Picking up an affordable automotive fault code reader is getting easier and easier by the day. Further up the food chain you’ll get more diagnostic testing capability, as well as access to ABS, Airbag, and other fault codes, but as a solid jumping off point it’s hard to beat this deal of $29.99 for this Launch CReader VI code reader. When you consider most shops will charge you more than twice that to perform the same test, scanning one check engine light basically pays for itself.

That said, knowing the fault code (or codes) is a far cry from knowing what your car’s issue is, and much in the same way that WebMD and other self-diagnosis sites are no replacement for the input of a medical professional, a fault code and a bit of time scouring the internet doesn’t necessarily mean you know exactly what your car needs more than a trained mechanic would.

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