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House calls for your ailing auto

Any help is appreciated if it means keeping your mechanic honest

It's one of the experiences we dread most: The cursed "Check Engine" light goes on. That's when you're destined for the even worse experience of seeing the mechanic.


The most frustrating thing is you're never sure if it's something real or just a cranky electrical circuit deciding to be difficult. Either way, you know you'll be paying for it somehow. That's why we have high hopes (and prayers) for the "CarMD" to succeed. We know this handy gadget debuted a few months back, but it's worth mentioning again as the weather begins to turn nasty.

The handheld tester reads your car's computer data and stores it for transfer to your PC. The information can then be checked on the CarMD site to diagnose the vehicle's condition, which is rendered appropriately with green, yellow and red lights. If you happen to register one of the latter two, you can get a quick analysis of what may be wrong and a ballpark estimate for repairs. All of this is guesswork, of course, but $90 isn't a bad investment if you own a Jaguar or a BMW.