The Truth About Cars » maintenance minder The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 20:36:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » maintenance minder Question Of The Day: How Much Would You Pay For… Perfect Diagnostic Information? Wed, 02 Jan 2013 14:00:02 +0000

Flashes and pulses.

I was staring at an archaic diagnostic system on a 1992 Volvo 940 wagon.  It was located underneath the hood, inside a plastic cover, with six little holes for each one of the six digits, along with a cheap plastic wand.

What came out was morse code. Three little reds, stop. One little red, stop. Two little reds, stop. Code 312. Time to visit the brickboard, where the code could be translated to about fifteen different potential issues.

21 model years later, and we’re still not quite there yet.

Not too long after my experience with Volvo code readings, OBD-II system would roar into the scene during the mid-90′s and seemed to change everything for the better.

Instead of having a shop that required an expensive tool du jour and a book full of possible translations, nearly everything became universal. Code P0420 would always a bad catalytic converter. Code P0301 became a random cylinder misfire for cylinder #1. P0131 would be an oxygen sensor with low voltage.

So what do you do with an oxygen sensor with low voltage? Well, the good news was that there were only three possibilities.


A code P0131 meant that one or more of the following has happened:

  • Faulty o2 oxygen sensor
  • Short to voltage on O2 signal circuit
  • High resistance or open on O2 signal circuit

Possible Solutions

  • Replace that faulty sensor!
  • Repair short, open, or high resistance on o2 signal circuit?

(Information courtesy of

Option 1 was simple and potentially expensive. Some oxygen sensors were cheap. Others not so much.

Option 2 could be cheaper… or even more expensive. You could buy the tool needed to measure the resistance. Then read up on how to determine if that 02 circuit is short, open, or high.

With option 2 you were always taking a gamble. You may have to pay for a good voltmeter and a new o2 sensor in the end. Or just the voltmeter.

Then there was the wealth of online information that either enlightened you or intimidated you when it came to figuring the whole thing out.  Click here, here and here for a small taste of that experience.

For many enthusiasts out there, all this potential for misdiagnosis represented an “I give up!” moment, and a trip to the local independent repair shop.

The mind would wander, “Perhaps that oxygen sensor could just be loose, or defective. Or maybe the problem was truly beyond the confines of that sensor.”

Who knew? Not you.

The world of yesterday and today still has one link in the chain that keeps everything together. A good mechanic. An expert with knowledge and experience that can find the resources needed to zero in on a problem which is elusive to most owners.

But what if you could do diagnose it instead? With absolutely no question as to what needs to be done?

What if your car also monitored all the essential fluids and components that wear out over time?

Many of us have a good ear for a starter or alternator that is about to conk out. However, a rear main seal or a water pump may escape our attention as we travel from here to there.

How much would you pay for perfect diagnostic information?

Let me toss in another reality for you to consider?  Hundreds of thousands of vehicles are exported overseas, in part, due to the high feature and option content of vehicles sold in North America.  There are certain marques I routinely sell, such as Honda, Toyota, VW, and Mercedes, which continue to have a strong demand in overseas markets.

Would you be willing to keep a vehicle for 200,000 miles if such a system was installed on your vehicle for let’s say $750, in exchange for an extra $1500 at trade-in time? Let’s say such a system would also save you, on average, about $1500 in repairs and maintenance expenses as well. Not to mention saving a few of our resources.

It’s your call.

How much would you pay? Would you keep it for the long haul?

Is the offer I described attract the keeper side of your personality? Or is the temptation to trade it before that 200k mark simply too great? Feel free to exchange 200k for 13 years if you don’t drive much these days.

All the best… and happy new year!


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Piston Slap: Pay No Attention to that Minder behind the Curtain! Wed, 18 Apr 2012 11:12:02 +0000


Bryan writes:


I bought a salvage-title 2007 Honda Fit with 73k miles. Since then I’ve put 10k miles on it.

The owner’s manual has no maintenance schedule. Instead, everything is driven by the “maintenance minder”. A small display shows alphanumeric codes when certain conditions are reached. For example, the “1A” service is oil, filter, and hose/boot checks. Other codes like “1C” and “2C” are more rigorous things like belts & plugs, trans fluid, etc. There is an infamous oil life monitor which, if followed, has me draining blackstrap molasses at enormous intervals.

I’m stumped as to the mileage or conditions that prompt these. Without any previous service history I don’t know when to change plugs (are they 30k or 100k plugs?), transmission fluids (either on a normal or severe schedule) or serpentine belt (it was nearly dust at 74k).

Is there a database that reveals the mileage behind these reminders? I’d like to keep the car as long as possible. I love it and I love car maintenance. How can I be a maintenance hypochondriac with a maintenance minder?

Sajeev Answers:

As this informative–yet questionably biased–blog post shows, Honda’s maintenance minder is all about telling you when you need stuff. Lotsa stuff! And apparently you must use Honda approved oil…which means no synthetic oil.  Other than that depressing note, this system is a good idea for a self-proclaimed “Maintenance Hypochondriac”such as yourself.

Combined with the fairly low-maintenance nature of modern cars, I am a little concerned for your well-being. Because, by definition, Hypochondria is a serious illness not to be taken lightly.

I have yet to Google a relevant analysis of how these maintenance minders (Honda or otherwise) actually work.  And I rarely doubt modern “minders”, but my older cars that run Mobil 1 are a different story: I’m not throwing out perfectly good, still kinda golden, M1 oil after 3500-4500 miles no matter what my dashboard says.  It would be nice to see an algorithm that explains how driving styles affect oil life, how engine performance (determined by the rather brilliant sensors in your EFI system) degrades to the point of needing a tune up, etc. but it seems like a case of “Pay No Attention to that Minder behind the Curtain.” The world may never know!

My advice?  Question the machine by doing a visual on the wear items in question. Definitely get your oil analyzed the moment a warning light comes on: you know, just for funzies. Then you’ll know which items to trust, especially if Hypochondria is a valid concern.

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

If you wish to seek the truth, check your spark plugs. That is all. 


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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