Maintenance for Your Modern Car (a Checklist)
Maintenance for your modern car today is much different than cars that were built and produced around 20 years ago. Aside from Electric Vehicles (EV), most cars are still internal combustion engines (therefore, we will focus on gasoline engines in this article), so nothing has changed in terms of the basics of internal combustion; however, the big advances have come in the electronics and the onboard engine management systems, which can – in many cases – make hundreds of computation/adjustments within seconds under normal driving. Some ECUs (electronic control units) in your cars can make over 200 million calculations per second (astonishing).
FYI – for many of you reading this article, a lot of the modern car maintenance items on this list you may be familiar with, but we hope this article/list is helpful to the overall maintenance and health of your car.
Reasoning Why You Should Keep Up with Maintenance:
Being straight to the point, by keeping up with maintenance 1) your car will drive and perform more closely to its original factory specifications and as intended - and 2) it will highly likely prevent issues from failure of those items you choose to maintain (and leave you possibly stranded) and 3) could really help the resale value of your car, as the next potential owner will value a well maintained vehicle, and better maintained vehicles will always demand more money.
Of course, the market you plan to sell you car in will certainly have an impact on the demand of your vehicle, so always consider that as an important point, because a convertible sports car will likely have less demand in a frigid, snowy region as opposed to, say, a truck with 4-wheel drive capability.
Quick note: it’s always recommended to review the Owner’s Manual that came with your car. At the very least, it would be helpful to get high-level familiar with your Owner’s Manual so that you can more readily reference it in the future.
For those who are familiar with working on cars mechanically, then you may want to consider a technical repair menu; however, for most maintenance and service work you’ll likely be able to find diagrams or information on the parts you need via an online search.
Start reading below for the list of maintenance. We have broken down maintenance into sections (engine area, electrical, braking and suspension, etc) for your convenience...
Engine Maintenance List For Your Modern Car:
You’ve all heard that changing your motor oil helps protect your engine’s internal components, and it’s true. The debate lies on how frequently one should change their motor oil. At the very least you should change your oil based on your manufacturer’s suggestion in terms of mileage and/or time and viscosity. The same applies with whether or not you should using a synthetic oil vs. regular dino oil. Synthetic oils provide superior levels of protection and lubrication and should always be considered if you’re serious about protecting your engine for the long haul.
Also of importance when selecting your oil, is your oil's viscosity, sometimes called the weight range. You'll usually notice a "weight" range (e.g. 10w-30), which you'll have to choose based on your driving habits/style and the climate your vehicle will be operating in. The 11 viscosity grades are 0W, 5W, 10W, 15W, 20W, 25W, 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60. The lower the number of the weight or viscosity represents the lower the temperature the oil can pass official specifications. Typically a higher weight oil will be thicker while a lower weight will be thinner in how it "flows".
If you, say, drive in hotter climates during the summer, and in which the temps in the morning are already somewhat warm, you'll want an oil that is capable of protecting your engine with a higher viscosity range, such as 10W-40, 10W-50.
In terms of the best synthetic motor oils to use, and a full on education on motor oils, we’ll defer to Bob is the Oil Guy site, as we’ve found this site to be an excellent resource on the subject matter: https://www.bobistheoilguy.com/
A popular choice, though, is Mobil 1's Synthetic, which, protects very well (as is typical as a full synthetic) and is easy on the wallet.
- Mobil 1 Fs European Car Formula Full Synthetic Motor Oil 0W-40 Helps To Extend Engine Life Even In Severe Conditions
- Helps To Control Oxidation To Prevent Oil Breakdown And Maintain Excellent Viscosity For Up To 10,000 Miles Between Oil Changes
- Provides Outstanding Engine Wear Protection And Performance With Uniform Synthetic Oil Molecules For Better Friction Reduction
- Keeps Your Engine Running Like New By Working To Prevent Damaging Deposits And Sludge Buildup
If you're looking for the Cadillac of synthetic oils, then we suggest Liqui Moly, as it meets very high certifications standards (even higher than Mobil-1) and is the choice of performance enthusiasts everywhere.
