Car Repair Online Resources and Apps

The Internet is capable of shining a bright light on your automotive problems. Specialized message boards catering to a particular make and model have been around for almost 20 years and can still be helpful to some degree. Here we’ll discuss a few lesser-known, yet powerful car repair online resources and apps.

NHTSA Safety Database Search

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides a searchable automotive database where car owners can plug-in their vehicle identification numbers (VIN) and find out if there are any recalls on that particular automobile. Not only does it tell you about official recalls, it also indicates whether the operation has been performed. In the case of a used car, current owners are often unaware of the repair history. This database will indicate if the recall is open or closed.

Most of the items listed in an official vehicle recall are safety related. However, some situations such as intermittent stalling are safety issues, because as the engine turns off, power steering and brakes will cease normal operation. The lesson learned from this is, a recall doesn’t have to pertain to a seat belt or an airbag, although these are the most common type of recalls. When in doubt, go ahead and check it out. There is no harm in entering your VIN to see what happens.

Car Engine Check App

This car engine check app has nothing to do with pulling engine codes when your service engine soon light comes on. In fact, it makes an attempt at summarizing the internal condition of an engine by analyzing an oil sample. The car engine check application is available for android versions 3.0 and higher and soon to be available on iOS. At the time of this writing the application is free, even if you opt for the Pro version which is ad supported.

The concept is similar to what professional auto repair shops have done for years. Basically, you take a drop of used engine oil from the donor vehicle and put it on a plain white piece of printer paper. You then use the application to take a photo of the oil stain. In the standard version of the app that’s all there is to it. A report pops up with the basic analysis of engine condition related to color and reflection from any metal flakes. The Pro version of the application allows you to use a flashlight on the back side of the paper to provide an illuminated back-lit enhanced view of the oil sample.

The Repair Pal

The Repair Pal website has been around for several years, but despite the press coverage from the New York Times, ABC World News and Consumer Reports, it still flies below most people’s radar. The website supplies three main car repair online resources. They can help recommend a shop in your area, you can ask a question about your repair problem, answered by one of their experts, and finally, you can get a detailed estimate of parts and labor repair cost.

The repair estimate provided is detailed in nature. It allows you to enter your ZIP Code, because auto repairs in New York City are a lot more expensive than those in Webster County Georgia. The information returned is extremely valuable. You can use it to analyze and negotiate an estimate provided by a local shop. Users can also get an idea of just how complicated the repairs are by the number of labor hours required to complete the task. This can help you decide whether tackling the task is something you would have time to do at home, if you are a do-it-yourself minded individual.

Chilton Online Public Library

I know I don’t have to tell you who Chilton is. What you may not know is they provide library access to their automotive reference materials. Many Counties enroll in the Chilton public library program. This is a partnership between one of the most recognized automotive organizations and your local library branch. It’s worth the effort to contact your branch to see if they participate.

Gain access to publications referencing specific year, make and models through the brick-and-mortar branches or the online portal provided by many county libraries. In almost all cases you must set up an account and enter your library card number to pull up the auto repair information on your home computer. It requires leg work, but considering that many people own a car for ten years, these reference materials can come in handy time and time again.

Message Boards and Forums

Although this article was targeted to open your mind to some of the latest advances in online car repair resources there is nothing wrong with poking around a specific message board targeted for your particular year make and model automobile. What I would warn against is taking any information obtained from these locations as 100 percent factual data. The Internet can be a scary place and message boards can be filled with poor quality information. Those who post might mean well, but will not have the automotive education or years of experience to back up their claims or recommended repair procedures.