Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Can I Fix My Car with a Home Code Reader/Scanner?

CodeReader

Most cars today (anything manufactured after 1996, actually) have an onboard computer that stores trouble codes when something goes wrong with a major component in the engine, transmission or emissions system. By connecting a code reader/scanner to the OBD II connection under your dash, a mechanic can “pull the code” and determine what’s going on with the car. Can you do the same thing?

The actual situation

First, understand that, yes, your home code reader/scanner will most likely let you pull the trouble code (in most instances). However, that’s about all you can do, other than clearing the code and resetting the computer to see if the problem happens again.

If you really want to fix your car, you’ll need to know what that trouble code means. While you can use the Internet for some research, there are thousands of possible codes, and many of them are pretty general. They don’t tell a mechanic exactly what’s wrong and what to do about it. It’s a diagnostic tool, not a cure all.

Add to this the fact that all automakers have proprietary codes that can’t be read with a generic scan tool. These can only be pulled and read at an authorized dealership (even parts stores and lube shops that offer free code pulling won’t be able to tell you what these are).

Can you fix your car with a home code reader/scanner?

It’s possible, but you’d need to have some mechanic experience yourself, and access to a database of pretty specific information, as well as possibly access to manuals specific to your vehicle.

For most people, a home code reader is only used to clear the Check Engine Light to see if it comes back. If it does, they take it to a shop. It might be better to skip this purchase and focus on fixing the problem with your car.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

More related articles

P0052 OBD-II Trouble Code: HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1)
P0052 code definition HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1) What the P0052 code means This code is seen when the Engine Control Module (ECM) tries to control the...
P0222 OBD-II Trouble Code: Throttle/Pedal Position Switch/Sensor B Circuit Low Input
P0222 code definition Throttle/Pedal Position Switch/Sensor B Circuit Low Input What the P0222 code means The manufacturer specifies a range of acceptable voltage to be produced from the throttle position...
How to Avoid Back Pain in a Car
If you have back problems, sitting in a car for an extended period of time can be excruciating. Even without back problems, you could experience discomfort and soreness from...


Related questions

Q: Code reader not working.

Hi, issues with the data link connector are common. Most of the time a bad fuse is the culprit. If you have verified the fuse is good, there are other things you can visually inspect before seeking the help of...

Q: Won't change gears p2768

Hello there, this is not an uncommon occurrence. The P2768 code is referencing a fault with the input speed sensor. When this occurs the transmission may suffer during gear changes since the car's computer can not tell it when the...

Q: Fluctuating coolant readings

Hello. Your fluctuating coolant temperature may be caused by a cracked cylinder head or leaking head gasket. It sounds like you have replaced everything else that could be causing this issue. If the head is cracked or the head gasket...