Be a Car-Savvy Santa

Unique gift ideasThey say that kids are less interested in cars these days, but I say hogwash. Millions of American dads still teach their kids how to wrench on an engine; I’m one of them, and a lot of my friends can say the same thing.

But it’s true that we need to work harder than ever to hold our children’s attention. In my experience, it really makes a difference if you give them car enthusiast gifts from a young age. I think it’s a great way to communicate the importance of learning the automotive ins and outs.

With that in mind, I went ahead and put together my top 5 automotive gift ideas for the young mechanics in your family. Let’s help keep the DIY tradition alive by making sure our kids have the right auto tools and accessories for the job.

1. An Automotive Tool Set

You can’t wrench on anything if you don’t own a wrench, right? And even if there are already some auto tools in the garage, you want the kid to have a sense of ownership. It’ll keep him or her coming back to put those tools to use. An inexpensive stocking-stuffer for a novice would be this three-piece wrench and pliers set, while more seasoned gearheads might be ready for a complete home mechanic’s toolbox.

2. A Jack and Jack Stands

If you’re going to be an automotive DIYer, you’ll have to be able to get underneath a car. And in order to do that, you need a jack and jack stands. That sounds expensive, but it’s actually not. You can get a decent two-ton hydraulic jack for just 25 bucks and throw in a pair of two-ton jack stands for another $20. It’s auto tools like these that separate the real home mechanics from the pretenders.

3. Car Care Supplies

Kids are more likely to be interested in cars if you teach them to wash the family vehicles themselves. As a fringe benefit, you won’t have to keep forking over $20 a pop at the local hand-wash joint. But for your paint’s sake, only high-quality car care products should be used. I’ve always had good luck with the Mothers brand, from their classic Carnauba Wash and Wax to the PowerBall Headlight Restoration System.

4. Work Gloves

Although we want to encourage our kids to get their hands dirty, we don’t have to mean that literally. In fact, given the nasty chemicals involved in car maintenance, not to mention all the sharp and poky parts, a tough pair of work gloves is a must for any would-be driveway mechanic. The folks at Mechanix are glove experts, with a design for every DIY need.

5.  A Magazine Subscription

Car gift ideas are usually of the practical, hands-on variety, but I think it’s equally important to get kids hooked on the mystique of cars, you know? The romance of it all. And there’s no better way to do that than to have current car magazines lying around. The best writing is in Car and Driver, but I’ll also leaf through rags like Road & Track and MotorTrend for the photos. One-year, 12-issue subscriptions are widely available online for $10 or so. You don’t even have to give the subscription to the kid directly; just get one for the household, and make sure the bathroom reading rack always contains the latest issue.

Editor’s note: Visit our Holiday Gift Guide for gifts to last throughout the seasons. —JK