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How To Save Money On Car Maintenance With An OBD-II Scanner

Emission Time welcomes guest blogger Tim Miller, an avid car mechanic and founder of Obdadvisor.com. Tim offers useful tips for automotive maintenance using OBD scanners. Let’s get started! 


car maintenance guest blogComputers are working their way into everything around us, including our cars. While this makes life a bit more complicated, it can also work to save you a lot of money when it comes to fixing your car. By picking up a cheap OBD-II scanner, you can diagnose, research, and repair many common car issues without spending a lot of money or visiting a mechanic.

What’s OBD2? Does My Car Have It?

OBD-II (or OBD2) is a special format that your car uses to talk to electronic devices. OBD stands for “onboard diagnostics,” while the 2 means that this is the modern format that’s been used universally since 1996. Every car that’s been built since the introduction of OBD-II has a plug that can be hooked up to an OBD-II scanner. This allows the car’s sensors and computers to talk to your scanner and give you information about any car problems that you have.

What is An OBD2 Scanner?

On the surface, OBD-II scanners give you diagnostic information and error codes. Your car is equipped with lots of sensors that monitor key parts of the engine, drivetrain, and fuel system. When your car thinks it’s in need of maintenance, it’ll pull data from all of these sensors, turn on the check engine light, and begin outputting error codes through the OBD-II port. You can use a scanner to retrieve these codes, figure out what the problem is, and then reset your check engine light when you’ve fixed it.

Are OBD-II Scanners Just For Error Codes?

While it’s less universal, many newer cars also use their OBD-II port to govern hidden user settings. You can change how the lock button on your key dongle behaves, for example. Most cars only lock or unlock the driver’s side door on the first press. On several vehicles, you can use an OBD-II device to change that and make your dongle lock or unlock all of the doors immediately.

How Do I Use An OBD-II Scanner?

These days, the easiest way to use an OBD-II scanner is to hook it up to your phone. While standalone scanners exist, they’re much less convenient than Bluetooth or wireless models that connect to your phone without any cords at all.

Once you’ve found an OBD-II scanner you like, download a compatible app to your phone and plug it into your car’s OBD-II port. This port is usually located below the steering wheel on the driver’s side of your car, although the exact location varies. Once you turn your car on, the scanner will begin to work.

As soon as your car is on, navigate to your OBD2 app and connect to your scanner via Bluetooth or WiFi. From there, follow the on-screen interface to retrieve or reset error codes, view manufacturer-specific diagnostics, clear your check engine light, and more. It’s really that easy. You’ll be able to do everything you need from within the app!
What Do I Do With Error Codes?

Your OBD-II scanner gives you access to a lot of diagnostic information. Depending on the app you use and the error code you receive, however, it can be difficult to turn that information into a working solution that fixes your car.

The first thing you should do with any error code you get is Google it. By plugging as much information as you can into a search engine (the make, model, and year of your car, the error code, and even a short description of your problem), you’ll usually find information that’ll help you fix things. Most of the time, you’ll get the most information out of sites where other people have asked for help with similar problems. Browsing the solutions presented can give you a good idea about how to fix your car and how much time and money it will take.

Does Every OBD-II Scan Tool Read Codes From Every Car?

Your car outputs two types of trouble codes. “P0” codes are basic, universal issues, while “P1” codes are specific to certain makes and models of vehicles.

You don’t need to pair a scan tool to a specific vehicle, however. Any tool that reads P1 codes from any car will read P1 codes from your car. Be sure to get a scanner that gives you the ability to read all trouble codes, including manufacturer specific ones. Make sure your scanner can read diagnostic information and can reset codes as well.

What’s the Difference Between Trouble Codes and Diagnostics?

A trouble code is a recorded message from your car that can give you an idea of what’s going wrong. While these codes are a valuable tool for diagnosing car issues, they don’t present a complete picture. A lot of the time, they’re not specific enough for you to immediately figure out what your problem is.

Diagnostics are slightly different. Your car has dozens of sensors hooked up to important internal components. An OBD-II scanner can allow you to retrieve information from these sensors in real time. This helps you diagnose problems in detail as they occur. You can view fuel pressure, the temperatures of individual engine components, and much, much more. All of this information can help you pinpoint the cause and location of your car troubles in just a few minutes.

How Far Can You DIY?

