The Best car tech of 2018

Modern cars are packed with technology. Manufacturers even use the tech to sell new models and differentiate them from other cars. But if you want to bring your existing car up to date, there are plenty of great gadgets around to do just that.

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  • tyrepal solar review best car tech TyrePal Solar
  • pure highway 400 review display detail Pure Highway 400 DAB Radio
  • nextbase 312gw review main Dash cam
  • best car tech topdon obdii reader Topdon code reader
  • best car tech endo kam usb2 Endo Kam USB2
  • best car tech iclever jump starter 2 iClever Jump starter
  • flic button best car tech Flic
  • best car tech bestek 300w inverter Bestek Inverter
  • vodafone v auto V Auto
  • nonda zus Nonda Zus
  • stk hub review STK Hub
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TyrePal Solar

For the best fuel economy you need to keep your tyres at the right pressure. And to avoid ruining a punctured tyre by driving after it deflates, you need a warning system. TyrePal's Solar does exactly this, allowing you to retro-fit a TPMS (Tyre Pressure Monitoring System) to your car.

You remove your existing dust caps and fit the wireless monitors supplied in the kit. They come with rubber covers and nuts to keep them firmly in place and protected from the elements. You won't need to get your wheels rebalanced, reckons TyrePal.

The main display can be stuck on top of your dashboard with the reusable sticky pad. A solar panel on top should provide all the power it needs, but there's a microUSB port and a bundled car charger as well. The sensors' batteries should last over a year, and up to two years.

On the display you'll see tyre pressure and temperature, the latter in the small rectangles. You can choose to see temperature in Celcius or Farenheit, and pressure in bar or PSI. It's important to set the high- and low-pressure warnings according to your car's recommended pressures rather than relying on the defaults, though.

The TyrePal will quickly alert you (with a buzzer as well as a red backlight) if a tyre gets too hot or the pressure goes below - or above - your set limits. Considering the cost of new tyres and also the fact it could prevent an accident, it's well worth the cost.

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Next Prev tyrepal solar review best car tech

For the best fuel economy you need to keep your tyres at the right pressure. And to avoid ruining a punctured tyre by driving after it deflates, you need a warning system. TyrePal's Solar does exactly this, allowing you to retro-fit a TPMS (Tyre Pressure Monitoring System) to your car.

You remove your existing dust caps and fit the wireless monitors supplied in the kit. They come with rubber covers and nuts to keep them firmly in place and protected from the elements. You won't need to get your wheels rebalanced, reckons TyrePal.

The main display can be stuck on top of your dashboard with the reusable sticky pad. A solar panel on top should provide all the power it needs, but there's a microUSB port and a bundled car charger as well. The sensors' batteries should last over a year, and up to two years.

On the display you'll see tyre pressure and temperature, the latter in the small rectangles. You can choose to see temperature in Celcius or Farenheit, and pressure in bar or PSI. It's important to set the high- and low-pressure warnings according to your car's recommended pressures rather than relying on the defaults, though.

The TyrePal will quickly alert you (with a buzzer as well as a red backlight) if a tyre gets too hot or the pressure goes below - or above - your set limits. Considering the cost of new tyres and also the fact it could prevent an accident, it's well worth the cost.

Pure Highway 400

Found in a lot of new cars, but likely lacking from older models is DAB radio. This is the digital equivalent of FM and brings not simply audio quality improvements but also a much wider choice of stations and some handy extra features.

Pure's Highway 400 offers an easy way to add DAB radio to your existing car stereo, even if it doesn't have an aux input. It gets power from your cigarette lighter socket and you simply run a wire up to the top of the windscreen (just like a dash cam) for the antenna.

As well as DAB, it also has Bluetooth so you can play music from your phone through your car stereo, and if you install the Pure Go app you can also use your phone's assistant.

Read our full review of the Highway 400.

Nextbase 312GW

A dash cam records video constantly while you drive and can provide evidence if you're ever involved in an accident. 

Our top pick at the moment is the Nextbase 312GW, as it combines good image quality with easy setup, lots of features and a sensible price. 

You can read our full 312GW review and see the current list of the best dash cams.

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Topdon ArtiLink 201

It can be worrying when the 'check engine' symbol lights up on your dashboard. But with a code reader such as the ArtiLink 201, you can quickly find out exactly what's wrong by searching Google for the codes that come up.

This reader can also clear codes (and the engine light) when the problem is fixed and show you real-time data from your car's O2 sensor, which tells you a lot about the way your engine is running.

For the price, it's well built and easy to use thanks to the 2in colour screen. It may be more expensive than Bluetooth or Wi-Fi dongles, but it's much more convenient with no software or apps to install.

Endo Kam USB 2

Not all car tech is designed to be used while you're driving. This waterproof endoscope lets you look for dropped objects in hard-to-reach places, whether that's behind the dashboard, in the engine or simply in that silly gap between the seats and the centre console.

A dial allows you to adjust the brightness of the LEDs so you can see in dark crevices, and a button takes a snapshot which is saved as a file in Windows. Drivers (which work in Windows 10 as well) are included inconveniently on a mini CD.

The flexible neck is 600mm long and keeps its position once set. Attachments are included: a mirror for seeing behind the camera and a magnet for picking up screws or other magnetic objects.

