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Author Topic: Off Topic - Engine error code readers - need recommendation  (Read 4660 times)
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JimW
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« on: August 25, 2011, 02:20:16 PM »

Sorry for the OT.  Check engine light on my daily driver came on.  I'd like to know what it thinks is wrong.

Can anyone recommend a decent device for getting the code data out of the computer?  Not cheap, but not real expensive either?

Thanks !

Jim.
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Seldom Seen Slim
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« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2011, 02:36:10 PM »

Here's my very unknowing comment:

Today's cars have so many sensors and similar things that it's impossible to have each one display what's going on - so they all (mostly if not all) simply turn on the "check engine" light.  It might be that you don't have the gas cap tightened enough, or maybe the engine just fell out.  I see code readers for a few hundred bucks in the catalogs -- there must be a couple of 'em that'll work for you.  I don't know if there are different "generations" for different model-year eras.

I hope, for your sake, that the fault is the loose gas cap and not the "You just drove over the crankshaft" light.
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Jon E. Wennerberg
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« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2011, 02:53:36 PM »

The answer to your question depends some on what make and model year your car is as not all readers will translate all trouble codes.

That said for a single use situation the cheapest route is to go to one of the main stream chain parts stores like Auto Zone, many of them will read your trouble codes for free. Then you can google the trouble code number and try to translate it into useful trouble shooting steps. Some auto repair places also have started reading codes for free to bring traffic to their shops, make a few phone calls locally and see if any will read your codes for free.

There are a large number of trouble code readers available but their features and costs are changing constantly.

Let us know what make and model car and your responses will be more useful.

Some of the scanners only read the "generic" OBDII codes and others are smart enough to include proprietary codes used by specific manufactures that are more detailed than the generic OBDII standard. On older cars (OBDI) very little is available.
Some in the 1980s, used a diagnostic connection that would flash an LED under the dash board where you had to count the flashes (long and short) and then compare that flash code to a manual to translate.

Larry
« Last Edit: August 25, 2011, 03:01:28 PM by hotrod » Logged

JimW
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« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2011, 03:19:25 PM »

Slim,

Well, it's still running and moving, so it can't be too bad.  (Can it?  I can put some Amo oil in it if required.....)

Larry,  1996 Honda Accord.  I used to have a Nissan that did the LED flashing thing - no such luck on the Honda.  I'll look for someone local to read the code, but I'd like to own a tester, somewhat just to see what's going on.

Thanks,
Jim.
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« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2011, 03:56:48 PM »

Jim, Sam's Club has a reader/eraser for less than $50. Also a more enhanced unit for $330. I have the cheap one that let's you read the code, go to shop manual or online and then look for the loose cap [or split hose], tighten it and clear the code. As stated above the auto parts stores will do this for you, too!

My last code P0305 on my 2002 Dodge Dakota said cylinder #5 not firing properly but as you can imagine there are lots of reasons for that. My vacuum gauge and seat of the pants said the idle was rough and the reader said it was #5!  shocked Cost me a new cylinder head.  sad Now that's progress!!  cheers
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« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2011, 04:03:25 PM »

My general mechanic will read our cars for free and offer suggestions. Thats the beauty of a good relationship.

As mentioned, most chain auot parts stores offer a free read.

DW
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« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2011, 06:55:10 PM »

Do not let code readers and local "chain shops" fool you. They are there to aide them in selling parts. Code readers are a generic function of OBDII systems to "AIDE" in diagnosing vehicles. This just lets you know what is being detected.

For example if your system comes in with two codes bank1 and bank2 lean. Your chain shops (autozone for example) may try to sell you a 02 senser to fix the problem, when in reality it could be in the MAF system which has coated the hot wire with sediment and will not allow the computer to read the proper air flow, and that may not even be the root cause yet. Ford, GM, Nissan, Mercury all have publically asked the customer NOT to use a K&N air filter. THe oil from these filters, coats the hot wire sensor with the film of the charge causing issues.

The moral of the story is ONLY use the code readers as a diagnostic aide, they only tell you where to start looking. If you happen to have a Snap On Modis or OTC Genysis (and others) you can look at manufacture specific information and Mode6 data to help you diagnose the problem using the graphing function or oscilliscope.

So instead of playing "Guess-diag" it sometimes is better to let the proper people diagnose the problem, then you can have the option to do the repair.    We won't get into "blocking codes" which may come up even after the repair because a blocking code would not allow another monitor to run...

