It can be a little disconcerting when the check engine light illuminates on your dashboard. From my experience as a Service Advisor, I can tell you it brings up a lot of different emotions. Some customers would get quite concerned, thinking their car was one step away from disaster. This often caused a sort of panic, where if they didn’t have their car, then getting to work, dropping the kids off, and running errands were suddenly impossible.
Others were baffled as they took such good care of their vehicle. Oftentimes, these customers could not focus unless the cause of the check engine light was found and of course, immediately repaired.
The Right Tools
There are a number of things that can flag your check engine light, some being more serious than others. However, with the right amount of patience and the correct tools, you can get a pretty good idea of why your check engine light is on. Knowing this ahead of time can provide peace of mind before you see your mechanic. If you are a “do-it-yourself” person, it’s a relief because you now know what needs to be fixed.
Today, OBD-II (on-board diagnostic) scanners are available for purchase. However, given the number of scanners on the market, it may be difficult to determine which one is right for you. Recently, we met Tim Miller, an auto mechanic from Colorado with over 20 years of experience. On his website OBD Advisor, Miller shares his knowledge and love of cars.
He recently evaluated the best OBD-II scanners on the market, complete with his personal reviews and comparisons.
Not surprisingly, Miller chooses the Bluetooth capable Lemur BlueDriver, a product we have used ourselves and had excellent luck with. “For just under $100, it can do just about anything that much more expensive professional scanners can do,” Miller writes.
Its smartphone capability makes it easier to diagnose the reasons behind your check engine light. The device is small and fits easily into your pocket.
Those who spend a great deal of time around cars may benefit from another product Miller recommends. Sometimes, it is not easy to determine the cause of the problem, especially when cars today have more computer systems than ever. Miller recommends the OBDLink LX Bluetooth Scan Tool for situations like this, because it can continually collect data as the vehicle is running. Although it is not iOS compatible, Miller points to the sleep mode feature as a plus, meaning it can stay plugged in without draining your car’s battery.
The biggest bonus of the OBDLink LX Bluetooth Scan Tool, according to Miller, is how nice it is.
“The app is pleasing to the eye with smooth gauges and detailed graphs. Everything is easy to use and all of the data is easy to read,” he writes.
Before the days of Bluetooth, there were corded scanners, which are still common in many shops across the country. For something “a little more old fashioned” as Miller puts it, the Innova 3040c is the perfect choice. Miller recommends this scanner because it can record and play back data it collects from the vehicle.
The Innova 3040c has a freeze frame feature too, which shows everything from the coolant temp to the fuel trim values the moment the check engine light occurred. The only thing Miller writes as a negative about the Innova 3040c is the short cord. He recommends those using the device often to capture data while driving will want to opt for a longer cord.
While it may be confusing, even frustrating as to why your check engine light is on, Miller’s OBD Advisor website is one of the best resources. His reviews on OBD-II scanners are straightforward and to the point so you can pick the right one for the job. In addition, Miller provides the infographic below, which summarizes much of his extensive knowledge on this subject.
Photos: Lemur Monitors, OBDLink, Innova