Thursday September 29, 2022

The Verge’s top picks for your car

The car has become a hub for electronic gadgetry, but that doesn’t mean we can’t add some to it. Some people are not happy with the vehicle they have, others want emergency gear, while others have older cars that require assistance in order to support modern electronics. Here are some of these gadgets that staffers from The Verge used to upgrade their vehicles.
I am one of those boring people who doesn’t care about cars beyond getting from A to B. I tend to keep a vehicle in my garage until it is more expensive to maintain than to buy a new one. My current car, a 2007 Honda Civic is still in good condition despite all the dents and dings it has accumulated over the years, mostly from being parked on NYC streets. It lacks the latest features, such as electronic locks and touch screens, which are all available in modern cars.
If I want to listen or download Google Maps directions, or my podcasts or music, then I need to mount my smartphone on the dashboard and connect it via the car’s stereo jack. My recently purchased Pixel 6 does not have a headphone socket (thanks Google), so I had to find another way.
This receiver plugs into my car’s audio jack and connects to my phone via Bluetooth. Although it’s a basic gadget, it connects to my phone via Bluetooth. It holds a charge for quite a while. I haven’t measured how long it lasts but it hasn’t run out since then. — Barbara Krasnoff, reviews editor

Bluetooth Aux Receiver

$17

$23

27% Discount

Aux receiver that can plug into any 3.5mm audio port, and connects to your phone or other device via Bluetooth.

$17

Amazon

I spent many years searching for the perfect USB cable to charge my iPhone and Android phones in my car. Anyone who has a spouse or partner using a different operating system for their phone can probably relate. There are many adapters available that convert a Micro USB connection to Lightning or USB-C. However, these adapters fail after a few months of frequent use.
I have the solution! It’s a retractable USB cable with all three connections (Lightning and USB-C) at the plug. No adapters required. It’s strong and clicks into my phone easily, so I don’t have to deal annoying adapters that will most likely fail. It supports data connections for Android Auto and CarPlay.
The retractable design also makes it easy to keep the cable tidy. I no longer have to deal with a long, awkwardly dangled USB cable across the center console. I can simply pull the cable out and plug in my phone. Then, I can retract the cable and place my phone in the cubby by the USB port. The cable will stay out of my way if I’m on a short trip without plugging in my phone. This feature would seem to require a thin, fragile cable that would eventually break after a few uses. However, the cable here is thick, flat, and won’t break anytime soon. These retractable cables have been in my cars for almost a year and still work as well as the day I bought them. Dan Seifert is deputy editor

Asicen 3-in-1 charging cables

Retractable Lightning port/ Micro USB/USB-C charging ports on one 3.3-foot cable This is a 2-pack.

$15

Amazon

Breaker Bar
My mom bought me a breaker bar. It’s a kind of wrench, but it lasts much longer. It was a brilliant idea. I would have something similar to a bat in my car in the event of a similar situation. But even better, it would give me a lot more torque for removing the tires’ nuts. Too often, when changing your tires, the mechanic will use a wrench gun to loosen the nuts. They can also over-tighten them, making it very difficult to change a tire by the side of the road. A breaker bar is a great tool. According to at least one parent, it can also help in other strange emergencies. Alex Cranz, managing Editor

Neiko 1/2-inch drive extension breaker bar

$15

$16

Save 7%

A half-inch drive breaker bar with 15-inch handles that provide leverage to increase torque.

$15

Amazon

My biggest upgrade to my car was adding a CarPlay radio. This allows me to see directions and control music via a screen built into the dashboard. My unit is a Sony XAVAX100, which seems to have been discontinued. Crutchfield has many other options, which is why Crutchfield is my favorite site to shop for car audio products.
It took me several days just to install the Sony in my Outback. This was due to Subaru’s stupid AC controls, which I will never forget. However, there are many shops that could have done it for a fraction of the cost. If you are interested in installing a new headunit in your car, I recommend that you consult a guide. But if you are a techie, it is definitely worth getting CarPlay and Android Auto installed into your vehicle. It’s not necessary to mess around with a charger or mount. I found it so worth the investment that when we bought a new car, we immediately began looking into replacing the radio. — Mitchell Clark, news writer
Fast car charger
It doesn’t matter if you take long or short car rides, it is nice to have a charger capable of quickly charging your devices. You’ll need a car charging port that supports USB-C PD, such as this Samsung model. There are many other options available on Amazon.
It has a USB-C PD port, which can quickly charge a device up to 45W of power. I have been using it in my car to quickly recharge my Pixel 6 and keep my Nintendo Switch charged up. It can charge my MacBook Pro while it sleeps, or keep the battery from going flat while it is in use. It also features a USB-A port that supports an additional 15W of charging, totaling 60W. — Cameron Faulkner, reviewer

Samsung Super Fast Dual Car Charger

The USB Type C port can provide up to 45W to charge your device with Super Fast Charge 2.0. Maximum power output of the USB Type-A port is 15W, which can be used to charge up to 60W.

