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How to Make Your Car Smarter

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Connected automobiles are poised to become the norm. But these days, the smarter car, the more expensive it is. And not everyone is willing to break the bank just yet. 

Fortunately, modernizing your ride doesn’t have to be cause for fiscal toil. From pulling data about your car to anti-sleep apps, there are various ways you can make your old car smarter while being kind to your wallet.

Get on board with OBD

For decades, cars have had powerful computers that manage a kajillion digital processes. The system that helps report all this information to smog technicians and mechanics is the on-board diagnostics port (OBD).

Already pretty smart, right? But OBD ports have also made way for other devices that can make your car, well, smarter.

Cue the dongle

Dongles are adapters that plug into the OBD port, and many are designed to distill the car’s high-octane volume of data down to a simplified report for the driver.

Utilizing this data, some devices help estimate how much you spend on gas each month, or the fuel costs for a specific trip so passengers can easily (and, more important, equally) split fuel costs. Others let you know when it’s time to get an oil change or replace your brake pads.

Given that many of these devices have GPS, certain brands also provide roadside assistance. So information regarding the specific car troubles can be automatically broadcasted from the device to the tower.

Some top-brand dongles cost as low as $10 a month, plus a one-time equipment fee (not including taxes and such). Advanced diagnostics products can run upwards of $500 and into the thousands, but may still be more affordable than opting for even among the least expensive semi-autonomous car.

Now, you might be wondering about cars without OBD ports. Well, a device that can be found on restaurant tables across the U.S. also enables plenty of connected-car features: your smartphone.

Apply the apps

Got a souped-up ’73 Dodge Dart with candy paint but no OBD? Well, if you’ve got a smartphone, you may have access to a suite of connected-car apps that cost next to nothing (and sometimes nothing).

Combating drowsy driving

If you’re planning a long trip with your roadster and are worried about drowsy driving, several anti-sleep apps may be exactly what you’re looking for.

Check out:  New on Esurance Mobile: Change Your Payment Method and Due Dates on the Go

Some let you set up alarms beforehand, at random intervals, to help keep you awake throughout the trip. But many monitor drowsiness cues using complex algorithms, which detect head positioning and eye-blinking rate. When it spots drowsiness, an alarm goes off.

Considering that stats show nearly 17 percent of fatal crashes involved a drowsy driver, apps like these — which don’t cost much — can be absolutely vital.

Improved navigation

Sure, most smartphones are already equipped with interactive map systems. But if you want to take your navigation to the next level, check out the latest apps that turn your smartphone into a projector. In effect, they transform the lower portion of your windshield into a display screen so you never have to take your eyes off the road.

And they can even alert you to upcoming sharp turns through a combination of visual aids and voice assistant. Plus, some brands don’t require any extra projectors or special film for the windshield.

Lane-changing and collision-warning

Driving apps for smartphones often employ GPS, cameras, and sensors to alert the driver if, say, the car ahead has slammed on the brakes, using a variety of visual cues. While they’re not an absolute substitute for collision-warning systems, they may be able to identify hazards before the driver has time to react.

But even more advanced systems are available to vehicles, with or without OBD, that can either be hardwired into the vehicle or — if your car has one — co-opt the OBD. Products like these are designed to detect road markings, gauge vehicles ahead, and use unique alerts as part of their lane-departure and collision-warning systems.  Products like this typically cost around $500.

Choose the Right Winter Tires

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Your car’s tires are also very important when it comes to winter driving, according to Matt Edmonds, vice president of TireRack.com, an online source for tire reviews and tire, wheel, and performance accessory purchasing. “If temp are near or below freezing frequently where you live and drive, then winter tires are the better choice to increase traction and safety,” Edmonds says. “Winter tires give drivers more traction because the tread compound stays flexible when temperatures go below 45 degrees, the tread designs have more “biting edges,” and the tread depth helps move volumes of snow, ultimately allowing the tires to grip the road better.”

There are different types of winter tires, each designed for specific conditions. When shopping, consider your needs, and replace all four tires with those designed for your weather conditions. “Depending on your needs, this may mean either studless ice and snow tires or performance winter tires if winter is light snow and cold temperatures,” Edmonds says.

Testimonial: John

1

Came to Auction Direct after a horrible experience at CarMax. Found a car I liked on line and was pleased to find that they were ready for me when I arrived for a test drive. Sales rep Luke Sheldon was professional, knowledgeable, and very helpful, even to the point of suggesting other cars to consider before we made our final decision. Could not have had better support!