- The Lubro-Moly Synthoil High Tech 5W-40 Motor Oil is a fully synthetic and energy conserving motor oil for the latest engine concepts (both gas and diesel), such as multi-valve arrangements, variable cam and timing configurations, turbocharging, supercharging, intercooling, etc.
- The Lubro-Moly Synthoil High Tech 5W-40 Motor Oil saves fuel and provides instant lubrication after a cold start.
- Good for extended oil change intervals and the highest demands
- Package Dimensions: 10.312 L x 31.496 H x 24.892 W (centimeters)
Your engine relies on air coming in via your airbox, which contains the air filter, for combustion, so it’s imperative to provide clean, flowing air into your engine by making sure your air filter is in good condition. Consult your Owner’s Manual, however, there are times your air filter can last longer than the suggested if your air filter hasn’t been exposed to many elements therefore remaining clean. For example, if you drive on clean roads with pretty clean air you might be surprised to find that your air filter can last a few more thousand miles when you visually inspect it. If there is debris that you can shake off the filter – that helps, too.
On the other side of the spectrum, if you live and drive in an area that has, say, dusty roads, then you’ll likely find yourself having to change your air filter more frequently than what the manufacturer suggests. If you have too much dirt bypassing your dirty air filter, then that dirt will find itself into your intake tract, and then into your engine, which will result in degraded performance and other issues for your engine. Inspecting or changing your air filter is typically an easy task, relatively speaking, so it’s worth the 5-10 minutes of time to inspect.
You can purchase an air filter at your dealership or typically even your local auto store. If you're feeling a bit more adventurous you can also go with a reusable type of air filter element, such as a K & N air filter type, which you can purchase at many places online.
Typically housed in your airbox or very near your airbox the MAF sensor meters the amount of air that is being funneled into your engine. Through time the sensor will build up dirt, oils and grime, so a dirty sensor will provide inaccurate readings and can cause your car to hesitate during acceleration. A lot of folks use CRC Mass Air Flow Sensor cleaner, as it has been proven and is relatively inexpensive. It’s our recommendation your clean your MAF every 6 months to 12 months (i.e. every 6,000-15,000 miles), depending on driving conditions (i.e. dusty roads vs clean roads). It typically takes 5-20 minutes to clean the MAF. It’s worth checking out your air filter while you’re checking on your MAF, of course.
A really effective, tried and true MAF sensor cleaner is CRC's well known MAF sensor cleaner. You pretty much just spray your MAF sensor, wait for it to dry, repeat a few times, and then you're done.
- Increases Horsepower And Improves Air/Fuel Ratio And Mpg
- Plastic Safe-Dries In Seconds
- Not Voc Compliant For California & Otc
- Use Every Time You Clean Or Change Your Filter
These belts help drive such things as alternator, power steering, water pump, air conditioning and etc. Check for cracks, abnormal fading, which is indicative of heat and wear and tear. Typically you want to replace these belts every 50,000 to 60,000 miles
If you hear squealing sounds coming from your belts, it is usually indicative of a bad tensioner, which you’d also have to replace. It’s good practice to replace your tensioner while replacing your belts.
Check coolant level – checking your coolant (also known as anti-freeze) frequently (i.e. every few weeks) during the car’s break-in period is good practice, especially if your is more known to consume/dissipate coolant in the early going. After that break-in period, then a periodic check every few months (i.e. 4-6 months) could suffice if everything is going well. Of course, if you drive a lot of miles, then bump up these time frames.
Topping off with a mixture of coolant and distilled water (typically a 50/50 mix) is important to your car’s longevity and ability to keep things cool. It's recommended to use the coolant for your specific make and model, however, there are always third party manufacturer's that make a coolant that will protect and work for your car, such brands as Prestone, Peak, Valvoline, etc.
