We have smartphones, virtual reality devices and gadgets that answer questions at the sound of your voice. But up until recently, cars were still “dumb.” With car health monitors, any vehicle can become a smart car.
What do these simple devices do? Let’s take a closer look at how I used one to help diagnose a car problem, and how they can benefit you.
If you’re confused about what a car health monitor is, you’re not alone. I was scratching my head, too, when I first heard about them. I had visions of my car being hooked up to a cardiac machine with a few IVs for good measure.
I can assure you that these devices are not that complicated – or bulky – and they’re inexpensive, too.
So, what exactly is a car health monitor? Exactly what it sounds like – a device that keeps an eye on your car’s health.
Once hooked up to your vehicle, these devices can pick up on problems and tell you when it’s time to bring your car to the shop for maintenance. It can even tell you why that dreaded check engine light is on.
While each model is different, the general concept is the same:
I know what you’re thinking: Aren’t you talking about an OBD-II scanner?
No. Car health monitors are different from scanners. Scanners are only useful when something is already wrong with your vehicle and the check engine light is on. A car health monitor can alert you when it’s time to bring your car in for maintenance and also provide other useful information to help you keep your vehicle running in tip top shape.
I’ve had the most experience with the Fixd device (which you can read more about in my Fixd review). This car health monitor works just as I described above. An accompanying app (available for both Android and iOS) gives you all the details about your car’s health.
Here’s how it works:
Once connected, you’ll start receiving information about your car.
I used one of these devices to diagnose a check engine light problem. As it turned out, I had a faulty oxygen sensor (a common problem).
Many people automatically assume that they can’t use these monitoring devices because they drive an older car. But even if your car was made before the smartphone was thought of, there’s a good chance you can still use these devices.
If you have a 1996 or later model vehicle, your vehicle probably has an OBD-II port – usually located near the glove box.
What kind of information can you learn from a car health monitor? Again, each model is different, but most will give you basic information about your car’s status.
If your check engine light is on, it will tell you why. Most will display both the error code and what the error code means.
Most devices will pick up on major issues, including a bad oxygen sensor or an overheating engine.
But these monitors do more than just tell you when something is wrong. Most will also give you head’s up when it’s time to bring your car in for routine maintenance.
When you plug in the device, it will determine the recommended mileage for each maintenance task and alert you when it’s time to head to the shop.
Now, let me clarify something: a car health monitor device is different from a typical OBD-II device.
There are many devices that can plug into your vehicle’s OBD-II port, but most of these do not provide you with information about the health of your car.
These devices are typically used:
On the other end of the spectrum, there are more advanced devices that provide you with a wealth of information about your vehicle, including engine temperature, tire pressure, pitch, performance and more.
A car monitor can do a lot to help you maintain your vehicle, but there are things it can’t do.
If you have something wrong with your vehicle, the device can’t fix it for you. You’ll need to bring your car to the shop and have a mechanic take care of the problem. This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many people assume these devices can actually fix their cars.
These devices also cannot tweak your car’s performance or connect your devices to your vehicle. If you don’t already have Bluetooth connectivity, an OBD-II device won’t change that.
There are many benefits to owning a car health monitor, and you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to enjoy the diagnostic benefits of these devices.
If you’re looking for a device that can alert you of problems your vehicle might be having, a car health monitor is a good investment. From check engine light diagnostics to maintenance alerts, these devices keep you in the loop about your vehicle’s health.
The nice thing about these devices is that they are typically inexpensive to purchase. And once you have one, you’ll know exactly what’s wrong with your vehicle when the check engine light comes on. This way, you can budget for your repairs and avoid getting ripped off by a mechanic who recommends unnecessary repairs.
These devices may not fix your vehicle for you, but they can help you keep your car running in tip top shape. And who wouldn’t want a little extra help remembering when it’s time to bring in your car for oil changes? You have enough to worry about. Now, car maintenance isn’t one of them.
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