Not every error code can be fixed easily in your own garage. Some car problems will require expensive tools, parts, and equipment to fix. When is it a good idea to fix the problem yourself and when should you involve a mechanic?

There’s no real limit to how far you can go on your own. If you’ve got experience working with cars, the right tools, and a couple of friends who can help, you can fix virtually any car issue on your own. On the other hand, if you’re less experienced, you don’t have tools, and you’re on your own, you should think carefully before you invest too much time, energy, or money into fixing your car yourself.

There are a couple important points to consider. First, your car is probably pretty important. If you plug in your scanner and the internet thinks that repairing your car will be difficult, you might want to call a professional immediately. You don’t want to accidentally make things worse or spend days working on a problem that would take a mechanic a few hours to fix. Instead, let a professional handle things so that you can have a working car as fast as possible.

Second, consider cost. If the solution you uncover seems like it’s expensive, call a mechanic and ask how much it would cost for them to fix your car. If it’s cheaper than buying the parts on your own, you should probably take the car in immediately.

Finally, safety should be a concern. If your fix requires that you do anything you’re not comfortable with (like using a jack or power tools you’re inexperienced with), you should proceed with caution. Contact a friend or family member with more experience or call a mechanic and get an estimate. You definitely don’t want to injure yourself by diving in too deep.

While this might sound like you can’t get very far on your own, in many cases it’s easy for people with no car expertise to fix their own problems. Purchasing an OBD-II scanner and researching your problem allows you to make an informed decision about how to proceed for just a few bucks. Plus, if you ever have another car problem, you’ll still have the scanner.

Beware of Cheap Diagnostic Tools

OBD-II scanners are always helpful, but they’re not all created equal. Some manufacturers make basic tools that only can read P0 error codes. These scanners can’t access more advanced P1 codes or read all of the diagnostic information that your car has to offer. Make sure that the scanner you purchase is fully functional and can read all codes and information that your car outputs.

OBD-II Scanners Can Save You Thousands Of Dollars

If you’ve got a car problem, it’s always a good idea to be informed. OBD-II scanners allow you to research your problem at home and find out more about it. In a lot of cases, you’ll be able to cheaply order parts off of the internet and perform an easy fix yourself that will solve all of your issues. Even if you can’t, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision at the mechanic and you’ll have a scanner you can use in the future to help with other issues in other cars. Over a few years, you can save hundreds or thousands of dollars by fixing small issues yourself and staying informed about your car’s maintenance issues.

About the author

Car Mechanic Guest Blogger
I’m Tim Miller, an automotive mechanic and blogger from Denver, Colorado. I’m the founder of obdadvisor.com, an automotive blog about OBD2 scan tools. My fanpage is facebook.com/autozikcom.
I’ve had over 10 years experience in car repair and using OBD scanners.
Some of my review articles about car diagnostic tools can be found on my own website obdadvisor.com

Guest Blog | Automotive & Vehicle Care

Smog Station Quick Inspection Smoky Exhaust Pipe

Automotive Guest Blog Guidelines


We accept content that is about the automotive industry. Please note that it may take 2 weeks for us to get back to you. Once we review your content, we’ll send you an email. In some cases, we may make edits and adjustments concerning SEO. To be considered for a blog post, please follow these guidelines:

  1. Automotive maintenance
  2. Products related to automotive care as long as it doesn’t compete with our products.
  3. Gadgets & apps relevant to vehicles.
  4. Car insurance- If you can provide sound insurance advice related to vehicles, we are happy to promote your content.
  5. Automotive dealerships- Want to talk about the latest cars in stock? If you have useful information to our customers, we are happy to promote it!
  6. Content must be a minimum of 400 words.
  7. Content must be original- it cannot be posted online anywhere else.
  8. We don’t accept overly promotional content.
  9. Maximum of one link to external website.
  10. Images must be referenced.

  1. If you have another idea related to the vehicle industry, we are happy to hear from you! Please submit guest posts to medomino4@gmail.com and title the subject line guest post

Oil Change Service Salt Lake City

The Best 10-minute oil change near you | Salt Lake City

Why are oil changes important?

Oil changes regulate engine temperature, remove impurities and prevent metal to metal contact. The result is a better performing engine. In addition, oil changes are preventative maintenance that extends the life of your vehicle by keeping the engine clean.

Make an appointment for an oil change in Salt Lake City or Sandy

What is the difference between new and old oil?