Power Steering Inspection
Periodically when you pop your hood, visually inspect your power steering reservoir for any leaks. If there’s some residue on the tank, then wipe if off with a napkin or towel and re-inspect within a few days or a week. Flush your power steering about every 40,000-50,000 miles. We know some experts will say a bit more or less, but we’d say it’s safe practice at that interval. All you really need is a turkey baster - or similar of sorts - a quart or two of power steering fluid in order to change your fluid. It’s a pretty simple job for most home mechanics. In many cases, you're siphoning out the old power steering fluid until the power steering reservoir is empty, then re-filling with new, fresh fluid and repeating the process a few times. The level of mechanical expertise required here can easily be done by the starting out home mechanic.
However, here’s a nice, more in depth article on how to change your power steering fluid: https://www.familyhandyman.com/project/how-to-change-power-steering-fluid/
Spark plugs are very crucial to the performance of your engine. Old spark plugs or ones that are misfiring will cause your car to hesitate under acceleration or even cause major “Check Engine” malfunctions, which could result in your having to call a tow truck. Depending on the “performance” level of your car (e.g. it’s a high-performance vehicle) and the type of spark plugs that your car is equipped with your plugs should be changed every 30,000 – 60,000 miles
Windshield Washer Fluid
Changing windshield washer fluid is a relatively straight-forward exercise that most people shouldn’t have a problem doing. Just locate the windshield fluid reservoir container and top-off to the “full” indicator line. Just be careful to not use tap water when filling up the reservoir since dissolved minerals can eventually build in your windshield lines and clog. Use distilled water or an appropriate windshield washing fluid of which there are many to choose from.
- Advanced windshield washer fluid removes bug residue, road grime, bird droppings, and tree sap from windshields
- Power Cleaner penetrates the toughest residues, breaking down and removing up to 99.99 percent of all bugs
- Bug Stopper forms a barrier to help stop bugs, road grime, and other residues from sticking to your windshield
- Water Repellent Advanced Beading repels rain for streak-free driving visibility
- Cleans to a powerful streak-free shine with a fresh citrus scent
Air Conditioning System
If your air-conditioning system is not pushing out cold air, then you could have a leak, something wrong could be with your A/C fan, your AC compressor could be having issues/malfunctioning, or you do not have enough freon. There could also be an electrical issue, but generally speaking, if everything sounds normal and your car is pushing out at least somewhat cool air, then it’s likely the compressor or freon levels.
Many of us have, unfortunately, experienced a dead battery and been stranded at least momentarily. Preventative maintenance is what’s prescribed here, and typically you should look to replace your battery every 4-5 years. If you live in very cold or very hot climates, then you should replace your battery much sooner, as in at least a year sooner. If your vehicle is parked an not used for prolonged amounts of time, then your battery will not as long either, especially if you do not use a trickle charger (link to a car trickle charger: ). When car’s are parked and not used for weeks at a time, they’ll lose battery charge and, at the same time, the longevity of your battery will decrease. A trickle charger can keep your battery “topped off” when you have your car sitting for a prolonged amount of time, especially if you leave your car parked (without actually driving it during those spans). Ultimately, it will increase the longevity of your car's battery as a result.
A very good trickle charger are one's made by NOCO.
- Meet the GENIUS1 - Similar to our G750, just better. It's 35% smaller and delivers 35% more power. It's the all-in-one solution - battery charger, battery maintainer, trickle charger, plus battery desulfator.
- Do more with Genius - Designed for 6-volt and 12-volt lead-acid automotive, marine, RV, powersport, and deep-cycle batteries, including flooded, gel, AGM, and maintenance-free, plus lithium-ion batteries.
- Enjoy precision charging - An integrated thermal sensor detects the ambient temperature and alters the charge to eliminate over-charging in hot climates and under-charging in cold climates.
- Charge dead batteries - Charges batteries as low as 1-volt. Or use the all-new force mode that allows you to take control and manually begin charging dead batteries down to zero volts.
- Restore your battery - Automatically detects battery sulfation and acid stratification to restore lost battery performance for stronger engine starts and extended battery life.
LED Lighting: A lot of modern cars now sport LED lighting technology, which typically emit a good amount of light, are low maintenance that will not likely require changing (we’re talking 15,000 hours of use! Or, in other words, 5-8 years of use) during the time of your ownership.
