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We love our cars and show our devotion to them in the number of miles we drive each year, the way we clean them and how thoroughly they are maintained. The most important car parts or components include some we take for granted. We’ll look at the top ones and how they’ve changed through the years.

Car Features We Cannot Live Without

1. Wipers

Mary Anderson patented the first operational wiper blade in 1903, which still required hand operation to keep the window clean. Yet, that was a lot better than what drivers had to do previously: stop the car, get out and wipe down the windshield. Today, wipers are electronically operated and fitted with durable blades. On some vehicles, they’re also present on the back window and even on the headlamps.

2. Mirrors

Rearview and side mirrors help us see around the vehicle, reducing the chances of an accident. Today’s cars have dual side mirrors and oftentimes they’re power-controlled and have heating elements. The rearview mirror has changed, too. In some vehicles, the camera monitor is set within the rearview mirror.

3. Headlamps

The first car headlamps were fueled by acetylene or oil but were replaced by electric lamps by the end of the 19th century. In modern cars, halogen lamps are common, but high-intensity discharge systems, along with LED daytime running lights are growing in popularity. We’re also seeing greater availability of adaptive headlamps, which pivot up to 15 degrees when turning the front wheels, supplying expanded forward visibility.

4. Seats

Manufacturers have poured extensive resources into improving seat technology and for that, we’re immensely grateful. We often measure a model’s appeal through how well constructed the driver’s seat is. We expect seats to offer ample shoulder, hip and thigh support, but support alone isn’t enough. Materials that breath, seats that tilt forward and fully recline, and heating and cooling features spark interest. Add in a massaging function and no wonder people fight for the best seats!

5. Audio

As recently as the 1970s, new cars with standard FM radio were a big deal. Fortunately, manufacturers have kept pace with our music listening tastes and have changed their offerings accordingly. Unfaithful 8-track players gave way to tape-eating cassette players, then to reliable CDs and MP3 players. Today, audio input plugs and USB ports allow us to listen to our own playlists, with Pandora, Spotify and Tidal among the key streaming services. The number of speakers has increased, as has sound clarity. You can pay thousands of dollars to upgrade to an exquisite Bang & Olufsen audio system, which delivers concert-hall-quality music throughout the cabin.

6. Safety

It wasn’t until 1968 that manufacturers were required by federal statute to fit new cars with seat belts in all seating positions. Airbag technology was ready soon after, but automaker resistance slowed implementation by more than a decade. Today, manufacturers are outdoing each other by raising the safety bar year after year. We now have lane departure warning and alert, adaptive cruise control, automatic braking, and other driver-assist features. We’re willing to pay more for these proven features as the industry gradually shifts to autonomous driving.

Maintenance Is Key

Having nice features like adaptive headlights, durable windshield wipers, high-tech safety features and bumping audio systems all help us enjoy our cars more. With proper maintenance, your car will keep you safe and comfortable for years to come, allowing you to enjoy all of its nice features, and the most important car parts, to the fullest.

Check out all the vision and safety parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 16,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on the history behind your favorite car features, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

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