Saturday, June 25, 2011

Scan tools and why you don't need one

Recently I heard an ad on the radio for a product called CarMD that would allow you to save hundreds on car repairs. So being my naturally inquisitive self I decided to see what it actually is. After going to the CarMD website it looks like this device is just an ODB-II scan tool . It is a on the high end of price for one but I wouldn't recommend buying it. Simple fact is that an OBD-II scan tool can be had for less than $30 if you really need one.

So why don't you need one? A number of auto parts stores have loaner tools and will let you use a scan tool free of charge. I know the local O'Reilly Auto Part stores loan out tools usually you can just leave your licence and use the tool in the parking lot, or if you need to take it with you you just leave a deposit (the cost of the scan tool) and get that back when you bring the scan tool back to them. Also I have heard ads stating that Advance Auto Parts also loans out scan tools and will even do the scan for you. There are probably other auto parts stores that will loan out the tool as well but these were the 2 that I know do. The reason that they loan out the tool is simple, it is convenient for you the customer to find out what what the check engine light means. The people behind the counter know what the codes mean and can tell you what part you need to fix your car so they get a sale out of it and you leave a happy customer.

The only reasons that I would recommend purchasing one of these tools would be if there wasn't an auto parts store near me that doesn't loan the out, or I am using one almost every day. I would say that the 2 times a year or so I need to use one I can spare the 15 minute round trip to the auto part store. I don't have any reason to believe that the CarMD produce is a scam, bad product, or a dodgy company, they seem completely legitimate and there isn't anything magical about a scan tool. For the $119.85 they are asking for a scan tool you could buy an inexpensive OBD-II scan tool (they all read the same data) and about 3 shop manuals that will tell you how to fix the problem with your vehicles.

I am not paid by O'Reilly Auto Parts or Advance Auto Parts, I was only used them as examples of companies that loan out the scan tool. Additionally the scan tools I linked to are only examples, I am not endorsing either of them, nor was I paid to provide links to them. The links are provided for example purposes only.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

5 Minute Car Care

Here are some basic car care tasks that take less than 5 minutes each.
  1. Change you wiper blades. Wipe blades wear out and need to be replaced every 6 months to a year. On most vehicles they just clip on. To make this job easier use a slotted screw driver to depress the little tab that holds them in place. The new ones just clip in.
  2. Change your air filter. Air filters need regular replacement so you car can perform at its best. This is a simple task that requires at most a screw driver. 
    1. Open the filter box, sometimes the filter box is held closed by clips, other times by screws
    2. Remove the old filter
    3. put the new filter in
    4. close the box, put the screws back in or redo the clips.
  3. Change you PCV valve if you vehicle has one. When the PCV valve gets plugged your vehicle will smoke a lot because it is sucking up oil.  This is really easy it only takes about 30 seconds and a new PCV valve is usually in the range of $3-$5. 
    1. Find the PCV valve (hint it is in the valve cover on the top of the engine and will look kind of like the new part you just bought)
    2. pull the old PCV valve out of the valve cover
    3. remove the hose attached to the old PCT valve
    4. connect the hose to the new PCT valve
    5. put the new PCV valve in the valve cover
  4. Check you tire pressure. This will maximize your tire life, fuel mileage, and ride quality. The longest part of this fix is going to a gas station if you don't have your own compressor. You will need a tire pressure gauge and if you don't have one buy one it they are a couple of bucks.
    1. Go around to each tire and check the pressure (you can find the correct tire pressure in either your owners manual, on the drivers side door pillar, or the gas door)
    2. add some air if it is low or let some out if it is high, 
    3. recheck and add or remove air as necessary until at the correct pressure.
Doing all of these tasks is cheep, typically you could do all 4 of them for less than $15 if you didn't own anything and needed to buy a screwdriver, and tire pressure gauge.