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6 Premium Gadgets for your Premium Ride this Summer
Carter Jung, guest editor
With summer upon us, the open road and its infinite possibilities beckon. Whether it’s spending a day at the beach, camping in the mountains, visiting a national monument or attending a motorsports event, the driving season has begun. To help you get to your destination in style, make the drive more enjoyable, or a combination of both, here’s a list of six premium gadgets for your ride.
1. Stereo Head Unit
If you’re nostalgic when it comes to vehicles, you may own an older car. While there’s nothing wrong with some automotive patina, you may want to consider upgrading your stereo head unit. Many new head units offer built-in Bluetooth, navigation, back-up camera and USB connectivity for music, not to mention improved audio output. Pioneer’s new AppRadio 2 ($499) touts all of these features and adds the ability to sync your smartphone (iPhone 4 and 4S, Android), allowing you to use its large 7-inch capacitive touchscreen to interface with your mobile device.
2. Navigation System
If you need a navigation system for your car, but replacing your entire head unit seems a bit daunting, you have other options. And no, using your smart phone for directions shouldn’t be one of them. Besides the safety reasons, legislation banning the hand-held use of cell phones while driving is starting to proliferate. Instead, consider purchasing a navigation unit such as the Magellan RoadMate 9020T-LM ($289). The RoadMate features a 7-inch touchscreen and free lifetime map updates and traffic alerts. An added bonus with Magellan products is the built-in AAA TourBook guide, a list of auto club recommended locations.
3. Battery Jump Pack
There are few automotive feelings worse than going out to your car only to find the battery is dead (should’ve remembered to turn off your dome light). Depending on your location and cell phone coverage, the consequences can range from a minor inconvenience to being stranded for hours.
Jumper cables are a common remedy but they require the use of another vehicle. Jump starters, on the other hand, contain their own power source, allowing you to start your vehicle on your own, immediately. Although pricey, the Snap-on Camouflage 12 Volt Jump Pack ($340) comes with a built-in high output battery capable of 330 cranking amps—ample juice to start most vehicles.
4. Digital Tire Gauge
For drives both long and short, properly inflated tires are of paramount importance. Improperly inflated tires can cause undue stress, which causes premature wear and/or tire failure, and underinflated tires can negatively impact fuel efficiency. Digital tire gauges allow you to easily check tire pressures with its easy to read display, and are usually compact enough to stow in your glove compartment. The MS-4355GB ($30) from Accutire boasts a backlit screen, is accurate from 5 to 99 psi, can be programmed to factory-recommended tire pressures and has a built-in LED flashlight.
5. Tire Inflator
Should the reading come low after the use of a digital tire gauge, access to a tire inflator of some sort becomes vital. Investing in a portable air compressor is a good idea for the convenience it offers—you can fill up at home.
If you’re on the go, inflators such as the Black & Decker Air Station ($114) come equipped with a cord that plugs into your vehicle’s 12-Volt power outlet. Besides car tires, the Air Station has a built-in battery and a low-pressure setting so you can also use it to inflate oh-so important recreational items such as balls (beach, football, soccer, etc), air beds, and bicycle tires.
6. OBD II Scanner
Imagine this: You’re out on the road, taking in the gorgeous views when the Check Engine light comes on. A cryptic glow found on modern cars, the disconcerting Check Engine light can mean a multitude of things, ranging from the not-so-serious to trip-ending serious. Equipped with a scanner similar to the Craftsman CanOBD2 Car Reader ($70), you can quickly decode what the problem is and determine whether you can continue on your journey or make your way to the nearest repair shop. Fingers crossed for the former.