You don’t have to be a DIY’er to enjoy the amazing car tech of 2016. In fact, of the eight wish list items featured here, only a couple of them are really geared at the DIY community. Sometimes you need a break from “doing it yourself,” and you just want the tech to do all the work for you. More importantly, it’s never too early to think about the holiday season, so this list is just in time to get you thinking… and saving. BendPak auto service equipment makes a great gift, but we’ll keep ourselves out of the equation.
We kept a few things in mind when making this list:
Keep it classy, not trashy
We tried not to include the *cheapest* items out there. Like, come on. TREAT YOURSELF. (Note: if the wish list item we like is too expensive, there are always other models of the same concept you can look into.)
Never a phone charger
For whatever reason, cutesy phone chargers seem to be the latest craze in car tech. At the end of the day, charging your batteries isn’t really much more exciting than doing your laundry (guess it depends on the laundry, but we digress).
It genuinely makes life better
If you put this wish list item in your vehicle or use it while driving/working, it should measurably improve your life. It should be cool (i.e., not just a phone charger).
- The Automatic Pro 3G Car Adapter
There are quite a few engine diagnostic tools out there, some of which are relatively inexpensive, some of which have neat features, such as a driving coach, fuel efficiency tracking, car locator, dashboard indicator diagnostics, and more. As an alternative, Hum is an interesting OBD reader that features a lower sticker price but requires a monthly subscription fee. The Automatic Pro really caught our eye due to just how much stuff it has available to you.
We like just about everything about this car adapter. Their website is clean, easy-to-navigate and helpful in directing you to the app’s purpose and features. There are dozens of integrated apps to choose from: parking locator, car/driver tracker (for the teen driver in your life), gas mileage recorder and more. Plus, the app design is among the most user-friendly made up to this point, and in 2016 (going into 2017), convenience is the name of the game. Even if you never thought you’d need something like this, the clean design makes it so, so appealing. In the event that your check engine light turns on unexpectedly, the Automatic Pro provides an easy-to-read diagnostic on your phone screen.
In the age of augmented reality (not talking about Pokemon Go), we can literally point our phones at our cars, and our phone can tell us how to conduct a repair, or they can explain the function of a certain feature. This is the direction car tech needs to take, and we love it. For a neat example of augmented reality,
For a neat example of augmented reality that’s unrelated to the Automatic Pro (but in the same ballpark), see the video below:
The Automatic Pro isn’t quite at this level of user-to-world interaction, but it’s getting us close. It’s an awesome tool that will keep you connected to your vehicle in a way that’s non-intrusive and feels fun.
- Wide Angle HD Car Dash Cam by TaoTronics
Is a full-HD dash cam a bit excessive? Obviously not. When you’re in an accident or become a victim of insurance fraud, you want full proof and evidence of what went down. While there are certainly more expensive options out there, we tried to think big-picture with this one. First off, the 30 fps, 150-degree camera angle is crystal-clear and offers a full view of the road. It looks great at night, as you can see in the video above, and it contains a microphone for full sound recording. Its accident detection feature will lock in data from being overwritten, so there’s no risk of losing that crucial moment due to mindless technology. More expensive options don’t really offer much more by way of features, although some, like the Garmin Dash Cam 20, let you take still images (but the Garmin costs $244.95).
Perhaps the biggest reason to go with a less expensive dash cam model is the fact that a single dash cam only protects you from one angle: what happens if you get bumped in the rear? You can buy two of these babies for a little over $100. Place one in the front and one in the back, and you’re covered for just about everything the road can throw at you.