$32

Amazon

iOttie Wireless Car Charger
Perhaps Apple will one day realize that artificially restricting the reach of MagSafe charging ecosystem was not a smart idea and you’ll be free to place your phone on a minimalist disc that charges at high speeds. A standard Qi charger is the best you can get, while the bulky, but practical iOttie Easy one Touch Qi charges it with the satisfying snapping of springs. Pushing your phone into the waiting jaws causes it to depress a button which causes the jaws to lock on either side of your phone. To remove it, simply pinch the levers with your thumb and finger. The slab will then be released. It is wide enough to fit almost any product on the market, except an open Samsung Z Fold. It’s been a reliable tool for me with both Android and Apple phones, as well as newer MagSafe handsets. — Sean Hollister, senior reports editor

iOttie Wireless Car Charger

$42

$50

17% Discount

Qi wireless car charger that can be used with large and extra large smartphones, up to 3.7 inches.

$42

Amazon

Turbochargers are now common on new vehicles, even those with internal combustion engines. There is no substitute for displacement. However, turbos can be modified to increase engine power or improve fuel economy. Turbochargers use exhaust gasses to compress the air entering the engine. This allows for more power. (It is a bit more complicated, but I will spare you the details.
What does this have to do about car gadgets? My favorite gadget is a Raspberry pi running Pro Tuning Freaks software. This allows me to adjust the ECU (engine control unit), of my car from my iPhone. I can adjust everything from the boost pressure my turbo builds to the timing of my engine when I can’t locate 93 octane gasoline. The Raspberry Pi can add 50-60 horsepower by simply pressing a button. This will make you wonder if you care about cars. If you care about cars, it’s definitely worth it.
Here are some explanations: The tune is the software the car reads, which changes engine timing, throttle response and boost pressure. The Raspberry Pi is basically a dongle that allows my iPhone (or Android phone) to communicate wirelessly with the car. The Raspberry Pi is required to purchase a tune. However, you don’t necessarily need it. The tune can be installed by connecting a laptop to your car.
Pro Tuning Freaks can sell you a hardware set for $149 (when it’s available — at the time this article was written, it was out-of-stock due to microchip shortages). However, they will also provide the software separately (with instructions) so that you can create it yourself. It doesn’t require any programming: simply drop the appropriate tune file (which can be purchased separately) onto a microSD card, then insert it into the Pi. You have access to your “tunes” once you log in with the bootmod3 app for Android or iPhone.
Pro Tuning Freaks sells off-the-shelf music, or tunes that have been personally tested. Prices start at $500. Some tunes don’t require any modifications, while others may require hardware changes to increase airflow (upgraded exhaust or cooling), etc. Although engine tuning is not new, there are many companies that make great tunes. However, having access to vital vehicle information is a welcome addition to the aftermarket car community. — Phil Esposito, supervising producer, tech

| Image: ProTuning Freaks

Bootmod3 tunes

These tunes can be paired with the right hardware to make adjustments to your car’s engine timing and throttle response.

$595

at ProTuning Freaks

I live in a state known for its potholes. I have had many tire-related problems. There is nothing worse than the sinking feeling you get when you accidentally hit a large pothole. You start hearing the alarm from your tire pressure monitoring system and your car starts pulling to one side. After many flats, bent or cracked wheels, my obsession with maintaining my car’s tires has led me to become a master at keeping it inflated. I decided to buy a digital pressure gauge, which has been a great tool for me for many years. The Accutire gauge is simple and can instantly measure your tire’s pressure to one-tenth the PSI. This inflator can be connected to your car’s auxiliary power outlet and will keep your tires topped-off. It is safer overall and may help your tires survive the next pothole. — Antonio G. Di Benedetto, commerce writer

Accutire digital tire pressure gauge

Heavy-duty tire pressure gauge featuring large, easy to read LCD display.

$17

Amazon

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