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Smart "Check Engine" Display

Small screen that tells you the specific problem
  (+7, -1)
(+7, -1)
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My dad had to take in his car recently because the "check engine" light had come on. The mechanic hooked it up to his $10,000 computer to find that the only problem was a broken gas cap.

If the car had told him this specifically, instead of just saying "something's wrong," he could have saved a bunch of time and money by simply replacing the gas cap himself.

Many upscale cars today have big displays in the dashboard that show GPS information, play movies, or allow you to change the suspension settings from inside the car. Even cheaper cars have some kind of LED display on the radio.

These displays, along with the computers already inside the car, could be used to give the driver better and more specific information about what was wrong. Most times, you would still need to take it in to see the mechanic, but you would at least know whether you needed to pay $50 for a new gas cap, or $5,000 for a new engine.

The only problem is that mechanics might see a drop in profits, as would the auto manufacturers who sell them the $10,000 machines.

discontinuuity, Dec 16 2005

"ODB 2 Explained" http://www.troublec...obd2explained.shtml
A reasonably good explanation that mentions ODB 2's ability to specifically diagnose a loose gas cap. [bristolz, Dec 16 2005]

$10000? $2000? Pah! Free! http://freediag.sou...cantool-Manual.html
[coprocephalous, Dec 16 2005]

[link]






       This sounds like a help system and that's a good idea.   

       A small system that resolves ODB fault codes to simple language descriptions?   

       I'm not sure that a fault as specific as a fuel cap flaw can be reliably determined. Likely that more than one possibility exists with many fault codes and true diagnosis is needed.   

       <Later> I looked up ODB and found that loose (or leaky) fuel caps can be exactly determined through trouble, or fault, codes.
bristolz, Dec 16 2005
  

       I would hope that eventually there would be an auto diagnostic system in the future that can specifically identify any problem.   

       OBD II or any other auto diagnostic system for that matter cannot identify a specific problem. All it can do is indicate that there is an issue with a particular system in the car. It would still take a knowledgeable mechanic to understand what to do when a particular series of codes comes up on the "check engine" light. In your case with the gas cap, the OBD II could have given a code indicating irregual fuel pump pressure and/or a leak in the EGR system.   

       If you, the average consumer, saw "IRREGULAR FUEL PRESSURE" on your dashboard, you would probably assume that the fuel pump was going bad and have it replaced even though it was simply a leaky gas cap.
Jscotty, Dec 16 2005
  

       I wish it would display the fault code responsible for triggering the light: Service Engine Soon : 122.   

       You could then look up what 122 stood for - ah Irregular Fuel Pressure. You could then google in hope of a simple fix ..... replace gas cap, whew!.
Zimmy, Dec 16 2005
  

       I would expect the people who make the $10000 computers would be more than happy if a car company wanted to install a version in a model. They would be able to sell it for around $2000 (as an optional extra) wholesale as it would not need a lot of extra stuff in it. This would mean they would take a lower percentage but would sell a huge amount more volume.
miasere, Dec 16 2005
  

       *** RANT WARNING *** RANT WARNING *** RANT WARNING ***   

       Considering that ODBII readers for laptops can be homemade, and most vehicle repair manuals are on CD anymore...   

       The only reason that this isn't done already is G.R.E.E.D. by the auto manufacturers (that also own the dealerships, hmmm..)   

       My brother-in-law is a manufacturing engineer, and he attended one of the better engineering schools in the US. The course on automotive engineering was totally discouraging to him: design modules that CAN'T be repaired/modified by anyone, only replaced; parts and assemblies can only be made by companies with expensive machine tool facilities, to keep the shadetree mechanics out, nothing really innovative (what would we do for next years models?), etc, etc...   

       Automobiles are an expensive commodity item, not an investment (there's no payback), and they want that "customer lock-in", just like Microshaft^H^H^H^Hoft. Proprietary tools, software, and information are all ways to achieve this. Microsoft has long sold XBoxes at a loss, because their profit on the games more than make up for it. Same with cars, parts, warranties, and extended service plans. It's would be totally easy to build a 4 passenger vehicle that was efficient, safe, dependable, easy to diagnose and work on, and didn't cost a years' salary. But that's not where the money is.   

