August 01, 2006

You know another thing I love?

Or at least like a whole bunch? The Internet.

I don’t know if you’ve ever used that thing before, but good grief it’s nice to have around. ESPECIALLY when you’re doing car repair. Reba’s Focus had the ‘check engine’ light come on again, and I figured it was just the same thing as it has been in the past--something to do with a faulty temperature sensor that didn’t really mess up anything important. However, this time she said she had a problem with it idling, then stopping. It would crank right back up, and would run fine on the road, but it sort of sputtered when parked for a few minutes.

Last night when I went to pick up Jonathan from his Scout meeting, I decided to swing by the Autozone at the foot of the hill and let them hook up their code reader and give me a printout of what it says. This is another one of those nice things that I really am in deep likefulness with--if you took a car to the dealer or a shop, you pretty much have to expect getting whacked with a $50 charge to download the fault code from the computer. Something parts stores now are able to do for you for free.

Which I had done. Takes about five minutes, which includes about a minute fumbling around in the dark finding the onboard diagnostic port. Went back inside and the parts guy (a cute young redhead named Lisa) plugged in the code reader to the printer and I got a printout:

(System too lean Bank 1)

Now, here’s the deal--unless you know what that means, you are still pretty much out of luck when it comes to fixing the thing. Even though I’ve worked on a lot of cars, I still couldn’t begin to figure out where to start fixing this, because there are about a gazillion things that can cause a lean reading. I could go to the library and look around some to figure it out, or maybe find it in a shop manual, but the Internet has revolutionized the process of looking things up. I plugged in those terms, and found out in about five seconds that there’s a whole website devoted to deciphering fault codes.

Which I did--as you can see here, the Focus’ stumble could be fixed with something as simple as installing a new crankcase vent and hose. There are some more involved things that might need fixing, but at least now I know what all it COULD be, and am able to choose the easiest and cheapest things to look for first that I can do myself, BEFORE having to give up and rely upon a repair shop to fix it.

The Internet is really cool.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at August 1, 2006 11:29 AM

So, did you find the codes for a 1973 Spitfire?

Posted by: steevil (Dr Weevil's bro Steve) at August 1, 2006 11:53 AM

All those secrets will be revealed in my upcoming new book, "The Lucas Code."

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at August 1, 2006 12:24 PM

Only $50? I don't think I want to think about what we pay the mechanic every time they hook our Volvo up to a machine. Can you hook Volvos up to the Autozone machine?

Posted by: Jordana at August 1, 2006 03:33 PM

Oh, that's just to read the code, Jordana--they then have to fix it, which costs a BUNCH MORE!

As for reading the code on them, possibly so, if your car is made after 1988 when the OBD-I standard was adopted. Earlier than that and you might have to rely on something from the Volvo dealer.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at August 1, 2006 04:00 PM

Ours is a 1987 built 1988 model, so it might work. And don't I know that that's just the price of hooking it up, not fixing it. Only I think our mechanic charges $90 to look at the codes on the machine.

Posted by: Jordana at August 1, 2006 04:26 PM

Great gravy Marie! But yes, if it's an '88, it has an OBD-I port somewhere on it, and one of the parts places like Autozone ought to be able to plug into it and at least give you some idea of what's wrong.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at August 1, 2006 04:42 PM