This car gadget links your smoking engine to the right mechanic

Mechanic Advisor, a kind of Yelp for auto repair shops, is launching its own connected car device that plugs into your vehicle’s on-board diagnostic port and helps you interpret that scary check engine light when it starts blinking on your dash. What’s more, with the help of its smartphone app, Mechanic Advisor will even recommend a grease monkey that can fix the problem.

Like many other OBD gadgets, the Connection Key reads the vehicle diagnostic codes your car generates whenever the on-board computer detects a problem – it’s the same port dealers connect to when diagnosing your sputtering engine. But Mechanic Advisor wants to go beyond delivering codes; it wants to translate them into layman’s English to help non-gearheads understand the inner workings of their vehicle and plan its maintenance.

Mechanic Advisor app

According to Mechanic Advisor co-founder and CEO Parker Swift, the company’s staff of 10 professional auto mechanics has interpreted 20,000 codes applying to every make and model of vehicle made since 1996 (when the OBD-II port became universal in all vehicles). When your engine generates an alert the Connection Key will pass it along to the app through a Bluetooth Low Energy connection. The app will then not only explain if your radiator is draining fluid or if your gas cap is loose, but also whether the problem is critical, requiring immediate attention, Swift said.

If you need service, Mechanic Advisor will tap its network of 500,000 automotive professionals, referring you to nearby garages that can not only service your make and model of vehicle but also specialize in the specific problem your car is experiencing. If your transmission is lying in pieces on the highway, Mechanic Advisor won’t send you to muffler shop, Swift said. In addition, the app will track maintenance schedules for your vehicle, telling you when it’s time for an oil change, new brakes or a change of tires.

The Connection Key won’t be available in time for the holidays, but Mechanic Advisor has started taking pre-orders for the device on its website for a discounted price of $44.95 (plus $5 shipping). The Key will ship in the first quarter and will have accompanying iOS and Android apps.