Diagnosing Car Problems Before Seeing a Mechanic


man repairing an old car

The problem with most car mechanics is that they will often upsell you things that your car does not need. It is part of the business and a lot of people fall into such traps. Not everyone is a car guru, to know what is wrong with their car when problems start manifesting. Auto repair shops are a necessary evil, but you can prepare yourself a bit as in knowing exactly what is wrong with the car and knowing what needs to be replaced or repaired.

Understanding fault codes

As modern cars get increasingly complicated, more and more technology is added. This means that error management has to be done in a more modern way. Cars have a lot of sensors and computers to calculate and monitor every single aspect of the vehicle. When there is a deviation or a problem, it is stored as a fault code in the control unit of the car. For example, is there is a problem with an air valve, the car will store a fault code specific for that type of problem.

Modern cars come with a special port known as OBD2. This port can be connected to an OBD2 device and read eventual trouble codes stored in the car control unit. All auto repair shops have an ODB2 car scanner and use it all the time to diagnose cars. Even when the problem is obvious and might not require an error scan, the mechanics still use an error code reader to ensure that the problem is fixed and there are no more errors.

Before going to a mechanic

What most people do not do is to check for trouble codes themselves. OBD2 devices are quite cheap and they can read trouble codes. However, not all of them are capable of interpreting what that trouble code means. The first step is to scan the car for trouble code using an OBD2 scanner.

With the code at hand, a bit of research will be required. Usually, there are resources online or databases that have all the codes and what they mean exactly. Sometimes, even searching the code online directly in a search engine will lead to forum boards discussing the problem and how it can be fixed.

How is this helpful?

Knowing what is wrong with the car and what needs to be fixed gives you the power to say no to a mechanic when he is trying to upsell you something you do not need. Stepping into a repair shop knowing what needs to be fixed means that you will only pay for the repair you need.

The other option is to try to perform the fix yourself if it is something simple or easy to do. As the internet is now a vast ocean of knowledge, there are plenty of videos and how-to’s on pretty much any type of repair. It should not surprise you if you find repair videos for your exact problem with your exact car model.

In the end, it is just a matter of knowing what is wrong before even taking the car to a repair shop. Reading trouble codes is something that everyone can do and as everyone knows, knowledge is power. Knowing what is wrong with your car is a skill that everyone should acquire.


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