It’ time for an oil change if you notice debris in your oil. Your engine’s oil should be clear and be fluid. If the oil consistency is too thick and similar to mud, you will not only need an oil change but an engine flush. The color of oil indicates its oxidation level. The quality of your car’s engine oil is indicated by color. Most new engine oils are originally amber in color. If the engine oil is dark in color in conjunction with a thicker consistency, that could be due to contamination. Keep in mind that some additives create a darker color. If your vehicle’s engine oil is lighter than amber, it could be due to adulteration with a water source.

Oil Change Coupons | Salt Lake City 10-minute oil change

Compared to costly engine repairs, Emission Time has oil change coupons and low prices. Emission Time’s synthetic oil helps regulate vehicle temperature in Utah’s extreme climate. Whether you own a Honda, Mercedes, Subaru or diesel, Emission Time offers customized oil changes, too. Just ask your technician. Visit an Emission Time near you for the best express quick lane oil change! For $24.99, Emission Time offers synthetic oil change with a new filter.  

Emission Time is the best place to get an oil change. Emission Time has two oil change stations near you in Salt Lake City and Sandy, Utah:

Sandy Utah Oil Change Station 

Salt Lake City Oil Change Station

 

 

 

10 facts about Utah’s Inversion and Car Emissions

Utah is not only known as a ski destination but for its inversion. If you don’t drive a fuel-efficient or hybrid car, there are ways you can lower your car’s emissions and lower your exposure to air pollution. Inversions happen when warm air traps the cold air, which in turn traps pollution. If outdoor air quality is poor, stay indoors and get an air purifier. Find out about Utah’s air quality.

10 facts about car emissions and Utah’s inversion:

Schedule an emissions test & safety inspection

1- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that half of all air pollution is caused by automobiles.

2- Car emissions that contribute to Utah’s inversion include ozone and carbon monoxide.

3- People who are most sensitive to ozone air pollution include asthmatics and those who suffer from Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

4- Ways you can reduce exposure to ozone pollution: If possible, only go outdoors when ozone levels are typically lower in the morning and evening. Unlike the inversion, ozone levels are higher when it’s hot and sunny.

5- Nitrogen and sulfur oxides cause acid rain.

6- Acid rain occurs when acid components enter the atmosphere through precipitation. The pH of acid rain is low and is particularly devastating to forests and lakes.

7- Acidity is not only found in rain but snow, hail, fog and even dust.

8- Want to find out if your rain is acidic? Keep a cup outside above ground to avoid contamination from dirt and use litmus paper to test pH levels. If the substance has a pH of 7 then it is neutral. Typically, unadulterated rain has a pH between 6-5.5 and pH greater than 7 is acidic and less than 7 is basic.

9- Ogden’s worst day for air pollution isn’t in the winter, but July 4th. Fireworks produce lots of air polluting particulate matter. Try to limit the amount  of fireworks if possible or go to a parade or show instead.

10- Reduce your vehicle’s emissions by using gasoline additives that keep your carburetor and intake valves clean. In addition, have your vehicle’s air filter changed every 10,000 miles to prevent contaminants from reducing engine efficiency. If your vehicle has poor gas mileage, produces a loud noise when driving or has vibrating gas pedals, it’s time to get a smog test!

 

Auto AC Check

Automotive AC Inspection | Emission Time Offers a FREE Vehicle AC Check

Summer is approaching and before the heat gets too intense, get your vehicle’s AC unit inspected at Emission Time at no cost to you.  Find out how the main automobile AC components help you stay cool in the summer:

  • Compressor- The compressor compresses the refrigerant and passes heat to the evaporator. If you notice that air is not blowing out of the vents, your compressor may be the issue. The compressor itself has multiple parts that can cause it to stop working. If you notice that your AC is leaking refrigerant, the compressors seals may need to be replaced. Please note that refrigerant should be handled with caution as it can get cold enough to cause frostbite.
  • The refrigerant carries the heat. If air is coming out of your vent, but it isn’t cold air, then you may be low on refrigerant.
  • The condenser and evaporator are like two radiators. Whereas the condenser expels heat, the evaporator transfers heat to the refrigerant.
  • The receiver/dryer is a filter that removes moisture and debris.

Schedule an appointment online at our Sandy or Salt Lake City Shops.

