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mechanic shop
scan tool
trouble code
worst case
Auto Diagnostics Tools
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Auto Diagnostics Tools

There are many kinds of auto diagnostics tools. But this article explains about auto diagnostic codes (or DTC) and tools (or scan tools) to retrieve the codes from vehicle's computer.

What is DTC? DTC stands for Diagnostic Trouble Code. There is a connector mostly located under the dashboard for scan tools hooked up there. A car has many sensors and a computer that collects all information from all these sensors to see condition of the car. If one or more of sensor's reading exceed the limit of specification, the computer warn you by turning on a small yellow light called Check Engine light or Service Engine Soon light. At the same time, vehicle's computer stores auto diagnostic codes. The codes tell you components which may have problems and you MAYBE need a repair. That's right! You maybe need or maybe NOT!

For example, you stop by a gas station for gas. After a pump, a few block from a gas station, you see Check Engine light come on. You go to a mechanic shop to have your car fixed. A mechanic brings a scan tool and hook up to your car. A mechanic only glances at a display of scan tool and opens a gas door. And he says "This is the problem. A gas cap was loose." You give a mechanic 10 bucks as a tip and leave. Or they charge 50 bucks for diagnosis. In the worst case, a mechanic is a dishonest man. They rip you off by charging a couple of hundreds bucks.

In this example, what a mechanic did is hook up scan tool and get auto diagnostic codes. You can avoid unwanted expenses by owning a scan tool and having knowledge about auto diagnostic codes. Thanks to the internet, you will get detailed information of each code in no time. The price of scan tool depends on brands and feature. Some scan tools cost over thousands, some scan tools costs only 50 dollars. The former has a large color screen and many buttons, the latter has a small display that shows only code's number. Maybe the latter is enough if you are not a mechanic. you don't need a professional one.

But recently, a new type of the scan tool shows up. They are not actually a scan tool but an adapter or an interface that connects between your car and a laptop or a cell phone. You can see not only code's number but also code's descriptions, live data, graph, dial, fuel economy on your laptop or cell phone. What's the best is you can get detail of the code from the internet right away. That 's cool, isn't it? The price varies from brand to brand but you get a pretty good one for around 50 bucks, the same price as a small code reader.

Some auto diagnostic codes are complicated but you can prevent a stupid mistake that I wrote above in the example by looking up DTC yourself. This is a good idea before you go to a mechanic shop that is possibly waiting for the people from which they can rip off.

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