Most of us don’t think of our cars as being “smart” devices – unless you’re lucky enough to drive a Tesla. But in actuality, your car is pretty smart, and you can learn a lot from it (as long as it was made after 1996).
I’ve talked about OBD-II scanners in the past, especially Fixd which is my favorite. Most people use OBD-II tools for diagnostic purposes. That’s really what they’re designed for.
Since January 1, 1996, new cars have been required to have OBD-II compatible ports which allow anyone with an adapter to read information from the vehicle.
Generally, OBD-II has been used by professionals to diagnose car problems (like figuring out why your check engine light is on), or to make sure that vehicles are meeting emissions standards.
But OBD-II adapters can also make your car smarter.
With a basic Bluetooth OBD-II adapter, you can do a lot of pretty cool things.
With an app like Torque, you can actually see what your car is doing in real-time. You can also get car performance and sensor data as well. You can use the GPS to create tracker logs with engine logging, which will allow you to see what you were doing at any point during your trip.
You can view your CO2 emissions, transmission temperatures and even video your journey.
Here are just a few of the many things you can do with an OBD-II adapter:
At this point, you probably know how much you spend on gas each time you fill the tank. But do you know how much you spend on each individual trip?
How much do you spend going to and from work? What about those weekend trips to visit friends across town?
There are many apps that can connect to your OBD-II adapter to keep track of your gas usage. You can see how much you spend to reach each destination, and may even be able to compare your car’s efficiency to other vehicles in your area.
Tracking your gas usage can help you stay on budget, or even cut back on your gas spending. Maybe it’s time to ask your friend across town to come visit you every once in a while.
Some people may not care about how much money they’re spending on their commutes. But if you’re on a tight budget, having this information may help you choose a more efficient route that will ultimately save you money on gas every week or month.
If I’m going somewhere with a huge parking lot, there’s a very good chance that I’ll forget where I parked. Theme parks and parking garages are the worst, and I try to avoid them for this reason.
What’s great about an OBD-II adapter is that you can download an app that will tell you where your parked car is located. It can use GPS information to find your vehicle, so you’re never stuck wandering the parking lot or parking garage again.
This feature can also come in handy if someone decides to steal your car while it’s parked. You’ll be able to see its location, and, hopefully, the police will be able to track it down.
And if a friend or family member borrows your car, you can check to make sure that they’re going exactly where they said they were going.
Some OBD-II adapters can actually detect whether you’ve been in a car accident and alert the authorities. This is a feature that can literally save your life if you’re ever in an accident.
Once a potential accident has been detected, an operator will call your phone and ask if you need assistance. If you say yes or you don’t respond to the call, the operator will contact emergency services for you and send them to your location. The operator will be able to get your location information from your adapter.
It can be comforting to know that someone is looking out for you while you’re driving, especially if you typically drive alone. Without something like this, you could potentially be left on the side of the road for hours instead of just a few minutes.
In many cases, you can pair OBD-II adapters to IFTTT, Alexa and other smart apps. With IFTTT, you can have it turn on your lights when you get home, or even send text messages or social media posts automatically.
If you connect to Alexa, you can ask Alexa to find your car to see if you need gas.
You can even have your car tweet messages while you’re on the road, which can help eliminate distractions without taking away from your social media schedule.
You can do a lot of interesting things with IFTTT and your OBD-II adapter.
Of course, you can also use an OBD-II adapter to do what it was intended to do: diagnose car problems.
Scanners and devices, like Fixd, can give you specific error codes to tell you exactly what is wrong with your vehicle. With this information in hand, you can decide whether you need to rush right to the mechanic, or if the problem can wait until morning.
OBD-II adapters can give you a lot of information, and it’s fun to see what your car is doing behind the scenes. One thing I do have to mention is that if you use a Bluetooth adapter, it can drain your battery if you don’t drive often. As long as you drive your car every other day, you should be fine. But if you’re leaving your car idle for a while, you’ll want to unplug the device to prevent it from depleting your battery.
Most of the apps that you can use with your adapter are free or just a few dollars to download. They allow you to see all kinds of useful information that you can log or use to improve the efficiency of your trips.
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