Product Review: SmartCover
Yes, I realize animated GIFs are so twentieth century, but when I try to explain how my car cover works, I’m often met with looks of confusion and bewilderment. Known as SmartCover, this product lands between the nearly useless cardboard/foil foam windshield reflector and a whole-car-takes-ten-minutes-to-unfurl-and-position-before-you-realize-it’s-inside-out cover in both price and usability.
Summers in the California Central Valley are brutal. Just last week we had a few days of 100°+ temperatures that cause the leather interiors of most cars to become skin singers. First-degree burns on the backs of thighs aren’t fun (don’t ask me how I know). When you think about it, what good is a windshield shade if the sun is in its highest position or if your car is pointing away from the rising or setting sun? Not much good at all. Better to shield all your car’s windows if you’re going to bother.
How does it work?
SmartCover is a cockpit cover that “flies” on. Yes, you may look like a dork doing it (see woman in above photo) but at least you’ll have a relatively cool car interior when you’re ready to motor off. It’s dead simple to use: hold the four padded ballasts (two attach to each side) in your hands, fling the outer two towards the opposite side of the car while holding on to the two closest (I see the look on your face now), and let the ballasts pull the cover down. Suction cups at each end fore and aft may be used to attach the cover in windy conditions, but I never use them. I just place the wipers on top so as not to mar my paint with spittle. The ballasts weigh less than a pound and are contained in padded pouches. At first I worried about denting my doors, but in practice, I’ve banged them against the windows and the doors without damage to either. Ah, but how do you prevent someone from taking and making off with your cover, you ask? That’s easy.
Just keep the driver’s door open when installing and shut it over the cover locking the ballast inside. The material is thin enough to not interfere with most door seals. To remove, pull the ballasts on your side down, pick all four up and wrap the cover around them. I just pop it in the trunk and go.
How well does it work?
With an infrared thermometer I compared the inside temperatures of various surfaces of two cars: my covered, white I30 and my neighbor’s uncovered, white Lumina. It was approximately 92° outside at 4 p.m. The dashboard in my car was 111° and my neighbor’s was 142°; my leather seats were 109° while his cloth seats were 104°. Back when I had an office job, I would sit in my car at lunch listening to the radio under the cover on all but the hottest days.
The material is “space age” fabric with a silvery, reflective coating. It won’t blind you as you approach it and, in fact, seems to attract dust and pollen, lessening its effectiveness. It is machine washable but I would recommend you rinse it off with a hose and let it air dry. You see, I’ve gone through four of these in the last eight years because after a while they rip along one of the seams. I’ve added Gorilla Tape to my current cover’s seams and I think this will hold up. If not, I’ll be sure to update this review.
It’s great in the summer not having a wall of heat hit you as you open your car door and the A/C load is lighter as there’s less heat to remove. Being able to sit in shorts on the leather is nice and I no longer need to apply Bag Balm to my thighs at night; and the ability to fully grip the steering wheel means no more fingertip steering. In the winter, while we don’t get snow, we do get frost. The cover makes the chore of scraping a distant memory. Lift the cover off and the glass is free from condensation and ice. The makers claim that in colder parts of the country, the cover will still prevent ice but you may have to use warm water to un-stick it from the car.
At approximately $40 + shipping, I think it’s a good value with one drawback. Not only does it keep your car cool, but also reduces UV damage to your car’s interior surfaces, prevents ice formation on glass in cold weather and keeps prying eyes from seeing what you’ve got inside. However, its tendency to rip after a while if you don’t DIY mod it first can mean a short-lived, relatively-expensive piece of ripped fabric.
[The author bought and paid for the product reviewed.]
Early 30s California guy driving a 97 Infiniti I30. Past cars: 90 Cavalier, 82 Skylark, 78 Courier, 61 Beetle.
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