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Summary
  • You can clear your personal information from your car with a factory reset or by manually deleting data like Bluetooth pairings, phone contacts, maps, and addresses.
  • Don’t forget to clear your car’s information from your phone or tablet to prevent mobile devices from re-uploading your data to your car.

Modern cars have gotten as smart as your computer or smartphone. They remember where you like to go and keep track of the people you talk to. They even let you use popular apps like Spotify, Facebook, and Twitter.

However, with great convenience comes great security issues. Your car stores your personal data in its hard drive for easy access. If you sell or transfer your vehicle (or return it if it’s a rental), other people can access any information you’ve left behind. So, it’s best to know how to clear your data from your car.

How To Clear Personal Information From Your Car

Removing your personal information from your car takes time, but you can do it yourself. Here’s what you need to do:

Factory Reset

A factory reset erases the data and settings stored in your car’s main hard drive, returning everything to the manufacturer’s presets. It offers a swift and straightforward way to clear your personal data from your vehicle.

The process can vary between vehicles. Check your owner’s manual for instructions on the process to factory reset your car. If your copy is inaccessible, contact your dealer for a replacement or search online for a digital copy.

Some vehicles can’t perform a factory reset. You must delete your personal data manually, a cumbersome but necessary chore.

Delete Bluetooth Pairings

Modern cars have Bluetooth functionality that lets them wirelessly connect to electronic devices. Whenever a device connects to your car via Bluetooth, it updates your vehicle’s computer with the latest data.

Delete all Bluetooth pairings stored in your car’s hard drive before clearing the rest of your personal data. Otherwise, your vehicle might connect with one of your devices.

You can get rid of Bluetooth pairings in the connection settings of your car’s computer. Navigate to the settings and remove all stored pairings.

Delete Contacts in Phone Book

Many cars connect to your smartphone. They let you call other people and send text messages without touching your phone. These vehicles save your contacts in their hard drive to make calling and texting easier.

You can remove your contacts from your car’s hard drive by navigating through your computer until you find its phone book. Once you have access to the contacts, remove every last entry in the directory.

Keep your smartphone disconnected and away from your car. You don’t want your phone to re-upload your contacts to your vehicle’s computer after you go through all the effort of clearing the phone book.

How To Reset Car Navigation System

Your car’s satellite navigation feature helps you find your destination and chart the best course. However, it also records your trips and keeps track of the places you like to visit. You must delete this data before you sell or return your car.

To do this, access the navigation system on your car’s computer. Once there, clear the history of your journeys and delete all stored addresses.

Remove Stored Media

Your car’s entertainment system might allow you to upload media files to its hard drive, which lets you listen to your favorite songs or podcasts while driving. But even innocuous media can give clues about your preferences, so it’s best to delete them.

Access the entertainment system on your car’s computer. Find the stored media and delete them.

Remove Passwords For Apps

Do you use apps that require an account and password access? Your car stores the passwords so it can automatically log into your account. Unfortunately, this can become a security problem if you use those apps on other devices or have stored sensitive data like credit card information.

Log out of each car app and turn off the auto-login feature to prevent your car from copying the password.

Remove or Wipe SD Cards and USB Sticks

In addition to its hard drive, your car might store data in a removable data device, usually an SD card or USB stick. Most car models have at least one port or slot for the compatible device. Some vehicles have more than one device, and others use both types for additional storage.

Check the center console, dashboard, or glove box for USB ports and SD card slots. Remove any SD card or USB stick you come across. If the removable data device must go with your car, erase all data in the card/stick before returning it to your vehicle.

Clear Your Car’s Information From Your Mobile Devices

After removing your personal data from your car, you must do the same for any mobile devices that were connected to your vehicle. Here’s what you must do:

Uninstall Car-Related Phone Apps

You can remotely use many features in your car if you have the associated apps installed in your phone. For example, you can connect your phone to your car, play your favorite song on your phone’s music player, and listen to the tunes coming from the vehicle’s speaker.

Uninstall the apps that you don’t plan to use after you sell or transfer your car. Doing so helps prevent your phone from uploading your data to your car.

Delete Wireless Connections to Your Car

Unless your car has a hotspot or Wi-Fi connection, it usually can’t access the internet itself. Instead, your car uses your mobile phone or tablet as a proxy to get information online.

Delete this pairing before turning your car over to its new owner. Enter the connection settings of your mobile device and clear its connections with your car.

Cancel or Transfer Subscriptions

Last but not least, you must either cancel subscriptions linked to your car or transfer them to the new owner. These subscriptions include data plans, Wi-Fi hotspots, media streaming services, and map updates. Do the same for breakdown cover and car insurance if your car has them.

Why Clear Your Personal Data From Your Car?

Your personal information says a lot about you. Take the addresses of your favorite restaurants. They indicate your culinary preferences and show how much you’re willing to pay for their meals. That’s why companies want access to your data. They can target you with persuasive ad campaigns.

Unfortunately, unsavory individuals can use your personal data for nefarious means. If they get their hands on your passwords, they can hack your accounts. If they have your credit card number, they can leave you to foot the bill. They can even steal your identity.

Remember the addresses of your favorite restaurants? If you’re eating out, you’re not at home. Restaurants usually announce their operating hours to potential customers. Someone can put two and two together, and break into your home while you’re away.

Much like smartphones, modern cars collect your personal information. In the name of convenience, they store data like your user names, passwords, and even bank information like credit card numbers.

Therefore, it’s important to clear information from your car before you sell it. You don’t want to give away your phone or computer before you can wipe it clean. So, why sell a car still loaded with your personal data?

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Technical Reviewer at CarParts.com

Richard McCuistian has worked for nearly 50 years in the automotive field as a professional technician, an instructor, and a freelance automotive writer for Motor Age, ACtion magazine, Power Stroke Registry, and others. Richard is ASE certified for more than 30 years in 10 categories, including L1 Advanced Engine Performance and Light Vehicle Diesel.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

File Under : Lifestyle
Garage Essentials
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