By Dave Lee on August 24, 2012
If you're ever stuck by the side of the road, the Tappet brothers might make the experience less painful. With Car Talk's Breakdown Lane app, you can use your iOS device to find the nearest repair shop from Car Talk's database of 30,000 garages. But the app doesn't stop there.
What you need to know: As of this writing, Breakdown Lane is available only for iOS devices. The app uses geolocation to find the nearest shop, so you need a data connection for that feature to work.
What works: Breakdown Lane is simple to use, and it has three key features. Yes, you can find a garage, but you also can read along with "Car Talk" hosts Tom and Ray Magliozzi (Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers) as they guide you on how to jump-start your car and change a flat tire. If you already called a tow truck, you can listen to the latest "Car Talk" radio show while you wait. Each feature works as advertised. Breakdown Lane pulls reviews from Car Talk's community-built Mechanics Database, whose recommendations might be more trustworthy compared with Yelp or Google, though the latter two call up more repair shops. Navigating through the app — getting directions, placing a call and reading customer reviews — is a breeze. Being stuck on the road is stressful enough; fumbling through menus or clunky interfaces makes it worse.
The Breakdown Assistant is a handy feature if you're an auto-repair novice, and if you use the app to listen to "Car Talk," you can have it play in the background while you tweet about your roadside misfortune. Other perks of the app include a flashlight function and a place to store valuable car info, such as your license plate number, vehicle identification number, insurance provider info and mechanic's contact info.
What doesn't: There isn't anything here that doesn't work well, though I can make at least one mild suggestion. The mechanic search function limits the results to 10, and while that might be enough for some people, it would be better if I could get all the results that show up on Car Talk's website. Also, pre-recorded snippets of Tom and Ray teasing and comforting me while I wait would be nice, too.
Bottom line: Just like jumper cables and a tire wrench, Breakdown Lane is a handy, valuable tool to have with you when you need to pull over.
*Car Talk is a partner of Cars.com.