Fixing GPS and Speed Indicator on a FalconZero F170HD Dashcam

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At the end of December 2015 I started riding with a dashcam in my car. The first dashcam was a TaoTronics Car Dash Cam HD 1080P Wide Angle with G-Sensor WDR Night Mode 2.7″ Screen, which had excellent video quality but earlier this year the battery finally gave out completely and as a result it kept losing settings including the time and date.

In April of this year I decided to repace it with a FalconZero F170HD dashcam. The dashcam has some additional features including a GPS attachment, which the camera uses to generate and save GPS information about each drive as well as displaying the current speed. I’ve managed to record a number of videos worth saving with these devices.

I don’t leave the camera powered when I’m not driving my car (the main reason the battery in the first dashcam died) and this camera also lost all settings a couple of times but strangely enough one of those settings seems to have impacted the speed indicator. It also looked like the GPS itself didn’t seem to be working as the GPS icon was showing an error on the display.

Despite ensuring that the GPS option was set to ON I was still unable to get the speed to display. I even tried checking the GPS attachment connection but nothing seemed to work.

Then suddenly, when I changed the Auto Update Time from off to the correct GMT offset for my area the GPS functions started working again. The speed indicator showed the correct value and the GPS icon was showing that it was enabled. The additional benefit is that since it’s getting the time directly from the GPS signal I no longer have to worry about manually setting the date and time again, whenever the unit is without power for a night or two.

Falcon Zero

Using an OBD-II Splitter to Connect Two Devices (Fuel Economy Guage & Zubie)

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I’ve added a couple of posts about the fuel economy guage recently but in those posts I left out the fact that I already had one device on the ODB-II port of my 2008 Chevrolet Impala – a Zubie vehicle monitoring device that is cloud-connected via its own celluar connection (the one at this link is slightly different from the ones that we have; they are both white and were also purchased as a two-pack – I don’t know if there is any technical difference between the models).

In order to solve this issue I decided to purchase a iKKEGOL 30cm/12″ ODB2 ODB II Splitter Extension Y J1962 16 Pin Cable Male to Dual Female Cord Adapter. I’m not sure why the item name is written as ODB2 ODB II as it should instead be OBD2 OBD II but it does work properly. I read several reviews before deciding to purchase this devices as I was uncertain whether or not having two devices connected in this way would cause issues. I decided that it was not very likely to be a problem because the fuel economy guage only reads from the system and the Zubie device probably rarely ever sends data, if at all.

I haven’t had a single problem with either device since I connected them to the splitter.

OBD-II-Splitter

The white fabric is actually an elastic material helping to ensure that the connection to the OBD-II port doesn’t slip loose. Normally, the cables are tucked away better but I had just shifted them before taking this cable to reposition the fuel economy guage.

Reducing Windshield Reflection of an Auto Meter 9105 ecometer Fuel Consumption Gauge Display

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The Auto Meter 9105 ecometer Fuel Consumption Gauge works great but when driving at night I started to experience a slightly distracting problem. A reflection of the guage’s display was very visible higher up the windshield. This was probably aggravated by the fact that I have it placed directly on my dash, which curves up and thus causes the guage to be at more of an angle than if it was sitting flat.

I’ve managed to reduce the amount that is reflected, and could eliminate it further with a small modification, by building an extension of the guage’s hood. I lucked out and was able to find some black vinyl just sitting around (I originally asked a friend if he had some black construction paper but he had something better – vinyl), which I affixed to the hood of the guage with electrical tape to extend it out. This little trick seems to have been a significant improvement when driving at night.

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Using an Auto Meter 9105 Ecometer to Improve Fuel Economy of a 2008 Chevy Impala

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Back in December my commute to work changed from about 15-20 minutes one way to one hour to an hour and fifteen minutes. This significant addition of mileage drove me (no pun intended) to make minor modifications to my vehicle and driving habits to improve my fuel economy. In the beginning I used my vehicle’s built-in Instant MPG data to adjust my coasting and acceleration.

This small move did show an improvement in fuel economy but the digital guage isn’t well placed for frequent checks. I decided to purchase something that was much more obvious as it could be mounted directly onto my dash.

I’ve been using an Auto Meter 9105 ecometer Fuel Consumption Gauge, which costs around $100, and connects directly to the OBD-II port of my vehicle. Not only does it present the data in a much easier format to quickly glance at but I’ve also discovered that the referesh of the data is much faster than that of the built-in guage.

I’d prefer that the display could be dimmed significantly but otherwise it’s nearly perfect. If I’m applying several basic hypermiling habits I can indeed improve fuel economy. My vehicle’s highest MPG rating (highway) is 29 MPG but I’ve been able to achieve 30.29 MPG once and most of the time I hit between 26 and 28 MPG unless I’ve had a lot of in-city driving in my car. I have more MPG data from this year that I may share in a later post.

The guage by itself does nothing to improve fuel economy but it provides the ability to make driving decisions quickly, potentially saving fuel.

Easy Accessory Power Switch for a 2008 Chevrolet Impala

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I used a dashcam, phone charger and bluetooth adapter in the car for a while but I grew tired of having to manually unplug those devices when not in use or when I turned the car off. Unfortunately, in my 2008 Chevrolet Impala the vehicle would continue to provide power to any plugged in accessories even when the engine was off. Most of these devices are low power but even a dashcam, given enough time, could eventually drain the vehicle batter, especially if the car wasn’t being used for several days.

Re-wiring the electrical system and messing with fuses is beyond my experience so I decided to see if I could find an automotive power strip that would have a built-in power switch and sure enough I was able to find the perfect device.

The EUGIZMO Cigarette Lighter Splitter only costs about $16, offers three DC outlets, four USB power ports, a large power switch for the unit and also a very good visual indicator to show whether or not it is on.

I chose to mount this upside-down, just below the vehicle’s built-in DC power ports. This placement moves most of the power adapters and cables out of the way; whenever I turn the car on or off it’s very easy to just reach down and hit the large power button.

Car-Power-Strip

At first affixing the unit beneath the dash was a bit of the problem as the first type of velcro that I had used simply wasn’t holding and it would often come loose during the day. Eventually I ended up using some VELCRO Exterme Outdoor Strips and it hasn’t come loose since.

Using a Zubie Key: A Year in Review

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Zubie

Almost a year ago I purchased a Zubie Key, which is a device that can be used to track the location, and monitor the status, of a vehicle through a vehicle’s OBD-II port. This device has a built-in cellular connection and requires a yearly subscription fee of about $100. My motivation at the time was to integrate it into my home automation setup, which I actually did by connecting it to the IFTTT service combined with text message notifications that my home automation software can receive and process.

A year later I am uncertain whether or not I will continue to pay for the service. Mind you, it is not bad and has lived up to my expectations. But with daycare and various other child-related costs I’m not sure that it’s worth (that suddenly more valuable amount of) $100.

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Using a Zubie Key (Vehicle Monitoring Service)

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ZubieMy wife recently purchased a new vehicle and so I started thinking about also purchasing a new vehicle. And then I decided that not having a car payment was something that I currently prefer over having a car payment (note – my wife had a very good reason to purchase a new vehicle, I do not).

Instead of purchasing a new vehicle I decided to add some enhancements to my current one. One of those enhancements is a Zubie Key.

The Zubie Key requires a subscription service that costs $99/year. The device works in conjunction with the Zubie Cloud service, which is used to review data via Web browser or from the Zubie App. When connected to a vehicle’s OBD-II port the device automatically connects to the Zubie Cloud via cellular connection. GPS is also built into the device.

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