How to Decipher Engine Light Codes (So You Can Explain Issues Better)

Friday, June 5, 2020

Uh oh... the dreaded engine light has come on in your car once again. Truth be told, there are many different things that could cause it to turn on.
It might be something as simple as your gas cap not being screwed in tight enough, car battery dying, or as complex as the entire engine needing to be replaced.
So with those vastly different outcomes as possibilities, how are you supposed to get a feel for what's going wrong? What are you supposed to tell your mechanic?
Here's how to decipher engine light codes on your own. Use this process to get a better understanding of what your car is going through.

1. Plug Your OBD Scan Tool into the Port

First things first, if you don't have one already, you'll need to purchase an on-board diagnostics scanner (OBD Scanner). You can find base-level ones at Walmart for as little as $20 or ones with higher quality at an auto parts store, which will run for around $60.
Once you have the scanner, you'll want to locate the OBD port in your car, which is typically on the bottom left of the dash. Generally, you can find it located next to the lever to pop the hood of your car.
When you find it, you'll have to lower the covering in order to find the OBD connecter that's inside.

2. Read the Codes

The process for reading your codes depends on the OBD scanner that you have purchased. However, they all typically follow the same process once they've been plugged into the connecter. As soon as they're plugged in, the device will turn on and show you it's main menu screen.
When in doubt, refer to the manufacturer's manual that came with your OBD scanner's packaging. You'll want to keep it close by while you go through this process.
On the main menu, towards the top, you should see an option that reads "Read Codes".
Upon selecting that option, the scanner will start to dissect the different codes your vehicle's computer system is sending.

3. Pay Attention to the Order

Once the scanner reads all the information in your car's computer system it will read the codes off to you one by one. In order to go through them all, you simply need to press the "scroll" button on your OBD scanner device.
However, be sure to write down the different codes in the order that they appear. You will need to present this info to your car mechanic when you bring the car in.
Write down the exact code that pops up, as well as the brief description that your scanner has given for the code.

Bring the Engine Light Codes to Your Trusted Mechanic

While there is information to decipher engine light codes on your own, you'll want to leave that part to the expert.
One of the reasons for your check engine light might be the need for a new transmission. Be sure to read this article on the 7 telltale signs that your car is going to need a transmission repair.
B&M Auto Repair and Towing is proud to offer mechanic services to the Collegeville, Phoenixville, and Oak PA areas. We fix brakes, provide towing services, and everything in between, so contact us at (484) 358-6784 and let B&M Auto be your auto service and repair partner.  

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