Automotive diagnostic tools are now as essential as a good socket wrench when it comes to car maintenance and repair. Ever since General Motors installed the first onboard diagnostic computer in their pioneering model in the 1980’s, the need for automotive diagnostic software and devices has steadily increased. With the advent of the universal installation of onboard diagnostic computers in all cars made from 1996 onwards, the need for diagnostic scanners has exponentially increased. Now that cars are becoming more and more complex, their dependence on computers to modify and adjust on the fly to keep the whole system functioning at maximum potential has made the car of today vastly superior to those made only a few years before. However, along with all the improvements that computers bring into the automotive industry, it also adds more complexity and host of new problems that require more than just a wrench and screwdriver to fix. This is where vehicle diagnostics comes in. It is the new staple tool to have in the garage. Using these diagnostic scanners, anyone from a professional auto mechanic to an amateur do-it-yourselfer can do faster and more efficient work on any car.
There are various forms of automotive diagnostic tools. The most common and practical is the hand held diagnostic scanners, such as the Actron Global Scanner and the Code Scout AX2500. These hand held devices offer convenience and ease of use when it comes to automotive diagnostic devices. They do not require any bulky equipment nor do they need many peripheral attachments. With the use of OBD II computers in cars, these hand held devices can even obtain power directly from the cars battery, eliminating the need for an outside power source or a bulky battery. Most of the hand held diagnostic scanners offer only code reading and code resetting features. This is mainly for use of the common car owner. They generally do not offer additional diagnostic options but are usually enough so that the car owner can direct the mechanic to the problem area and stay informed about the repair process. There are, however, hand held devices that offer more advanced automotive diagnostics. These rival even the computer software diagnostics in features and options but are more expensive.
Another type of automotive diagnostic tool is the automotive diagnostic software for computers. This is used with a computer interfacing with the car’s OBD II computer via the OBD port. These diagnostic software programs offer more in terms of diagnostics and data recording due to their advantage in power and storage space. These are generally used to run advanced diagnostics. Some even offer features that help more hands-on owners through the process of fixing the problem themselves. Others also offer more advanced aid in the form of online support. However, these types of automotive diagnostic tools also have their down side. While they offer more in terms of diagnostics and storage, they are also bulkier and more complex. Due to this complexity, they are also generally more expensive than their hand held counterparts. The use of either automotive diagnostic tool depends highly on the user’s preference and circumstance.
A diagnostic scanner is the general term for any device that allows the car owner to plug into the car’s computer and determine the presence of problems in accordance with the standards for auto fault codes set by the government regulators. The most commonly used versions of this are also known as on-board diagnostic or OBD scanners. Diagnostic scanners give the car a voice which allows it to tell the auto mechanic the state of health of its various subsystems. A diagnostic scanner cuts down on all the time that mechanics have to spend on the vehicle to look for the trouble area. This will make tune ups and repairs for the vehicle faster, cheaper and more efficient. It can also help guide those individuals who have a hands on and do-it-yourself approach to maintaining their vehicles. Whether doing it yourself or having a professional do it for you, automobile maintenance is definitely made easier with a car diagnostic tool.
Of course, not all cars are capable of using diagnostic scanners. Most cars made before 1980 have little or no ability to interface with diagnostic scanners. The good news is that all modern American cars, starting from those pioneering General Motors vehicles in 1980, have some form of diagnostic scanners. These range from the simple “Check Engine” lights to the more specific indicators. Moreover, many non-American car makers have followed suit and diagnostic scanners are now commonplace tools for any car owner.
Today’s cars are equipped with on-board diagnostic scanners II, which improves on the first OBD scanner’s capabilities and adopted a standardized system of fault codes to make diagnosing car problems more efficient and universal, no matter what the make and model of the car is involved. One of the more prominent improvements of this new diagnostic tool is the inclusion of a power source straight from the vehicle’s battery so that hand-held diagnostic scanners that interface with the best OBD2 scanner do not need to be connected to individual power sources. This makes the use of hand-held diagnostic scanners more practical.
