Have you ever had a car that wouldn't start, heard a noise from under the hood, or felt a pull in the wheel, and you didn't know why? Now, there is an app for that.
Car Trouble can help with the maladies listed above and more, by taking you through a series of basic trouble-shooting questions. Based on your simple yes or no answers, the app can help identify the problem, or at least the problem area, by process of elimination.
The main menu offers six categories covering noises, brake or steering problems, overheating, electrical issues, and the plain old won't start. Tap on your problem, and follow-up questions narrow things down until you reach a likely solution.
Generally speaking, the descriptions are detailed and some provide some diagnostic background explaining what is normal and what is not. While Car Trouble may not be able to always help you fix the problem, it should at least enable you provide some details to your mechanic or roadside assistance service so they can be better prepared when they arrive.
What we like: Navigation is a cinch, with simple buttons and yes/no options that take you through a very logical sequence to identify problems. Car Trouble has the potential to get you going when you're stranded, or at least have an understanding of the problem and how serious it is. It's not perfect, but it is free.
What we don't like: While the app provides a lot of useful information and appears to be aimed at the layperson, much of it assumes a mechanical knowledge that those users are unlikely to have, such as knowing how to "Loosen the bleeder screw for that wheel." It also suggests using tools like a voltmeter that not everyone keeps in their car, when trouble may arise. We also found that some problems dead-ended at a problem such as "missing teeth on the flywheel," with no advice what to do about it. Along the same lines, the ability to translate error codes is handy, but won't help in a lot of situations and we found its descriptions weren't always accurate. Smaller gripes are that the type is very small, and white lettering on a grey background adds to the challenge of reading anything on the screen, particularly if you're outdoors working on your car. A button to return to the home page for a start over, rather than tab "back" repeatedly, would be helpful. Finally, Car Trouble pays the bills by using banner ads, but they're small and generally not annoying.
What could be improved: More questions and answers to help novices identify problems would be helpful, along with some counsel advising whether the car can safely be driven or driven without further damage with any given problem. Larger typefaces and colors with better contrast would be helpful, along with illustrations to help users identify what they're looking for. A way to link to local mechanics, auto parts stores, or other services on the road would seem a natural addition.
Compatibility: Car Trouble is produced by HandStorm, Inc. It is a free app, and compatible with iPhone and Android devices.
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