I’m a shade tree mechanic and recently bought an OBDII/CAN scanner. I chose the cheapest unit I could find (about $25), and it seems that all it will do is read and/or clear any codes that are set. Since I have the factory service manual for my car, I can look up the codes to see what’s wrong or do a Web search if I need more information. What I’m wondering is: If I spent more on a fancier unit, what additional features would I get? Can my basic unit read all codes from all systems in my car? I don’t need the unit to tell me what the code means or how to fix it. Thanks!
If you don’t need to know how to fix the car, then what you bought is absolutely good enough.
Your unit should be able to read all of the codes and, just as importantly, clear the codes so you can turn off the Check Engine light.
If you bought a fancier unit, besides the leather seats and sunroof, you would get some features that we find helpful in the shop. First, it helps you with the diagnosis. If it reads a code on a Subaru for a bad evaporative emissions system, for instance, it might tell you to “check for a rusted filler neck, since that’s the most common cause of leaks in this system.”
That’s helpful, but you often can find that same kind of information on the Internet. Or you can do what my brother would have done: Put a match to the filler neck and see if it ignites.
As a shade tree mechanic, you have plenty of time to search the Web for answers. But since we’re fixing 20 cars a day, it’s helpful to give our guys immediate information like that. Plus, every time they do an Internet search at the shop, they end up spending all day at www.bikinicarwash.com, and none of the cars ever get fixed.
The other nice thing our scanners do is allow us to actuate certain components, which also helps in diagnosis. For example, if we’re diagnosing an overheating problem, we can push a button on our scan tool and tell the car’s computer to “energize the cooling fan.”
That’s a quick and easy way to find out if the fan, the wiring and the relay are all working. Otherwise, we’d have to let the car run for 10 minutes until it got hot enough to turn on the cooling fan itself, and spend a bunch of time with a test light.
These more-sophisticated scanners also can communicate wirelessly with the software in our garage’s computer, and pull up wiring diagrams and stuff like that.
But the units we use cost several thousand dollars. And those features are just not worth the money for a shade tree guy working on one car on the occasional weekend.
So what you got is perfect. You’ll read the code, and then you run back and forth into the house to look up stuff online. Just bring a rag to wipe the grease off the computer keyboard so your family doesn’t lock you out.
I just became the proud owner of an adorable Nissan Rogue that my granddaughter has named Edgar. I live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Edgar came with new snow tires, and I really like the way they handle, with all the snow we get. But I would like your opinion on what to do with these tires now. Should I just keep using the snow tires year-round, and when they get worn down, get a good everyday tire? Or should I get summer tires and have them changed every spring and fall? Your opinion would be greatly appreciated.
Well, if you really love the way these snow tires handle you might just consider moving farther north, where you can make good use of them year-round. Have you considered Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada?
But if that’s not in the cards, I’d recommend removing the snow tires in the spring and using an all-season tire during the non-winter months.
Snow tires definitely help you get through snow. But they’ve got disadvantages on dry roads: They don’t handle as well, because of their cold-weather-oriented rubber compounds and their more-aggressive treads. And they’re noisier. You haven’t noticed that hum yet?
Nothing awful is going to happen if you drive all summer on your snow tires. But they’ll wear out faster than if you used them only during winter months when you really need them.
So my advice would be to find a set of good all-season tires, and put those on the wheels you’ve got now. Then store the snow tires in your garage.
And in November, buy a set of inexpensive steel wheels that you’re going to beat up and drive through potholes all winter, and put your snow tires on those wheels.
Then, next spring, you can just swap the wheels, and you won’t need to mount and balance either set of Edgar’s tires again.
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