- Torras Aluminum Magnet Center Console
Okay, so this one is a little more on the budget side, granted, but there’s just something so insanely practical about a magnetic center console that we felt it belongs on this list. There are a number of devices out there designed to keep your phone from sliding all over the car (e.g., sticky pads, seat gap fillers), and most of them are a bit on the tacky side. You know what no one ever said? “That sleek, almost invisible magnet that lets you position your phone upright is just too ugly.” The Torras magnet console features a slim base with an attached magnetic plate; a magnet that’s essentially flat sticks to the back of your phone, and it works through a case, as well. What Torras offers is simple and effective. There are a few color options: gold, red and gray, so you can kind of blend your device in with the look of your car. Plus, for 20 bucks, it’s the perfect grab-bag gift at work. Looks like somebody’s doing Secret Santa this holiday season, right? Just look at you, participating socially in things…
- TrapTap – Wireless Legal Speed Trap Detector
While we do include an amazing trap/radar/laser detector further down on this list, the TrapTap is an affordable device that does something a little different. If you’re not quite ready to drop a few hundred on a top-end radar detector, the TrapTap offers some unique middle ground. It doesn’t actually detect radar and laser devices, but rather contains a community-driven database of highly ticketed zones across the world. School zones, red light cameras, speed traps, etc. can all be added to the database to help out both you and your fellow drivers. Because it doesn’t actually look for radar or lasers, you’re on your own if you get unlucky on the road, away from the designated trap zones. Still, for the price, you’re getting heads-up access to those high-percentage pull-over zones, and that’s worth the price of admission. If you already have a radar detector that doesn’t recognize the trap zones, this is a great purchase that will get you into the 21st century of car tech without costing you an arm and a leg. Not to mention, it’s barely bigger than a quarter and sticks to just about any surface you can think of. Thanks, TrapTap!
- Hudly – Full Color Heads-Up Display for All Cars & Phone Apps
Unfortunately, it’s hard to exactly know how to feel about Eric Lee’s labor of love. He and his company Hudly recently launched a Kickstarter for this awesome-looking HUD phone display but only raised about half of their goal before the pledge period expired. We’re not sure where this leaves Hudly or the company, but we’ll update here as information becomes available.
Hudly looks like a better version of what’s out there: the glass projection screen is completely transparent, and it can be placed just out of your driving line-of-sight. It sits similar to most GPS or phone setups, except the display is prominently featured on your windshield. Hudly plugs into your OBD2 port and uses your car battery for power, so it never needs charging. The full-color display just amazing, futuristic and sure to impress you and everyone who sees it. Voice control lets you text back or make calls hands-free, and you can see the screen display without turning your head. This thing is pretty underground at this point, so you’ll earn bonus points for getting into cool tech at the ground level.
- Escort Passport 9500ix Radar Detector
Arguably one of the better radar/laser detectors out there, this Escort device offers the full suite of ticket prevention. While TrapTap (mentioned above) is certainly useful and budget-friendly for identifying speed traps and red light cameras, the 9500ix does all that plus full radar detection, false alarm prevention, comprehensive laser detection and an AutoLearn “artificial intelligence” feature that supposedly makes its detecting abilities better and more accurate the more you use it.
Escort is a top name in radar detection at the moment, so you’re paying for the premium quality and name-brand recognition, as well. The voice alerts are a little clearer than the other brands, the display is simple and to-the-point… we could go on here, it’s just one of those “this is it” devices. Heck, it even looks sexier than the other designs out there. If you have the cash to spend, this is the radar detector to shoot for.
QuickJack is one of the sleekest, most awesome aftermarket car items around. It’s safer and easier to set up than jack stands, more affordable than a full-size car lift is being celebrated worldwide for doing exactly what it says it does: operators touch a button and bam, QuickJack is up 20” in 30 seconds; the safety locks automatically engage; the integrated hydraulic flow divider makes darn sure it never collapses on you.
People really are excited about the QuickJack portable car lift system. We recommend you check it out, and if you own a shop or fancy yourself a DIY guy or gal, you’re going to love what QuickJack offers. Its made from the same people who engineer BendPak car lifts, so quality and issue is never in question. And just like that, our self-promoting plug is over.
Okay DIY’ers, we’re saving the last one especially for you! RaceDeck is not one of those gifts you go and buy for just anyone. This flooring is for the serious garage professional or DIY enthusiast. If that’s you and you’ve never heard of RaceDeck, you’re about to have your mind blown. Click here to commence mind-blowing.
If you work on vehicles from home and your garage is what you would call your own personal getaway, RaceDeck is your high-end, one-stop shop for gorgeous flooring designs that personalize your garage space. The graphite flooring is 100% chemical-resistant, waterproof and comes in several state-of-the-art designs. Let’s face it, you’re not getting RaceDeck flooring because it’s waterproof; you’re getting it because you want to turn your garage space into a destination, a place to hang out with friends, relax, sneak that morning cigarette away from the wife, work on your cars, bikes, trucks or all of the above. The RaceDeck website does a fantastic job of showcasing the product, and whoever owns the garages in which RaceDeck does their photo shoots must be very happy. In terms of price, it all depends on the size of your garage, but it’s possible to outfit most garages for a few hundred dollars.