These days, cars and trucks are more complex than ever. Not only are they jam packed with all of today’s most advanced mechanical components and features, but all of these sophisticated bits of machinery are all interconnected via computerized networks of interrelated car self diagnostic tools. These networks can be very useful in testing and diagnosing problems with your vehicle- but only if you have the right equipment. A lot of times, all this extra sophistication can seem like a great hassle- especially if you’re accustomed to the good old days of muscle-car simplicity where you just replace the part and fire it up. Well, for better or worse, those days are gone.
The good news is there’s plenty of powerful tools available that- with a little bit of time in research- you can learn to perform complex diagnostic functions with that will give you a lot more power over the ins and outs of your car or truck than you would have had otherwise.
These tools will give you the ability to figure out what is going on with your modern computerized vehicle, so that you can get it fixed and get back on the road.
1. Obd2 Scanner
An Obd2 scanner is a diagnostic system that allows onboard computers in cars and trucks to tell you what’s wrong with the vehicle. This car diagnostic tool is used for a range of self-diagnostic and reporting purposes. Unlike the earlier, OBD-I system, the Obd2 system uses the same code designations, communication protocols, and connectors for cars made by all major manufacturers. The standardization has made the previous Obd1 almost completely obsolete.
2. Ignition Tester
Also known as a spark tester, this tool is absolutely indispensable for anything that relies on spark plugs- that means your car. Any time an engine won’t start, it’s possible that the reason is that there is no spark coming from the spark plug to get the engine started. An ignition tester allows you to diagnose the problem so that you don’t go all around your car solving every other problem whether you need to or not.
3. Airbag Tester
As you can imagine, it could be quite problematic to have a non-functional air bag and not know about it until the moment you need it. And naturally, testing your airbag by whacking your bumper with a rubber mallet is not ideal. Fortunately, there is a tool that can tell you whether or not all of the electronic components of your airbag system are working correctly without setting the safety device off.
4. Fuel Pressure Tester
Like a problem with your spark plug, a problem with low fuel pressure can cause your car or truck to fail to start- and if you can’t diagnose the problem directly, then you may have to work on several different things before finally finding the problem. A fuel pressure tester tells you where your vehicle’s fuel pressure is at, whether it’s too high or two low, enabling you to solve the problem straight away.
5. Timing Lights
A timing light is a special automotive stroboscope that mechanics use to set the ignition timing of internal combustion engines that are equipped with a distributor. Modern vehicle engines require timing lights to scan ignition timing accurately so that the timing can be adjusted to the optimal range for your vehicle.
6. Emission Analyzer
In most states, drivers are required to have their vehicles checked for proper exhaust emissions before the vehicle can be tagged and allowed to drive legally on public roads. Even if you are fortunate enough to live in a part of the country where vehicle emissions are not regulated, it still might be good for your conscience to have your emissions tested and adjusted accordingly. These devices are inserted into the exhaust pipe and, in addition to checking your emissions- they can also be used to diagnose a whole host of problems. It can also play an important role in certain safety checks, help with engine tuning, and certain kinds of repairs.
7. Vacuum Tester
A vacuum test is among the simplest diagnostic tools a mechanic can have. With a simple gauge, anyone can gain valuable insight into vacuum leaks, low compression, incorrect timing, and sticking valves just to name a few. You will need to know the vacuum specifications for your engine, and bear in mind that these gauges are adjusted for sea level. That means for every 1,000 feet your location is above sea level, you will need to subtract an inch of vacuum. The simplest check to perform is a running vacuum test. Simply start the engine and let it reach normal operating temperature. Find a vacuum port and connect the gauge. The port should be on the manifold or below the carburetor. It shouldn’t be on the air cleaner, high on top of the carburetor, or on any of the emissions control components.