Did you know that your automobile has a built-in computer? This computer keeps your vehicle running smoothly, and it runs quietly until something is vitally wrong with its internal components. You see, sensors and internal components send signals back to the on-board diagnostics system all the time.
And if your vehicle’s components are running properly, there’s no need to worry – you’ll never know that data is being accessed at all times.
When something goes wrong under the hood, an OBD-2 scanner can help you determine what’s wrong.
First and foremost, an OBD is an on-board diagnostic system. This self-diagnosis system produces codes that are stored in the on-board computer and are accessed with a scanner. Original codes would simply illuminate a light on the driver’s dashboard.
OBD-I, the original scanner, was implemented in 1991 as a way to monitor emission control systems.
But the technology didn’t go far enough to display codes that made sense, or really helped mechanics or owners understand what was going on internally with the vehicle. There were previous on-board systems, including ALDL, which was introduced by General Motors in the 1970s.
OBD-2, or OBD-II, is a major improvement in the original design that offered two main improvements:
Cheaper prices in computer components allowed manufacturers to offer more sophisticated systems.
The good news it that this standard also allows for code standards and many databases to make sense of the codes that are displayed on the scanner. For example, a check engine light might illuminate despite the vehicle running properly.
The issue might be a common issue, such as an oxygen sensor going haywire, or it might be something more subtle.
Connecting an OBD-2 scanner, such as the Fixd model, will alert you to the issues your vehicle is facing, which may be something as simple as a worn gas cap. Owners who don’t mind tinkering with their vehicle can often run the scanner to:
Some scanners can connect directly to a smartphone app to help you make sense of the error codes.
When searching for an OBD-II scanner, it’s important to know that these scanners can be broken down into two main models. The model you choose will have a major impact on the usefulness of the scanner and allow you to fix your vehicle faster – in many cases.
The two main types are:
If you want to be able to analyze and debug the codes that one of these scanners produces, it makes sense to spend the additional money to buy a scan tool.
If you’re like most vehicle owners, you don’t know much about the internal workings of your auto aside from needing to turn the key and hit the gas pedal. The good news is that an OBD-II scanner is very easy to operate and can be done by anyone.
You have the skill and knowledge right now to hook one of these scanners up and start debugging your own vehicle.
A universal plug is equipped to the scanner and will connect right to your auto. The connection placement will vary from one vehicle to the next, with the scanner on the passenger side of older vehicles and sometimes on the driver’s side in newer vehicles.
Once you’ve figured out the placement, all you need to do is:
The system needs to produce a code for the scanner to pick up on a problem. Not all mechanical issues will produce a code that can be scanned. But there are also times when the code displayed will make no logical sense and may lead you on a manhunt trying to troubleshoot the exact problem with your vehicle.
Scanners are completely reliant on the on-board processing computer displaying a code.
If you have a check engine light on your vehicle, you’ll need to use the scanner to determine what is causing the error codes to be displayed. It can be a number of issues, but it can also be a specific issue that is easy to fix and will save you money in the long-term.
There are also times when multiple codes will be displayed, which usually happens following a domino effect. For example, your air filter may be so clogged that it’s causing the engine’s combustion system to be starved of air. That causes it to throw out a bunch of different codes that all stem from one main component failure.
Vehicles made after 1996 will have an OBD-II system that allows the scanner to connect to the vehicle.
It’s important to know that an OBD-II scanner cannot read the codes from an OBD-I system (in most cases), and you won’t be able to get an OBD-I scanner to be able to read any of the codes for more recent versions.
The good news is that you can spend under $100 on a scanner that will act as your own diagnostic system for your auto.
Will your scanner be as good as a dealer’s scanner?
No. The dealer will spend tens of thousands of dollars on advanced scanners and will also have a much larger database of their own manufacturer codes that are displayed. These readings are often very expensive, and they can often cost more than a reader for just a basic scan.
Advanced scans will cost a lot more – it’s often a rip off.
Any automobile owner who appreciates getting their hands dirty and wants to be able to diagnose their own automobiles should get an OBD-II scanner.
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