Just because you can’t afford the latest and greatest in a car doesn’t mean you have to suffer. Most people have no idea there are all kinds of aftermarket devices which add smart features to even the dumbest of cars.
Most of the devices we explore are quite affordable and work in just about any modern vehicle. What’s more, they’re simple to use and add something useful to your time spent behind the wheel. You’ll feel better informed through these advanced connections. Some even provide better entertainment options, keeping you from getting bored during long car rides.
Dumb to Smart
No doubt you’ve seen all the cool technologies coming out in the latest car models. While many of these systems are impressive, the cost of buying such a car can also be daunting. The good news is you don’t have to purchase an expensive new model just to enjoy smart features in your ride.
The following gadgets can be used in a “dumb” or older car, even if it doesn’t have an infotainment centre.
You’re already carrying a smart device around in your pocket all the time, so you should take advantage of that. There are a whole range of mounts for smartphones, including options which attach to the windshield, dash, or the air vents.
Holding your phone while using it for navigation or to carry a conversation while driving is illegal in most provinces, making a mount essential. It also frees up your hands to drive and puts the screen where you can easily reference it.
If you cruise around YouTube long enough, you’ll run into quite a few videos from dash cams. It used to be only the police would have such a thing, but the cost of these devices has come way down. A dash camera can help you to remember fun trips, but they’re also useful as evidence. If you’re in an accident or become the victim of an aggressive driver, the recorded footage can prove useful. The good news is even in older cars you can install cameras, since they just plug into a 12-volt power source.
The way the cameras mount depends on the system. Many just have a forward-facing camera, which usually suctions to the windshield. Some suction to the dashboard, while others attach to the front of the rearview mirror.
If you really want to go all-out, some dash camera systems have a rear-facing camera, so you get footage of what’s going on behind the car. These might attach to the back window, and a fair amount actually bolt onto the body by the license plate.
Tire Pressure Monitoring
Newer cars all come with a tire pressure monitoring system, which is a nice feature for keeping enough air in the tires. You can get an aftermarket system for an older car, which puts a display on your dash, which communicates with small sensors attached to the tires. That means at any time, you know exactly how much air pressure is in each tire, versus many systems in modern cars which only indicate when one tire is dangerously low.
Driving with low tire pressure is dangerous. It can cause tires to overheat and suddenly blow out, especially if you’re traveling at highway speeds. In the winters, low tire pressure diminishes the gripping abilities of your tires, making you more likely to crash. Plus, low tire pressure causes your tire tread to wear down faster.
In the latest car models, Bluetooth connectivity has become pretty much standard. That means you can stream music to the sound system without plugging your smartphone into anything. Through Bluetooth, you can also answer phone calls through the car itself, and the other person’s voice projects through the car speakers.
These conveniences can be had in an older car, thanks to a simple Bluetooth receiver. These small devices plug into the auxiliary audio input in your sound system. You’ll need to charge the device, but it’s a way to enjoy a wireless connection between your smartphone a sound system.
One of the latest trends in automotive technology is heads-up displays, which put information like car speed and navigation directions at the bottom of the windshield. This means you don’t need to look down to reference a screen mounted to the dash, keeping your eyes on the road.
Thankfully, there are several heads-up displays on the aftermarket today. They work with any vehicle and connect to your smartphone, so no infotainment centre is necessary.
New smart cars can tell you when something is wrong, even pushing a notification if the alarm is triggered while you’re away and allowing you to track the car. In an accident, the car will also automatically call for help, which is a reassuring feature. You can enjoy all these advanced technologies in your dumb car, thanks to a relatively simple device.
There are several options for small diagnostic tools which plug into your car’s OBDII slot and stay there. Through a data connection, they communicate with your smartphone, helping you to stay on top of caring for your car and also taking care of you in an emergency. The best part is you only need to plug the diagnostics device into the car, then pretty much forget it’s there until you receive a notification.
If you already enjoy an Amazon Alexa device in your home, you can continue that experience into your car, even with an older model. An Alexa phone charger plugs into the 12-volt power outlet and has a built-in speaker. You can then speak commands like ordering pizza or controlling smart home devices remotely.
Plug in your phone through one of the USB ports, and you can use this simple device to make a phone call or stream music. This product will make even the dumbest car smarter than many brand new models on the market today.
If you have a larger car and a smaller garage, fitting it in just so feels like continual guesswork. Newer cars can have parking sensors embedded into the bumpers, which act as a guide to minimize how much guessing you have to do. You can enjoy a similar experience by purchasing parking sensors for your dumb car, ensuring you don’t scrape your bumper trying to park ever again.
Some systems place sensors on the car’s bumper, which might not look great. If you’re concerned about aesthetics, there are other solutions which put sensors in the garage, indicating with lights or beeps when you’ve pulled forward enough.