one-size-fits-all solution for helping owners keep their cars clean, but many of the aftermarket products aren't designed to fit snugly and can be dangerous while driving. If floor mats are the wrong size or material, or are not fastened correctly, they can slide around the footwell and become lodged behind the brake or gas pedal.

Vehicle owners should consider purchasing floor mats only from the automaker or a manufacturer-approved aftermarket retailer. That way they can be sure the mats are compatible with their vehicle.

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Liane Yvkoff
Liane is an automotive technology and lifestyle writer covering alternative powertrains, transportation startups, next-generation infotainment systems, and just about anything else that could “disrupt” your daily commute. Her work has appeared online and in print.