When something goes wrong with your vehicle and that dreaded Check Engine Light blinks on, the first step to getting you back on the road is figuring out what the problem is. While some owners opt to take their cars straight to the mechanic for a professional vehicle diagnostic test, others who may be more experienced with DIY car repair might try to diagnose the problem themselves using an OBD reader. While this is an excellent place to start, it’s still important to receive a professional diagnosis when investigating problems with your vehicle.
What Is an OBD Reader?
An OBD—on-board diagnostics—reader is used to help mechanics quickly identify the location of the vehicle malfunction or break. The device gathers and reads data stored in the various systems of your vehicle, then produces a DCT, or diagnostic trouble code, usually displayed on a monitor. In recent years, some OBDs come with a corresponding app, allowing you to view the code on your smartphone.
There are two basic types of OBDs: readers and scanners. Readers, less expensive, provide the basic DCT and can clear the notification from the vehicle. Scanners offer live and recorded data collected from the vehicle in addition to the standard DCT. While more expensive, they offer more troubleshooting data that can be used to further identify the problem.
What Is a Diagnostic Trouble Code?
When something in your vehicle breaks or isn’t working as it should, the engine computer stores a diagnostic trouble code, which can then be read through the OBD port. The typical format of a DCT is a letter followed by a series of four numbers. The letter indicates the part of the vehicle’s system that is being affected:
- P for powertrain
- B for body
- C for chassis
- U for user network
The series of numbers help further narrow down the location of the problem. Depending on the kind of diagnostic code reader you own, the OBD might offer more information on the code; if not, there are plenty of resources you can use to define the diagnostic trouble code.
Why Professional Diagnostics Matter
While DCTs and OBD readers can tell you where the problem is located and give you an idea of what it is, they don’t tell you what, specifically, is causing the problem.
For example, let’s take the P0440 code, defined as an Evaporative System Malfunction. The engine’s computer has detected a problem with the fuel tank vapor system, but the causes of this can be anything from a missing fuel cap or a damaged carbon canister. One is a simple fix, while the other is something that needs to be handled by a professional.
That’s not to say reading your vehicle’s DCT codes is a bad idea—quite the opposite, actually! Knowing the code means you can rule out the easy fix before taking it in to the repair shop. Additionally, having more information about the problem will help your mechanic professionally diagnose the cause and make the needed fix faster.
When it comes to professional car diagnostic services, trust Advanced Repair to quickly find and fix the problem. We’ve been serving St. Cloud, Minnesota since 2001, and we pride ourselves on honest work and fair prices. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.