Tag Archives: scan tool

Check Engine Light? Basic Diagnostic Tools to Help You Fix It Right

“A man is nothing without his tools.” That saying may not be entirely accurate but when it comes to working on a vehicle, it is almost dead on. While over the past century cars have been getting more and more complicated, humans have not let themselves be overrun by the huge task of fixing these near-autonomous vehicles. Though cars are becoming technological nightmares, the tools that have been created have become life-savers. For example, if and when that dreaded check engine light appears on your dash, or for most cars now, appears on the different screens and hub assemblies riddled throughout the cabin, we have the perfect tool to counteract it. The check engine light can instill a sense of ignorance, especially when your car looks, sounds, and overall seems like it is running fine. The diagnostic tools that we have been given, however, turn that ignorance into providence. With the ability to analyze and diagnose whatever may be ailing your vehicle, diagnostic tools are the way to stay ahead of the technological curve. How do you use these tools to help with your check engine light or any other issue that needs to be diagnosed? Let’s take a look.

  • The first diagnostic tool we will look at is probably the most common one, the OBD-ll scan tool. This tool is used to examine the car’s computer and discover the faults that were tripped to turn on the check engine light. This tool is extremely handy to have as it can tell you what your car’s issue is almost instantly. It’s use is as simple as plugging in the cord to the OBD port, normally located under the steering wheel, and hitting scan. There are different types of scan tools, as some are more expensive and others less so. The more expensive ones do offer more features while the inexpensive ones offer just the basics. Whatever type of scan tool you get, however, it will tell you the codes of why the check engine light appeared. These scan tools can help alleviate any worries or give you a sense of what needs taken care, depending on if the issue is a big or small one, and are something every DIYer should have in their holster.
  • Another useful diagnostic tool for your utility belt is a multimeter. This tools can be extremely handy in discovering any issues within a sensor’s wiring or with a sensor itself. You can use it by checking the voltage output of a sensor, and see if the check engine light or other issue has been caused by that. Having this tool can save you a lot of time and trouble in the long run.
  • While any issue appearing in your car is a pain, one of the worst car pains are engine issues. Engine issues can be caused by all sorts of troublemaking elements, but normally it is air, fuel, or spark related. Having a vacuum-pressure gauge can help figure out any air problems within the system. If you think any of your engine’s problems are air related, then you will want to have a gauge ready and waiting to be used. Keep in mind that you can check the fuel pressure with this tool as well on any car that has a carburetor.
  • Finally, one of the last diagnostic tools that is useful to have in a tough check engine light or other frustrating situation, on a modern fuel injection car, is a fuel-pressure gauge. Checking the pressure of your fuel can sometimes be the best way to figuring out a problem with your car.

The tools that we have to figure out a check engine light, and any other issues that may appear in our car, can be time and money savers. Instead of having to pull the car apart piece by piece, we have tools that can diagnose the problem down to a simple code. So take advantage of these DIY gifts and use them to make your car-fixing day, just a little bit better.

Check Engine Light On? How to Check It Yourself

Oh boy, there it is. The dreaded check engine light has appeared on your dash, taunting you with its amber illumination. Whenever you are driving down the road, and your check engine light pops on, you can’t help but feel a tightening in your stomach. Whether it’s from fear that you could break down at any second, or anger about the presumed dent in your wallet that the inevitable repair is going to create, that tightening only gets deeper. If it isn’t flashing though, it may not be the catastrophe you are dreading. The check engine light can illuminate for any number of reasons. Indeed, some automakers specify up to 4,000 different Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTC)!

You don’t absolutely have to go to the mechanic or the dealership if you want peace of mind. All you really need, at least to start with, is a scan tool. There are a many different types of scan tools out there, some that are just simple code readers and others that connect to your smartphone or laptop that can give you much more vehicle information, such as fuel economy and trip information. In order to use a scan tool properly, follow our simple guide to checking your codes, finding the answer to your check engine light’s spontaneous appearance, and ease your mind.

  • Scan Tool to Help You Diagnose that Check Engine Light
    Scan Tool to Help You Diagnose that Check Engine Light

    After you have bought the scan tool that best fits your needs, go ahead and plug it into your car, in the slot under the dash. Your owner’s manual will give you its exact location, in case you don’t see it immediately. Turn the key to the “On” position, but don’t start your car. Once the electric power is on, the scan tool may ask for information about your vehicle. Follow the instructions for inputting your vehicle’s info, then move on to the next step.

  • The scan tool will give you a few options to choose from, essentially giving you different functionality from the tool. You will see the option for checking codes, which you should click on, to let you know what is happening with your vehicle.
  • Once your code or codes show up on the screen, write them down. Some of the more expensive scan tools will show you the code and what the code means. Others just give you a paper code list, normally in a book form. But in this technological day and age, it might be best to look the code up online. This will give you far more information on your problem and help you decide if it’s an issue you want to tackle yourself, or have a professional take care of.
  • Your scan tool can also reset your check engine light if you want it to. Doing this is only a cosmetic solution though, only eliminating a symptom, perhaps only temporarily, but not fixing the root problem. If you are trying to remove the check engine light, in order to pass inspection, don’t expect to trick anyone with a simple code clearing. After you clear a check engine light, you must drive your vehicle for its inspection and maintenance readiness (I/M) tests.
  • There should be an option on the scan tool for I/M status, allowing you to see when it will be prepared for the inspection. If all monitors say “Ready,” then you should be good to go. Still, if the problem is still there after clearing the check engine light, then the light will come back on, making it impossible to pass inspection. So if you are trying to see if it’s just a malfunction causing the check engine light to appear, then clearing the code can help with the troubleshooting. But always remember that clearing the code is not the same as alleviating the code’s origin.

So whether or not you get an expensive scan tool or just a simple code reader, having the ability to check your car’s codes yourself can make whatever the price of the scan tool you bought worthwhile. As a do-it-yourselfer, you can now use this information to diagnose and repair your vehicle.