Connected Car

We drive a 2000 Honda Accord V6, and it's not very smart. At least it's the highest trim model of its day, but it doesn't do things that new cars do. I heard about some connected car apps and accessories some time ago, and all the buzzwords were there to entice me: on-demand, big data analytics, big brother. I thought I'd try it out and see what benefit there would be for us.

First, get one of those OBDII adapters, which range from $6 to $100. I got this one (hurray Amazon.ca Prime). The OBDII port is the one that mechanics use to diagnose your car, and the port is somewhere around your feet underneath the dash. With smartphones, the stars have aligned for the average Joe to crunch out smart analytics by themselves. If you have an Android, it'll be easier because Bluetooth will work with your apps. For iPhones, you have to get one with Wi-Fi and do some nifty configurations. Not such a big deal once someone informs you or if, unlike me, you read instructions for products you buy.

At this point, I also was worried about how my LTE would connect if I were on Wi-Fi. Well, good news, there is a way, but I had to get the instructions off the Amazon.com listing.

1.Go to your iPhone/iPad/iPod touch Settings > General > Network > Wi-Fi; 
2.Change settings for the WiFiOBD Network to the following: select "Static", enter IP address: 192.168.0.11, and Subnet Mask: 255.255.255.0; 
3.Scan for the WiFiOBD device, and join the network; 
4.Start the App and enter 192.168.0.10 as the IP address and 35000 as the port number.

Then pick an app. There are oodles of reviews out there, so I won't go over any of that because that's how nice I am. Also Google. Dash seemed interesting because it was free, and there was another ugly-as-sin app called DashCommand that I somehow paid $11 for. Automatic charges $100 for the dongle but the app is free. Here are my reviews.

  • DashCommand is ugly and tells you a lot of information
  • Automatic charges $100 for the dongle but the app is free
  • Dash didn't work for the longest time for my 6 Plus, so I that's why I was forced to use DashCommand. Now it does, but sometimes it's more pretty than functional. A lot of dead-ends, strange visuals (white font on yellow background sounds smart but burns when you're driving (wait, it doesn't even sound smart)), and sometimes it just locks up. Does what it claims to do, but still not a mature product.

You should also consider how you want to view the live dashboard they provide. Originally, we had the Ram Mount X-Grip, but it was too far to reach and too cumberbatch to use. Carrie and I got the Kenu Airframe air vent phone mount which we actually enjoy using with the 5s and 6.

Know how that check engine light stays on forever? Even after the mechanic clears it, the light pops back and then you ignore it? Well, these smart car apps are worth double their weight in invisible money because it saved us a bunch of ours. The app was able to give us some error codes from the check engine light, P0401 and P1491, which is an actually googleable result. Muaha! Then you find a bunch of car nerds online that had that code, and there are even a bunch of YouTube videos showing you how to fix it if you already own an entire mechanic's shop-worth of tools. Some people said Honda charged something like $2000 for that kind of fix, but I was able to find someone on Kijiji who could do it for $700. Better yet, I have a car guy, and I just bought the replacement part from Honda for $250; yay free installation. That was worth the $100 to travel to and stay in Edmonton to get it fixed. The Check Engine light came back a couple times reporting the same old error codes, but there's a button in the Dash app to clear it. That was fun. Now if only it could tell me what this SRS light means.

I ended up using Dash the longest, and it did prove useful. However, I'm done with it and prefer to not have to set up every single time I drive. Especially on chore days, I'm in and out of the car constantly. I stopped bothering to hook it up and turn on the stereo and put it in the mount. Driving day to day with the car app and stuff was annoying, but I learned some interesting things about my car along the way. It gets 10.0 L/100 km fuel efficiency (23.5 MPG) on the highway, and I guess that's about it.

This was all technically possible to do before. You could buy your own smart meter for your car and then research the codes, but the apps allow you log where you go, where the car is parked, how much gas you use, and a whole bunch of other information that you don't really need. For instance, it can warn you if you brake hard a lot, but I'm sure you're already getting that feedback from your former passengers. I'm not sure what the connected car is supposed to really provide you except in the context of Tesla software updates, but there's also Tesla's kill switch that prevents resale and scrapping of parts. You could argue that the app cost us more money than we saved because it forced us to act on the Check Engine light. Then again that could just be regular maintenance that we didn't spend for years.

I'd say get the adapter and app if you're trying to save money on a fix you probably should already get. That way, maybe you could fix it yourself or get a friend to help. Maybe apps will get better moving forward, but for now, meh. Life's too short.