There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing that check engine light come on — or experiencing some other intermittant automotive issue — and having to drop the car off for a day or two at the dealer just so they can hook it up, read the code, and charge you $100 for it. (Trust us — we recently went through just this scenario, and the dealer hit us for $120 before they told us that it wasn’t even reporting an error code. Ouch.)
AutoXRay feels your pain. They offer a line of home auto-computer diagnostic tools, but one particularly caught our eye: the EZ-Scan 6000. The 6000 will read both OBD-I and the newer OBD-II codes as well as codes sent using the Controller Area Network (CAN) protocol — a newer codeset which AutoXRay says will be manditory on all new vehicles beginning in 2008.
The 6000 is a hand-held-sized unit which plugs right into your vehicle’s on-board computer using a special cable. AutoXRay provides cables for GM, FOD, and Chrysler OBD-I computers, as well as a standard OBD-II cable and a GM-specific OBD-II cable to cover most cars you’re likely to come across. If you need others, they stock a wide variety of cables which you can order separately.
Once connected, the 6000 interprets the codes and data provided by the computer and displays them on a 128×64 pixel, 8-line, backlit display. Or, for the ultimate in home auto diagnostics, you can use the included EZ-PC 500 interface and software to display and analyze the codes right on your laptop. With the EZ-PC interface you can also graph drivability data, archive data, and export it in spreadsheet form.
Most importantly, the hand-held unit provides the meanings of the error codes, which can definitely make troubleshooting car problems a lot easier.
Both the 6000 and the EZ-PC software are internet updateable, so you’ll always be on top of the latest package. It’s available via a variety of online and brick-and-mortar dealers, and street pricing starts around $550.