How to Troubleshoot Car Issues with CarMD

While there is certainly no substitute for a trained and experienced mechanic, having a device handy that can help point you in the right direction when it comes to car trouble is never a bad idea. Sometimes, problems present themselves to the internal systems in your vehicle before you even notice them.

Enter CarMD, a handheld diagnostic tool for vehicles, that accesses your car’s internal computer and analyzes the data to detect any early warning signs of car trouble. If something seems out of place, it’ll let you know through the Web interface, give you the codes and clues you may need to pass on to your mechanic, and help you avoid costly and unnecessary repairs.

In addition, CarMD can alert you to any recalls that may need to be handled on your car. Pretty much everything in relation to the health and status of your vehicle can be tracked and logged through its primary Web site. Again, this device is no substitute for good maintenance habits or an experienced eye, but it can actually save you money by doing exactly what the mechanic would do anyway. It replaces the expensive diagnostic equipment at the shop for which so many mechanics charge an arm and a leg to simply hook up to your car the very same way.

So, does CarMD work on your car? Thanks to a set of strict standards and regulations put on the car industry, virtually every car manufactured after 1996 should have a diagnostic port accessible to CarMD. Generally, this port will be located below the steering wheel.

Once you’ve plugged in CarMD, start your car and wait for it to beep four times. This will indicate that all the required data has been transferred and CarMD is ready to be synced to its site through a USB cable connected to your computer. You’ll need to create an account to get the full detail of your diagnostics.

Optionally, you can purchase a CarMD Premium Bundle Upgrade, which gives you one year of access to technical service bulletins (TSBs), a five-year limited replacement warranty, safety recalls, scheduled maintenance reminders, and some discount offers for vehicle maintenance and repair. You also get an extension cable for your device should you need one. This bundle currently runs an additional $44.85. Whether or not it’s worth it is entirely up to the user. A five-year limited replacement warranty being sold as an extra seems like an unusual value-add for any device.

CarMD works on either Windows or Mac OS X. The software leaves much to be desired. It’s occasionally sluggish and a little kludgy. This is an unfortunate trend among hardware manufacturers that develop proprietary software to work with their devices. That aside, the software does work.

CarMD is currently selling for about $120 on its official Web site.

Is CarMD worth the investment? I’d say it very well could be, especially if you are prone to having car issues. Mechanics make a lot of money doing pretty much the same thing to your car during diagnostics. Isn’t it better to have your own way of double-checking their findings before throwing down a significant amount of cash for repairs you may not actually need?

4 comments On How to Troubleshoot Car Issues with CarMD

  • Why not just buy a $60 code scanner at Harbor Freight?  Run the scanner and look the code up on Google.

  • Makes sense for people willing to read up on diagnostics terminology or having friends who do. How about buying one to share in your neighborhood collective or for a nearby amateur mechanic in return for a few times of free pre-checking? Best used with a set of service manuals -another hundred dollar investment that may bear fruit if it helps prevent one unneeded repair. May save the day if the authorized mechanic does not have the budget to buy or access your specific car’s service manuals.

  • Makes sense for people willing to read up on diagnostics terminology or having friends who do. How about buying one to share in your neighborhood collective or for a nearby amateur mechanic in return for a few times of free pre-checking? Best used with a set of service manuals -another hundred dollar investment that may bear fruit if it helps prevent one unneeded repair. May save the day if the authorized mechanic does not have the budget to buy or access your specific car’s service manuals.

  • Or buy a PLX Devices Kiwi
    Bluetooth device ($95), plug it into the diagnostic connector and read the codes with Torque ($5) on your smartphone via bluetooth.  You also get the codes in english, chart and read most parameters related to auto performace and lots of custom information.

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