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Trouble codes for your 2000 and newer car, truck, or van.

Updated on September 12, 2013

The codes really help to give you an idea of where to look.

We all need to go to a mechanic once in a while. The newer vehicles need a lot of care that is very highly technical. This means the home mechanic can be wondering what can be repaired in the home garage.

Lower left corner shows odometer display. You look here for the trouble codes.
Lower left corner shows odometer display. You look here for the trouble codes.

Used to need a seperate device to read codes.

Although the home mechanic will be helped by having a code reader at home, many cars will read codes to the owner via the self diagnostic utulity in the dashboard odometer.

My 2004 dodge caravan had a serious oil leak causing engine noise.

Then all the oil ran out while on the road, making the engine really loud. I found the oil filter had a tear in the metal. The repair was calculated to be 2800 dollars, no way to get that much money. We had to decide to try to put a new engine in or run it until it quit. We ran it until it quit. It lasted for a year that way. When it quit, My mechanic diagnosed a broken or stripped timing belt. When I ran the codes they where consistant with having a blown engine or stripped or broken timing belt. They were, p0522, p0340, and p0016, showed oil sensor sending unit, cam shaft postion sensor, and valve alignment issues. So after talking to my local car geek, we decided to not repair the van. This helped me to decide wether to put the van in the shop or junk it and get a different car. We decided with the history of oil loss, and engine noise, that the engine was beyond repair.

You can really help to decide when to take your vehicle to a shop.

Usually, when you run codes you can tell the parts guy what the code means, then many times, you can try some things that are less expensive than going to the mechanic. Also it can help, when you do go, to tell the car guy what codes ran. It can help him to know what to look for and can help him to understand that you are not completely at his mercy as well.

If you are the least bit handy get a code reader.

With a code reader, less than a hundred dollars for a good used one, you can write the codes down and discuss them with your car guy or mechanic to point you in the right area of your vehicle to repair the problem.

Code readers come in lots of versions, get one with the features you need.
Code readers come in lots of versions, get one with the features you need.

For the 2004 Dodge Caravan to read codes.

Some cars need a foot on the brake before the ignition will turn. With foot on brake, turn key forward to on, then off. Repeat three times. Look at the lower left, where the odometer is, after several seconds, you will see some numbers that start with a letter 'P'. Write codes down as they flash by, when 'done' appears,the self diagnostic has completed the cycle. I do this a few times to be sure my codes are correct and that I've gotten all of them. FOR EACH VEHICLE look up the vehicle self diagnostic method to run codes, usually a key sequence at the ignition. Some cars need a code reader, sometimes you can borrow one from your local car geek. Try not to spend your money on parts, unless you run the codes.

Reading trouble codes will point you in the right direction.

You may very well need more diagnostic tests to get the best solution. Codes are a good way to start when your ride is down.

Run codes, then perform repair. You can save money, time and aggravation.
Run codes, then perform repair. You can save money, time and aggravation.

If you are not good at car repair...

I can change plugs, and fuel filters, change oil and charge and change a battery. Beyond that I really need some help. When you run codes, you are given a code to a system or a component like a senser. It doesn't tell you how the senser is malfunctioning. Electrical problems, other senser malfunctions, vacuum leaks and electrical shorts can cause a code to show. If you can, ask your local car geek what a code might be telling you. Always keep a phone number to a reliable mechanic around, at some point you will need it.


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