There are many types of diagnostic scanners available today. The simplest of these are the hand-held fault code readers that only display the general fault codes. An example of these scanners is the Launch X431 Car Diagnostic Scanner. It only reads and clears fault code readings in the car so that one can tell mechanics where the problem lies. A more complex hand-held scanner is also available, such as the Actron scanners. These scanners pinpoint fault codes and can access more advanced diagnostics. These also offer real time recording of the car’s health status for more accurate analyses of problems. More advanced scanners such as computer-based diagnostic scanners can delve even deeper. Although these are less handy, computer-based scanners can offer advantages of having infinitely large storage, simultaneous programs running and better resolution. Other types of diagnostic scanners are the data-loggers which collect data while the vehicle is functioning normally for a baseline comparison when problems appear. More peripheral scanners include supplementary instrumentation that allows drivers to monitor such things as battery current and manifold vacuum data.
The more advanced hand-held diagnostic scanners have a wider and more specific diagnostic range. Where simpler scanners are only able to identify the fault code and removing the code when the problem has been addressed, more advanced scanners like the OTC Genisys and the Autoboss V30 are capable of additional tasks. These scanners check out problems throughout the car, including the driving functions, the body, the chassis and the air conditioning. More specific areas such as the transmission and motor electronics are then pinpointed. They can pinpoint which specific parts of the faulty areas are most likely to cause the problem and suggest solutions. Some are even capable of issuing reminders regarding commonly overlooked problems in that area.
Using diagnostic scanners will help car owners understand what is wrong with their cars. It will also help them point out problems to auto mechanics so that these can be addressed quickly and efficiently. Diagnostic scanners are a great way to pre-check cars. Users might find that the problem is within their abilities to solve or confirm that professionals should be called in. This will translate into increased savings for car owners, in terms of eliminating unnecessary mechanic’s fees and long-term savings from keeping the car in good condition. It will also allow owners to take a more active and informed role in their cars’ repairs.
Travel and Storage Packing in a Pencil Box
The pencil box has become my favorite way to pack small items for travel and storage. While many have used them for safely transporting their crayons, pencils and markers, most have yet to discover how truly versatile the pencil box can be for travel. They’re also inexpensive and water-resistant, which makes them ever so clever!
Here’s a few ideas for using snap-closure plastic pencil boxes to transport and store items while traveling. But don’t stop there. Pencil boxes are also great for storing things in small spaces like RVs, cabins, art studios and apartments. You’ll most likely think of dozens more items you can store by the time you finish the article.
It may be hard to believe you can get all the items pictured in my travel first-aid/emergency essentials kit into one pencil box, but scroll down to see how it’s done. I did it in my last Croatian Island tour .
I Told You It Would Fit!
When packing this many items, I like to think of it like the video game Tetris – move the blocks around so they are interconnecting. I pack square and flat items on the bottom, then fill in the gaps. On the top are the individual packets. The snap closure box only slides out about 1/2 way, but with a little finesse, you can slide the interior box from the sleeve.I can easily drop this into a backpack for hiking and day trips, or into a large handbag or carry-on when I travel by plane, train or bus. Not only have many of those items come in handy for me, but I’ve been able to share with others when needed.
NOTE: If you use a pencil box to store prescription meds, never, ever share with others – especially while traveling.
Packing Tip #1
If you pack individual blister pack OTC meds like Benadryl, AZO, Tylenol Cold etc. make sure you can read the label on the back. If not, use a fine point Sharpie to label the packet.
Extra reading glasses
Packing Tip #2
Store multiple packed pencil boxes in a shoe box, tackle box or similar sized plastic box. Shoe boxes can be conveniently stacked on shelves. Tackle and plastic boxes with handles go easily from the trunk of a car to a boat, motel room or vacation rental.
Packing Tip Videos on YouTube
Check out these handy travel packing tips and be sure to watch the 2nd video in this list for the how-to guide on folding plastic grocery bags into tiny triangles for really compact storage. (You could put about 30 of these in a pencil box if you fold them correctly as shown in the video!)