What does a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) Mean?

Last Updated on January 24, 2021 by themechanic

A diagnostic trouble code (DTC) is a code which identifies a specific problem with an automobile. If your automobile is not functioning properly and you don’t know why, then an auto technician will run a diagnostic check on the engine control unit to figure out the problem. The engine control unit is the central computer of any modern vehicle. It manages virtually all the other systems and components of the vehicle. So, if there is a problem somewhere, the engine control unit will likely know what it is.

A diagnostic scanning device is used to communicate with the engine control unit. It runs a scan on the entire car to diagnose any abnormalities or malfunctions. If there is something strange dedicated, a diagnostic trouble code will appear on the display screen of the device. An auto technician will know what the trouble code means, but a layperson like yourself probably won’t know. However, you can find out what the code means by searching the internet or looking in the owner’s manual of your car.

The typical diagnostic trouble code will contain five characters. The first character is the letter “P,” which stands for Powertrain. The powertrain of a vehicle includes a series of vital components, such as the drivetrain, engine, and transmission. These three components work together to produce the power needed for the wheels and tires to move on the road. If any of the smaller components within these areas are worn out or problematic, a diagnostic trouble code will indicate which component is causing the problem.

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The second character of the code is a number which refers to the specific manufacturer of the vehicle. The final three characters are numbers that refer to the specific circuitry and system of the vehicle. These are the numbers that tell you where the problem is in that model vehicle. The main categories are the fuel & air metering, ignition system, auxiliary emission controls, vehicle speed control & idle control system, computer & auxiliary outputs, and transmission.

You can purchase a diagnostic scanning tool for $60. Once you learn how to use it, you can save yourself money by diagnosing your own car problem. A lot of mechanics will charge customers around $60 to $100 just to diagnose their problem once. Why pay that much money when you can pay $60 one time and perform unlimited diagnoses?

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