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High-tech car accessories can charge up Dad’s ride

The Garmin Nuvi is a strong performing navigator with loads of smart features that help reduce driver errors and distraction.
The Garmin Nuvi is a strong performing navigator with loads of smart features that help reduce driver errors and distraction. TNS

The days of the shade-tree mechanic are pretty much done, but there are other ways Dad can get his hands dirty around the car. Here are some tech accessories and upgrades that might make Father’s Day more exciting – for him:

Garmin Nuvi

CNET rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 (Outstanding)

The good: The Garmin Nuvi 2689 LMT is an excellent GPS navigator with smart routing software and accurate maps. Free lifetime traffic and map updates give you the latest information, including locations for businesses, stores, restaurants, etc. That feature increases its value. Natural-language directions, real-time lane guidance and always-on voice command help the driver keep hands free, eyes on the road and the vehicle on the route.

The bad: As the Nuvi series gains more tricks, its settings menu has gotten bloated with options and categories.

The cost: $270 to $329

The bottom line: The Garmin Nuvi 2689 LMT is a strong performing navigator with loads of smart features that help reduce driver errors and distraction, but in a world filled to the brim with smartphone navigation apps, most may never know its charms.


CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: Automatic Labs’ Automatic “smart driving assistant” plugs into your car’s diagnostics port to give you data from you car’s on-board computer. The adapter pairs with an app using Bluetooth to display the information. The device is simple to set up and use, even for the car-clueless. The app logs fuel efficiency, trip costs and driving habits for later browsing; it also gives you access to a gallery of apps from other vendors. Audible alerts coach without distracting the driver. Parking places are automatically GPS-tagged.

The bad: Automatic is at the top end of the on-board diagnostic readers and app price range. Lack of advanced or real-time readouts will deter car nerds. Android compatibility was unavailable at time of testing.

The cost: $100

The bottom line: The Automatic driving assistant helps drivers who know nothing about cars to monitor and boost their fuel efficiency with plug-and-play ease and a simple interface that even laymen can understand.

Cobra JoyRide

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: The Cobra JoyRide smart in-car charger eases access to your Android phone while driving. It provides single-button activation of many functions and preprogrammed triggers. With one button you can toggle among your favorite apps, play music, make calls hands-free and use voice commands. Rapid charging puts out enough amperage to power most Android phones and tablets.

The bad: The smart charger was able to power our Nexus tablet, but the app was incompatible. The retail price is a bit high for what is essentially a 12V charger.

The cost: $10 to $20

The bottom line: If you’re in the market for an Android car charger that does more than just power your phone, the Cobra JoyRide is a compelling option.

BluClik Bluetooth remote control

CNET rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 (Very good)

The good: The iSimple BluClik puts controls for your media player on the steering wheel. Controls for volume, skip, play and pause are at the driver’s fingertips. The rechargeable battery is designed to last 60 hours, according to iSimple. Hold the center button to activate Siri or Android voice search.

The bad: The unit could use a small charging or battery indicator LED. Some phones lose access to the onscreen keyboard when in range of a paired BluClik.

The cost: $26 to $50

The bottom line: BluClik is an easy way to enhance safety and keep hands on the wheel by adding simple media controls to vehicles without standard steering wheel buttons.

Distracted driving has a price

▪ Drivers spend more than half their time focused on things other than driving.

▪ Distraction contributes to more than 5,000 traffic fatalities each year.

▪ Texting and phone calls aren’t the only distractions. Passengers, eating and in-car technologies also cause distractions.

▪ Teen drivers were distracted almost a quarter of the time they were behind the wheel, according to a recent study. Electronic devices used for texting, emails and downloading music were among the biggest distractions.

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety