George wrote in to discuss the topic of fixing check engine lights with online service manuals and inexpensive scan tools. Here’s what he said: Thanks for the response about online auto repair manuals. I understand what you mean about the PDF service manuals and Chilton books in reference to their auto repair information quality.
I had looked at the two, and watched the video demonstration, which actually let me view (as you know) actual info like I would get in a PDF document for that particular vehicle.
The one downside I thought was when I looked up DTC’s and test procedures for them, it always referred to the manufacturer or dealer type scan tool. Even though it listed, in one place, a choice of tools (manufacturer/dealer, other, etc) to view this information. However, it said that info wasn’t available for any except the manufacturer diagnostic tools?
I got to this by clicking on the Chevrolet demonstration vehicle since my daughter has a Chevy (older than the demo, but I was looking to see what all it included). I then clicked on Power-train management and then Computers and Control Systems all these along the left column.
Then I clicked on Reading and Clearing Diagnostic Trouble Codes under “Testing and Inspection” in the right column. This brought me to a page which had links to with manufacturers scan tool, with generic scan tool, without scan tool and “clearing diagnostic trouble codes”.
If I click on using generic scan tool, I get the page saying the manufacturer doesn’t provide auto repair information for this. While it may be painfully obvious to most, I wasn’t sure the info would all work with a tool like the Actron CP9180 or the Auto-Xray AX6000 or such.
You raised another topic related to online auto repair manuals. You said you think the Actron CP9180 will generally do the job most folks need for Diy auto repairs.
I had been looking at such tools as the Auto Xray AX7000 and Auto ingenuity laptop scanners for their ability to do “manufacturer specific” and “other than power-train” code diagnostics. Are these not generally a good return on money (bang for the buck) for the DIY car repair guy? I really appreciate your time and thoughts.
By the way, I found that the demonstration video, while it showed some good examples of graphics, I found less useful to determine whether I liked the format of the the PDF service manuals or not. Sorry if I am rambling I know you are not necessarily an advocate for one online auto repair manuals over the other, I just get off on rants.
Thanks again for the response
Online Auto Repair Manuals
Hi George: You make good and true points about online service manuals. They are often directly ported from the manufacturer. In extremely complicated diagnosis this can leave the at home guy out in the cold.
The results you experienced with the Chevrolet PDF Manuals could be different for purchases to other make vehicles. The information supplied in these service manuals depends on the ability of that manufacturer to co operate. Some company’s furnish more information then others. But there’s no better resource that I know of. In fact the online version is far superior in the way it represents repair diagrams and troubleshooting tree charts in some cases because of the flexibility and screen resolution of the PC.
Take a look at this service manuals video below for a common repair to see what I mean. I also find that in some cases I can put on my thinking cap and break out my multimeter to get past a step that they say requires a manufacturer scan tool. Or worst case scenario skip a step in the troubleshooting diagram and see where it leads me.
Diy Auto Repair Scanners
As far as the Actron 9180 it is only about 140$ and does include a snap shot mode and an o2 sensor test. So I consider it a good value. But a laptop scanner has many advantages over it. The main one is the amount of data the laptop car scanner can display at one time.
I do not have a laptop, but we do at work. We use the elm scan 5 blue tooth. It is very slick, but also can get stuck on some manufacturer specific codes. I find these codes are rare and generic codes remain much more common. However, the auto repair world is like a box of chocolates ” you never know what your gonna get”
Yes I have told the Tradebit folks they need to get up to speed and offer a demo like the competition does. The online reference and repair manual suppliers become similar in many ways. You have to dig out the information your looking for. Nice talking with you and good luck with your auto repairs ~ Mark