One of the curiosities of buying a classic car is that you suddenly become interested in the most arcane aspects of your beast’s welfare, and find yourself reading – and enjoying - stuff about your car that you wouldn’t dream of looking at if you weren’t an owner, much of it found in club and single-marque magazines.

That's how I came to be reading a ‘how to’ story on overhauling the front suspension of a Jaguar XJ-S, an example of which I bought last year. But the story that caught my eye in ‘Jaguar World’ was about vehicle diagnostic systems.

My XJ-S pre-dates today’s era of On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) sockets, but I know I’m not alone in worrying about the impossibility of carrying out any significant repairs to modern cars because they’re so stuffed with electronics. OBD sockets began appearing in 1996 for models sold in the US, and in all European cars from 2001 if they’re petrol and 2003 if they’re diesel.

Their primary function is to analyse the car’s engine management system for emissions-related faults, but modern systems can interrogate everything from ABS systems to climate control and even your electric seats. With the right equipment, you are potentially able to analyse all kinds of faults in your car, and potentially fix it by replacing the offending item, whose failure will be revealed through so-called fault codes.

The problem is that the right equipment is aimed at busy dealers, who buy a system called Autologic that can cater to almost every make and model – but at a price way beyond the pocket of a DIY-er.

But now there’s a system by an outfit called Auto Enginuity, a PC-based auto diagnostic system for under £200 that does most of what Autologic will do. It can interrogate the built-in memory of these more recent models, including essentials such as the state of the catalyst’s oxygen sensor that governs much of your car’s engine management activity and, if you buy an additional package specific to your car, the sensors and systems covering peripherals such as air conditioning, ABS and ESP. Around £20 may sound a lot, but it will be by far the most powerful tool in your kit, and allow you to understand your post-2001 motor like never before.

You can find out more at , but it’s good news for those who’ll be wanting to keep 21st century cars on the road when many consider them past their ‘best before’ date.

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