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Quick tip: how to use an old phone to check vehicle lights by yourself

by | Nov 28, 2023

I picked up a habit many of you probably have: I had a “Lights Buddy” (patent pending) in the shop. This was usually someone who worked nearby who you could notify when pulling in a car.

Said Lights Buddy would walk to the vehicle door as I exited the man door, open the shop door as the vehicle approached, and close it as quickly as possible (in the winter). As I pulled in, I would instinctually run my lights: tap the brakes, left turn, right turn, tails, and then reverse lights after I got the car pulled into my bay. Nothing here surprises you; you likely do the same thing and probably have since freshman year.

But in 2023, there’s a better way if Jimmy is out with a cold or you’re a one-man band: use an old phone and a baby-monitor app.

How to do it

If you’re like me, you have at least one old smartphone laying around or have a friend who would readily give you one.

Why not breathe a little life into it and replace the tech in the bay next to you?

Dorman’s Lead Cameraman, Blake Adam, is a wizard behind the lens. We cut him loose with an old phone to see what he could do. He tried a few apps, and the one he settled on as “the best” at the time of this writing was Alfred, though to be honest, I think many nanny cam apps would probably work just fine.

He downloaded a few apps, which I assume you know how to do, and then just had to sort out a way to mount the phone and pair it up to the new one. The longest time you’ll spend on this project is probably finding a good spot to mount the phone so the camera angle shows what you want it to.

Honestly, it couldn’t be easier, as you can see in this video he shot and cut.

Looks pretty slick to me. Pull the phone off the charger in the morning, stick it on the wall near the door, pull the car in and the phone out, and you’re off to the races. (It also saves the trip to the back of the car to record the license plate.) Throw the phone on the charger when you lock your box at the end of the day, and you’re all done.

And if the phone falls or gets busted? Who cares? It was an old phone anyway. I see this as an absolutely awesome backup to a live Lights Buddy, and if you’re a one- or two- mechanic shop, this could really be a boon, eh?

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