The Truth About OBDII Car Scanners

What is an OBD-II scan tool?
An OBD-II scan tool basically communicates with your vehicle’s onboard computer and tells you what code the computer is throwing and if there is a problem that needs to be resolved. We have all experienced the dreaded check engine light.

This little amber light can make tough women squeal and tougher men cry. Well, we might be exaggerating a bit, but it does make you think about dollar signs and your local mechanic. Two things that should not be in the same sentence. The OBD-II scanner can not only read the codes from your vehicle, but it can also reset the check engine light.

Many countries won’t even let your vehicle pass the inspection because of a check engine light. This point alone puts more emphasis on the importance of diagnosing and resolving check engine lights.

Typically, you have to take your vehicle down to your local auto mechanic’s shop and have them read the codes for you.  This will require a minimum charge for inspection and diagnosis which can easily exceed $100.  That’s assuming the mechanic is honest and doesn’t try to rip you off with something like…

Even if they’re honest, and only charge $100 to check – essentially you’ve paid for the cost of an ODB-II scanner multiple times. An ODB II scanner will not only allow you to find answers to a lot of simple automotive problems, but it can also provide guidance for more complex issues.

What’s the deal with OBD II?
All modern vehicles are controlled and managed by computer systems. These computer systems or On-Board Diagnostics,  monitor your vehicle’s functions as it operates. They monitor and measure such things as the ignition timing and fuel injection calibrations to reading data from a variety of sensors such as your oxygen and mass airflow sensors.

OBD-II was introduced in 1996 and was made mandatory for all cars being sold in the United States and soon after throughout most of the world. OBD-II codes are alphanumeric and can be referenced in a vehicle service manual. You just have to read the code and look it up. The code will tell you where the problem is. “If only my car could tell me what was wrong”.  Guess what? It can.

Types of ODB II Scanners
There are lots of different types of scanners available. There are simple versions which are manufacturer specific only. There are also more complex scanners that not only read OBD-II codes, but also earlier versions of OBD. And then we got the newest and smartest ones on the block, which can be connected to your smartphone by Bluetooth and customized to your liking. This gives some possibilities which have not been available before. They all have one common-ground though, which allowing you to view engine data, record and playback stored vehicle information, and even the ability print information through a personal computer. Watching your live engine data is really cool! Prices typically range from $50 and all the way up to $10,000 for the higher end ones.

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How to use the tool
Using an OBD-II scanning tool is relatively simple. Each type of scanner is going to have specific functionality, menus, and screens. Make sure that you refer to the owners manual of your device. In general terms, you need to connect the scanning tool to the OBD II port of your vehicle.  The port is also called the Data Link Connector. The port will be more than likely located under the steering wheel and below the dashboard. It should be near where your knees would be while in a driving position. It is supposed to be located within 2 feet of the steering wheel. What you’re looking for is a 16-pin connector that looks similar to an old parallel port printer connector, for those that remember them. The connector will probably have a cover on it that may have a “Diagnostics” label or symbol on it.

Simply plug your scanner into the port. Most scanners will require the ignition switch to be turned on. The vehicle may or may not need to be running. Please refer to your owner’s manual. Once the device is on, navigate to the diagnostics menus. You should see options for code reading and code erasing. In the code reading section, note any active codes. You should also see a section for pending codes. Pending codes are those that may have come up and the computer is waiting to see if they will reappear. The code will appear as one letter followed some numbers and symbols. Take a look at your service manual to find the meaning of the code or just refer to the internet.

Fix the problem
Now that you have the code(s), you need to correct the problem(s). The code will identify what system is having a problem and what the problem is. It could point to an emissions issue, spark plugs, mass airflow, or even a transmission problem. Once you’ve identified the problem, you need to decide how you’re going to fix it. If it is within your skill level, by all means, fix it.

If the problem is above your skill level, you may need to seek professional help. After you’ve rectified the problem, you can now use your scan tool to reset the check engine light (CEL).

An OBD II scan tool can save you a lot of worry and anguish when it comes to the check engine light(CEL). You can perform much of the diagnostics from behind the driver seat. You no longer have to be a victim of check engine light(CEL) anguish. You also don’t have to be a hostage and at the mercy of your local auto mechanic. Though all check engine lights(CEL) are important and must be investigated, you can decide if the problem is urgent or whether you have a little bit of time before it needs to be addressed.

By using a scan tool, you will save yourself money in diagnostic fees that would normally be paid to your mechanic. You could let your mechanic know what the code is and he/she could go directly to the problem. This will save you labor charges. Purchase an OBD II scan tool as soon as you can and buy the best you can afford. It will take a load of worry off your shoulders and help ensure your peace of mind!

This little tool is worth its weight in gold and it will probably save you just as much over the life of your vehicles. You need one in your do-it-yourself garage.

Treat yourself and someone you know right now while it’s on sale!