With a diameter of just 8mm, the camera will fit just about everwhere. Although resolution sounds low at 648x488, images are in colour and are detailed enough to check out damage if you're investigating faults such as burst pipes.

iClever 800A Portable Jump Starter

Car jump starters are traditionally large batteries that you keep in your garage, but modern lithium-ion batteries mean you can now keep one in your glovebox for emergencies when your car's battery has drained too much to start the engine.

iClever's 800A Jump Starter is a superb gadget. As well as providing 800 amps for cranking over engines, it's also an 20000mAh power bank with two USB ports that support Quick Charge 3.0. There's also a USB-C port which supports Power Delivery, offering 30W fast charging for phones and laptops.

The same port is used for charging the jump starter, which takes 2.5 hours from empty to full using the included USB-C charger, which you can use for your phone, tablet and laptop if you like.

It also has a built-in torch which is useful in emergencies at night, and tells you roughly how much charge is remaining via four LEDs. Included in the case is a 12V socket so you can even power car accessories such as a dash cam, tyre inflator etc.

The battery clamps are good quality and have built-in protection circuitry. Importantly, we were able to start our test car (a 2.5 litre petrol engine) with a flat battery more than a dozen times, and the capacity didn't dip below 75%. Impressive stuff.

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Flic

With the recent changes to UK law, you could be fined if you're using your phone while driving. Flic is a Bluetooth button that has almost limitless uses because you can set it up to do just about anything.

For drivers this means you could press it to get directions home in Google Maps, or fire up Shazam to identify a catchy song playing on the radio. Or you could use it to call up Siri or the Google Assistant and dictate a message saying you'll be a bit late - it works with iOS and Android.

It has an IFTTT channel and can also work with Glympse so a simple push can send your location to those you've set up in the app.

The button is effectively three in one as you can also double-press it or long-press it, so you could set up three different actions.

The battery lasts around 18 months and is easy to replace, yet the button is waterproof and can be used outdoors as well as in the car.

A single Flic costs £29.99 from Amazon, but you can save if you buy a multipack of four. They come in various colours, so if you can remember the functions you've set up you could use more than one in your car.

Bestek 300W inverter

Most cars have USB ports these days, but one you won't find is a 3-pin UK mains socket. So if you need a power something that can't be charged via USB - such as a laptop or your DSLR battery - then you need an inverter.

These gadgets convert your car's 12V DC electricity supply to 240V AC (or 110V for US models).

The Bestek 300W inverter delivers, as the name suggests, 300W. But if you want to connect anything over 150W you'll need clips to attach it directly to your car battery. Bestek sells a model with the clips included for just £2 more.

That's enough to power a laptop, TV or camping fridge. But always check the power consumption of your device before connecting it. Products such as travel irons, hairdryers and straighteners need too much power and can't be used.

As well as the mains socket (there's one on the UK model, two on the US version), there are two USB ports with each providing 2.4A of power - enough to charge two iPads at the same time.

A switch on the back lets you turn off the inverter instead of unplugging it from you car's accessory socket and the internal fan isn't too noisy.

Vodafone V Auto

If you wished your car was smarter but can't afford a new one, then Vodafone is on hand with the V Auto.

It's a nifty device that plugs into the ODB port that most cars, even pretty old ones, have. It's compatible with most cars from 2003 onwards but some older cars, too.

Using the accompanying app, you can keep track of your journeys (handy for claiming mileage) and you'll also get a Road Safety Score so you know if you're actually as good a driver as you think.

Many will make use of the Find My Car feature that helps you locate your parked car if you can't remember where it is.

We haven't tested it due to not crashing, but the V Auto has an Auto SOS service that means the device will contact agents if you're in a serious accident and contact assistant of emergency services for you. This could be helpful if you're worried about a particular family member driving alone.

The V Auto costs £85 and you'll then need to pay £4 a month as the device has its own embedded V-SIM for data, GPS and battery. It's a lot if you're not going to use all the features and is available to anyone, not just Vodafone customers.

Buy it from Vodafone and Amazon.

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Nonda Zus

If you want to find your car wherever you parked it but don't fancy the monthly cost of the V Auto, then check out the Nonda Zus.

At a glance, it's just a regular USB car charger that plugs into your 12v cigarette lighter. It can charge your phone and a second device simultaneously so your passenger doesn't feel left out – they're reversible, too.

But there are hidden smarts providing a number of handy features.

As we've alluded to, you can use the app to locate your car if you're the forgetful type – the location can be shared if you're picking someone up, for example. You can also set up parking meter alerts so you don't accidentally run out of time and get a hefty fine.

Furthermore, the Zus can monitor the health of your car's battery and let you know if there's something wrong. You can also track journeys including mileage if you need to.

STK Hub

One issue with modern day car travel is that just about everything requires USB power – from phones and tablets to satnavs and more. Most new cars come with one or two USB ports for charging and multimedia use, but the STK Hub provides a five handy USB ports via for charging on-the-go, making use of the old cigarette lighter present in most vehicles.

But rather than bundling all five USB ports together, the ingenious design provides access to two USBs for front passengers and three USBs (at the end of a 1.5m cable) for those in the back. The front ports output 2.4A, while the back offers up to 2.0A, more than enough for most smartphones on the market. It’s sleek, simple and works exactly as you’d expect.

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