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AUTO MART / A Guide to New Products

Here's a Gadget That Won't Steer You Wrong

October 01, 1998|LYNN SIMROSS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Hey, get lost!

Actually, that may be a challenge if your vehicle is equipped with Co-Pilot, a precision electronic compass under $100 for those don't want to spring for a fancy Global Positioning Satellite navigation system.

Co-Pilot, originally developed for use by the military and now equipped in selected Ford, Chrysler and General Motors vehicles, continuously displays the direction traveled in one-degree numeric digits.

The high-tech compass, from Precision Navigation Inc. of Santa Rosa, Calif., would seem to be of particular value for off-roading and boating.

It is so smart that it not only gives you the right directions, but it can also tell you when it isn't accurate as a result of external magnetic interference, as from steel in a bridge or overpass.

Its ability to calculate which magnetic fields are generated by the Earth and which come from other sources allows Co-Pilot to provide more accurate readings than those provided by floating-ball compasses.

The compact device (4 1/2 inches by 2 3/4 inches by 1 1/2 inches) mounts on the windshield or dashboard.

Calibrating Co-Pilot--which you must do before your first use, whenever you move it from one vehicle to another or when the batteries need replacing--can be a bit tricky. In fact, if you are electronically or navigationally challenged, you may want to get a gadget guru pal to walk you through the programming of the device and the 31 pages of instructions (which, to be fair, are succinctly written and easy to follow, once you've plowed through them).

Co-Pilot, even during this driver's tests on city streets far from off-road haunts, proved to be fun and utilitarian at the same time. The device offers several bells and whistles such as course memorization (it electronically stores a course and then reverses it, guiding you back to the starting place), a clock mode, a timer mode and a back light that illuminates the liquid crystal display screen for nighttime viewing.

The device operates on two lithium batteries (included) and features an adjustable telescoping bracket for easy mounting.

Two warnings: If you want to look at the batteries, open the top and do so before programming Co-Pilot. If you don't, the whole program will be wiped out and you'll have to start over. We did. And also be sure to warn the guys at the carwash to be careful not to remove it. It happened to us.

Co-Pilot ($99.95) is available from Precision Navigation. Information: (888) 4-A-COMPASS or on the Web at http://www.precisionnav.com.

The venerable Club steering wheel security bar has undergone some changes since it was introduced 10 years ago.

The new Club LX for cars and Sport Utility Club LX are made of solid steel lock housings and hooks (early Clubs were constructed of alloy steel). They also are self-locking (the vehicle owner gets a set of three keys) and feature a glow-in-the-dark band (easier for car burglars to see it at night, and maybe go on to the next vehicle?)

Club LX ($50) and the longer Sport Utility Club LX ($55) come in red, blue and white.

Oh, if you're a fan of college sports, ask about Winner International's Collegiate Club line, which includes 20 college and university logos on the handle. Among them are the Ohio State Buckeyes, Northwestern Wildcats, Oregon Ducks, Florida Gators and Arkansas Razorbacks. Go get 'em, Hogs!

Information: Winner International, (800) 527-3345.

If you'd like to get rid of road dirt, bug splats, tree sap and other contaminants that have bonded to your car's finish, you can't go wrong with Meguiar's new Smooth 'n Clean Clay Detailer.

Start with a clean car parked in the shade. Take the Smooth 'n Clean kit's clay bar (3 1/4 by 1 1/2 inches), break it in half and knead one piece into a palm-sized pancake. Mist a 1-foot-square section of the car at a time with the accompanying detailer solution and clean gently with the clay. Dry with a terry cloth towel.

Re-knead the clay as you clean; use the second piece when the first gets really dirty. The kit, which includes a 4-ounce bottle of detailer mist-and-wipe solution, cleans a full-size car--though not quite in the 10 minutes that Meguiar's advises. It took us half an hour.

As tested, rates an A.

Smooth 'n Clean Clay Detailer ($11.95) is available at auto accessories dealers. Information: Meguiar's, (800) 347-5700, or on the Web at http://www.meguiars.com.

Lynn Simross can be reached in care of Auto Mart, Highway 1, Business Section, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, CA 90053. Via e-mail: highway1@latimes.com.

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