Here Is How To Use And What To Understand About OBD Scanners

Technology is evolving at a fast pace. In the automobile industry, cars are now made with sophisticated technology. This technology goes far beyond the basic car mechanics many of us grew up with. It’s no wonder that today’s drivers can now take advantage of improvements in OBD2 scanning technology. In the past, OBD2 technology was only available to expert automobile mechanics with expensive equipment. 

However, things have taken a different turn. Today, you can own an OBD2 scanner as long as you understand its functionality. OBD (on-board diagnostics) diagnoses almost every issue within your car. Whether your engine is down on oil or a nut is out of place, OBD scanner steps in to diagnose the problem. With this knowledge in mind, read on to learn how an OBD scan tool works and how to use it.

What is OBD?

OBD, or Onboard Diagnostic, is the primary system that allows external electronics to interact with a car’s computer system. Cars are now increasingly becoming computerized, and OBD station steps in to help with this because the software is now the key to fixing many issues in vehicles and unlocking performance. OBD has existed in many forms before anyone could pronounce the words “connected car.” OBD emerged primarily because of two reasons: The urgent need to control emissions and the large-scale adoption of electronic fuel injection (EFI) by automobile companies in the ’80s. EFI requires complete computer control, unlike previous mechanical fuel injection systems. Let’s now look at the functionality.

Get the Codes

You can find an OBD2 scan tool at many auto-parts stores. If your mobile device is Bluetooth-enabled, you can download an app to help with data interpretation. You also need to buy an OBD reader to display the explanations and codes directly on your device. If your vehicle is older than 1996, you might need to buy an OBD1 scanner. This scanner is more vehicle-specific and doesn’t use the universal OBD2 coding system. For this guide, we will focus on OBD2. You will need to insert your code reader into your car’s DLC (Diagnostic Link Connector).

Vehicle Information

Once you’ve connected the code reader to the DLC port, it can now read the diagnostic trouble codes stored in the system. Typically, DTCs start with a letter to indicate the system affected, followed by five digits to show the issue. You may need to input your VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), car make, and model of the car on some code readers. Additionally, you might also need to specify the engine type. Once the code reader finishes booting up, look for the menu and open the codes menu. Though scanners are different, there are codes for the body (begins with a B), chassis(starts with a C), powertrain(begins with a P), and the network codes(starts with U).

Here Is How To Use And What To Understand About OBD Scanners

OBD2 for Performance

OBD was primarily designed for diagnostics. However, it’s also heavily used in tuner circles if you’re looking to get improved performance out of your vehicle. Typically, the scanner relies on your car’s sensor to assess if something has gone wrong. What’s more, some systems can even read real-time information from the sensors. Some companies make dongles tailored for monitoring a car’s system, whether for tuning or checking on a driver’s speeds. You can also get performance tuners that connect to the OBD port. They can remap your car’s software to improve performance and increase power output.

Understanding the Numbers

During diagnosis, you may encounter numbers such as P0xxx, P3xxx, or P2xxx. These are generics codes that apply to all models and makes. For instance, P1xxx codes are automaker specific, such as Toyota, Honda, etc. the second digit tells you what subsystem the code refers to. For example, a code P07xx indicates the transmission. The last two digits are the problem the code refers to. If you’re unsure what a specific code means, consult a mechanic or check a code chart online for more information on each code.

An OBD Device saves you Money and Time

As a car owner, the chances are high that you spend plenty of time and money at service centers. The engine light tells you something is wrong. But you don’t understand the problem, so you cannot assess whether it’s something you can quickly fix or it requires professional help. Additionally, you cannot determine how much it will cost. An OBD tool works similarly to the ones used in service centers. Plug it into your OBD port, and you’ll know what’s affecting your engine performance.

Hopefully, now you understand how an OBD scanner works. An OBD device is also critical in ensuring vehicle safety. It diagnoses the severity of your car’s problem and ensures you’re not driving a vehicle with issues that can cause accidents. Finally, if you want to benefit from an OBD scanner, you need to know all the error codes, and only then can you point out the problems.

Steen Hansen
Steen Hansen has always been into vintage, retro, architecture, gadgets and especially everything with an engine! With more than 11 years as Art Director on danish car magazines, test driver and continuously been pushing boundaries on the race track himself.