Whatever your level of mechanical know-how, as a car owner, you understand one thing about your vehicle above all others. Your car is a unique machine. To say it a little more poetically: all cars have a lot to say, but no two cars ever speak the same language.
The second universal truth recognized by all car owners is a darker one. Sometimes, no matter how lovingly you treat your car, no matter how often you get the oil changed, no matter how carefully you drive – that check engine light will come on.
This light, of course, means your car is trying to tell you something. But what?
At this point, most people would probably turn to the dealership or to their local auto shop to get the answer. While there’s undoubtedly nothing wrong with that approach, it’s not without its risks.
Click Here To View Post Navigation
Why are OBD Scanners Useful?
There’s nothing worse than when you take your car into the mechanic after seeing that engine-shaped light come on, only to have them misdiagnose the issue. They’ll spend unnecessary hours fixing something that’s not broken, not to mention the bill for the labor. You drive off thinking your car is fixed, only to have the light go back on a couple of miles down the road, and what’s that? The clunking noise it was making in the first place.
We’ve all been there.
What if there was a way to avoid all that frustration and wasted money? Enter the On-Board Diagnostic Scanner (ODB). ODB’s are accessories you can purchase that will give you access to the valuable information your car is trying to communicate with you.
This way, even if you can’t fix it (or maybe you can), you can stride confidently into your mechanic’s garage and point her directly towards the real issue. No more uncertainty, no more wasted time, and no more wasted cash.
A little known fact about ODB’s: remember that trip you were going to take to the dealership once you saw your check engine light come on? Well, the first thing that any good mechanic would do to diagnose that is to plug in an ODB scanner.
Once the scanner inserts in the ODB port, which can be found in several different locations depending on your car’s make and model, it runs several tests and returns with a code that is programmed in by the manufacturer. If you’re a trained mechanic, you will be able to read and understand the code and have a general understanding of the issue.
If you’re not a trained mechanic, this is where the internet comes in handy. There are plenty of beneficial websites that will help you decode the information you’ve received from your scanner.
The History of OBD Scanners
The earliest version of the OBD scanner was designed simply to turn the check engine light on so the owner would be aware there was an issue; the rest was guesswork by the mechanic. These devices have come a long way since then, starting with the development of the OBD1 in the late 1970s, followed by the much more widespread and detailed OBD2 scanners that have been the popular option since 1996.
- Supports automobiles that were manufactured in the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, mainly from 1991 through 1995
- The interface was often vehicle manufacturer-specific and it was a physical connection to a console or port on the car
- The amount of information and depth of the data was focused on the fundamentals and didn’t provide much depth
- The depth and usefulness of actual vehicle information to diagnose and troubleshoot problems were limited and not highly accurate
- Adoption and use was mainly by serious auto enthusiasts due to limitations mentioned above and the cost of the devices
- This new format became much more standardized and applies to all vehicle built from 1996 until the present day
- The interface became universal at this point and all OBD2 scanners will work with any car
- Now, much more information about the vehicle is available in terms of all aspects of the car’s performance and state
- Because of the greater breadth and depth of data available, including specific trouble codes, it is now far easier to to diagnose and fix problems
- Adoption of OBD2 scanners has become much more commonplace in recent years because of the greater usefulness of the devices, the ease in getting them installed, and the low prices
OBD1 vs OBD2 – The Differences
OBD1’s keep tabs on the exhaust emissions of cars and how the engine was running overall, but they don’t give much more information than that. Considering how many electronics are packed into today’s modern engines alone, it’s not surprising that the OBD2 scanner quickly replaced them. The motor might be the heartbeat of the car, but the OBD2 scanner allows the user to see a diagnosis of the full anatomy.
Each car manufacturer individually designed their own OBD1’s, and many were even make-specific. Think of OBD1’s like Apple iPhone chargers. You wouldn’t expect to use a charger from an iPhone4 on an iPhone8, right? In just the same way, an OBD1 scanner designed for a 1994 Ford Taurus would be useless if you hooked it up to a Chrysler. This limitation is one of the reasons the ODB1 scanner would lose popularity to its successor.
OBD2 scanners are used with a broad range of makes and models. Although they’re not entirely universal, their more extensive compatibility makes them much more convenient than the make-limited OBD1’s. Additionally, OBD2’s can be connected to a car in a multitude of ways: via a cord, Bluetooth, or even by Wifi. Since OBD1’s are exclusively used for cars made before 1996, users will need to resort to the old-fashioned plug-in method.
OBD2 scanners can be as straightforward or as complicated as your interest in the inner workings of your car. You can purchase a simple code reader, which will simply assess the issue and provide you with the code diagnosis. Then, you can either attempt to fix the problem yourself or turn to your mechanic.
If you’re a total gear-head and you’re desperate to know more details of what’s going on in your car at all times, you can buy yourself a scan tool. This type of OBD2 scanner does things like monitor fuel pressure and other features vital to the proper functioning of your engine. This type of device would be best suited for someone well-versed in car mechanics, as you do need some fundamental understanding of cars to read it.
Unless your car was made before 1996, everything we’ve learned so far points to the conclusion that OBD2 scanners are generally more helpful devices for car owners than OBD1 scanners. On most modern cars, OB2 scanners can do everything that OBD1 scanners can do and then some.
But what if you love your car that was made pre-1996, you’ve taken good care of it, and you want to be made aware of potentially engine-saving details like someone with a newer car could do using an OBD2 scanner?
Luckily for you, engineers have developed scanners that are combination OBD1/OBD2 and include software that is compatible with certain cars that were made prior to 1996. These are likely the type of scanner used in your local mechanic or dealership, but the inquiring DIYer can find versions on the market that anyone can purchase.
Related Articles :