Code Breakers: Saving Time & Money Using a Code Scanner
I had just got back from a long road-trip in my 2006 Lancer Evolution IX when I had to bounce to my son’s soccer practice. I fired up the Mitsubishi like I always do and dropped the hammer but the car seemed to hesitate and then went into convulsions that would make Linda Blair blush. Something was haunting my 4G63 and an exorcism was definitely in order. The engine sputtered at a certain rpm and the “Check Engine Soon” light was flashing at me...and it looked mad. The car made it back home in limp-mode and I grabbed our Xterra to get to practice.
I noticed the engine ran fine at idle and very light throttle, so I was confident nothing ‘catastrophic’ had occurred - but I was sick to my stomach, literally, having a car in need of intensive care. At practice I called my friend Bob Wan owner of Drift-Office, a tuning shop in Auburn, Washington. Ironically I had an appointment at ‘the Office’ in three days for a full-tilt service. Bob suspected fouled plugs. A long drive with the engine constantly at cruising speeds can push compromised plugs over the edge. I also remember the engine idled for a bit as my son and I searched for his soccer ball. During soccer practice I booked over to O’Reilly’s for some plugs. They didn’t have the NGKs I wanted but they had some Autolites that would fit. I later found my self at the local NAPA and they didn’t have NGKs but at least could get them so I had some shipped.
I pulled out my trusty Actron CP9145 SUPER AutoScanner code reader only to find the LED readout on the fritz. I was able to glean a misfire code but it was time for a new scan tool.
The engine has 75,000 miles on it and the plugs were ready for relief. Two (red arrows) had electrodes that were worn and pitted so much that they shined and one had pitting on the strap (green arrow).
Here we see a decade of code breaking evolution; the circa 2003 CP9145 (left) and the 2013-vintage Actron CP9580A AutoScanner Plus. The modern scanner is half the size but does at least twice as much as its predecessor.
The CP9580A AutoScanner Plus does a far better job scanning Asian imports, specifically targeting Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai (1996 – 2009) where the old unit would use ‘Global OBD’ mode. It reads and erases codes but goes quite a few steps further with the AutoID, component locator and Code Connect features, among others. It also reads and erases ABS codes.
The 9580A’s AutoID function identifies the make, model and year of vehicle automatically, saving the user many time-consuming steps.
The Main Menu is the first screen you encounter and it offers easy navigation of all the tool’s capabilities.
Reading codes is easy, this P0300 is representative of what I found on my old scanner. The code is displayed numerically and explained in detail right on the screen without having to look it up in a supplemental code manual like the old days.
If an error code is accompanied by a Code Connect icon, simply pressing the Code Connect button will access a database of 4.7-million service calls, matching your code with the most likely fix for your individual vehicle. That’s right, the scanner helps you figure out how to rectify the problem.
The Actron unit also has a component locator feature that gives the operator text hints of where a component might be on the car. Some of the directions are a bit vague, but others are helpful.
I installed a set of NGK Laser Iridium and the Evo’s 4G63 was noticeably crisper at idle and part throttle and should be a beast for another 75,000 boosted miles. The NGK’s cost a pretty penny at $12 each but they are worth every cent.
Unlike older scan tools, the new breed is able to view data in real time with the engine running, sometimes in graph format, and record it as a snapshot for later comparison of intermittent problems. So it can also store data as well as recall it and print it out…heck soon it will order the parts for you too!