Diagnosing todays vehicles is more complex then one might imagine.
If you should have any questions, please feel free to contact me always willing to help and steer a person in the correct procedure for finding root cause and fix it right the first time.
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JimW
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« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2011, 07:21:07 AM »

Thank you to all who replied.

I have to start somewhere, and getting the code seems like a good first step.  Joe, thanks for the message 'what the code tells you might not be the truth and nothing but the truth'.

I'll drop by one of the parts places and get a read this weekend, or pick up a reader.

In the realm of 'whatever you fixed last - you probably broke something else', last repair was the exhaust system, everything behind the cat converter, which has an O2 sensor very near it's outlet.  Since I know the end of the cat converter was whacked on pretty good to get the old rusted exhaust off, the post cat O2 sensor is on my radar - but will see what the code says before I just start willy nilly replacing stuff.  Could be most anything at this point (like Slim says - even a leaky gas cap).

Isn't there an adapter cable and a program for my laptop that would give me a running display of all the data flying around?  (Kind of a 'wireshark' for car networks - if you are geeky inclined.)

Thanks,
Jim.
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« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2011, 10:07:34 AM »

Thank you to all who replied.

I have to start somewhere, and getting the code seems like a good first step.  Joe, thanks for the message 'what the code tells you might not be the truth and nothing but the truth'.

I'll drop by one of the parts places and get a read this weekend, or pick up a reader.

In the realm of 'whatever you fixed last - you probably broke something else', last repair was the exhaust system, everything behind the cat converter, which has an O2 sensor very near it's outlet.  Since I know the end of the cat converter was whacked on pretty good to get the old rusted exhaust off, the post cat O2 sensor is on my radar - but will see what the code says before I just start willy nilly replacing stuff.  Could be most anything at this point (like Slim says - even a leaky gas cap).

Isn't there an adapter cable and a program for my laptop that would give me a running display of all the data flying around?  (Kind of a 'wireshark' for car networks - if you are geeky inclined.)

Thanks,
Jim.

There is laptop software that does this from a number of companies.  You might be able to find one that is model specific. When something goes wrong the first thing is to google the heck out of it.  Very often you are not the only one that has that issue with that model.  If you get a reader (try a cheap one first), then you can google that code combined with your car model, then read stories of what solved the issue for other owners.  The root causes are typically not random.  No need to reinvent.  My boss was on the way to get his Saturn fixed for big $$$, I googled and found out there was a safety recall, he went to the dealer and got it all fixed for free and this was after warranty had expired.
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lsrengineer
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« Reply #9 on: November 16, 2011, 09:59:28 AM »

after more reading on this if you have an Android phone or access to one:

- get the best quality Bluetooth OBDII device
- get the Torque application for the Android phone

Now you are set for reading any OBDII standard/required codes
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« Reply #10 on: December 12, 2011, 10:26:48 AM »

I have an issue I have not been able to solve. 94 Caprice Classic Wagon, (Police car), with OBD1. I had to to take it to a shop, something I haven't done for 20 years, because I could not get the codes out of it. I tried several readers, jumpers, etc. I finally decided there must be something wrong with the ECU. The shop got the codes no problem with their Snap On scanner. Any ideas?
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« Reply #11 on: December 12, 2011, 10:58:29 AM »

I picked up a code reader/eraser from Advance Auto for under 200.00 that also tells what the code means. it is the slightly cheaper version of the one the store uses and works well. Not an auto mech by trade but it has helped with my '03 Elantra and the wife's 06 Durango not to mention the neighbors vehicles.
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« Reply #12 on: December 12, 2011, 11:23:14 AM »

The check engine light is a warning device.
It may indicate something is wrong like a sensor or some condition.
I had a Dodge diesel truck and the light would come on if I drove it at 85 (fastest the cruise would set) for a period of time.
After about 10 or 12 starts, the light would go out.

A word of advise about the scanners though, just because the code indicates something specific, it may be a default code for (not programmed). I had this even with the Snap-On diagnostic, I had a MAP sensor failing intermittently. The code indicated that the Inj pump failed, after datalogging the sensor voltage I saw the drop out and repair made for under $50.

Best of luck, sometimes the Techs trained on a specific make are the best source of information. I am sure there is a Honda forum somewhere.

John
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« Reply #13 on: December 20, 2011, 05:25:25 PM »

Old topic but I am in need of some info. I have a code reader to borrow but need one with body diagnostics as well. My Ranger has an issue with teh 4wd actuator.
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« Reply #14 on: December 24, 2011, 01:29:04 PM »

On my stock Geo, bought a code reader from Harbor freight, like it allot. I think I paid like 90.00 with 20% off coupon, something like that. Has worked well for me
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