What Is Micro Mechanic?
After plugging Micro Mechanic into your car’s data port, the device promises to wirelessly relay real-time information to your smartphone via Bluetooth, which can help you instantly identify what’s wrong when any diagnostic light appears.
According to the website, all you have to do is:
- Download the app (it’s also compatible with other apps like OBD Auto Doctor, Mini OBDII, Carista, DashCommand, TrackAddict, and Torque, to name just a few), which works with iPhone and Android devices
- Plug the pocket-sized Micro Mechanic device into your car’s data port (year model 1996 and newer) until secure
- Open the app and follow the prompts
Not only will it tell you what’s wrong in seconds, but whether there’s a minor or major issue, the app will also show you about how much it will cost to repair so you can quickly determine the best course of action. It will even send you automatic maintenance reminders to help ensure you never miss an oil change or another critical item.
All of this certainly sounds great, but how can you decide if Micro Mechanic is the right OBD-II scanner for you? That’s the central question we’ll help you answer in this article, starting by quickly taking a look at its functionality.
How Does Micro Mechanic Work?
Let’s split this topic into two parts:
Originally developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) to meet California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulations, OBD-II ports provide access to a vehicle’s diagnostic data.
Although these ports have been standard in all vehicles sold in the U.S. since 1996, the technology used to read and decipher the codes they generate was initially too expensive for most consumers. However, over the past decade or so, it’s reached a point where they’re widely available at just about any retailer with an automotive section.
From a high-level perspective, Lifewire’s Jeremy Laukkonen explains “basic code readers can only read and clear codes, while advanced scan tools can also view live and recorded data, provide extensive knowledge bases, provide access to bi-directional controls and tests, and other advanced functionality.”
Now, let’s zoom in and find out if Micro Mechanic is a basic or advanced device.
The Micro Mechanic App
Although you’ll have to pay for the Micro Mechanic device itself (more next), the companion iOS and Android app are free. After downloading to the appropriate app, the website indicates you’ll gain access to features like:
Scan, Diagnose, & Reset Check Engine Light – With the press of a button, you’ll find out why your check engine light is on, including the code and the associated issue. Then, you can reset the light once everything’s been resolved.
Repair Cost Estimates – Displays the national average for any repairs identified during scanning.
Issue Urgency – Should you drive your car? How urgently should you have your vehicle inspected? The website advertises Micro Mechanic will let you know.
Maintenance Schedule – Based on mileage, the device will recommend specific maintenance services.
In these screenshots, we can see that the basic Micro Mechanic app works in a few quick steps to scan your OBD-II port, identify issues associated with your check engine light, let you know how much the problem might cost to repair, and whether or not it’s safe to drive. Credit: Apple Corporation
How Much Does Micro Mechanic Cost?
One Micro Mechanic device is priced at $19.95, plus free shipping and a $1 web service fee. During checkout, you’ll have the opportunity to purchase a second device for an additional $9.95 fee.
All orders come with a 60-day money back guarantee, less S&H, which you can request by calling OnTel Products customer support at 800-245-1754.
What Can We Learn from Micro Mechanic Customer Reviews?
Between iTunes and Google Play, we encountered nearly 20 combined user reviews for the Micro Mechanic app at the time of our research, who gave it an average rating of about four stars.
There, common compliments cited ease of use, while frequent complaints related to less-than-stellar functionality. Specifically, that it’s scanning abilities were limited only to check engine lights.
Micro Mechanic vs. Other Basic OBD-II Devices
As we discussed earlier, the trickle down in technology over the years has made basic OBD-II scanning devices extraordinarily popular, not to mention inexpensive. In addition to local retailers, we encountered thousands of relevant results browsing online marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart, and Google Shopping (to name just a few). In many instances, they were priced under $10.
Like Micro Mechanic, most also featured app connectivity, the ability to scan, diagnose, and reset check engine lights, urgency determination, maintenance reminders, and repair estimates for any issues identified.
There were even other standalone apps compatible with a variety of other OBD-II devices, including Torque ($4.95; Android only), OBD Car Doctor (Free; iOS only), and Carista (Free; iOS and Android).
Choosing the Right Option
Considering their similarities and ultra-competitive price points, how can you decide which step to take next? Like most other products and services, you'll want to start by determining which features are most important to you.
For example, are you OK with basic functionality, such as reading and clearing check engine lights? Or, do you need something more robust, with access to additional data like:
- Navigation, ABS, and airbags
- Power locks, windows, lights, and instrument display. You can even change the behavior of these aspects in some instances.
- GPS mileage tracking
- Fuel, acceleration, and braking details
- Horsepower and emissions
With most technology, it’s often the case that the more features you need, the higher price you'll pay. However, we encountered many OBD-II devices with advanced features priced relatively in line with Micro Mechanic.
From there, you’ll want to make sure that any company you do business with comes with a mostly positive online customer reputation, and stands behind their products with at least 30-day refund policies.
Should You Buy Micro Mechanic?
While we didn’t test any devices firsthand during the course of our research, Micro Mechanic seems to offer many core features that could provide meaningful value, including wireless Bluetooth functionality, app connectivity, the ability to diagnose, translate, and clear codes related to check engine lights; and mileage-based maintenance reminders.
And as a company, NJ-based OnTel Products Corporation held a B rating with the Better Business Bureau, based on more than 30 customer reviews and nearly 370 closed complaints, as of 6/26/18. While many of these related to product quality and service concerns, a company representative responded in each instance with a solution.
They also stand behind Micro Mechanic with a 60-day refund policy, although you’ll have to pay to ship it back to the manufacturer (you’ll lose any fees associated with the BOGO offer as well) if you give it a try and end up dissatisfied.
Just keep in mind that even though they draw very little power, we encountered dozens of online customers reporting that their battery died after leaving third-party OBD-II devices in place and parking their car for several days. So if you travel frequently, it might be a good idea to remove Micro Mechanic in advance.