Car Code Readers
Mark: Hi, it’s Mark from Top Local, we’re here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, Vancouver’s best auto service experience. Eighteen time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver and fixing and repairing, maintaining vehicles in Vancouver for 38 years. How’re you doing Bernie?
Bernie: Doing very well.
Mark: So, we’ve been seeing a lot of ads about, or I certainly have, about car computer code readers and I just wanted to ask you are they, any good?
Bernie: Well the answer is yes they are and I would want to ask you why you’d want to buy one. I mean, I’ve seen a lot of these ads too. There are anything from a simple plug in and you read a code to a device that plugs in, connects with your Smart phone and it’s supposed to liberate you from coming to see your auto mechanic because you can figure everything out yourself. Those are kind of the spectrum of what’s promised and what you can do. And I guess my first question to you is why would you want o have one of those things?
Mark: Well, let’s just make something up, so my check engine lamp is on and so this thing is supposed to let me, like you said, check the computer and tell me what’s going on. So…
Bernie: Yeah, exactly, well ok, so absolutely. So you can get a device and it’ll plug in and it’ll tell you there’s a code P0135, and great, so you’ve got some information and I mean, does that liberate you from having to go see an auto mechanic? Well at least it gives you some information and you can walk in with some level of intelligence saying, hey I’ve had a look at this. You know, what worries me when I see products like this sold with the idea that you’re not going to have to see a mechanic or you’re going to save all this money because you can diagnose it yourself or you’re going to avoid getting ripped off, I just you know, I just don’t see a lot of that. I mean we fix cars all day long. We don’t rip people off. I mean, there are places that do, but I’d say that’s probably quite rare. There’s a number of, I mean, I see work orders all the time from other shops, you know dealerships, independent shops, they usually have a description of the code so when there’s a code there, people don’t generally make stuff up. It’s what’s there. Now of course, I’m all for the idea of empowering yourself as a consumer or a car owner and if at least you get a little bit of information that kind of helps you in at least knowing that what people are telling you is correct, but just knowing a code in and of itself doesn’t really give you a lot more information than there is troubled code there.
Mark: Ok, playing the skeptical card, aren’t you saying this, kind of denigrating these devices perhaps a little bit just to protect your business?
Bernie: No not at all. I mean, I think it’s actually good as a consumer to have one, and the odd time, I mean as a shop, sometimes we get someone comes in, my check engine light is on. The car runs perfectly well, we scan it and there’s a trouble code there for something and it’s pretty clear that it would cost a lot of money to diagnose something that might be a very marginal problem and I can explain in a few minutes just a little more how these diagnostic systems work. But sometimes, it’s kind of a marginal problem and probably take a lot of time to diagnose, it’d almost be better to shut the light off and see if the issue comes back because sometimes a little minor fault will occur, it’ll cause the light to come on, it an stay on for a long time and we can spend, I’ll just use dollars, we could spend a few hundred dollars of your money trying to figure out something and never really get to the source of it. So if you’re able to switch the light off yourself and see it it comes back on again, it’s probably a pretty good thing. So yeah, so I mean, I’m not opposed to it, it’s a good idea. You know if you walk in with the information, that’s great. The same if you walk into a doctor’s office, well I’ve got a pain in my abdomen and I think it might be my appendix, that’s great, but the doctor’s going to do his own tests and for us that’s the step we need to do next. Yeah, I just use this P0135, by the way that code means a Bank 1 oxygen sensor heater circuit. Now does that mean that the oxygen sensor’s bad? I mean, do you even know what an oxygen sensor is? So the question is, you know, how much do you want to learn about cars? If you like doing that kind of stuff, hey great, this is a definite thing you need to have. If you don’t want to learn about cars, you may not want to have it.
Mark: And people, I think, there’s sort of in the advertising, the feeling I was left with was that if I have this information, I’ll be able to fix it myself. Do you think that’s actually the case?
Bernie: Well no but what I can tell you is that sometimes, so I’ll just talk about a little bit of diagnostic code. So when the check engine light comes on in your car, it comes on because the vehicle computer has detected a fault and they’re mostly emission related things. They’re not necessarily, people worry oh, my check engine light is on, it must be low on oil. Well sometimes that can be the case, but 99% of times it’s not. It’s usually a fault of the vehicles emission system. It’s actually an emissions self diagnostic system. So the light comes on, there’s something, the vehicle is theoretically putting out more pollutants to the atmosphere than it’s supposed to and you need to fix it. There’s a variety of things that’ll happen. So there’ll be a trouble code stored, and there are hundreds of them, from anywhere from an engine misfire, so if your engine’s running rough to fuel leakage, that can be as simple as a loose gas cap and everything in between, transmission malfunction. So a trouble code will set now as I mentioned this P0135 oxygen sensor heater circuit, I mentioned this code, it’s an oxygen sensor that monitors your exhaust system and fine tunes your fuel injection system to deliver the optimum amount of fuel. Now the heater allows the oxygen sensor to warm up quicker but just because it has a code, it’s a heater circuit fault that means there would be anything from anywhere from the computer to the oxygen sensor, any wire in between. So you know, we’ve seen these particular things where the fault is the oxygen sensor. Most of the time it is but, a lot of the time it’s a broken wire, could be a blown fuse, it could be a bad computer. So in and of itself knowing a code doesn’t mean you’ve solved the problem. You could go buy a sensor or you could try putting it in, not an easy job mind you, but it depends on what level of a person you are, but at least you know if you have that code, you can go in with some information. Did I answer the question there? I sometimes feel like I drift off.
Mark: Well it’s complicated. Basically what I get of that is guess what, cars are more and more computerized and the days of being able to climb into the engine bay of your Ford F150 and work on the six cylinder motor with plenty of space around you are long gone and it’s pretty complicated now.
Bernie: Yeah, they really are and they’re getting more and more complicated. But as I said, I mean you know, if having one of these could theoretically save you some money if you’re a little bit handy, guess you know, get some information you could look into it. It could certainly help if not, at the very least be educated. But I think you know, it brings to a larger question, you know the thing of being ripped off by a mechanic, why are going to someone you feel ripped off by. You need to have some conversations, you know go around and find someone you can trust. And I mean, I have issues in my life finding people I can trust to manage my money. You know it’s like my trust and so sometimes you work through these things but if you find a mechanic in a shop you can trust, so much the better. If you have one of these devices, you know and the shop doesn’t want to work with you or listen to you, well maybe that’s not a person you want to trust.
Mark: So there you go. Should I buy one of these?
Bernie: Should you buy one of these, well you know it’s, for some of these devices, they’re like $50. Yeah sure, why not I mean 50 bucks is not a lot of money. You could at least have some information, you know if your check engine light is on, with most of these devices you can clear the code. See if it comes back on. If it comes back on right away, sometimes it takes a couple of drive cycles for it to come back on, comes back on, well you know, hey I got a problem it needs to be looked at. And you can also, sorry I’m getting a little long winded here, I guess the other things to know, the severity of the code. Some things, you know it’s pretty important to fix it right away, especially if the check engine light is blinking. That’s, you’ve got to fix it right away but most other things are little subtle problems that you may not need to fix right away. So if you knew what the code was, you might at least know, do I have to rush into get it fixed or can I wait a week or two.
Mark: There you go. If you’re looking for repairs for your vehicle in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to get maintenance and repairs done on your vehicle or to get your code reader information explained to you. You can check them out at their website pawlikautomotive.com or on our YouTube channel, Pawlik Automotive Repair. Thanks Bernie
Bernie: Thanks Mark