Salt Lake And Sandy Utah Smog Station Quick InspectionHow to help your car pass emissions

Preparing for your emissions test will save you time and money in the long run. Getting regular maintenance will prevent your vehicle from having major issues in the future. If your vehicle is already having issues, fix the problem before getting your emissions tested. Certain issues to watch out for include the devious check engine light.

Even battery charge issues can cause issues with a vehicle’s smog check. If your battery caused your vehicle’s computer to lose power, then its internal self test monitors could have been erased. These self test monitors are part of your emission inspection. In order to restore your emissions monitors, you will need to drive for over a week or between 100-200 miles to be on the safe side. Prior to a smog check, make sure your car is fueled 30-70 full and inflate your tires. These two simple tasks will make your car run more smoothly during the test and having a full tank of gas will give a clear reading on emission monitors.

Lastly, get a fuel injector cleaning service to clean carbon deposits in your engine’s intake and exhaust. Getting your fuel injection line cleaned will ultimately lower your emission levels, which will help you pass emissions. In addition, fuel injection cleaning will improve engine improving combustion and increase engine performance. Yes to better gas mileage!

 

 

What is On the Spot Renewal?

On the Spot Renewal | Utah’s DMV Registration Program

DMV inspection Station

We have two DMV inspection stations: Sandy and Salt Lake City

On the Spot Renewal is a program issued by Utah Division of Motor Vehicles. The program allows emission and inspection stations to issue full DMV renewals as well as 15-day temporary permits. Once your vehicle passes the Safety Inspection and Emission Test, you can complete your annual vehicle registration renewal and receive your new license plate stickers at Emission Time.

Did you fail your emission & safety inspection?

If you failed your inspection, you do have options. Salt Lake County offers a Vehicle Repair Assistance Program to qualifying low-income residents. To get started with the application, please visit Salt Lake County Vehicle Repair Assistance Program.  Visit the above site to also find out if your vehicle is under an emission warranty or if you can waive your repairs.

 

 

The Truth about Fuel Treatment Products

Fuel Additives

Fuel treatment and additive products are everywhere. You have probably seen the commercials and magazine ads, and, if you’ve recently visited the auto parts store, the huge fuel additive displays. Each one makes bold claims, promising to reduce emissions, improve gas mileage and get your whites cleaner. Many of these claims are suspect, however. Recently, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission compelled one additive company to provide refunds to consumers who purchased their worthless fuel treatment product.* Read on to learn more about fuel additives.

Fuel Injector Cleaners

Most cars today have fuel injectors rather than carburetors, so you may wonder about the products designed to clean injectors. Most newer cars feature what are called gasoline direct fuel injectors (GDIs), which are located within the combustion chamber. This location can mean trouble for injectors, however, and buildup is essentially a given. Removing this buildup requires a specialized service procedure for GDIs. If your car has the previous-generation port fuel injectors, some high-grade additives containing PEA are shown to be somewhat effective at removing deposits.

Fuel System Cleaning Products

Fuel system cleaners are designed to clean the entire system, not just the injectors. Those components include (if applicable for your car) carburetors, intake valves, ports and combustion chambers. These all-purpose additives can range from $10 to well over $100, and most have no scientific basis for their claims. Most car-care professionals advise against using these products if you already have a problem, but believe that some of the better ones are useful as a preventive treatment if you put a lot of miles on your vehicle.

When You Should Use Fuel Additives

If you don’t drive your car often, or if you have a vehicle that you only use on occasion, fuel stabilizer products will help prevent your gas from becoming stale. If your goal is to improve gas mileage, however, skip the additives and instead focus on keeping your tires properly inflated, your air filter clean and your wheels properly aligned. If you have an older car, additives can help reduce carbon buildup if you use them consistently. If you have a problem with water in your gasoline, look for a treatment containing the ingredient PIB, which is known to help remove water. The ingredient known as PEA contains nitrogen and is regarded as the one additive that can provide some degree of fuel system cleaning.

Providing car care services, safety inspections and on-the-spot registration renewal stickers in the Sandy and Salt Lake City areas, Emission Time provides the high-quality service that will keep your car running strong year after year. Visit Emission Time today for speedy, professional service. While you’re there, ask whether fuel treatment may be helpful for you.

