Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Ask For Help at Advance Auto Parts.
I love my car. He is a 2005 Honda Accord and his name is Smithers. He has given me years of faithful service however, ever since he turned 10 he has been having many …issues. (Did you know a brake caliper could lock up and destroy every brake pad it touches?! Did you know that brake pads are attached to wheels with calipers???) There are so many belts in my car and they’re ALL cranky. Power steeling fluid? It’s possible for your car to not BE READY for an emissions test. Like, they’re the lead in a play and it’s the last day before your registration expires and Virginia requires emissions tests every two years and it’s showtime and your car won’t leave the dressing room. Every time I go to the mechanic it’s something new that can’t possibly be a thing. Every time I think I know how cars work, Smithers makes a horrifying new sound and I learn about a part of my car I didn’t even know existed that costs $900 to fix
Budgeting is hard as it is, but when your car is over 125,000 miles it becomes even harder. I have found only one real tip to saving money when it comes to cars and here it is.
How to Diagnose Your Car’s Malfunction Code (Reason for the Check Engine Light) for Free
Before I get into this I have to mention that my co-worker (codename Goddess) has been telling me how to do this for LITERALLY YEARS and I have been too lazy/stupid/nervous to try it.
Step 1) You notice your check engine light is on.
Step 2) Denial. (There’s nothing wrong with my car! It just passed inspection!)
Step 3) Acceptance. (Huh, it’s still on and it’s been weeks, maybe I need to check this out)
Step 4) Go to your nearest Advance Auto Parts (according to the internet other places do this too, but I can’t vouch for that shit)
Step 5) Give yourself a pep talk in the parking lot (You can do this! You know about cars! You’re an independent human being who can take matters into your own hands! I bet after you get the code you can fix the car yourself!!!)
Step 6) Panic when you see the people in the Advance Auto Parts. THEY look like they know about cars. You don’t know about cars, what were you thinking?!
Step 7) Run back to your car
Step 8) Find your owner’s manual. The manual is fancy and does not call this problem “Check Engine Light”, it calls it “Malfunction Indicator Lamp”. The manual says if the malfunction indicator lamp is turn on, then you should turn your car off and on again. It really says that!
Step 9) Begin to doubt the authority of your owner’s manual. The manual states that if the malfunction indicator lamp is still on after you turn your car back on you should immediately go to your dealership for service.
Step 10) Throw out your owner’s manual
Step 11) Put your game face on and get back to that Advance Auto Parts!
Step 12) After obsessing over what to call the thingie you need, ask the salesperson for a “code reader” they will know what you mean. If you ask for the “malfunction indicator lamp diagnostic tool” they will NOT (I know this from experience)
Step 13) Get the code reader, feel so jazzed that you weren’t immediately thrown from the store for being a car impostor that you decline help using the reader
Step 14) Realize that you have NO EARTHLY IDEA how to use this box with what looks like a fire wire input cable. Your car doesn’t have a port that looks anything like this?!?
Step 15) Ask the salesperson for help.
Step 16) Apologize to the salesperson for how messy your car is and for the loud ass music that you didn’t think to turn down.
Step 17) Watch CLOSELY as the salesperson plugs the reader in so that maybe, just maybe, you can someday do this on your own
Step 18) Write down every single number/word that the code reader comes up with. Your mechanic will want to know all of it, not just the code
Step 19) Thank the Advance Auto Parts person profusely. They have just saved you like 80 bucks in labor costs
Step 20) Strut into your mechanic’s with the code. “No, I don’t need you to read my code, I have it RIGHT HERE!!!!”
Step 21) Bask in the admiration of everyone in the mechanic’s waiting room, oh did you pay these people to diagnose your problem AND fix the problem? Ho ho ho, you must not be a car expert like I clearly am (this step is a lie)
Now get out there and drive with confidence, you sexy car connoisseur!!
NEXT TIME: How to apply for a line of credit at your mechanic because you’re gonna funking need it