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How Car Diagnostics Can Help Maintain Your Chevy Impala

BY: Larry Witherspoon Jr.
Chevy Impala Grill

While Chevrolet no longer sells new Impala sedans, there are countless examples sitting in driveways and garages. If you own an Impala or are thinking about buying one as a used car, keeping it in good condition is a priority.

One way to accomplish this is by using diagnostic tools to assess a car’s operating status and detect the source of any problems. “Diagnostic tools” may sound like a complex term reserved for mechanics, but it’s about simple devices anyone can use.

We’ll highlight several diagnostic tools every car owner should have. Plus, we’ll include a few handy gadgets to include in the tool chest if you’re inclined to take a more hands-on DIY approach to car care. In addition, we’ll review some essential maintenance tips to keep your Chevy Impala in tip-top shape.

Car Diagnostics for the Chevy Impala

No matter how attuned you may be to how your Impala runs and drives, it’s impossible for an owner to detect every problem without diagnostic tools. These modern devices can help distinguish between a minor issue and a catastrophe waiting to happen.

Even if you leave car maintenance and repairs to someone else, knowing what’s going on with your Impala before taking it to the auto repair shop makes you better informed. This way, you’ll feel more comfortable about a mechanic’s recommendations or be confident questioning a repair that doesn’t match your findings.

Types of Car Diagnostic Tools

Code Reader

Every car owner should have a code reader. This device plugs into the OBD-II port that every car built since 1996 has (it’s usually located under the instrument panel). The OBD (on-board diagnostics) system and the code reader can identify the cause of many problems that cause a check engine light or other instrument panel warning light.

A code reader can be a small electronic box with an attached cable or a tiny sensor that plugs into the OBD-II port and connects to a smartphone app via Bluetooth. You’ll need to look up the meaning of the error code (although some smartphone apps have built-in error descriptions), but having this information can be invaluable before heading to the repair shop.

Code readers are inexpensive ($25-$50) and a worthwhile investment.

Good Lighting

Fundamental car diagnostics include looking for things that aren’t normal, like a leak, broken part, or loose wire. A check for such things in a garage or after hours can be difficult without proper lighting. Skip the tiny pen light in favor of a super-bright flashlight or lantern (or both) that can help you easily inspect a radiator, spark plug wires, or other trouble spots.

Telescoping Mirror

Unless you’ve got a lift in the garage or portable ramps, looking underneath a car isn’t easy. A telescoping mirror (many are available with a light) can make checking the exhaust system or inspecting the driveshaft or oil pan a piece of cake. This basic diagnostic tool is cheap (under $20) and pays for itself.

No-Contact Thermometer

Using infrared technology, a no-touch thermometer can easily confirm normal engine operating temperatures, which can vary in different external spots. An easy diagnostic temperature hack is to take thermometer readings of a normal engine (after it’s been running for at least 20-30 minutes). Write this information down. Later on, if you suspect the engine isn’t running right, take updated temperature readings to check for any differences (remember that external temperatures can impact these readings).

Tire Pressure Gauge

Arguably the original diagnostic tool, the tire pressure gauge, measures the air volume inside a tire. Properly filled tires maximize fuel economy and help with braking and handling. Although newer Chevy Impalas (2008 and later) have a tire pressure management system (TPMS), a tire pressure gauge is still essential as the TPMS can be faulty and inaccurate. Tire pressure gauges cost less than $10.


A multimeter is another low-cost (under $50) diagnostic device that’s handy to have. A car battery doesn’t last forever (three to five years, if you’re lucky), so using a multimeter can alert you to a depleted cell before a failing battery leaves you stranded. This tool can also be used to check for faulty circuits, tricky sensors, a bad alternator, and other issues.

The above diagnostic tools can help separate minor problems from major ones. Plus, these gizmos can catch trouble early, limiting repair expenses. For those with more DIY car maintenance skills (or a willingness to learn), there are more advanced diagnostic tools to consider.

OBD-II Scanner

Think of an OBD-II scanner as a code reader on steroids. Mechanics use these advanced devices, which go beyond reading error codes. A scanner analyzes the operations of major systems (like the engine) and reports these trouble areas. However, using an OBD-II scanner can be overkill unless you know what this information means. The least expensive scanner runs about $200, with professional-level scanners running 10 to 20 times this amount. Often, you can borrow or rent one from an auto parts store.

Fuel Pressure Gauge

Just like blood pressure is critical to a human, fuel pressure is essential to an internal combustion engine. Sluggish performance and poor gas mileage are just some of the symptoms of a fuel system problem. A fuel pressure gauge checks for leaks, blockages, and other problems.

Vacuum Pressure Tester

Modern engines require vacuum pressure to deliver proper amounts of oxygen to the engine and maintain pollution controls. And all it takes is a small leak or cracked hose to throw off this delicate balance. When used on a warmed-up engine, a vacuum pressure tester can quickly determine if there’s a problem and let you go to the next step to locate the precise trouble spot.

