Car Diagnostics Apps Can Only Tell Part of the Story

Back in the far distant year of 2014, a revolutionary car app was introduced called Dash. This app led the way in making self-diagnosing your car’s woes as easy as plugging in an OBD device and logging in to the app. Unfortunately, like our friend the dodo, that original car diagnostics app is no more.

Other apps have stepped up into that gap, creating similar car diagnostics platforms, that are both user friendly and filled with additional features. Two standout members of this field are the apps DashCommand and Torque. Both will tell you what those pesky engine warning lights mean, and both will give you information about your car’s performance with virtual dashboard features.

A Diagnosis Is Only As Good As the Car Mechanic Who Gets It

It may be tempting to think that all you need is an OBD device and an app to determine whether or not your car needs immediate auto repair. Just as a blood test isn’t very helpful without a doctor interpreting the important numbers, the car diagnostics message on your OBD device may need some further explanation.

One great example is a P0420 error code. When you look it up, it tells you that your catalytic converter is not working at maximum efficiency. On the surface, this makes you think that you will need to replace your catalytic converter—which is an expensive piece of equipment.  The fact is that sure, the catalytic converter may be shot, but there could be a myriad of things that are causing the error message which are unrelated to the efficiency of catalytic converter itself. It might be a dirty or broken oxygen sensor—there is at least one before and one after your catalytic converter in the exhaust system—it could also be leaks in the exhaust system, engine misfires, problems with the wiring or even an incredibly filthy engine air filter. And those are just a few potential causes.

But, if you see that message and take it to an automobile repair shop that is experienced in car diagnostics, your car mechanic will actually be able to zero in on the actual problem for you. And it’s safe to say that a new air filter is significantly cheaper than a new catalytic converter.

OBD Apps Are Great, But A Car Mechanic is Still the Expert

That’s not to say that apps like Torque aren’t helpful. If you are in a rush, they can give you the info to decide if continuing to drive your car will damage it. They just aren’t a replacement for a ASE certified car mechanic with years of experience under their belt. You can’t ask an app their opinion about an auto repair technique. You can’t ask an app “How long will it take to repair my car?” or to complete complex car troubleshooting. When it comes to import car maintenance needs, it’s best to choose an expert in foreign car repair. Keep your OBD apps close, but your car mechanics on speed dial.

Though it may no longer be with us, below we present our original writeup at the release of Dash—gone but not forgotten.

Dash: The Fitbit of Car Diagnostic Apps

Looking for a user-friendly car diagnostics app that works for both Android and iPhone? We get you. It’s handy to know if that Check Engine light is an emergency or can wait a little while longer. In fact, a car diagnostics app that helps you avoid most car repairs. You’ll know about problems ahead of time, before they become real concerns. Car diagnostic apps also give you very useful data when it comes to gas mileage, engine performance, and just to tell you where you’ve been.

Check out Dash, a startup out of New York on board to become a Fitbit for your car. It includes a hardware device that links up to your smartphone to provide real-time, data driven feedback on everything from driving performance to fuel metrics to repair info, like whether or not that nasty check engine light is worth losing sleep over.

Plugs into Any Bluetooth Connected OBD Device

In addition to the app, you do need to purchase an OBD device, either from within the Dash mobile application or the Dash homepage. Already have an OBD device? No worries. The company doesn’t pull an Apple on you and monopolize their technology. It will work with any Bluetooth enabled device, which can range anywhere from $10 to $70, though of course you likely get what you pay for. Premium offerings promise better connection, better power options, and higher quality experience when it comes to understanding the engine diagnostics of your vehicle.

“Dash offers a variety of ‘connected car’ features, including the ability to track your trips, watch your gas consumption, find nearby gas prices, detect crashes and alert emergency services, understand the warning messages your car’s computer throws and even locate a reliable mechanic who can resolve the problem,” a 2014 Techcrunch article notes.

Have a Problem You Need to Ask a Mechanic About?

If your app does register a problem with your vehicle, such as a faulty battery or a worn out alternator, feel free to give us a call or use our online form to schedule an appointment. We’ll also be happy to answer any questions, including on any data you found using these apps. We’re happy to help. That is what has made us the go-to automotive repair solution in the Cincinnati area since 2001.

When You Need Car Electrical Specialists

Your electrical system is pretty much the nervous system of your car that connects the computer to the engine. Don’t let small problems leave you stranded in a parking lot. Many issues are related to the starter, battery, or alternator. If you see dimming headlights, it’s likely the battery. If your batter fails to charge while driving, your alternator is probably on its last leg. If the car can’t start or has problems starting, it’s the starter. It’s best to have a professional who understands electrical systems run some tests to see what’s going on before you end up on the side of the road.