OBD Scan ToolWhen we had the “Roadrunner,” our motor home out on the road for the maiden voyage, the “service engine soon” warning lamp came on just before we got to Palm Desert, CA, our destination. Since this is a new vehicle, I became concerned that something major might keep us from returning home without seeing a Ford dealer’s service department first, which is certainly a pain-in-the-ass when you’re on a road trip.

ewlight1.pngWhile we were camped after we arrived with the warning light still on, I did a little research on what could cause this indicator to illuminate. I discovered that this indicator mostly had to do with emissions control and nothing so serious as a major engine malfunction. Having assessed the lack of seriousness, I decided it would be safe to finish our road trip and take the RV to the dealer after we get home.

I arranged to go to the dealer and get their technician supervisor to look at the problem. He inserted a little device into a connector under the instrument panel and told me it was a code for engine misfiring. I told him the truck engine ran just fine, so he suggested that he could clear the codes in the computer and see if the warning came back on after running the engine for a while. He did that, the light stayed off and we agreed that nothing further needed to be done at this time.

On our next trip to Palm Desert, we drove all the way out there with no indication from the On Board Diagnostic (OBD) computer. Going back toward home, however, the little engine warning icon popped up again. Knowing that this still was nothing serious, we continued to our friends place on the Colorado River for a nice visit with them. The next morning, we drove home and parked the big guy in the RV drive.

To make a longer story short, I called the service department at the local Ford dealer and left a message for them that I needed to get in and clear out the error again. I know there is nothing wrong with the way the engine is running. After a day or two, having not heard from them, I decided to take matters into my own hands and went online to see if I could get the same handy-dandy under the dash gizmo that they use at the dealer.

I found the little Scan Tool at Amazon for under fifteen bucks! Some even cheaper! I received the device in the (clickable) image above today and applied it to the task of clearing the error latched into the computer in the RV. The scan tool is the size of a deck of cards and the cable is long enough to allow you to sit in the drivers seat and manipulate the very simple interface.

It worked like a charm. I cleared out Code P0300, which means “Random/Multiple Misfire Detected.” So, you might ask, “What would cause this little light to come on?” Well, a lot of semi-serious things, to be sure, but, the service technician advised me that things like contaminants in the fuel, or running through a deep puddle could cause the error we were seeing. The engine runs fine and unless the catalytic muffler is on fire or something REALLY serious, I don’t need to know about it.

We have the over-reaching nannies at the California Air Resources Board and the Federal Environmental Protection Agency to thank for this over-complicated and inconvenient bullshit in the name of saving the planet . . .

Federal law required all vehicle manufacturers to meet On Board Diagnostics, Second Generation or OBD II standards by 1996. In order to meet this standard, the automobile’s on-board computer must monitor and perform diagnostic tests on vehicle emissions to ensure that the vehicle is operating at an acceptable (legal) emission level.

Due to its preexisting standards and particularly severe motor vehicle air pollution problems in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, the U.S. state of California has special dispensation from the federal government to promulgate its own automobile emissions standards. Other states may choose to follow either the national standard or the stricter California standards. States adopting the California standards include Arizona (2012 model year), Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico (2011 model year), New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia. Such states are frequently referred to as “CARB states” in automotive discussions because the regulations are defined by the California Air Resources Board.

The EPA has adopted the California emissions standards as a national standard by the 2016 model year and is collaborating with California regulators on stricter national emissions standards for model years 2017–2025.