Introduction: Hiding Your FasTrak, EZ-Pass, or Other Toll Tag in Your Car

Picture of Hiding Your FasTrak, EZ-Pass, or Other Toll Tag in Your Car
Originally written by me for BayAreaPrelude.com This instructable covers how toll tags work and how to embed or hide your FasTrak, or EZ-Pass, or any other electronic toll collection device in your dash so that you do not have an annoying tag in your window.

I will describe the principles that will allow you to apply this to your car, how to remove the speedometer of a 5th Generation Honda Prelude (1997-2001), how to remove the toll tag from its case, how to secure it on top of the speedometer, and other logistics that go into this project.

This Instructable was written for placing FasTrak tags (northern California) in 5th generation Honda Preludes from 1997 to 2001, but can be used on anything from Kias to Hummers anywhere in the world.

Total time required: 5-20 minutes
Difficulty: beginner

Advantages:
Not visible to thieves
Will not obstruct view
Can lighten load (by removing case around FasTrak/EZ-Pass
Impresses all the boys & girls
Easier to replace window glass if broken

Disadvantages:
Not easily removed or transfered (may take up to 10 whole minutes to remove... OMG!!)
Not easily disabled (if you would prefer to pay with cash, or think "the man" is watching you)
Does not impress grandparents & ex girlfriends

Disclaimer:
In many instances people do not actually own their toll tag, but they are leased with a deposit, some of the steps in this tutorial may void the warranty on your tag, destroy your tag, void the warranty on your car, or destroy your car. It may also lead to lots of fun watching your friends freak out as you drive full steam ahead for the toll tag lane without one in your window. We all take risks and pick our own path, do this project at your own risk.

I did not want the tag sticking to my window, so I decided to try to hide it in my car. Eventually I hid it above the speedometer below the plastic dash. It does not affect performance, and does not require me to stick anything to the windows of my car.

Other cities, states, and countries have different names for FasTrak: auto-pass, ez-pass, EZ TAG, I-pass, Free Flow system, Televia, TAG, TxTag, MNPass, M6 Toll Tag, fastoll, smart tag, Severn TAG, Sun Pass, Telepass, and TollTag. A full list can be found on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_toll_collection

Background:
I recently purchased FasTrak for my car at a local Safeway. If you purchase it in the store they give you $4 credit towards your first use (a bonus over ordering online). FasTrak is an electronic toll collection device, the RFID tag system that is used in Northern California to pay for your bridge and road tolls via credit card and enables users to drive through tollbooths without stopping. More info about Fastrak can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FasTrak

References:
This write-up is copied from the BayAreaPrelude.com write up (written by me). Feel free to reference this article but do not reproduce it in part or whole without permission. If you reference this article please include a link to this instructable or the Bay Area Prelude thread. - thank you.
Keywords: FasTrak, Hidden toll tag, Hidden FasTrak, Hidden EZ-Pass, Hide toll tag, hiding toll tag, Hide EZ-Pass, Stealth, secret, DIY, Mod, Electronic toll collection, I-pass, EZ-Tag, auto-pass

Step 1: How Toll Tags Work

Picture of How Toll Tags Work

The toll tags are a called Radio Frequency ID tags, that means that when they receive a radio signal, they respond with their own signal that tells the sending unit their "ID". This is an over simplification, but what is important is that they send and receive a signal. The signals are sent by the tollbooths, and generally come down from the roof at a 30 or 40 degree angle. A summary is available here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fastrak

There are three key points to take away from this brief physics lesson:
1) The closer to the front of the car the tag is positioned the better because it will be read faster, and there is less of a chance that the car behind you will get to ride on your pass as well (I've heard that this is possible, but have never experienced it or known anyone who has)
2) Because of the nature of RFID tags, you cannot obstruct the view of the overhead radio transmitter and receivers with anything that is made of metal (plastic is ok, otherwise the case would block the signal). You must be able to "see" the device through a window without it being obstructed by metal (plastic or vinyl are okay)
3) The last thing to take in to account is if the device makes noise, and whether or not you want to hear it. FasTrak tags in California make a beep when you register at the tollbooth, and I wanted to make sure I could still hear this. I also wanted to make sure it was close to the driver, not next to the passenger's ear.

