If you drive a car or truck, you have access to your OBD port – an “On Board Diagnostic” component built into your vehicle. In order to connect to the valuable data that can help you lower maintenance and repair costs and keep your vehicle healthy, you will do well to purchase an OBD Scanner. If your vehicle is one of the growing population of vehicles over 16 years old on the road, but still at least a 1996 model, you will need an OBD2 scanner.
What exactly is an OBD2?
Every vehicle manufactured is constructed with a built-in Onboard Diagnostic System (OBD and OND-2 after 1995) that reports performance such as build-up levels in the engine, fuel injector activity, ignition timing issues, crankshaft and camshaft position, throttle opening, the firing of the ignition coils, incoming air and coolant temperature and many more. But the earlier systems (before 1996) varied from brand to brand, making access to it to be a complex matter. Beginning in 1996, manufacturers were ordered to include a universal diagnostic system, easily accessible in all vehicles. Although you can’t really go wrong when choosing an OBD2 scanner today, there are still many options providing various features to fit a variety of purposes.
Not all Scanners are created equal
Your personal scanner connects to your vehicle to provide you with a reading of your car’s functions beyond the “idiot lights” you see on your dash. The basic information you get can give codes to tell you what is going on inside your vehicle and what may need work, while some more advanced scanners have color readouts and actually tell you what the codes mean so you don’t have to read a manual to understand them. Some scanners even allow you to reset those dashboard lights, including that pesky “engine” light, once you know you have a loose gas cap and no immediate need to race to the mechanic.
The benefit of having a scanner
There are many types and styles of OBD2 scanners, from small handheld remote-controlled models that fit in your glove box, to smart scanners you can connect right to your smartphone. Some take constant readings, while others read only when programmed. If you live in one of the states where emissions tests are mandatory, your scanner can save you time and money letting you know if your levels will allow your vehicle to pass the test before you take it to the mechanic. That goes for all repairs and maintenance. With a scanner, you can run diagnostics to tell you if you need a mechanic, or just to check on whether what your mechanic is telling you matches the messages from your car. It also comes in handy once you are thinking of selling your vehicle, giving you the information you need to be sure you are passing along a well-running vehicle.
You don’t have to guess
Like everything else on the market today, there is a multitude of reviews and information on the many OBD2 scanners, their individual features, and how well they perform. You could ask your mechanic for a recommendation, although they might not be so thrilled to help you get the information you could only get from them without a scanner. Don’t let that discourage you. With a little search over the Internet, you can find the right OBD2 scanner to meet your needs and plug into your car’s brain and take the next onramp to more efficient, and less costly, car care.