Changing LEDs may require some work to remove an error code when you remove your LEDs, typically through your car’s OBD port (it's basically a connection port usually located in the driver side footwell area) via an OBD tool/scanner, however, the lights are typically plug and play. It is recommended that you disconnect your battery when working on replacement of the lighting source, which, coincidentally, might give you the error code that you have to clear out via an OBD tool. However, more than likely the code will clear out as long as the lights are working properly. Not to get side-tracked away from headlights, but we'll talk more about OBD scanning tools later in this article (at the bottom) since they can perform a lot of functions and help read out any error codes or clear any error/maintenance codes you may feel need clearing.
Finding LED light replacement for your specific vehicle will likely require you to either purchase from your local dealership, a third party website specializing in parts for your vehicle or a local independent shop.
Xenon (HID): Some cars may have HID (high intensity discharge) xenon lighting bulbs, which are "bulbs" that electrically ignite a xenon gas inside said “bulb” – and those typically will last quite some time as well, as in 4-5 years of use. Xenon lighting is typically the brightest in terms of illumination. The downsides to xenon lighting is that they’re a bit expensive to replace.
Changing Xenon bulbs are somewhat similar to halogen bulbs. Failure of a xenon bulb may be due to the bulb itself or the ballast which helps ignite the bulb. Xenon bulbs through years of use will start to yellow in color; meaning, you'll notice that the light emitted from your car will be more yellowish in color than when it was originally new and emitting a very bright white in color. Changing out the old bulb(s) will restore the bright white lighting it’s supposed to emit.
Finding xenon lighting replacement for your specific vehicle will be similar to LEDs and likely require you to either purchase from your local dealership, a third party website specializing in parts for your vehicle or a local independent shop.
Halogen: Some other cars may have your H7 halogen bulbs that will last anywhere between a year to 3 years. Halogen bulbs have been around for a long time and typically you can find halogen bulbs that will work for your car at the local auto store. Changing out halogen bulbs are a simple plug and play which you simply access typically through the back of the headlight housing, pushing in the bulb with very slight pressure (think a child proof lid) while counter clock-wise turning the bulb out and replacing with a new bulb, installing via a clockwise turn while simultaneously pushing down with slight pressure.
While most people drive with their original shocks for 100,000 miles plus, the true, effective lifespan of your shocks is about 4-5 years, or about 50-60,000 miles. Meaning, if you care about how your shocks perform as it was intended to from the factory, then replacing your shocks at about 50,000-60,000 miles is ideal.
Yes, the same springs joined at the hips to your shocks... Assuming your springs aren’t rusting or corroding, then your springs should and can last the lifetime of your vehicle. A simple inspection at all four corners will suffice.
If your car’s handling seems mushy and you can sense some movement in the suspension joints, it could be your control arm bushings need replacement, which are typically made of a hard rubber or polyurethane and which definitely impact your driving comfort and handling. Since control arm bushing are basically made of rubber they will wear and crack through time due to movement – forward and rearward movement - and heat/cold temps. You'll have to purchase these either through your dealership, independent mechanic or a third party retailer with the latter two very likely being the cheapest options.
Tie rods are yet another element that is a part of your suspension and, basically, help your car steer and track straight. If you hear clunking noises emanating from your suspension area, uneven tire wear, poor vehicle alignment, then your tie rods may need replacing. Expect tie rods to costs in the neighborhood of $60-140 for the set of two, parts-wise. Many times you can feel some “play” in worn/bad tie rods when you pull on them, as they should be tight with your suspension. Depending on the vehicle you can sometimes visually and physically access the tie rods by turning your steering wheel all the way to the left of right.
Installing tie rods do require some confidence and know how, as you’ll be jacking up your car, removing your tires and having to remove the tie rods for replacement.
Sway Bar Linkages
Your car’s sway bar linkages help with how your car reacts to your steering wheel inputs when, especially when you confidently turn your steering wheel left or right. The good news about these linkages is that they should definitely last the general lifetime of ownership of your car and shouldn’t require any maintenance outside of greasing the joints on the sway connect points should squeaks ever develop.