Step 2: Getting Started

Picture of Getting Started
Supplies:
  • Car (boats or motorcycles might work too, airplanes will not work)
  • Toll Tag for your area (or another area)
  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Knife
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Double-sided tape, or similar (Epoxy/glue might be overkill, but go ahead)

Things to consider:
  • Before you start you may want to consider if you will want to disable the tag at a later date. If this is the case, you will have to remove it to do so, and should consider that when making this system. I know that at SFO airport, and some drive through fast food joints you can pay using the toll tag, so you'll have to consider this.
  • You may be forfeiting the deposit you paid on your toll tag if you choose to take it apart.
  • You may get a ticket for driving through the tollbooth "without a toll tag" even though you have one (I will show you how to avoid this during testing).
  • If you do not want to disassemble your toll tag, you may not need to. Try out various locations first, and then proceed to tearing it apart.

Step 3: Figuring Out Where to Place the Tag

Picture of Figuring Out Where to Place the Tag

Next, Figure out where to put it in your car.

If you want to try this without taking it apart first, that is fine. If you have decided not to take it apart, you know exactly what it looks like and should start here.

If you have a prelude
Ive figured out a great place, and although I took mine apart, you don't need to, it will easily fit without being dissected, follow the directions below.

If you do not have a Prelude, I have explained how the tags work, and you can try to place it the same place I did, or in any of the other suggested place in the next step.

Step 4: Opening Your Toll Tag

Picture of Opening Your Toll Tag

Before you open up your car or the tag, start by writing down any and all serial numbers, product codes, account numbers, or anything else on the outside or that came with your tag. Once it is inside or disassembled it will be harder to get. You'll want to have these encase you need them later.

The other thing you will want to do before you take things apart is make sure the tag works, and what it sounds like or how it operates when you use it. This is important so that you can measure your success.

Disassemble the case. Be careful you will need to use the case later for testing. My case was your standard plastic variety that was snapped & glued together. Using a thin knife, break the glue seal by sliding the knife between the two halves, and moving it all the way around the outside. When you've broken the plastic all of the way around, start prying apart the two sides. start on a long side in the middle to get a feel for it. Slowly move your way around the outside. If you do a great job, you'll be able to seal it back up and get your deposit back more easily later.

Open the case and remove the tag. In my case, the tag was stuck to the bottom with a piece of double sided tape. After a little prying on each corner, it came right up.

It should look something like this:

Step 5: Placing the Tag (if You Do Not Have a Prelude)

Picture of Placing the Tag (if You Do Not Have a Prelude)
Next step, place the tag.
If you do not have a prelude, take in to account the physics above.
The best place that I found was below the dash, above the speedometer. This location was easy to get to, it was in direct view of the radio transmitter/receiver, was only covered by the plastic dashboard, and was directly in front of the driver, so the should would still be audible.
Some other possible locations are:
  • In the A-pillar (the molding that connects the dash to the roof), I ruled this out because my A-pillar was too small, and too hard to remove. If you have side curtain air bags, you should rule this out too, unless you want your tag imprinted in your face when you crash.
  • In the sliding cover for the moon roof. This are is great! Right next to a window, and very clever. I have read that several Mini Cooper owners have done this. It might be a bit tricky to get to, and depending on how you do it, may still be visible from the top.
  • Glove box. Probably metal interference, but try it.
  • Inside the rear view mirror (probably too large to fit)
  • Under your rear deck (the flat part behind the rear speakers in non hatch-back cars. This is good, except you'll need to test to make sure the signal is read through the back window.
  • Inside your side mirrors, outside the car. Great idea, but you might not hear it
  • Inside a speaker cover on the dash
  • In a vent on the dash
  • In the fold down sun visors (fold down when you drive through)

Step 6: If You Have a Prelude - (step 1)

Picture of If You Have a Prelude - (step 1)

(other cars may be similar, check your car's mechanics manual, or just give it a shot)
Here are the steps for you lucky 5th gen prelude owners:
(Directions and images copied with permission from http://www.absoluteprelude.com/forums/index.php?act=Help&CODE=01&HID=86)
The first thing you're going to do is lower the steering wheel down as far as it will go.

