How your smartphone can help you care for your car

If you can resist the temptation to reach for it while you’re behind the wheel, your smartphone can be a great asset as you care for your vehicle. A smartphone can give you instructions for maintenance procedures while you are under the hood, help you find a part that needs fixing and get you to a trusted mechanic quicker and easier than ever before.

Whether you’re a weekend mechanic or simply enjoy being able to keep a handy and accessible maintenance log, here are few ways your smartphone can help you take better care of your car:

* How-to videos. YouTube isn’t just a great place to check out the latest hilarious viral video, it’s a great resource for finding videos that can lead you through common car maintenance procedures. “Being able to pull up an installation video, often for your specific car, on a smartphone so you can watch while you replace parts is convenient for mechanics,” says Tom Taylor, engineer and vice president of RockAuto.com.

* Parts catalogs. Knowing that it would come in handy for both professional and do-it-yourself mechanics, RockAuto.com recently released a mobile version of its comprehensive parts catalog. “Someone under a car looking at a rusty parking brake cable does not want to make a dozen trips back to the computer on their desk. We created a mobile version of our catalog for customers who want to research new parts while they are literally looking at the old parts on the car,” says Taylor. With a smartphone-ready parts catalog, you can not only see your options for replacement parts, but place your order on the spot while you continue to work.

* Maintenance diaries. If you’re like many conscientious car owners, you probably keep a log book in your glove box detailing everything from maintenance procedures to oil changes and even gas mileage from tank to tank. The good news is there are now a number of mobile device “apps” that can make this task even easier for you. A good car maintenance app will organize and present the notes you keep in a logical way, and even allow you to keep notes on multiple vehicles. Some even have the ability to send you reminders when you are due for an oil change or other routine maintenance procedures.

* Garage locaters. If you end up breaking down in unfamiliar territory, a smartphone can be of great assistance in finding a reputable shop. Your map app can help you locate the shops closest to you and then you can take to the Web, visit a shop’s site and read reviews collected by mobile-friendly services like CustomerLobby to learn what other customers said about repairs they had done at the shop.

* Car buying info. Your smartphone can also help you if you’re in the market for a new car. If you’re on the showroom floor, you can use your phone to browse vehicle specifications and read reviews. Many car magazines now have mobile sites, making things that much easier, and you can even get a quick answer on what kind of fuel economy to expect at fueleconomy.gov/m.

“Car owners have long been using Internet resources for many things from answering common maintenance questions to ordering new parts,” says Taylor. ” There are limits on the amount of information that can be displayed on a smartphone’s small screen, but the increasing availability of resources for mobile users has definitely made it easier to get many car questions answered and needs addressed while people are on the go.”

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