Recently we've had a couple of users who have asked questions where the only bit of information they give is the OBD code and the make/model of the vehicle, followed by "how can I fix it" or some such. Examples would be:

How can I troubleshoot a U0208 DTC code on a 2009 Land Rover LR2?


Error code P074B on a 2013 Ford Focus (2L engine)?

I'm wondering what the community's take on this is? Realistically the OP can go to an OBD-II site and look up the error code and get the same answer we are going to give them. Since there's no real premise behind the question other than the code itself, it seems to me to be an issue.

Can we as a community come to a consensus as to what to do with these questions? Should we close them outright as unclear? Should we try to answer them? Does it bring anything extra to the site in doing so? Give me your thoughts and suggestions as I think it's something the site needs clarified.

  • 1
    dlu edited a recent question of this type by adding a link to a definition of the trouble code. I think this is brilliant, only one of us needs to Google it, anybody else who wants to chime in has a link to the info.
    – tlhIngan
    Commented Dec 10, 2016 at 7:30

8 Answers 8


I voted to close them all, as they all come from just two usernames (but all written the same, so probably the same person), none have any responses to the "what are the symptoms" type comments we have added, and none have any further information - therefore I surmise that they are not genuine.

  • I'm changing my mind here. Initially I'd been voting against you on the closes thinking that at least we got a start to solutions to the problems. But given that we discourage me too answers and that new users can't comment on other people's questions, it seems like we should be closing them. Maybe we could posts a "do this" comment with a link to the how to and then close promptly if there is no response from the OP.
    – dlu
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 18:42

One thing I noticed with these code questions is that they're posted on multiple sites. Most sites just give the generic OBD2 description and possible failures without taking into account whether the code is actually used in that particular car or not.

I believe when we answer these questions some research effort should be put in, beyond just googling the answer and picking the first generic OBD2 result we find. As to whether to close them or not I don't think we should, as long as there's enough information make, model, year, engine, trim level etc...

I realize most users on this site don't have access to service information, but sometimes digging a bit deeper into google can turn up the same information.

  • I've noticed this too...
    – anonymous2
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 13:06

I'm torn on this subject. On one hand, googling an error code is probably easier than 95% of the other questions that get asked on this site. Given only the details of code and make/model leaves NUMEROUS potential fixes to explore, and we'd be going with a much bigger shot in the dark than we normally do. I dislike the very short, poor detail, no work put in at all question.

On the other hand, it seems that being a google result is/was something that stack aspires to be. It would be great if somebody typed in "P0245 code" and came here and found a detailed explanation with troubleshooting steps they could take.

edit: this question How do I go about troubleshooting DTC codes? is highly relevant

I'm of the opinion that they aren't great questions and should be treated the same way as other bad questions from first time users. "hi welcome to stack, please give us more details yada yada." I'm a noob though, so read this with a grain of salt.

  • 4
    That's what I was asking for was comments from the community. Whether noob or not, you are part of the community and we appreciate you being here. Thanks for your input! Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 19:58

Honestly, given the variations among vehicles, a Pxxxx (or whatever it is) will have a different set of diagnostic procedures depending on what vehicle is reporting it. Now for some, it's going to be similar across models, but we're still talking about a huge array of possible answers. And just having them spread around the site makes them hard to get at when you need them. If we did make these ok questions, I would suggest we need a better way to organize them.

I had a thought, but given our format I don't know if this is possible, but what if we had a way for users to come in with the make, model, year, and code and see if it's been answered already. Possibly even being able to browse down a list of codes that opens up into a list of cars, or a list of cars that opens up into the codes that we have answers for. I don't know how much customization we can do here, or if we even would want to.

Maybe, implement it as tags? That way if I'm having a code P0454 on a Chevy Silverado, they put the P0454 and Silverado tags together to find the relevant answers. But I don't know if we allow users to filter responses that way.

  • Aren't tags just meta data? I would bet they are the main discriminators in the search algorithm, but who knows. Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 21:07
  • I don't think have trouble code tags is a good idea. Some codes have different meanings for different manufacturers, and there's just so many codes.
    – tlhIngan
    Commented Dec 10, 2016 at 1:23

These "Code only" questions are typical of our average customer. So I approach them the same way we do at the shop. Step one "we will read the computers trouble codes, other stored data and then we will get in touch with more info and a plan of action. This is were we find ourselves with code only questions; The "answer" should include the top two or three possible causes and the next most logical tests. I assume since they did not know what the code meant then they are unlikely to possess the knowledge or tools to do the testing themselves.

But that does not mean this "here is the next tests reply" is not helpful to the questioner. It can help them if they choose to seek testing from a professional technician; it can help them ask the right questions of said professional. It can help in communicating with the tech and to trust what they hear.

I find it important to include multiple possible causes and tests as this is almost always the case and it guards against the "put in a part and pray" method of testing which can lead to expense and frustration.


My proposal would be to develop a good resource for dealing with DTC codes that we could use as the "answer" to the generic ones. Then we could vote to close them. What I'd like to see is a "I've got code X, and I see that it means Y, and I've tried Z" kind of question.

As it stands now we've got a very welcoming culture and I think people posting questions generally get the sense that we'll try to help them at their level. It would be nice to try to expand that into something more collaborative, where we expect questioners to engage and respond to comments and to respect the expertise here by trying to ask good questions.


I propose we update the generic information into the tags themselves.

This way we avoid generic "What does P0XX mean?" questions without visitors losing out on the basic information about these codes. If the community likes this idea then we can also update the new user familiarization page to advise users about where to find the generic information for each code.


Well, 2 things:

  • they went through the trouble of getting the codes read, which places these questions 1 notch above the "my CEL is on what do I do?" Most code scanners will give the human-language meaning of the trouble code. The OP may therefore have this information, but it's probably meaningless to them so they didn't bother writing it down, now the rest of us who want to answer need to look it up for ourselves. We should treat this the same as all those mystery questions where we need to spam the OP with comments to get the rest of the story out of them (make, model, year, mileage, when did it start, any funny noises, any recent maintenance, didja google the trouble code).
  • they have trouble with their vehicle, they got their codes read, and they're asking for the Mechanics Gods for help. We can take the 13 seconds it takes to Google it up for ourselves and help.
  • 1
    The problem is, I'm not sure they did go through the trouble of getting codes read. It looks to me, due to the lack of information, the obscurity of the codes, and the variety of vehicles from the OP these are just random call outs to garner some attention. Commented Dec 10, 2016 at 10:19

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