Back to the Future: 5 Convenient Auto Upgrades

By Dan Leadbetter, dealnews staff writer

Cue 1940's radio announcer voice: Good evening Mr. & Mrs. America and all ships at sea. This just in: the car of the future is coming soon! You will be able to remotely start your car, allowing it to heat itself up in the winter and cool itself down in the summer! Your automobile will be able to let you know if it's in trouble or where it's located by sending a call to (are you ready for this?) a telephone small enough to fit in your pocket! These are just some of the space-age features the CAR OF THE FUTURE will have!

Back to the Present...

Just like Marty McFly in "Back to the Future," it would be hard to imagine what people in the 1940s or '50s would think if some of our current technology showed up out of the blue. Would they be petrified of the Big Brother technology? Or enthusiastic about our jet-setting ways? In this day and age some of us still marvel at the convenience of gadgets you can add to your car.

Start Your Car Before Leaving Your House!

Auto start, or remote start, is a personal favorite vehicle add-on. Think about it: How many times have you dreaded leaving the house and getting in your car because you know it's going to either be freezing cold, or hotter than he--, uh, hotter than usual? Automatic start is a device that turns your vehicle on (automatic transmissions only) and allows your car to warm up before you even step outside! As an extra bonus, most auto start kits also come with keyless entry for those vehicles that have manual door locks.

The Crimestopper SP-400 Remote Start Security System ($69.99 with free shipping, a low by $8) is a useful add-on to your car. Not only does it allow you to automatically start your engine from about 3,000 feet away, it also features keyless entry, engine disable, and a car alarm, plus it comes with two 4-button remotes.

Open the Pod Bay Doors, Hal!

Wanna make your smartphone really smart? Then opt for a remote start system that's connected to your iPhone, Blackberry, or Android smartphone. Aside from being convenient, it's pretty cool to whip out your phone, press a button, and start your vehicle as you're walking up to it. Or, if you're by yourself at the mall and forget where you parked, the app and security system can set off the horn or flash the lights to remind you. One of the most complete systems we've seen is the Directed PS5000 Python SmartStart Security System with Remote Start ($236.99 plus $17.77 s&h, a low by $9).

Let's say you want to use a smartphone to control your alarm system, but already have a Viper or Clifford system in place; no need to buy a brand new alarm one, just install the Viper DSM100 SmartStart Module (pictured; $231.99 with free shipping, a low by $25) to your system and access it with your iPhone, iPod touch, or Blackberry phone. (You'll need to download the app, and instructions to do so are included.)

Dude, Where's My Car?

Having a GPS in your car is very helpful to find your way around unfamiliar roads, or through traffic detours. But what about those times when you're not the one driving the car? Let's say your daughter borrows it and forgets to tell you ... what do you do then?

No need to fear! An integrated GPS tracker allows you to monitor where your car is via the web, or via a web-enabled device. Some integrated GPS tracking kits may require a monthly service fee, but this quality devise can tell you the difference between your car being borrowed and stolen — a small price to pay for peace of mind.

One of the most inclusive integrated GPS tracker kits is the Crimestopper Car Alarm and Remote Start System with GPS Tracking Car Security Package, ($299 with free shipping, lowest total price we could find). In addition to the security system and remote start, this TN-4540 model shows speed, directionality, Google Earth, and virtual 3D views, time and date stamp, and offers downloadable history in either Excel or PDF format.

Calling All Cars!

With people spending as much time in their vehicles as they do, staying in contact via your cell phone is a necessity more than a luxury. At the same time, we all know the risks of talking on the phone or texting while driving. Bluetooth headsets are okay, but you still need to turn down the stereo or for that matter, find the darn headset and stick it in your ear before the call goes to voice mail.

A great solution to this problem is the Parrot CK3100 Bluetooth Hands-Free Car Kit ($140.88 with free shipping, a price low by $9). I personally know three people who have this set up in their vehicles, and it works like a charm! This kit interfaces with your car's sound system, can store up to five Bluetooth-enabled devices, and automatically pairs with the device when you enter the vehicle! When a call comes in, the car stereo automatically mutes, and the call is heard over the car speakers. Now how cool is that?

The End is Just the (Auto) Start

These are just a few examples of the security and convenience features that are on the market today. You can get really creative and have remote features, such as opening and closing the sunroof, popping the trunk, or opening a sliding side door. The possibilities are endless!

Like performing any upgrade for your vehicle, figure out your needs and wants and do your research. dealnews can help you find the best bargain on gadgets for your ride, but because of the complexity of some of these upgrades and system, it's always a good rule of thumb to have a local auto security / stereo shop do the installation for you. In no time you'll have a car of the future today!

Front page photo credit: Cea. via Flickr
Top photo credit: Original Sixty Six

Dan Leadbetter is a staff writer for dealnews. He's also been an automotive and mobile electronics journalist for more than 25 years, and one of the panel members on the dealnews podcast. (When he's not trying to figure out a way to get his car to cook breakfast.) You can follow him on Twitter @danleadbetter.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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Like with any complicated electronic device, I'd always opt for having a professional do the install for you.
How do you install Python SmartStart? Theres almost no information on the website and I'm wondering if this is something an average person with a very basic understanding of cars could do or if I'd need to have it professionally installed?
There is a way to bypass the clutch switch to allow remote starting with manual transmissions. You just have to be careful not to leave the car in gear and then try to remote start it: it will start rolling and lurching on the starter! I learned this the hard.
Dan Leadbetter (DealNews)
Hi gamespeed. Yes, you do need power door locks for those systems, however, there are kits available to convert manual locks to remote. 
Do I have to have power door lock in order use the above systems to remotely open the door?