       *** END RANT *** END RANT *** END RANT *** END RANT ***
rallen71366, Dec 16 2005
  

       I don't suppose they make these connectors and sofware with USB and Mac compatability. It looks like all the connectors in the link are PS2 based for Windows. I've heard of one type of connector built for the Game Boy, but most of these still cost several hundred dollars.   

       I suppose it's cheaper than repairs, but I would rather have it built-in to the car. It could at least have a small LED screen to display the number code, or a larger one to give a better diagnosis.
discontinuuity, Dec 16 2005
  

       I'd settle for an OBD-II connector & software that works on a Nintendo GameBoy or Sony PSP.
harebrained, Dec 16 2005
  

       My "check engine soon" light has been on for years because of a faulty relay in the diagnosing system. Its almost paradoxical.   

       //My "check engine soon" light has been on for years//   

       In Houston, you can't pass the annual inspection if your check engine light is on with a car made after 1996. It could pass the inspection in the same manner a 1993 car would, but they just won't test it.   

       I suspected my light was a result of a wearing out transmission as the code said when I had it tested one time. I got it turned off by paying the $400 for other crap & ordering & replacing another part myself that I'm not really sure what it does. (mass airflow sensor).   

       I don't know if there is really anything to stop the manufacterer or mechanics from setting the light to go off. (they probably don't, but I don't know that for sure. I AM pretty sure someone at the dealership LIED to me about at least the fact that a burned out break light would still set off the check engine light - assholes.)   

       To me, this is just one of the many bricks in the wall dividing the rich & not rich in America. & Also, good riddence to my Fords. I bought TWO Scions for a bit less than my annual salary. I hope the Toyota reputation for longevity carries over to Scion.
Zimmy, Dec 18 2005
  

       We can fix your car for you wholesale.
gnomethang, Dec 19 2005
  

       The mass airflow senor, according to hubby-doo-whaski, is a vital element in the induction system upon which many powertrain dependencies rely.   

       I think the Scions will probably carry on the Toyota hallmark of reliability.
bristolz, Dec 19 2005
  

       Scions are based on the old Toyota Echo/Yaris platform, so they should be as reliable as that car.   

       The mass air flow sensor measures how much air goes into the engine so the fuel injection system can adjust accordingly.
discontinuuity, Dec 19 2005
  

       Modern MAFs are incredibly sensitive to getting dirty and failing.   

       The Scion xAs and xBs are proving to be excellent little cars.   

       The "Check Engine" light on '96 and newer cars can be easily monitored with things like the ScanGauge http://scangauge.com/ and the 'translations' of the 'codes' are in the available factory repair manuals and even aftermarket books.   

       I'm putting a ScanGauge in my Scion.
Nonad, Dec 19 2005
  

       Hmm. Well, the sensor data is calculated into an overall engine load indication so the sensor ultimately controls ignition timing, transmission shift points, overdrive engagement, fuel pump operation (pressure), some anti-skid and traction controls, etc.
bristolz, Dec 19 2005
  

       'AutoZone' and 'Advance Auto Parts' can read the data and explain the problem for free. Never thought about going to a mechanic for that kind of thing...   

       I never go to a dealer for anything other than a new car, if possible. :)
ghillie, Dec 19 2005
  

       New cars buyers don't demand anything more than a simple check engine light so of course manufacturers aren't going to provide features that won't make them money. They just put the MINIMUM required system in.
  

       I don't know if it's possible for a brake light to activate the check-engine light. The check-engine light just monitors the emissions system AFAIK.
  

       As mentioned before there is no need for $10k machines....you can get your code read at most auto parts stores for free or buy a code reader for less than $100.
Sweaty_Elvis, Apr 26 2009
  
      
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