OEM parking sensors are an expensive option – or no option at all – on some cars. FenSens offers a way to use the typical license plate bracket as your parking sensors.
In today’s crazy world, people are moving faster than over. More to the point, people are also more distracted than ever. In cases of just trying to park your car, one in a million things can take your attention off the task at hand. Then crunch – there’s at least several hundred dollars out the window. Now, you can fit several modern cars with bumper-mounted parking sensors – those devices that shriek and alert the driver whenever they’re about to cause some unfortunate damage. However, those OEM parking sensors are an expensive standalone option, or come bundled in part of a much more expensive package. What if you don’t have an option for parking sensors at all? That’s where FenSens comes in.
FenSens built a wireless parking sensor that replaces your traditional license plate bracket to detect objects up to ten feet in front of the car. It uses Bluetooth 4.1 to pair up to your Android or iOS-powered smartphone to give you a visual cue while you’re parking. You just screw in the bracket over your traditional license plate, pair the FenSens to your phone via their app, and you’re done. Neat – but how well does it actually work? FenSens sent TFL a parking sensor to review, but before we can use it, let’s go through setting it up.
What’s in the box?
Order a FenSens, and you receive a tidy blue box with an “ultra simple smart parking sensor”. Included in that box is one bracket, a magnetic smartphone mount – in case you didn’t already have one – and all the mounting hardware. Handily, FenSens uses special screws with matching tools for installation to prevent theft. That’s some peace of mind over just using some traditional screws where anyone can come up and, well, screw you out of your parking sensors.
The sensor itself runs on two AA-cell batteries, but the app does give you an indicator of battery life so you know when they need to be switched out. You can use the smallest tool in the kit to adjust the sensors, depending on where your license plate is mounted and its relationship to the bottom of your cars bumper. You may be thinking, “Wait, so I need to have this app open every time I park to make use of the sensors, right?” Indeed, you do. Typically, it would be pretty annoying (and potentially dangerous) to open your phone and the app every time you park.
FenSens has thought of that, however. The final device included in the kit is a button labeled “Tap”. Mount it to your steering wheel, and this lets you quick launch the FenSens app without having to manually unlock your phone. Be advised, you do need to pair this button to the app by holding it down for five seconds before it will work.
Time for the real world – does the FenSens actually work?
Once everything is paired up – the sensor to the app and the quick launch button, everything’s ready to go. The test car used here – a 2016 Mazda CX-5 – does not have OEM parking sensors, nor does it have a 360-degree camera system. It does have a rear camera, so I decided to install the bracket on the front. It’s more useful there, as this car does have a rearview camera and rear cross-path detection equipped.
Just like OEM sensors, the FenSens app uses a series of green, yellow, orange and red lines to indicate how close you are to hitting an object. It also emits an audible warning as you start to get too close, but you can disable it through the app. However, since it does sound off and vibrate your phone when you get too close, you don’t necessarily need to look at your phone to determine how close you are to something. We’d recommend it though, and FenSens does include the smartphone mount to make it feel a bit more like an OEM system.
The cell phone mount is a nice addition, but it won’t work for every phone
On the subject of that cell phone mount, however, there was one issue. While it is magnetic and attaches to your air vents with ease, the mount was too weak to hold up a larger, heavier smartphone. It should work fine if you have a smaller phone. Although, if you have a certain Plus variety of a certain brand of smartphone, the mount may not be strong enough to keep the phone in place. It’s no major loss if you already have a mount, which most of us do anyway.
The sensor itself works just as well as OEM parking sensors, provided they’re dialed in. We took it through car washes to test how it holds up to the elements and it still works perfectly. Since it replaces a traditional mounting bracket, the sensor’s form factor doesn’t make it intrusively ugly to fit to your car. In fact, most people probably won’t recognize it’s even there. It does seem to work up to 10 feet away, as advertised.
FenSens sells this aftermarket parking sensor for $149.99 through their website. When compared to the $475 (not including installation) required to purchase OEM rear parking sensors, the FenSens is certainly a cheaper alternative. If you’re looking for a cheaper solution or you have an older car without parking sensors, the FenSens license plate parking sensor is a reasonable way to go. You can pair both a front and rear sensor through the app, so fitting both ends would cost you around $300.