I’m in the process of buying a new car, and realized that when we get rid of a car we should think about more than just cleaning out the glove box and taking the snowbrush out of the trunk. A list of data to clear is at the end of this post.
At one time, cars stored no personal information other than the odometer reading and radio presets.
Cars are laden with computers that control and monitor things like the engine, brakes, climate control, entertainment, tire pressure, and safety features. With this comes more data, and with more data comes the temptation to save it and to use it for other things. This is becoming even more so for hybrid and electric cars.
An example is the OBD (on board diagnostics) and EDR (electronic data recorder) system. They contain useful information for the diagnosis of problems, and information for a short period (measured in seconds or minutes) for accident investigation, such as speed, seat belt use, steering angle, number of passengers, engine speed, and throttle position.
It is possible to plug devices into the OBD port to use and retain that information for displaying a dashboard on your phone, spying on your kids driving habits, or sending to your insurer for rate calculations.
Since the EDR system contains limited memory and overwrites itself quickly, there is little risk of that personal information being used after you give up your car – but if you are concerned, make your last drive a leisurely one.
Keeping in mind that it is easy to get a used car report showing owner name and address to link data on your old car back to you, here are some things you might want to do before you part with your car:
- Delete Bluetooth pairings.
- Delete stored phone numbers and call history.
- Remove any CDs, DVDs, and usb keys. (It’s easy to forget a usb key, for example, plugged into a port hidden in the glove box or other compartment, and it might have more on it than just music.)
- Delete built in garage door opener codes.
- Clear the GPS of pre-programed destinations and route history.
- Clear wifi hotspot settings and passwords.
- Remove any OBD/EDR recorders you have added.
- Cancel Onstar subscription and reporting. (I know someone who forget to cancel reporting, and continued to get monthly reports on his old car now with the new owner.)
- Cancel or transfer satellite radio.