Know Your Limits with Code Readers

Credit: Original article published by Classic Cars Journal.

Modern cars are kinda cool, right? If something mysterious is going on, all you have to do is plug in an OBD-II code reader and viola! you can know what’s wrong with your vehicle and get it fixed.

But all that knowledge that the code reader equips you with can also be a folly, especially if you’re an enterprising DIYer with little automotive experience.

Proceed with caution!

Lou Trottier of “The Globe and Mail” explains that he’s had two vehicles recently come into his shop with failed timing chains. Both owners used a code reader that showed an error code for the camshaft position sensor, so they simply thought their sensor needed to be replaced. While it was true that the code reader was actually detecting a camshaft that was out of position, and the reason why it was not in position was because the timing chain was stretched and needed to be replaced.

As it happened, both owners reset their computers with the idea that the problem would sort itself out with a reboot. One owner even bought a new sensor, but that wouldn’t have solved the problem because it wasn’t the sensor to begin with. As a result, both owners needed repairs that exceeded the value of their vehicles.

As Trottier explains, “Buy your $89 code readers, but know your limits,” because if you don’t understand the mechanics of an engine, you may not understand what the code reader is truly trying to tell you.