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DRIVING | Auto Mart

Garage Sensors a Guiding Light for Drivers Who Hit the Wall

July 29, 1999|LYNN SIMROSS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Are you a bumper basher, the kind of driver who gets up close and personal with the garage wall, leaving little dings on the front of your car?

Two electronic parking-guidance devices are designed to put a stop to that bad habit. No more homemade solutions such as a tennis ball hanging from the ceiling that bumps your windshield as you close in on the end of the garage, or a 2-by-4 on the floor so the car stops in time.

Park-Zone, from Exeter Technologies of New York, is a battery-operated ultrasonic device that can be set to the specific distance that lets you park without pranging into the wall. One half of the two-piece unit looks like a miniature traffic signal with its red, amber and green lights; it's designed to be secured to the wall about 4 to 6 feet above the floor so you can see it easily when you drive into the garage. The sensor unit should be mounted lower on the wall, aligned to the center of the car bumper or license plate. Set the distance you want (the sensor has a range of 6 inches to 16 feet) and plug the cord into both units.

When you drive into the garage, the green light illuminates. Midway, the amber lights up. The red light goes on when your car is at the recommended 1-foot distance from the wall.

"Anybody can install this; it's so easy," says Hollywood Hills homeowner Jerry Bird, who confesses to being a bumper basher who routinely hit the edge of his garage workbench until agreeing to test Park-Zone. "It's fantastic. It works like a dream."

Park-Zone ($59.95) runs on four AA batteries, which should last about a year; the red light flashes to indicate the batteries are getting low. The device is available nationwide at Kmart, from selected automotive stores and catalogs or direct from Exeter: (888) 393-8371 or on the Internet at http://www.park-zone.com.

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Bird also agreed to test a rival device called AutoPark 1000 ($59.95).

Manufactured by American Technologies Network of South San Francisco, it operates similarly to Park-Zone, with its display unit of red, amber and green lights installed above the infrared sensor unit.

But the warning lights are much smaller than those of Park-Zone and thus not as easy to see. In addition, AutoPark must have a power source nearby because it operates on an AC adapter that must be plugged into the wall.

"The AutoPark takes a little more adjustment than Park-Zone," Bird says. "But the only real problem with it would be if you don't have any electricity in your garage."

Information: (800) 910-2862; http://www.atncorp.com.

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Auto Mart is a guide to new products. Lynn Simross can be reached at highway1@latimes.com.

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