Braking and Tires:
The brake rotors are the discs that your brake pads press against to help stop your car. Through mileage wear (stopping your car's inertia) and heat (from said braking) your brake rotors will eventually "wear" down. Typically, you should replace your rotors every 30,000-50,000 miles, but much of that is dependent on your driving style (i.e. how frequently you’re braking and the intensity of your braking). The best way to determine if your rotors need replacing are to measure the remaining width of the rotors as compared to the OEM specifications and recommendations to changing them at a certain wear level.
A lot of modern cars nowadays either have brake wear sensors of sorts that will notify you of the necessity to replace either through a notification icon that's lit up on your dash to notifying you via your onboard computer screen.
Changing your rotors is a job that a home mechanic can tackle, however, it does require some level of research prior to doing the job. While you're changing your brake rotors it's also a good practice to "flush" your brake fluid, or, at the very least, inspecting your brake fluid to insure it's in fair enough condition.
For more in-depth information on what it could entail for a brake rotor replacement, this is a good article
Your brake pads press against your brake rotor(s) to slow/stop your vehicle via a piston in your brake caliper. Per directly above (the brake rotors section), while you’re checking your rotors you should definitely check how much brake pad material you have left, according to your car manufacturer’s specifications. The car manufacturer typically makes measurement recommendations based on millimeters (mm). In most cases you can see how much brake caliper "material" you have left by viewing at your calipers directly from behind your wheels when your car is stationary.
In general brake pads need to be changed every 40,000 – 50,000 miles, however, the environment of which your drive (i.e. is it a lot of stop and go driving?) and your driving habits will also impact this suggestion (i.e. do you find yourself braking hard often?)
Per the above (brake pads, brake rotors), you should generally flush and change your brake fluid while you’re swapping out those components, unless the brake fluid is very new. In general you should change your brake fluid every 2 years at minimum, and you should inspect your brake fluid to see if it’s very dark in color and dirty every 6 months by unscrewing the cap to your brake fluid reservoir and visually inspecting it. Your brake fluid, which when new can be a red/yellow/blue/etc color, is responsible for moving the various components of your vehicle’s braking system. The fluid operates under high temperatures and high pressure and, without it, your car or truck would not be able to stop when you push the brake pedal inside your vehicle.
Dirty brake fluid or one that is too much water introduced into the system will degrade your braking and the overall feel of your braking. Brake fluid is hygroscopic, which means it absorbs water from the environment, and water into your brake fluid will lower its boiling point potential, which leads to degraded performance, so it’s important to check and change your brake fluid, per your manufacturer’s recommendation.
Check Tire Tread
Tread wear – checking your tires for overall wear and the its “wear pattern” is a fairly simple task and just requires you get up close to your tires to see how much life is left in your tires and if should think about getting an alignment should some of your tires wear thin in some areas, such as the inside of the tire.
If you’re not sure how much tread you should have left before considering replacing your tire, there’s the infamous George Washington quarter technique which entails you placing a US quarter directly into the tread with George Washington’s head being placed upside down. If the top of Washington’s head is covered in tread, then you’re ok. If not, depending on the severity of the wear, then you’ll either have to replace the tire soon or as very soon. Make sure to check all your tires.
It should be noted that should you have a front wheel drive car, then naturally the front tires will tend to wear more quickly than the rears. Conversely, rear wheel drive cars the tires in the rear will wear more quickly than the front set of tires.
Rotating Your Tires
Before rotating your tires you first have to determine if your car is front wheel drive, rear wheel drive or all wheel drive since they’ll have different wear patterns based on their characteristics.
FWD cars (front wheel drive cars): Assuming you purchased all tires at the same time, your front wheel drive car will have the front tires wearing much more quickly than the rear tires since the car is being pulled via the front tires.
RWD cars (rear wheel drive cars): Assuming you purchased your tires at the same time, your rear wheel drive car will have the rear tires wearing at a much quicker rate than the front tires since the rear tires will, in essence, be propelling the car forward via the rear tires.
AWD cars (all wheel drive cars): AWD cars are a bit different. While the AWD cars are capable to putting power to any of the wheels, depending on how the AWD designed to work there will be a bias towards either the front wheels or rear wheels, which is something you should be aware of. If the bias is toward the front, then the front tires will wear quicker and vice versa is the bias is more towards the rear wheels/tires.
