In the good old days, a guy could learn basic mechanical skills and fix a car. Sometimes, it might mean spending the better part of a weekend covered in grease but eventually, a dedicated car fanatic could repair many basic problems that might befall a vehicle.
Today, cars are a bit more complicated. Modern cars have computer systems that monitor everything from tire pressure to engine performance. And when the dreaded check engine light pops on, it can be hard to tell if it's something serious or just a minor issue.
Now, you can buy a car diagnostic kit that works with a smartphone to find out what's going on with your vehicle. There are several on the market -- Kiwi from PLX Devices is a good example. The kit comes with either a WiFi or Bluetooth connector you plug into your car's computer system. It then transmits data to your smartphone -- the Kiwi has models that work with iOS or Android devices.
By knowing what's wrong, you can determine if there's something you can fix yourself or if you'll need to bring the vehicle in to a mechanic. And knowing what's wrong will help you determine if your mechanic is giving you a good deal or taking you for a ride. That's something just about any dad will appreciate.