On-Board Diagnostic Codes For Online Auctions

Dash Light is on: How Do I Explain This to my Auction Bidders?

So the car you are trying to sell at your dealer auction has the engine warning light blinking. It can mean trouble for the person (bid sale attendant) trying to merchandise this car online to their wholesalers.

I recommend full disclosure, because it will avoid a problem when they come to pick up the car.

Full disclosure sounds easy “The check engine light is on” but a check engine light can mean anything from a $20 sensor to a $2000 valve job. Be careful to disclose what is actually wrong instead of blowing a sale by projecting a major problem.

First a Little Explanation of What a OBD DTC is:

A Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTCs) are how an OBD II Interface system pinpoints and communicates to automotive technicians what and where on-board issues exist. They use a simple tool called a OBD II scanner that plugs into a little port under the dash of most modern cars. The Scanner connects with the on-board computers on the vehicle and reads it’s error log (in technician speak: a trouble code)

obd II scanner for your dealer auction1 Buy OBD II Code Scanner for Your Dealer Auction Staff

I have attended a few hundred bid sales now and I always seem to find Wholesale buyers carrying around OBD scanners. Wouldn’t it makes sense for you to know the code before they do?

They are inexpensive and invaluable. I did a quick search on Amazon and found basic ones priced under $20. Click here to buy an OBD II Scanner

Being able to identify and interpret the problem quickly and easily can greatly improve the condition report (CR) and vehicle description ultimately improving your bid quality.


2. Teach Your Auction Team how to Read the Codes

Understanding what the codes mean can help improve the value of the car without having to spend a dime. So lets begin by looking at the universal system the OBD II systems are sending.

  • The first number in the Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) lets you know whether it is specific to the vehicle manufacturer or is an SAE generic code (applies to all OBD II systems).
  • The last three numbers provide information regarding the specific vehicle circuit and system. An analysis of a typical OBD II code is shown below.
DTC codes for your dealer auction

Source: TPC Wire & Cable Corp. Blog

There are a number of generic categories of DTCs to help identify on-board problems:

  • Fuel & air metering
  • Fuel & air metering (injector circuit)
  • Misfire or ignition system
  • Auxiliary emissions codes
  • Idle control systems & vehicle speed controls
  • Computer output circuit
  • Transmission

3. Ask Your Technicians for an Estimate

Some of our dealers will include an estimate of what the code will cost to repair. Be careful here because New car dealer shop costs differ from the small independent lot cost. I recommend only focusing on the cost of the parts not the time it takes to install. Even then price at Napa or AutoZone rates not the dealership parts department marked up rates (sorry parts managers, I know this bothers you but, we are trying to wholesale cars, not retail them.)


That’s it, the bottom line is: it is good to be in the know when it comes to dash codes, knowing can raise the value of your wholesale cars substantially.


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We highly recommend Auction Simplified which not only has great bid sale software they also teach their dealers how to hold world class successful events.