Error Codes: When Your Car Speaks a Language You Just Don’t Understand

If you’ve ever traveled out of the country, you’ve likely encountered plenty of people whose native language is not the same as yours. This can cause communication barriers for the most basic of needs (like finding a restroom or a place to sleep). Vacation is supposed to be fun, but if you don’t know what people are saying to you, or how to get them to understand what you are saying to them, travel simply becomes stressful.

The same can be said of your automobile. When you don’t understand what the error code means and therefore have no idea how to correct the problem that needs addressing, owning an automobile can be just as frustrating as being unable to decipher the language everyone around you is speaking.

Here is some common sense advice for the next time your car flashes the proof that it is in trouble:

1. Write it Down: Whatever error code the automobile displays, your smartest move is to record exactly what it says. Even one small mistake in recording can cause delays in correcting the problem and potentially lead to more damage than you started with. Mechanics love when car owners come in having done due diligence to let them know the real problem they are facing, rather than vaguely describing “some clunking sound that may or may not have been happening when the error code occurred”.

2. Don’t Panic: Typically, an error code will display with plenty of warning for you to get your automobile someplace safe. If a message pops up, don’t imagine the worst case scenarios of immediate flames and explosions! On the other hand, don’t ignore the codes and wait until there are flames and explosions. Putting repairs off too long can result in the need for tow trucks, or even fire trucks, to remedy the situation.

3. Educate Yourself: There are some relatively common error codes an automobile owner can anticipate seeing at some point in the life of their vehicle. Learning about those error codes may help your sense of foreboding and allow you the opportunity to save money, stay calm, and make the best choice for your car.

Some of the codes to know are:

  • P0218: Don’t get hot under the collar–this one is just to tell you that the transmission is overheating!
  • P0613: A simple programming error, this code should just need a quick tweak of the computer program to be ready to go again.
  • P0729 through P0736: Indicating a problem with one or the other of the transmission gears, these codes are specific and extremely helpful in pinpointing the problem (often resulting in a simple solution).

Obviously, there are more codes you may encounter, but simply take the time to familiarize yourself with some of the most common possibilities. In this way, and with the help of a great mechanic, you will probably learn to love the language of error codes and see them as a help, rather than a headache.

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