Then remove the two screws at the top of the trim ring that goes in front of the actual gauge cluster. You'll need a short Phillips screwdriver for this. If you have a "stubby" this is best for the job! (image 1)

Once you've removed those two screws (see image 2), pull the black plastic trim piece towards you. You will find that the bottom sides are held in place by two clips. If you slide a butter knife or flat headed screw driver in that area, you can pop them up out of their notches.

The final place for the FasTrak tag is between the top two yellow dots, on the top of the speedometer.

Step 7: If You Have a Prelude - (step 2)

Picture of If You Have a Prelude - (step 2)

The beautiful thing about the Prelude is that the FasTrak tag fits perfectly in a groove between two ridges. This means that even if you didn't tape it down, it will be held perfectly in place! Sweet!

Apply your double sided tape, and stick that motha' down. If you have not disassembled your FasTrak use the fastening tape or velcro that came with the tag to stick it to the roof of the dashboard above where the speedometer goes.

Replace the speedometer in the same way you removed it.

The second photo:
Here is a picture of it just before I closed it up, notice how much room there is? - Plenty of room so you don't need to take it out of its case.

Step 8: Testing

This part is where it is important to save the casing if you disassembled the tag, and where those who did come out ahead.
When you've got your tag placed, you should test it to make sure it works.

To test it, go ahead and drive to your local bridge or toll road, and if you have disassembled your FasTrak, hold the empty case (closed, so it looks like it is not empty) to your window as you drive through. If you have placed the tag in a place where the signal can reach it, your license will be photographed and if they do not see that you have FasTrak (either by license plate # or by looking at the window of the car) they might send you a ticket. By holding up the FasTrak tag case, they will just think that it didn't get signal that one time, and that the device does work. (Toll tags loose signal sometimes, and if your car is registered as having a toll tag, you won't be charged)

Once you've tested your new location and you know that it works, you can save the case, or use it for something else. You don't need to put it in your window any more.

Step 9: Final Thoughts

Picture of Final Thoughts

If your tag goes bad, you decide to sell your car, or want to remove it for any reason:
Once you've done it the first time, the total re-install or removal time is under 5min (including gathering tools and clean up. If the tag stops working, or you want to remove it or replace it, it will take just a tad longer than removing it from your windshield, and there is no mess to clean up.

Disabling your toll tag without removing it:
To disable your toll tag, simply block it with metal or another ferrous material. For ascetic reasons you may want to purchase a dash mat or dashboard cover and line the bottom with metal (aluminum foil), or a metal mesh (faraday cage).

Congrats, you just pimped your ride.

Comments, advice, feedback, group & keyword suggestions welcome.

Thanks for reading, drive safely!

Comments

draftbounty (author)2009-09-26

That's pretty sweeeet mod ; )

wgoble (author)2009-09-14

I really like the idea of this mod. Having multiple vehicles and sharing my i-Zoom (Indiana Toll Road), I searched and searched for new "3M Dual Lock". Got it from a West Marine store for WAY too much, then found it at Radio Shack for a third the price(plus the annoying subscribe-to-this-or-this-or-this harassment). This is so much better than any other hook and loop, it's just a shame it is so thick.

michaelegan9988 (author)2008-07-30

I mounted my E-ZPass tag on the sunroof. The roof opens and closes in a normal fashion, and the inside sunshade closes properly. If you want to do the same thing, just make sure you use the original "3M Dual Lock" mounting strips (or get replacement strips). Don't try to use one of those suction cup mounting things, because it wont fit and the tag might fall on your head while your driving.