Rotating your tires: based on the above, visually inspect your tires every 5,000 miles or so for wear patterns and rotate your tires as needed to get the “most” out of your tires.
Note: if you find one or some of your tires wearing oddly on the inside of the tire or outside of the tire you may need an alignment, especially if you notice that your car doesn’t track in straight line.
Wash and Wax
If you want to keep your paint and clearcoat lasting and not fading for a long time, then you’ll have to ensure you keep your car’s paint clean from contaminants by washing as needed, and, waxing (or polishing) with a good quality wax that will protect against the sun’s harmful UV rays.
If you're looking for good car wash solutions that don't strip too much wax on application and rinse and that do a great job at removing dirt and grime, Meguiar's has a couple of good options, which you can typically also find in retail stores aside from online. In truth, there are a lot of good options out there...
- ONLY ONE STEP: Designed to both clean and condition your car in one easy step
- ADVANCED FORMULA: Cleans without stripping wax protection
- THE BEST CLEAN: Foams away tough dirt, road grime and contaminants
- RADIANT LOOK: Contains ultra-rich conditioners to make your paint look its best
- FOAM CANNON READY: Diverse application allows it to be used in a bucket or in a foam cannon. Dilute 5:1 when used with a foam cannon.
- CLEAR COAT SAFE: Carnauba wax and synthetic polymer technology gently cleans the paint while leaving behind additional wax protection
- DEEP SHINE: Leaves a deep, glossy, just-waxed shine and gently cleans in one easy step
- AMAZING SUDS: Incredible sudsing action safely lifts dirt and grime to minimize swirling
- PAINT MAINTENANCE: The perfect way to clean and shine your car’s paint, as well as boost its protection and glossiness, in between regular waxings
- VERSATILE: Ultimate Wash & Wax is compatible with all Meguiar's washes and waxes. And it’s pH neutral so it won't strip wax while it cleans
In terms of wax/polish, there are so many options in the marketplace, however, we're partial to waxes that have pure carnauba wax, of which there are several options from known companies, such as Mother's, Griot's Garage, and Meguiar's as well as from some reputable up and coming companies such as Chemical Guys. We find carnauba wax to provide a slightly shinier finish the majority of the times, as well as seemingly lasting longer after application as compared to the synthetic sealants out there. Again, that's in our experience having used several synthetics as compared to carnauba, however, your experience may differ.
Windshield wipers, in general will last you about a year, however, a lot of that depends on whether your car is exposed to very hot or cold climates, which would impact the longevity of the wipers. If you notice that your wipers are not completely wiping water off your windshield and leaving streaks, then it may be time to replace your wipers.
Should you spend a bit more money and purchase wiper blades that are longer lasting with more premium rubber material, such as a Bosch Icon wiper blade, then you may go up to 40-50% longer without changing your wiper blades. We've had the chance to use Bosch's Icon wipers on a few vehicles and have found that the wipers do hold up to their claims, which means they wipe water well and last longer than OEM wiper blades, although Bosch Icon blades do "look" a little different than your OEM style blades, which to us was negligible, but we understand that folks who want a certain OEM look may beg to differ. We've also heard that Rain-X brand wiper blades work very well, too, at significantly lower cost, however, we have not had the chance to test and review them.
The main things to lookout for in your exhaust system - periodically - are signs of rust on the exhaust system itself and smoke that comes out of the tailpipe.
Exhaust system – you mainly want to pay attention to signs of rust, however, if you live and drive in an area that doesn’t have too much rain, snow, salt on the road – for the most part – you shouldn’t generally be too worried.
White smoke – if there’s black smoke or white smoke coming out of your exhaust, then that’s an indication of bigger issues from your engine. White smoke could mean that you have coolant leaking into the combustion chamber. Or, it could be blown head gasket or a crack in your cylinder head. Either way you’d want to have it checked out, especially if it’s accompanied by a check engine light (aka a CEL).
