When the check engine light comes on, it can mean your engine is in need of a complete overhaul or your gas cap is loose. So how do you know what's really going on? 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney recently went to O'Reilly Auto Parts in San Francisco to look into buying a code reader that can diagnose problems with a car.
There are quite a few code readers to choose from, the least expensive one costs $88.99 plus tax.
The code reader makes a "beeping" sound, which means it is working and analyzing your car.
Nearly every car made since 1996 has a similar set up so when your check engine light comes on, you don't have to solely rely on a mechanic for information.
A code reader made by Innova is the most popular reader sold at O'Reilly. Once the consumer receives a code, they can go to the company's website and key in the problem. The issue will then be identified.
If you want to download the information directly from the code reader into your computer, the website will issue a complete diagnostic report.
"It will save you a lot of money. Because nowadays if you take the car to a shop just to have that, they will charge you at least what, $65," says an O'Reilly employee. "Let's say in three months you have three codes, you find three codes with this little gadget. There, right there, you pay yourself already."
Another option is to get a couple friends to chip in to make it even cheaper. Or go online where you can find code readers for as little as $30.