Free Code Reading
If you have a problem with your car and you don’t know what it is, most auto part stores (such as AutoZone, Pep Boys and Advance Auto Parts) will provide a free diagnostic code reading. It is also called an OBD reading. OBD stands for On Board Diagnostics. A store rep will plug a code reader into your car and it will report a code that should give you, or at least the representative, an idea of what is wrong. If your check engine light comes on and you have no idea what could be wrong with your car, a diagnostic code reading might be a good place to start. It may help you avoid paying someone fifty bucks to tell you that your gas cap is loose, which can cause your engine light to come on.
There are a few pitfalls. You can get a code that may point to a specific part of the vehicle and this may only be half of the problem. Be aware that another issue with the vehicle could be causing the code error. For example, a free code check might show an oxygen sensor failure. Now the question is; is it a problem with the sensor, the wiring, software, or a problem with the way the car is running? In this case, if you’re a real do it yourself-er, the diagnostic code reading has given you a place to start and you can take that information and seek out more. Cars are mass-produced, so many of the same types of problems happen to the same types of cars. If your car is having an issue that is common to that manufacturer and model, you may even be able to get a goodwill warranty.
You can also get a full diagnostic reading at your mechanic or dealership. This will cost about $45 – $75. You essentially get the premium version of what the auto parts stores is offering. These professionals use an OBD reader, but usually with far more expensive software than the auto part stores. They are also experts in car repair, increasing your chance of an accurate diagnosis the first time.
It can’t hurt to get the free code reading first and then go to a professional if you find a problem you don’t feel comfortable tackling on your own. After all, it’s free! You just need to be aware of its limitations.