Black smoke – black smoke usually means a rich condition, as in your car is burning/receiving too much fuel in relation to air mixture, which will invariably hurt your car’s performance and affect other things such as your spark plugs (i.e. fouling your spark plugs), creating issues for your catalytic converter, and poor fuel economy. At times you’ll get a little black smoke on start up, which can be normal; however, if it’s excessive, get it checked out with a specialist.
Cabin Air Filter
These filters exist to purify the air coming into your car’s cabin. These filters are usually very easy to replace and typically located near the firewall of your engine bay. Most of the time these cabin filters are held in place by some twist/pop-off screws and can be replaced in a few minutes time. They usually costs anywhere from $15-70 on average, depending on the make/model of the car. You’ll generally look to replace them once a year should you drive between 10,000 – 20,000 miles a year. If your car’s cabin air generally smells fine, you can go longer without replacement.
OBD Scanning Tools
To have a higher ability to perform maintenance for your modern car you should highly consider some sort of On-board Diagnostics (OBD) tool via the car’s OBD port, which is usually located on the driver’s side footwell area. An OBD diagnostic reader can allow you “read” any error codes or other issues that your car may be experiencing, such as when your car may suffer sever stuttering on acceleration, followed by the dreaded Check Engine Light (CEL) - that's when you would plug in the OBD tool. If there's a CEL illuminated on your dash, then your OBD scanner will read back and display on the screen what it finds (i.e. an engine misfire in cylinder #3, etc).
If there's no CEL illuminated and you just want to test on the OBD tool, you can also "test" things out that way to get familiar with the tool. If there’s nothing wrong, then you’re good and can sleep tight!
A decent OBD reading device can costs anywhere between $50-150 and can come very much in handy when you’re scratching your head wondering what’s going on with your car when there's a Check Engine Light (CEL). I/We have personally used OBD scan tools for over 15 years and find them not only great for diagnosing, but for peace of mind.
Below are 2 popular OBD scanning tools that will plug right into your car's OBD port
- MORE CODES: To understand the problem with your vehicle you need the complete picture. With an up-to-date modern scan tool, you scan deeper to read, understand, and clear more codes. Access information normally only available to professional mechanics on their most expensive scan tools.
- REAL FIXES: Get unlimited vehicle specific Repair Reports, generated from our database of millions of fixes verified by Professional Automotive Technicians. Save time and money.
- NO CORDS: All the capabilities of an expensive scan tool (extended vehicle coverage, live data, etc.) combined with the power and convenience of your smartphone or tablet. No cords, no subscriptions, and regular free updates.
- LIVE DATA: View live data and monitor your vehicle’s health in real time. Configure the data sources, customize your view with various displays and colours, and log and export live data as a file.
- BlueDriver is proudly American owned and is the OBD2 Diagnostic Scan Tool trusted by professional mechanics and developed and supported by Professional Engineers.
- 【Vehicle CEL Doctor】The NT301 obd2 scanner enables you to read DTCs, locate bad O2 sensors, access to emissions readiness status, turn off CEL(check engine light) or MIL, reset monitor, read live data and retrieve VIN of your vehicle.
- 【Accuracy & Streams】Live data graphing and logging. Accurately read error codes for most Worldwide cars, SUVs, light trucks and 12V diesels equipped with Obd2. Graphing live vehicle sensors data allows you to focus on any suspicious data and trend.
- 【Worthy to Own】Recommended by Mechanic Scotty Kilmer on Youtube. Codes analysis and Printer compatible. Unique PATENTED design, 2.8" color screen, Free Lifetime Update and 1-year seller assurance with EXCLUSIVE tech and service team.
- 【Smog Check Helper】Read/Erase and I/M readiness hotkeys make it easy to use the car computer reader right out of the package. Red-Yellow-Green Leds and build-in speaker indicate the readiness status for confident emissions test.
- 【Home Necessity】Open to global customers. No battery required, NT301 obd scanner is charged directly from the 16pin DLC in your vehicle. It is recommended as a necessity in your toolbox and one of the best gifts for Home and Autoshop Mechanics.
Good luck and enjoy your car!
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