Mechanic’s Stethoscope

A mechanic’s stethoscope is a more sophisticated device than a doctor’s. However, this diagnostic tool can help pinpoint those strange noises that always seem to go away when you get to the repair shop. A series of remote sensors are placed throughout the suspected trouble area to isolate what’s causing the mysterious sound. Audio feedback is then delivered through headphones.

How to Maintain Your Chevy Impala

Keeping your Chevrolet Impala in good working order involves paying attention to several factors.

  • Oil and Filter: An oil change and a new oil filter are the most important things you can do to keep your car running smoothly.
  • Tires: Maintaining proper tire pressure and rotating tires help tire longevity. These steps also aid fuel economy, safety, and driving dynamics.
  • Brakes: Regular maintenance services should include checking the brakes and replacing brake pads and other related components as needed. Brakes are your Impala’s most critical safety system.
  • Warning Lights: Ignoring a warning light is the surest path toward expensive repairs. Treat any error message with urgency so you can determine if the problem can wait or requires immediate attention.
  • Cleanliness: There’s more to vehicle upkeep than maintenance and repairs. Keeping your Impala clean will preserve its value by limiting rust and paint deterioration.
  • Driving: Operating a car in a safe and gentle manner reduces the chance of an accident and limits wear and tear on your Impala.

The Importance of Regular Maintenance

The key to your Chevy Impala’s longevity is following the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule. You can find a service guide in your owner’s manual or contact a Chevy dealership. In general, Chevrolet recommends changing the oil and oil filter every 7,500 miles (rotate tires, too). Above-average or extreme use may require more frequent servicing.

More detailed services occur at 30,000-mile intervals and may involve fluid changes (coolant, brake, and transmission) and replacement air filters. Later on, these types of services can require replacing additional parts like spark plugs and fuel filters.

However, don’t leave problems to the next scheduled service visit if a diagnostic tool uncovers an issue. Of course, simple things like low tire pressure are easy DIY fixes. But, potentially more serious problems, like certain error codes discovered by a code reader, should get immediate attention.

3 Benefits of Car Diagnostics

Taking a proactive approach to car diagnostics for your Chevy Impala has many advantages.

1. Cost Savings

Detecting a problem early can prevent a small issue from turning into something more expensive. For instance, an error message about engine misfires (which a code reader will reveal) may be a simple problem that can be addressed without much expense or effort. However, ignoring a misfiring engine can lead to damage to the emissions systems (including the catalytic converter, which is expensive to replace) or even engine failure.

Even keeping an eye on tire pressure can extend tire life.

2. Improved Longevity

Using diagnostic tools to regularly inspect your Impala and check for problems is also an effective way to keep your Impala running as long as possible. Car troubles don’t usually go away on their own. Instead, they typically become more expensive to fix the longer you wait. Engine and transmission repairs can be quite expensive and sometimes more expensive than the car is worth. So, being preventative can pay off in the long run.

3. Enhanced Safety

Vehicle safety is equally as significant as reliability (and some say more so). Diagnostic tools can identify potential safety issues before they become critical. For example, low tire pressure affects braking and vehicle handling. And malfunctioning systems can impact how your Impala responds in an emergency situation.

Choosing the Right Car Diagnostic Tools

Selecting the best diagnostic tools for your Chevy Impala really comes down to picking the devices you’ll use. Don’t buy a telescoping mirror if you can’t see yourself inspecting the car’s undercarriage. The same can be said for the multimeter and checking for a bad battery or faulty circuitry.

At a minimum, we suggest getting a code reader (and learning how to use it), a tire pressure gauge, and a good flashlight. Keep these essential devices in your car at all times because car troubles never happen at home.

Endurance: Another Essential for Your Chevrolet Impala

Using diagnostic tools goes a long way to keeping your Chevy Impala on the road. But, even the dedicated use of these helpful devices can’t prevent breakdowns. A Chevy extended warranty from Endurance (also known as a vehicle service contract) protects against these situations and unexpected repairs.

Every Endurance plan has 24/7 roadside assistance, trip-interruption protection, and rental car support. Endurance customers enjoy a 30-day money-back guarantee, flexible payment options, and a choice of ASE Certified mechanics for covered repairs.

New Endurance drivers can also receive Elite Benefits. A small enrollment fee activates one-year free access to vital services (a $2,000 value), such as tire repairs and replacements, collision repair discounts, and key fob replacement.

Learn all the benefits of an Endurance auto protection plan. Get a free online quote or call (800) 253-8203 to talk with an Endurance plan advisor. You can also shop online to see your price now.

Read the Endurance blog for expert-written articles about car care, DIY maintenance, vehicle reviews, and other vital topics.

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