Can You Use an AirTag To Track Your Car?

Can You Use an AirTag To Track Your Car?

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With Bluetooth tracking devices becoming more common to help people recover misplaced items like keys and wallets, it’s no surprise that Apple joined the trend. Apple’s tracking technology, called AirTag, is intended to work seamlessly with iPhones and iPads. However, you might think you can’t use an AirTag to help you find something that travels out of range because Bluetooth is a short-range technology. What happens if you drop an AirTag keychain in your vehicle only to forget where you parked? And what if someone steals your vehicle?

The good news is that you can use the road-tested AirTag to track your car, truck or SUV!

What Is an AirTag?

Let’s back up and discuss what exactly an AirTag is. Apple’s AirTags are small pucks that use Bluetooth to signal their location to nearby iOS devices. Bluetooth, as you’d see with wireless headsets or video game controllers, works within a short range. However, Apple utilizes a technology known as ultra-wideband, which can broadcast over a larger range of radio signals, minimizing the risk of signal interference. Ultra-wideband also uses less energy than Bluetooth, making it ideal for items, like AirTags, that a need for frequent charging would get in the way of.

How Does an AirTag Work?

AirTags use Bluetooth and ultra-wideband signals to periodically ping nearby iOS devices. In turn, Apple’s Find My network — the same system that allows you to find lost iPhones, iPads and so on — analyzes those signals to locate their source. With as many devices on the Find My network, the location signal tends to be pretty accurate, and Apple ensures that location data is encrypted so only you have access to it. For privacy reasons, location data isn’t stored on the AirTag itself. There is no way to find out which devices the AirTag used to determine that data.

AirTags don’t use GPS, so location updates don’t come in real time. Instead, location information is updated whenever an iOS device on iOS 14.5 or later (or, in the case of iPads, iPad OS 14.5 or later) passes within 30 feet of the AirTag. 

Finally, keep in mind that AirTags are primarily intended for use with iOS devices and the Find My app. Apple does have an app available for Android devices called Tracker Detect. Its primary purpose is searching for AirTags nearby, such as if someone drops theirs into your bag or car.

Can You Use AirTag To Track Your Car?

Because AirTags don’t use GPS, they can come in handy if you misplace your vehicle after parking it, regardless of whether you parked in a wide-open lot or a huge parking garage. Sadly, their reliance on the Find My network means that the location data may be less accurate if you’re in a rural area or you’re the last one out of the parking garage. On the other hand, in situations where there are more people, the location updates will be much more often, making the vehicle easier to find.

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What About Stolen Vehicles?

If your vehicle is stolen, you still have options as long as there’s an AirTag inside. They’re able to update location information even if they’re hidden, so whether you purposefully hide your AirTag in your vehicle, leave it in the glove box or simply drop it by accident, as long as an iOS device comes within range — even if it’s the thief’s — it will continue to update periodically.

That being said, chances are the thief won’t keep your vehicle near where they found it. That means you’ll have to enable the AirTag’s Lost Mode on your phone. This allows you to put in your contact info in case you happen to just misplace the AirTag, but it’s what signals the tag to actively update its location whenever another iOS device passes by — not just yours. Lost Mode lets you make the AirTag send a notification to your phone whenever it finds another nearby iOS device, giving you its location even if you’re not actively trying to track it.

Lost Mode won’t alert nearby phones of your AirTag, either; it only sends the information to devices linked to your Apple ID, which gives you the chance to locate your vehicle without alerting whoever stole it in the first place.

A Couple of Caveats

With tracking devices like the AirTag come a whole host of privacy concerns. In response, Apple implemented anti-stalking measures. They’re not limited to just using the Tracker Detect app we mentioned above, either. Instead, if an AirTag has been out of range of its corresponding iPhone or iPad for 72 hours or more, it will begin to beep occasionally, alerting nearby people to its presence. This is ideal for safety, but not so much in the case of car theft, so you’ll need to act fast if your vehicle disappears.

AirTags won’t just beep; they’ll send a notification to any iOS or iPadOS device within range as long as they’re on iOS/iPad OS 14.5 or higher. If your thief uses an Android and doesn’t know about Tracker Detect, this is less of an issue than the beeping, but it’s something to be aware of.

Additionally, AirTags use CR2032 batteries, which tend to have a lifespan of about a year, according to Apple. If your AirTag dies, it can’t broadcast its signals, even with the small amount of power that ultra-wideband technology uses. Your phone should alert you when the AirTag gets low on battery, about a month before it dies, so you have time to replace it. Of course, your phone also needs to be powered on to use the Find My app, so it might be worth investing in a wireless charger or backup battery in case you don’t have access to the Find My app.

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Powerful Tracking Technology

Like any other technology, the AirTag has its drawbacks. But AirTags can definitely come in handy if you’re prone to losing things or the unthinkable happens. Whether you use an AirTag keychain to keep track of backpacks, keys and other personal items or keep one hidden in your car just in case, there’s a good chance you can use your AirTag to find whatever you’re looking for. Taking advantage of MagSafe cases, iPhone 14 cases (or another case that is compatible with your phone) and AirTags will allow you to ensure that all of your belongings are protected at all times.