Unlocking a Treasure Trove of Useful Data from Your Car


First, baby? Listed Here AreThis is 2014. Isn’t it time your car was as smart as your phone? Actually, it is actually. Your vehicle generates a ton of data and most of us don’t are aware of it. With the right hardware and apps, you may use that data to save gas, find in which you parked, as well as diagnose those pesky check engine lights.

What You’ll Get

Most cars since the early 80s have some form of aboard diagnostics (OBD). Any vehicle made or imported to the US after January 1st, 1996 was legally required to have an OBD-II-compliant computer. Fortunately your home is in the future., although before the age of smartphones, there really wasn’t much you could potentially do with that information without expensive equipment

Thanks to all of the data your car or truck generates, you may track almost everything with an app on your phone, to make you an improved driver (as well as save some money). Listed here are just a few of the things you can do:

Track gas efficiency: Lots of us brake too hard, accelerate too quickly, or speed too much and our fuel efficiency suffers for this. Apps like Automatic and Dash will let you know when you really need to ease up. They can also tell you exactly how much each trip costs, placing an (estimated) dollar amount directly alongside each trip.1

Locate where you parked: Both Automatic and Dash save where you were when you turned your car off. You can even use Dash to obtain Google Maps directions straight back to where you parked. It’s probably overkill for locating your car at the mall, but anyone who’s ever tried to navigate a college campus the first time at night will appreciate the choice.

Decode the check engine light: The check engine light can mean regarding a hundred different things. While it’s no replacement for a proper mechanic, finding out what codes it’s throwing off can be extremely helpful. Many apps that plug in to your OBD can tell you exactly what’s gone wrong and help you find out what you need to do today to fix it.

These are just a couple of examples, however you get the idea-it’s like tracking your exercise with a Fitbit, but for your automobile.

Step One: Install Your OBD Adapter

To get started, you’ll need a Bluetooth adapter for the car. These range in price and there are a variety of numerous hardware features that you might or might not care about. During my own tests, I used this model for a moderate $24 (at the time of this writing), however, some reviewers learned that leaving the unit plugged in would drain battery.

Other, higher priced models such as this one ($69) promise not to drain your vehicle’s battery, in addition to extras like a faster refresh rate-which means live data are often more up-to-date-and extra security measures. It’s also worth noting that one of the apps we’ll discuss later, Automatic, requires its own special OBD adapter.

Once you’ve chosen which adapter you’ll use, it’s very easy to install. Somewhere underneath your dashboard, you’ll find an OBD plug much like the one above. Its location differs on various car models, so check your manual for more information. Once you’ve found it, you can plug the adapter in. Most adapters will have some form of light or sound to indicate that it’s been connected properly. Read the instructions to successfully install the adapter at the proper time during the app’s setup. when you bought your adapter along with an app like Automatic

Step Two: Choose Your Tracking App

There are a number of apps that could track data using your OBD. While we can’t go over every one of them here, we’ll highlight a number of that are worth trying out, according to your use case.

Dash (Free, Android; iOS coming soon)

Dash shines as one of the very useful apps as it’s not only well-designed, nevertheless it supports a wide array of OBD adapters. Presently, it’s Android-only, but iOS users can sign up for a beta that’s due for a full release this year.


Shows real-time data. You can see anything from how fast you’re traveling, how hot your engine is, the voltage of your battery, and a number of other information that many people don’t really care about as you drive.

Maintains trip history. You can see a record of your trips and all the accompanying data, including the length of time the trip was, average mile per gallon, and how much every person trip cost in gas.

Notes where your automobile is parked. When you get away from your car, Dash will make a note of where you parked. If you need help finding your car later (hello amusement parks), you can tap the location in Dash to obtain Google Maps directions to the vehicle.


Still mostly Android-only. While you can sign up for an invite on the iOS beta, you won’t get in immediately and there’s no timeline beyond sometime this year for a full release if you’re not on Google’s platform.

Hardware may be wonky. Because Dash doesn’t have its own adapter (unlike Automatic), you’re on your own to find the one that works. Dash is designed to be used consistently, though this is true for most apps we’ll feature. Dependant upon your vehicle, you might need to spend extra to get one that won’t drain your car’s battery, which could be an inconvenience.