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Your car can either be your best friend or biggest foe depending on how well you maintain it. But with the advent of the car ECU (that’s “engine control unit,” aka the car’s computer), many of the tweaks that gearheads could perform manually are handled behind the scenes by the car itself. When’s the last time someone told you they had to adjust the fuel mixture on their carburetor? The ECU takes care of that for you, on the fly. Of course, when the Check Engine Light (CEL) begins to glow on the dash, most drivers panic, and for good reason. The CEL could be something as minor as a fuel cap that needs to be tightened--or it might signify that one of your cylinders misfired. CarMD enables you to take some of the guesswork out of determining exactly what’s wrong with your ride with the help of its literally named 2100 Handheld Tester.
CarMD's 2100 can be useful for gearheads. But the limits on number of vehicles and a monthly cap on tests may turn off those who need to monitor ongoing problems or who own more than three cars.
Call it doctor--Dr. Drive Good.
The CarMD 2100 connects to the industry standard OBD2-compliant 16-pin port found on most vehicles manufactured since 1996. After downloading diagnostic information from your car, you plug the device into your Mac and are presented with a list of problems recorded by the vehicle, as well as its likelihood of passing a smog test. Information is displayed clearly and can be printed out so you can take the information to your local mechanic (or fix the problem yourself, if you’re automotively minded).
CarMD software is actually a portal to CarMD’s website, which contains a database chock-full of automotive information. Unfortunately, the 2100 can’t reset warning lights after you figure out what’s wrong. You’ll need to contact your vehicle manufacturer for instructions on resetting warnings yourself.
The odd thing is that when you purchase the CarMD 2100, nothing on the box informs you that you’ll be registering for a service that is limited to three vehicles. Also, you can perform only six diagnostics a month. A majority of users won’t have to worry about these limitations, but some disclosure on the box could keep the owner of four vehicles from purchasing a device that may not live up to its potential.