What Does Maintenance Required Mean on a Car


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You’ve probably come across the term ‘maintenance required’ at some point in your journey with a car. Maybe a message flashed up on your multi-information display (MID) as you were happily driving along, or the Check Engine Lamp (CEL) lit up. Maybe you had taken your car for a routine service or detailing regime, and the staff informed you that your car ‘requires maintenance’. What does it mean? Today, we will explain what does maintenance required mean on a car, whether you need to take your car to a service center, if not, how you can check your car for errors by yourself, the solutions available, and recommend a comprehensive solution for you.

So what does maintenance required mean? It can range from a minor grumble that can be addressed at a future date, to a major issue that must be resolved as soon as possible to avoid a breakdown or potentially life-threatening situation. Let us show you how to find out what’s wrong, by either taking your car to a workshop, or reading it out for errors by yourself. There is a myriad of solutions available, and one of the top DIY solutions for consumer-grade diagnostics of ‘maintenance required’ situations is Carly.

Cars Are Computers on Wheels

Maintenance required checklist

Modern cars are marvels of technology, electronics, and computer engineering. They have miles of wiring that connect hundreds of sensors, control interfaces, servos, and control units together. This means that the modern car can easily inform its owner of any issues. All this is possible thanks to the On-Board Diagnostics interface and protocol, which every car produced since 2005 comes equipped with. We won’t bore you with technical nitty gritties, but the current OBD2 standard is unified via a common port that can be found inside the cabin of any modern car. Connecting a suitable OBD2 reader or scanner allows the computerized control systems to be scanned, specifically the error memories that each control unit possesses. This way, errors can be detected and investigated. If you’re wondering where this port is to be found, it’s usually within a few feet of the steering wheel. It may be beneath the steering column, inside the glovebox or storage compartment, or in the footwell behind a trim piece. Your car’s manual or a Google search will reveal its location, allowing you to better understand the maintenance required for your car.

What Are These Maintenance Required Errors?

These errors are what gives you a clue as to your car’s requirement for maintenance. They report any issue with its systems. Some issues can be trivial and are not critical to the core functionality of your car, such as an outside temperature sensor producing intermittent readings. Others are extremely critical, such as failures of critical parts in the braking, steering, and powertrain systems. Evaluating these errors is the best way to determine what kind of maintenance is required on your car, and whether you should drop everything and rush to a workshop, or whether it can wait to be addressed at a more convenient time.

How Can I Scan My Car?

The method that at least 75% of car owners and drivers will choose is to drive their car to a workshop, pay for a diagnostic scan and have someone else take care of the problem. However, when it comes to maintenance required on a car, this is not the most ideal way to do it. For starters, consider the cost. Workshops typically charge between $30 and $80 for a diagnostic scan, and that’s before you account for commuting cost, as well as time spent at the workshop.

Manufacturer workshops will typically handle all maintenance required under their brand umbrella, but third-party workshops may not be able to comprehensively scan all cars, especially non-North American models, Japanese market, or EU market-specific models. This means that you may not receive a comprehensive diagnosis, and there could be undetected errors.

Can I Grab a Free Scan?

Car maintenance required — free scan

A workshop might waive off the cost of a scan if you choose them to perform any maintenance required repairs that the scan revealed. Manufacturer workshops may also run free diagnostic promotions, and scans may be free of charge during your vehicle’s warranty period. However, given that it’s recommended to perform a diagnostic scan on your car once every three months for average mileage motorists, and as often as once per month for older cars or high-milers to catch any maintenance required situations as early as possible, it’s unlikely that you can secure a free scan every time. Remember that you must also account for time spent driving to and from the workshop, as well as time in the workshop waiting for your car to be diagnosed.

How Can I Check Maintenance Required Situations by Myself?

Maintenance required OBD scanner

This is where consumer-grade OBD scanners come into play, and a segment of savvy car owners and drivers are investing in these devices to keep themselves abreast of their car’s health. You can find devices ranging from as low as $25 all the way to $1,000. However, remember that you get what you pay for. Don’t expect a low-end device to offer much in the way of features or extended support.

Devices can either be hand-held stand-alone ones, software-and-cable solutions for laptop computers, or the latest type, adaptors that plug into the car’s OBD2 port and wirelessly communicate with an app installed on your smartphone or tab. As you may glean, the last type is the most versatile, and the type that we recommend. Moreover, we recommend that you look at a solution where the adapter and app are from the same manufacturer, as this ensures seamless and bug-free connectivity. Mixing and matching software and hardware from different vendors can be a mixed bag, as your experience may vary from decent to horrific.

Can You Suggest a Solution?

Why, thank you for asking. We proudly present Carly, a two-part holistic solution that offers diagnostic scanning for identifying all your ‘maintenance required’ scenarios, as well as much more. On the hardware side, you have the Carly Universal OBD Scanner, a small and unobtrusive device that you plug into your car’s OBD2 port. You can leave it there at all times if you wish. The Carly Universal OBD Scanner wirelessly communicates with your smartphone or tab, on which you must install the Carly app.

How do you know if Carly supports your car? Simple. Just install the Carly lite app on your device, enter your car details and it will present you with a list of what’s supported. That way, you can check and verify that Carly meets your requirements before purchasing. By the way, the purchase price is below $100, making Carly tremendous value for money, as you can easily recover that amount after two to three scans, making future scans essentially free of charge. The Carly app is regularly updated too, so you don’t need to worry about it becoming obsolete and your device turning into a paperweight.

What Else Does Carly Offer?

We’re glad you asked. Apart from powerful and versatile diagnostic scanning that can identify almost any ‘maintenance required’ situation and present a clear analysis, evaluation, and recommended course of action, Carly has a few more neat tricks.

The first is coding, which allows you to customize certain aspects of your vehicle. This depends on what the manufacturer has permitted, but common areas include behavior of the alarm when locking and unlocking the car, daytime running lamp functionality, activating, or deactivating engine start/stop, vehicle lighting, infotainment, set the HVAC system to default to recirculate, and more.

Carly also allows you to reset service reminders after performing routine maintenance required such as oil and filter changes, and battery changes. This means you can use Carly to help you carry out small maintenance jobs at home, saving on time and workshop costs.

Finally, the Carly Used Car Check is a powerful ally for when you’re checking out a used car for purchase. It conducts a comprehensive scan of all control units and is able to reliably detect mileage tampering, which is more common than you think these days.

Keep in mind, that every car has different software and modules built-in. Therefore specific features will vary with every model.

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