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Should you include a Diagnostic code reader in your kit of things that stay in the car

January 2, 2019 - Reading time: 4 minutes

Should you include a Diagnostic code reader in your kit of things that stay in the car?  I think having one of these in your cars or trucks is as practical as having a flashlight, first aid kit, and tire change equipment. Let’s face it, most everybody has had their check engine light come on probably at least once while on a trip, or even around town. Not knowing what it means is disconcerting to say the least. It could be as insignificant as, “boo-hoo… I forgot to put my gas cap back on” to, “holy mackerel, this thing is telling me that my camshaft timing is all out of whack!” The one pictured below is right at $50. All you can ever expect it to do is spit out a valid OBD code number designation. There are more than 1500 of them at this time, and they are all standardized as agreed upon between the vehicle manufacturer and the EPA. I affectionately refer to the gas Codes as “green light codes” and the assortment of codes in the 100 series as “Nike codes.” Nike codes oftentimes require some good walking shoes! Green light codes are self-explanatory. And that annoying yellow light on your dashboard does not have the ability to tell you the difference. A phone call to us at Japanese Motor Works with that code number will allow us to give you good advice on what your next step should be.


While the gas cap code and issue could be temporarily remedied with a racquetball or other plugging device, the camshaft code could cause some serious engine damage and the need for a tow truck, or worse yet a long walk into cell phone range. While I’m on that subject, here are a few other things you want to keep in your trunk for an emergency.

Some of the emergency trunk kits sold on the Internet and that car parts stores love to include a handful of wrenches, sockets and other tools which are just about useless to have on modern cars. Face it, unless you have a lift to raise the car up and a box of tools worthy of a motorsports racing team, not many emergency repairs can be performed on modern vehicles. I’m thinking AAA or a comparable emergency roadside service company. The few things that you will want is a way to stay warm if you break down when it’s cold, like a blanket. A few times, I have seen a real need for a tow strap. They don’t take up much room or weight. Something else worth serious consideration are these new miniature jump boxes. They will jumpstart a dead battery, they have a provision which prevents reverse polarity (hooking things up backwards-which will take out a whole bunch of computerized stuff! Egads!) And they have an emergency flashlight with strobe light feature. I have one for use at the shop and one which always goes with me on a road trip. And finally, an all in one Leatherman tool. And a basic first aid kit with a few Band-Aids. Any medical emergency requiring more than that will likely require professional help.

Also, make sure that the spare tire is where it ought to be. Make sure that it is full of air! By the way, at Japanese Motor Works we do that for you!* 

*At every six month extended service which we perform for you at Japanese Motor Works, we make sure that the spare tire is filled to the proper specification and ready for an emergency. If for any reason we can’t do that (like, for instance, there is a dead body in the trunk which prevents us from accessing the spare tire) we will give you a call to discuss what it’s going to take so that we can make sure that your spare tire is ready for an emergency. And we will document whatever happens, including the dead body, on your repair order. We like to be thorough!


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