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By Larry Edsall

CarMD CarMD lets you read those "check engine" codes
Don't you hate it when the "check engine" light shines in your face? That light can indicate something as minor as a gas filler cap that wasn't properly tightened after a fill0-up to something as major as a loss of oil and impending engine seizure.

Problem is, when the light comes on, you really don't know whether it's a simple matter of tightening the gas cap until it clicks a couple of times or if you really need to call a tow truck. Corp of Fountain Valley, Calif., thinks it has a low-priced solution.

Your favorite mechanic may have spent hundreds of dollars for his specialized engine scan tool, but CarMD has developed a cell phone-sized unit that it sells for $98.99.

What you receive for that price is the handheld test unit, a user's guide, a software CD, a USB cable and three AAA batteries.

What you do is plug the test unit into your vehicle's OBD2 (On Board Diagnostic) data link connector (usually found just below the dashboard), turn on the ignition and wait for the tester to collect data. The tester gives you a green signal if everything's OK, a yellow light if there may be a problem and a red light if service is required.

Plug the tester into your PC and link to the CarMD website and you'll get more details, including what remedy is needed and what that fix should cost. CarMD also maintains a 24-hour call center staffed by ASE-certified automotive technicians.

CarMD says the equipment works on any 1996 or newer vehicle (and even on some older vehicles), and notes that its unit can come in handy when you're shopping for a used car. The equipment gets readings even if someone's cut the wires to the "check engine" light. By the way, the CarMD website has a nice checklist of things to check when you're inspecting a used vehicle.

For more information, visit the website of call (888) 692-2763.

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