Your parents always said to carry a tire pressure gauge and a first aid kit in your car, no matter where you go. Oh, and one of those foldup poncho things. While this might have been enough in the disco era, we practically live in our cars today. The average American spends about 38 hours a year just stuck in traffic, according to Texas A&M’s Urban Mobility Study, so imagine the actual hours we spend driving around. With that kind of quality time spent in one place, we’ve got a whole new set of needs for furnishing our rolling second homes.
Whether you’ve only got one car, or you’re searching for a spare at a Drivetime in Savannah, gadgets and apps will make your commute better, safer and more comfortable.
That “Check Engine” Light
When that light comes on in your dashboard, do you know what it means? Nobody does, and that’s why people spend so much money on mechanics.
The Kiwi company has a solution.
Their gadget plugs right into your car underneath the steering wheel, then attaches to your wireless device, either Android or iPhone, and it runs about $90.
It prompts you to download the appropriate app, then shows you crucial information about your car: engine light codes, mileage, braking power and more.
Similar devices can cost thousands of dollars when purchased by auto mechanics and repair shops.
Give Me a Jump
Batteries always seem to die in the most inconvenient spots, like at the back of the mall parking lot on Dec. 23.
In a blizzard. If you’re the average driver, once you’ve begged a stranger to help you out, you’re confused about red and black cable ends and what goes first with who.
The solution? The Easy Quick Jumper. Plug one end of the jumper into your vehicle’s cigarette lighter and plug the other end into your Good Samaritan’s lighter.
Wait about 10 minutes, then start your car. This is especially useful in northern climates, because you avoid that whole standing-in-the-snow thing. You can find it on multiple online stores, for between $20 and $30.
Keep in mind that various rechargeable emergency jumper kits are available. Some have more power than others and offer longer reserve battery life, especially in cold weather. Newer systems use Lithium Ion batteries and other technologies.
Keep it Cool
If you take road trips, with or without kids, you’ve probably traveled with an ice-filled cooler on the floor of your car.
It might keep drinks cold, but you’re risking soggy food and bad spills with this method. A better alternative is an electric mini car fridge.
It plugs into a cigarette lighter and keeps food cold and some of the more elaborate models can switch to a warming mode.
If you’re vacationing with kids who constantly need snacks or with someone whose medication needs refrigeration, this little appliance can save your trip. Sizes and styles vary, but you can get an average model for around $50.
Most car accessories rely on 12V cigarette lighter plugs for their power, but what if you come on a real emergency and your car dies?
All the cool gadgets in the world won’t get you through a natural disaster if you have no power. Add some manual-powered emergency supplies to your car in case the worst happens.
A radio with a crank gives you the latest updates on what’s happening and you can find them for $15 and up. Flashlights powered by a squeeze pump are inexpensive and easy to find, and should be part of your pack.
These cheap safety tools run less than $5 and you can often find them for free as giveaways.
Keep a solar cell phone charger in the trunk to keep you connected to your loved ones for $20 and up, or grab a battery-powered charger that runs on common AA batteries. At around $10, you can afford to toss a couple of these in your supplies.
About the Author. Jared Palmer is a car enthusiast who blogs about everything auto-related, from vintage car restorations to repairs and maintenance.