Friday, May 28, 2010

The Actron CP9410 -- A Secret Decoder Ring for Your Car

My brother's check engine light came on in his car a couple days ago. This, of course, could mean just about anything from a loose gas cap, to an imminent system failure. That one little light sure packs a whole lot of information in it.

Of course, a mechanic can for a fee, extract the exact error code that triggered the light to come on. This is annoying because (a) you've got find a mechanic when the light comes on; (b) you've got accept that they'll charge you an exorbitant fee for an activity which takes under 1 minute to perform and (c) you've got to hope that they aren't fibbing to you as to what the trouble codes actually are.

Luckily, we've got our buddy Justin who has a code reader and was able to extract the information in just a few seconds. Combine that with Google, and troubleshooting the problem was a breeze.

Though, this got me thinking -- why don't I own a code reader? A quick search on Amazon showed that they weren't very expensive. As I talked this over with my brother, it occurred to me that we didn't technically need a code reader at this moment. But, aha! That's the perfect time to buy one.

So for $54.99, we officially invested in a Actron CP9410 PocketScan. This little puppy will read and reset the diagnostic code from any car since 1996. Best of all, it even rates the codes it finds on a scale from harmless to urgent. Perfect for a non-car geek like myself.

We gave it a try tonight on my brother's car (which is still having it's check engine light come on). It worked flawlessly.

Not knowing anything about code readers, it's really hard to say that this one is better than what's out there. But, when you consider the rating system I mentioned, as well as the ability to plug the device into your PC to update it with new codes - it strikes me as pretty dang sophisticated. Especially for $50.

I should probably have one of these in the glove compartment of both our cars. It only needs to come in handy once during the life time of the car to make it more than a worth while purchase. And even if it gets used only to confirm what the mechanic is going to tell me, it's still a winner.

Here's the device in action:


  1. Funny, it was only a week or two ago that I was actually thinking about buying one of those. The place where I take my car charges something like $100 or $130 "diagnostic fee". Which they will credit towards the repair, but what if it's only a $20 part that you need?

  2. David9:44 AM

    While we're conversing about auto repairs... Ben, do you mind if I ask on your readers if anyone knows of a good mechanic in the Arlington/Northern Virginia area? I'm not looking for special deals (I know cars repairs can be expensive), I'm just looking for someone I can trust when they tell me it'll cost $X to fix my goblygook valve (or whatever).

  3. Helmy -

    Yeah, for a $100 reading fee you're far better off getting the code reader (even I can do that math). Or better yet, just borrow mine ;-)