Get to Know Your Friend the Air Filter

Air Filter

Your car’s air filter may seem innocuous, but it’s actually important for many reasons. The air filter plays a key role in the efficient operation of your vehicle, so it’s important to keep it clean. A dirty air filter can cause a variety of problems and even result in a mechanical breakdown. Once you understand how the filter works and where it’s located, you’ll always be able to tell if it’s dirty and even handle the replacement yourself if you prefer.

What Your Air Filter Does

Situated somewhere at the top of your engine compartment is a square-shaped air cleaner assembly. If you remove the top of the cleaner assembly, you will see that the filter sits right inside. Below the filter is a long plastic hose. Air is pulled in through the filter, down the tube and into the engine where it mixes with fuel. In very simple terms, if your car is idling, at a stop light for example, little air is necessary. The more you accelerate, however, the more air is needed to run the engine. The important thing to remember is that every bit of air that’s pulled in must pass through the air filter before reaching the engine.

Why a Clean Air Filter is Important

Your engine runs on a tightly controlled mixture of fuel and air. In fact, for every gallon of gas, your car needs as much as 10,000 gallons of air. A dirty filter restricts the flow of air, depriving your engine and causing it to run poorly. The result can be poor gas mileage, reduced acceleration, poor engine performance and excess emissions. It can even reduce the life of your engine components. For all the critical services they provide, air filters are actually quite cost-effective. You will save by money by changing them every three to six months. In fact, many drivers replace them with every oil change.

How to Know if Your Air Filter is Dirty

The dirt and debris that contribute to clogging up a filter accumulate over time. Living or driving in an area where there’s lots of dust, such as near a construction zone, can cause it to become dirty more quickly, as can doing a lot of driving. Under normal conditions, most cars require a filter change every 15,000 miles, but experts advise checking its condition after 10,000, especially under heavy use. You may notice that your car’s acceleration capabilities have decreased or that your gas mileage is dropping. The easiest way to tell if your filter needs changing is to open the air cleaner and visually inspect it. New, the paper folds are a light color, free from dirt or debris. With use, the light color will darken and you may notice an accumulation of dirt within the folds.

In the Sandy and Salt Lake City areas, Emission Time is committed to keeping your vehicle running smoothly at all times. The experienced technicians can help you with regular maintenance as well as safety inspections and DMV registration renewals. Drop by and talk to them about changing your car’s air filter.

Is a Cracked Windshield Dangerous?

Cracked Windshield

Lots of people drive around with a cracked windshield, which you may have heard is dangerous. So is it? In Utah, you’ll have to replace it before you can pass your next scheduled safety inspection anyway, but you should not wait that long for several reasons. In fact, safety experts recommend having it repaired or replaced immediately, and not to drive the vehicle at all if the crack disrupts your view.

The Risks of a Broken Windshield

It is certainly a hassle to have a broken windshield, but the problems stretch further than your inconvenience. Motor vehicles have windshields to ensure the safety of both driver and passengers, not just to protect them from wind and airborne objects, but also to provide a significant level of structural support for the passenger cabin in the case of a rollover. A tiny rock chip that you repair promptly probably doesn’t pose too much of a threat, but more damage than that, and the original factory seal on the windshield becomes compromised and, along with it, the structural integrity of the glass.

Should You Repair or Replace Your Windshield?

The answers on this vary, depending on whom you ask. The repair people naturally advise you to have the chip repaired. Most experts advise having minor rock chips repaired immediately, before they have a chance to spread. But if the chip blocks your line of sight or if it’s located near any edge, replacement is probably the safer option. Although some shops claim to successfully repair extensive cracks, the reliability of the glass is compromised and your safety is at risk.

Until You Can Replace Your Windshield, Do This.

If the crack disrupts your vision while driving, experts warn that you shouldn’t drive your car. The same thing applies if the crack is longer than 12 inches or if the star is larger in diameter than about an inch. Besides the safety risk, you can also get a traffic ticket for driving with a cracked windshield. It’s also important to keep dirt out of the crack or chip. Place some clear packing tape over it, but only if it isn’t disruptive to your vision.

Keep the windshield out of the sun as well, as ultraviolet light can discolor the cracked area, but more important, heating up the already-weakened glass can cause it to shatter, especially if you crank up the AC or defroster while the windshield is hot. Finally, don’t get your car washed until the replacement is complete.

Emission Time in Sandy and Salt Lake City offers windshield repair along with DMV inspections and renewal stickers on the spot. Call or stop by for a price quote today, before your cracked windshield gets you into hot water.