Can ChatGPT Help Fix Your Car? This YouTuber Found Out – SlashGear

Artificial intelligence saw a huge bump in popularity and media attention at the beginning of 2023, largely thanks to ChatGPT’s meteoric advancement in AI technology. As a result, many have looked to ChatGPT for advice, instruction, and more for a variety of tasks — and one YouTuber wanted to test the limits of its instructional capability for car repairs.
The YouTuber in question, “Watch Wes Work,” attempted to utilize ChatGPT to assist with their efforts in fixing issues on a 2015 Chevrolet Trax. Sharing the same “Gamma II” platform with the Chevrolet Aveo, Chevrolet Sonic, and the first-generation Buick Encore, this Chevy crossover SUV was a perfectly serviceable and affordable car when it was released.
That said, time has not been too kind to the 2015 model year it seems. Seven NHTSA recalls exist for the Chevrolet Trax, including vulnerabilities in the suspension, airbags not deploying correctly, power steering system failure, and more. Consumer complaints outside of recalls also noted engine reliability issues, reports of stalling, and more. Watch Wes Work has experience working on this particular model year, explaining that vacuum leaks and valve cover problems are a pretty typical issue with the first-gen Trax, among other issues. However, they wanted to test ChatGPT’s ability to diagnose the issue, as well as offer solutions to the problem.

Upon bringing the car into the shop, Watch Wes Work checks for fault codes in the 2015 Chevrolet Trax, receiving three errors: P0171 (Fuel Trim System Too Lean), P0420 (Catalyst System Low Efficiency), P1101 (Intake Airflow System Performance). Having already purchased the parts necessary to fix the vehicle, Watch Wes Work instead asks ChatGPT for information on these fault codes to see what solutions the AI chatbot would produce.
Starting with the P0420 catalytic converter error code, ChatGPT suggests checking for any exhaust leaks in the line before the catalytic converter. Watch Wes Work discovers there is actually a leak down the line beyond the converter itself, and upon asking ChatGPT a clarifying question to see if this could still cause the same error, ChatGPT offered a correct answer.
The chatbot stated that “an exhaust leak downstream of the catalytic converter can introduce extra oxygen into the exhaust system,” inducing an overflow to the sensor that could potentially result in that same code. Watch Wes Work verified this as the potential issue, readying the parts for repair later on, and set off to deal with the other error codes. This is where, unfortunately, ChatGPT was not as effective in troubleshooting.

Knowing that these error codes are often associated with one another, Watch Wes Work pops open the hood to check the engine bay. For the other two codes — P0171 and P1101 — ChatGPT suggests an inspection of the Trax’s mass airflow sensor, as well as the vehicle’s air intake system.
For the mass airflow sensor, the YouTuber asked ChatGPT what a standard reading from the sensor would be, which is where things get a little vague. The AI chatbot suggested a standard reading from the engine to be anywhere between 2-7 grams per second “at idle or low engine speeds.” However, the more appropriate reading should be in line with the engine’s displacement in liters — in this case, 1.4 grams per second, according to the Trax’s 1.4L 4-cylinder engine.
ChatGPT did offer theoretically accurate testing methods for inspecting the air intake system, including visual checks, smoke testing for a vacuum leak, listening for changes in idle RPM changes (via blowtorch test), or listening for any hissing sounds. From there, Watch Wes Work lived up to their channel name and got to troubleshooting. This is exactly what led the YouTuber to what they suspected: ChatGPT wasn’t correct because it didn’t have context.

Watch Wes Work specifically completes the intake system checks, noting that they discovered a vacuum leak in a hose for the Trax’s PCV (Positive Crankcase Ventilation) system, as well as in the valve cover. However, due to the YouTuber’s familiarity with the issue and choosing to do an intake check first, Watch Wes Work believes they “inadvertently” steered ChatGPT into providing the solution for the Trax’s error codes. That said, the YouTuber also emphasizes that ChatGPT “has never worked on a Chevy Trax,” noting that they already knew what those two errors had in common.
According to Watch Wes Work, General Motors does not recommend a traditional smoke machine test to determine if there’s a vacuum leak because of the check valves. These valves in the PCV system actuate based on the vapors in the crankcase, and filter out unwanted gasses as necessary to regulate emissions and circulate oil through the engine’s crankshaft. As a result, Watch Wes Work knew to replace the valve cover (and a missing clip on the PCV hose) since the actual leak itself cannot be serviced without replacing the valve cover entirely.
Asking hypothetically if ChatGPT specifically diagnosed the issue, Watch Wes Work states it’s a matter of perspective, but ultimately it did not. The AI chatbot only offered basic mechanical instructions, but without the context of mechanical expertise (and specific knowledge of this Chevy Trax model year), it can only get so far without the help of a professional.