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The devices plug into a car’s engine control computer and keep track of any bad behavior you might display behind the wheel–lead-footed acceleration that wastes gasoline, for example.
The gadgets plug into a diagnostic socket called an OBD II port. The manufacturers of both devices have information on incompatible vehicles at their Web sites.
Installation is simple, but there is a small complication: First, you have to find the port. by going to the National OBD Clearing House Web site. The devices plug in easily.
Two devices you might consider
CarChip form Davis Instruments stores 300 hours of data which can be downloaded to your computer for analysis. Has an alarm if speed to too high. ($150 to $200)
ScanGauge II by Linear Logic sends data to a dashboard display ($170)
The CarChip, about the size of a 9-volt battery, begins flashing immediately and logs data until you pull it out.
The software that transforms the data into neat reports comes on a CD and installs quickly.
E/X, keeps track of data for up to 300 hours of traveling and then automatically begins overwriting the older data.
The CarChip can tell you when the ignition was turned on and off and the time and date of each trip. That is why some people use these devices for keeping an eye on others’ driving. Fleet owners, for example, put them in vans to monitor the driving habits of employees; anxious parents use them in the cars of their teenage children.
ScanGauge II starts logging data immediately. It has a cable that runs from the plug-in to the console, about the size of a stick of butter, which displays the data. The display panel can be attached to the dashboard with Velcro–two pieces were enclosed with the model I tried. One screen shows trip data, including fuel economy and the distance the car can cover before the fuel tank is empty.