Since you have a decent working knowledge of cars, you probably already know that there’s no real substitute for the car diagnostic tools that a professional diagnostic technician has at his or her disposal. Those tools, of course, typically consist of something like a Snap-on Modis and a whole lot of prior experience diagnosing similar problems.
However, technology has come a long way in recent years, and there are still ways for a determined do-it-yourselfer to save some money during tough economic times.
The simplest “scan tools” are really just “code readers,” and that may be what your local parts store tries to sell or rent to you. This type of scan tool tends to be very affordable, and it can get you on the right track, but knowing the trouble code is only the first step in a potentially long and complicated diagnostic process.