How Do I Look Up What Different Codes Mean?

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You’re driving your car and everything is going fine when, suddenly, the Check Engine Light comes on. You head home and get out your trusty code reader. You connect it to the OBD II connection under the dash, and the reader displays the code. Now, what does that code mean? You’ve been given a letter or two and a handful of numbers, and possibly even a few words (“cam angle sensor” for instance). What does the code actually mean?

Looking up codes on the internet

The first place you’re likely to turn is the internet. There are tons of websites out there, all promising to help you look up your trouble code and see what it really means. There are a couple of issues here, though.

  • Is it accurate? If you’re looking up diagnostic codes online, what guarantees do you have that the information is accurate? How do you know they’re not just trying to sell you something you may or may not need?

  • How to narrow it down? Most trouble code definitions will tell you the system affected, but not the actual cause of the problem. For instance, a P0100 – Mass or Volume Air Flow Circuit Malfunction code tells you that there’s an issue with the MAF sensor, but has the sensor failed? Is the problem with the wiring? Is the sensor receiving the right voltage?

Looking up codes in manuals

There are manuals available that can walk you through many of the diagnostic codes you’ll pull from your car’s computer, but they’re designed for mechanics (or those with significant mechanical experience), and don’t go into the depth that inexperienced drivers would need in order to accurately diagnose the problem.

Is it really the problem?

You must also consider the fact that the trouble code stored in your car’s computer might have nothing whatsoever to do with the actual problem. For instance, a trouble code with a sensor might not mean that the sensor has failed, but that the wiring harness has been damaged (in this case, replacing the sensor would be a complete waste of both time and money).

The primary thing to remember here is that trouble codes aren’t really the answer. They’re nothing more than a starting point for a professional diagnosis of the actual problem.


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Pardeep

20 years of experience
652 reviews
Pardeep
20 years of experience
Ford Fusion - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Fremont, California
Again 5 star service. And already scheduling him for my next appointment. Highly recommend Pardeep for your car needs.
Chevrolet Camaro - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - San Jose, California
Great knowledgeable mechanic and fast great work. I will use Pardeep and your services again. Thank you

Theodore

15 years of experience
1137 reviews
Theodore
15 years of experience
Toyota Camry - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Everett, Washington
Theodore arrived on time, he did a great job replacing my brakes on my Camry, I will definitely work with him again.
Subaru Outback - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Renton, Washington
We have had previous work done by Theodore. Really appreciate his thoroughness and professionalism!

Matthew

32 years of experience
734 reviews
Matthew
32 years of experience
Jeep Wrangler - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Yorktown, Virginia
We've been using Your Mechanic services for a few years, for a few reasons. The convenience of having an expert mechanic "on-call," the great pricing and transparency for services (saving 10% - 25% at times), most of all Matt is our go-to guy who is highly qualified, knowledgeable in the work and knows how to explain it to us in detail.
Ford F-150 - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Newport News, Virginia
Matt's technical knowledge of his profession is incredible! He is prompt, thorough, friendly, professional, engaging, and completes the job to 100% perfection! Thank you, Matt for the most outstanding auto repair service in all my many years!!!

Jason

31 years of experience
162 reviews
Jason
31 years of experience
Nissan Altima - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - San Mateo, California
Jason was very professional and friendly. He provided extremely honest and helpful advice on issues with my Altima that would require proactive future maintenance.

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