How to make your old car smart

Today’s new cars are available with enough technology to keep you travelling at the right speed, in your lane and awake for the journey.

However, your 2002 Audi or GM might look sleek but seem long in the tooth without the ability topark autonomously and create Wi-Fi hotspots.

Fortunately, there are ways to make your old car smart without having to get dirty under the hood.

Dash uses a car's on-board diagnostics port to communicate vital vehicle information back to a driver's smartphone

Dash uses a car’s on-board diagnostics port to communicate vital vehicle information back to a driver’s smartphone

Almost all cars built since 1996 have something called an on-board diagnostic port, or more technically speaking, an OBD-II port.

It’s this portal that lets you turn your old ride into a more modern, Internet-connected machine.

Most drivers probably don’t even know what an OBD-II port is, much less know where it is. Hint: look at the bottom of your dashboard, probably in the bottom-left corner by your hood release lever.

When dealerships say they’re going to “scan your car” for problems after you report seeing a dreaded “Check Engine” light, they plug their garage’s computer or tablet to the OBD-II to see what’s wrong with your car.

It’s this port that gives you a window to your vehicle’s soul. All drivers need is an OBD-II port reader and a smartphone.

Get connected

Lemur’s BlueDriver is a simple, basic option that costs about $100.

The dongle, about the size of your key fob, plugs into the OBD-II port and then links up with your phone over a Bluetooth connection.

Drivers and passengers are able to see real-time data from the car, including engine load, emissions information, fuel consumption, etc.

The BlueDriver can also identify and decipher error codes, suggesting possible solutions to a variety of problems. Perhaps that pesky “Check Engine” light is due to a bad oxygen sensor.

While most dealerships may still want to perform their own diagnostics, drivers can still head to the shop with a good idea of what’s wrong under the hood.

Get smarter

Mojio is a niftier OBD-II gadget from a Vancouver-based company. But unlike BlueDriver (and similar competitors), this one is more advanced.

It relies on an always-active 3G Internet connection to transmit your vehicle and driving information back to the cloud — and the driver.

mojio

From hard acceleration to unnecessary breaking, Moijo is designed to provide drivers with more than just raw numbers.

Error codes will prompt mobile alerts, while the analytics platform will help drivers see why their fuel-sipping car is blowing through tanks of gas.

However, the steady Internet connection requires a subscription ($4.99/month) so the Mojio won’t be constantly communicating with the driver’s cellphone over a battery-draining Bluetooth connection.

Drivers not wanting to pay a monthly subscription can also consider the Dash or Automatic OBD-II port devices.

Recipes for automation

Ok, you can’t program your old jalopy to drive itself just yet. But the cloud can help make your time behind the wheel more efficient.

Recipes available on IFTT (If This, Then That) can trigger events in your digital ecosystem based on where you drive, how you drive, or what you need to do while driving.

For example, Mojio drivers can receive a mobile alert if their battery runs low. Automatic drivers can prompt their car to turn on their house lights when they get home. Dash can send a tweet to let your followers know you’re on the road and not reading their 140-character posts.

And should your dashboard’s error display light up like a Christmas tree, Automatic can send those error codes to your mechanic via email before you’ve even had a chance to open the owner’s manual.

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