Check Engine Light On? How Buying This Device Can Save You a Bundle


With the price of gas consumers are looking into everything they can to cut the cost of simply owning a car. One of the biggest expenses of owning a car, second only to the fuel and perhaps insurance, is the cost of repair. You’re driving along, singing a song, and suddenly the check engine light is blinking in rhythm with your happy chorus. Most people pull over, pop the hood and if no recognizable malfunction is present, take their car to the shop. With an auto diagnostic code reader, you can find out what’s wrong with your car and possibly avoid the repair shop all together.

A check engine light can be literally hundreds of things, many of which can be easily repaired at home, but dang it, how are you supposed to know what’s wrong to fix it? An auto diagnostic code reader. An auto diagnostic code reader can be purchased for most vehicles on ebay, or from your local parts dealer for under a hundred dollars. For my Volkswagen Cabrio it was only 30 dollars! Auto diagnostic code readers do get more expensive if you want an universal auto diagnostic code reader (which will fit any vehicle and not just an exact make and model from a certain year range), but even then they are in the 300-400 dollar range. If you have more than one vehicle, or maybe a friend or family member willing to split the cost, this is still often far cheaper than taking your vehicle to the shop.

You simply pull over, put on the parking break, plug in the auto diagnostic code reader to your diagnostic socket (usually under the instrument panel, your owner’s manual will likely tell you where to find it if it’s not visible), and what’s wrong flashes across the screen in neat coded letters. Your auto diagnostic code reader will come with a code book with over 200 codes, which you simply match to your message. Now you know what’s wrong so you can either fix it, or have some idea of what it’s going to cost to have it fixed.

If it’s something you can fix yourself like, “Coolant level low” your auto diagnostic code reader will also clear the code, so all your have to do is spend 5 dollars on a jug of anti-freeze rather than 150 dollars to have a repair man plug in his auto diagnostic code reader and fill your coolant. This can save even more money if you or someone you know is very auto-savvy. Paying your brother’s friend 20 bucks to do an oil change is way more economical than first paying an auto repair man to diagnose the problem, and then fix it. In fact, it’s hundreds less.

Another advantage of buying your own auto diagnostic code reader is that you can avoid being ripped off by your car repair man. Say you go in with the check engine light on because you or someone you know doesn’t know how to fix the problem, and they tell you the code from the check engine light basically means your engine is shot, and it’s going to cost you thousands to repair and allows you to spend your money on used car parts rather than being ripped off by a dealer. Little do they know you own an auto diagnostic code reader and already know that the code says that the idle is just set to low. You’ve just avoided being seriously ripped off.

An auto diagnostic code reader will pay for itself within a year, possibly within one visit. Especially if you have multiple vehicles, and hey that’s money in your pocket, er, gas tank, to be realistic here.

Bonus:

Other money saving tips for your car and gas expenses:

– Add a bottle of “heat” or product to remove the water from your fuel every month or so. Especially if you’ve experienced any significant climate changes. (ex/ winter to spring.) The change in temperature can cause condensation in the tank, which adds water to your gas, which reduces gas mileage. Trying to avoid ever letting a gas tank sit mostly empty will also help prevent this. (Easier said than done right?)

-Another additive that can help is a fuel injector cleaner every few months. Build up in your fuel injectors can also reduce gas mileage.

Both the above can be purchased at almost any department store, or auto supply shop. They range from about 2 to 7 dollars and are simply added to a full tank of gas while fueling.

-Maintain your vehicle. Don’t put off oil changes, and tune ups because they are expensive. The cumulative effect of money lost over time in reduced gas mileage often is more than the maintenance would have cost you, plus it prevents unnecessary wear on your engine.

-Drive like your grandma. (unless she was a hell’s angel) The way you drive does effect how much gas you use. Slow down before braking, don’t punch the gas when accelerating, learn to coast on hills, etc. This is also far easier on your engine and will expand it’s life saving you the cost of repairs or a new car.

-Skip the car wash. Yes, I know, the multi-colored foam is so lovely, and driving through that machine is so easy. But a hose on a hot summer day is also great fun and doesn’t cost you 10 dollars. If you have kids, I bet they’d even do it for a dollar or two if you really don’t want to yourself.

-Every year or so check quotes with all the insurance companies. Maybe last year geico saved you 100 dollars, but this year perhaps say, state farm can cut your cost again. It’s also a good idea to do this anytime you have a significant life change. (ex/ you turned 25 or bought a second car) Keep those companies competing.