Derin (author)2008-07-26

in here it is called OGS,so I was a bit confused at first.My OGS comes from İşbank.

ironsmiter (author)2007-06-22

nice idea :-) some more pictures would be nice, or shorter text :-) Step 7 pretty well IS the instructable... though the background stuff is nice to know. for "disabling" the tag, while leaving it in place, I have a suggestion... but only for old junkers. Grab a roll of metal foil tape, and cover the top of the dash, overlapping the pass by 50%? for "nicer" cars, 4 patches of "hook and loop fastener", a metal plate, some glue, and a patch of material to match your dash. glue the material to cover the plate, expose the sticky on the fasteners, and stick'em. When you want to use the pass, stash the cover under the passenger seat. When you want the pass "off" whip out the plate, and stick it on. clothing velcro(tm) may not be the best, as it's not really strong enough, or secure enough, but the stuff they use for the i-pass(illinois toll passes) is PLENTY strong. It looks like a bunch of plastic rods with the tips melted down into balls, all in a tight grid.

The DNR (author)ironsmiter2007-06-22

ironsmiter, Thank you for your feedback. What other pictures would you want? What text do you think should be removed? As for blocking the tag from being read, see the updated final thoughts. Thanks for the suggestion. - The DNR

ironsmiter (author)The DNR2007-06-24

lined dashmat.. yeah that probably would work better, AND look nicer. Question though... does the anti-static bag really work to block the radio waves? I'll have to get my old walkman out, stick it in a Harddrive shipping bag and test it out :-) As to which text to remove? none :-) Just in reading, my thought was rearranging so steps 4, 6, 7, and 8 came first, as they are the meat and potatoes of the instructable. then the other steps in a "if you DON'T have a prelude" page.

Sgt.Waffles (author)ironsmiter2008-06-16

If it didn't work, they wouldn't spend money on it.

Myself (author)ironsmiter2007-06-24

If you're planning to use the Walkman's radio to test this, it won't prove anything -- the headphone wires leading into the bag will act as an antenna. Some antistatic bags are actually conductive, others are just designed to resist triboelectric charging. Some have a dissipative layer in the middle of a sandwich, making it hard to measure. To be on the safe side, try aluminum foil or mesh, which you can get at the craft store in the clay / modeling section.

The DNR (author)Myself2007-06-24

Fantastic info! instructable updated. Thanks

nagutron (author)ironsmiter2007-06-22

I liked the detail. If you have the same car (Prelude), then step 7 will cover you, but the background helps you come up with your own solution in different cars. Plus, I'm into knowing how everything works :)

dvalued (author)2008-03-25

At least with Illinois' IPass system (which is EZ-Pass compatible), there is an option for a license-plate mounted tag for certain vehicles whose front windshields interfere with the radio transmission. Other states may have a similar option available as well.

The DNR (author)dvalued2008-04-29

dvalued, You bring up a good point. CA and many other states have these as well (they are made for vehicles that have metal in the windshield, etc.) There are two aspects of these exterior tags that may or may not be a problem for some users; they can be stolen, and they don't provide audio feedback. The exterior California tags come with special screws and a special screw driver to reduce the likelihood of theft, but it is still possible. By being outside the car you can't hear if the tag worked (some tags like California's (but not North Texas') make noise when they register). Besides these two problems, they can still be seen, and if you have a particularly nice looking car (beauty is in the eye of the beholder), you may not want the toll tag (or a front license plate in general) on your car. This is definitely simpler and easier. Thanks for the comment. Happy to know people are checking it out. Cheers, - DNR

curve12 (author)2007-06-30

Nice job, but watch out. In NYS your tag must be in view and fixed to the window and if it malfunctions at the toll the police sometimes take it right there (happened to me at Brooklyn/Battery toll.) I would think you could face tickets or big fines for this... look into your local laws.

latobada (author)2007-06-22

the sensors/cameras don't give a crap if you have a tag or not, we found that out, our car's picture came up, several times, (mailed and billed to us for $70 in not having Ez tag while driving in the lane). the tag was clearly visible, and our account was being charged for each time we passed, except those that were charged, so they didn't even bother. Ez-Tag (texas one) messed up on us, and charged us about 200$ total, and we clearly had the tag up (the new ones are about the size of a resistor, because all they are are RFID tags, no batteries). although it has a big sticker thing about teh size of the credit card to identify it and stick it onto the windshield. we called up and got it sorted out. but we know of 3 people to whom this has happened (with the old box style (such as the ones in your pictures (and what I had untill a few months ago)) and the newer ones.