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Explainer: 10 car gadgets gone wrong

  • Image: RAM iPad car mount
    RAM/National Products Inc.
    RAM iPad car mount.

    My first car was an early '80s Volvo with a bald front tire. The only tech it had inside was a radio and a heater and I felt pretty fortunate that both were working. Plus, I got away with having a crappy car because during the whole "grunge" period, people kind of revered junk. It was like a badge of honor.

    That's not gonna happen these days — now it's all about added features and technology. But, even if your car still has hand-crank windows, you can still try to make it seem sweeter. But be forewarned, even the coolest-seeming gadgets may backfire on you.

  • Scrolling LED message sign

    I never understood why people get personalized license plates with messages that are so cryptic that the guy behind them in traffic would need to be a codebreaker to figure it out. This LED message sign can be mounted to your rear windshield and programmed with a wireless remote so you get your point across loud and clear. The message even scrolls at three different speeds so you can tempt fate with that 300-pound trucker you just flipped off by fully expressing your feelings. $39.99 - Think Geek

  • Power Line PowerCup inverter

    This may look like a coffee cup, but it's not caffeine that's juicing you up — it's electricity. The Power Line inverter features two standard outlets and a USB charging port that can handle 120-volt devices requiring up to 200-watts of continuous power (400 peak) through the car's 12-volt power socket. Your car may not be that great, but how many Cadillacs have you been in that can can power up your cell phone, game consoles and a toaster? $26.67 - Amazon

  • Wagan heated magnetic massage cushion

    Take the massage chair experience on the road with the Wagan heated massage cushion. It plugs into your car's power socket and delivers a heated massage to 10 magnetic therapy points as you drive. Plus, you can target problem areas with the remote control. You'll feel completely relaxed and serene — almost weightless really. Oh wait, that's because the car smashed into the rear end of another vehicle and your body is currently sailing through the air. $40.52 - Amazon

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  • Vehicle fuel efficiency booster

    Are you secretly jealous of all your friends who brag about how they are saving cash (and the Earth) with their hybrid vehicles? (They can laugh all they want at your gigantic truck, but who are they going to come crying to when they need to haul 10,000 pounds of IKEA furniture?)

    Apparently, this little gadget here can help you increase your fuel efficiency by up to 18 percent by regulating the flow of electrical current to the computer that controls the engine's fuel injection and ignition systems. Except why wouldn't your car's manufacturer have thought of that first? Maybe this just regulates the flow of $80 into some smart car nerd's pocket. $79.95 - Hammacher Schlemmer

  • iPad car mount

    Cars are coming with some pretty fancy computer systems these days. But if getting a new car with all of the bells and whistles isn't possible at the moment, the next best thing might be to install a mount for your iPad.

    Think about it — music and entertainment at your fingertips on a big 9.7-inch screen, and if you bought a 3G iPad, you can have navigation too. You can get iPad mounts for your console, windshield and even ones that mount across your empty passenger seat. Sitting in traffic won't be as big a deal when you can watch Netflix movies right? And hey, you just might be able to rise above the traffic altogether as your body takes to the skies, once again via the windshield, this time because you got distracted watching "Weekend At Bernies 2." $49 to $166.60 - RAM Mounts

  • Car Cam Dually

    Thanks to "Weekend At Bernies 2," you now have some sticky insurance situations to deal with. Unfortunately, your Car Cam Dually isn't going to help your case much as it simultaneously records both you in your seat and the action out front. It would clearly show the moment of impact outside the vehicle — and that your eyes were not on the road, as you burst into a moment of hysterical laughter just before smashing through the windshield.

    But if you're a good driver, or just a paranoid one, it might be of help. In addition to dual cameras, the Dually also features a GPS system that logs your exact location, speed, and direction as well as a G-Shock sensor that records impact forces. Just play it safe — don't let it catch you on camera laughing at "Weekend at Bernies 2." $329 - Spy Gadgets

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  • 42,000-station car radio

    If you don't have the cash for satellite radio or networked gadgets that can to plug into your stereo system, this odd little device can help to bridge the gap. Basically, it plugs into your computer at home and downloads content from over 42,000 Internet radio stations, content that can be played back at a later time in the car through an unused FM frequency. All in all you can get about 45 hours of content.

    Passengers in the car will certainly be impressed by the variety of content, but perplexed about sports news breaks that feature baseball scores — in January. $59.95 - Hammacher Schlemmer

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  • 'Slide To Unlock' decal

    So, we've talked about gadgets that actually add functionality to your vehicle, but what if your goal is to simply make your car look cooler? One way to do that is to make your car more Apple-esque with this "Slide To Unlock" door decal.

    Actually, that brings up an interesting idea — imagine if Apple actually made an iCar?  People would line up to buy one. It would drive itself. And it would completely die after two years, so you'd be forced to buy a new one. $15.99 - Etsy via Nerd Approved

  • Dummy antenna

    This Dummy antenna doesn't actually do anything, it's just for show. Still, if you mount it on the roof of your car it definitely makes the vehicle seem more interesting. Everyone will wonder what's going on in there. Is that satellite TV, or is that Jetta really an FBI Mobile Command Unit? Just don't get arrested for impersonating a federal agent. $6 - Sourcing Map via Nerd Approved

  • Flux Capacitor replica

    Hey, this Flux Capacitor worked wonders with a DeLorean, so imagine what it could do for your hunk of junk. This replica is true to the version used in the film, "Back to the Future," and it even lights up with the flick of a switch — just don't expect to get anything but tickets when you drive 88 mph. $205.99 - Urban Collector

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