A car that runs smoothly is truly a beautiful thing. But maintaining a vehicle can be a complicated undertaking. Obviously, in a perfect world, your car would never have any issues, and you could cruise around with ease. But, rust, weather, mice, and other potential disasters constantly bombard your vehicle and attempt to break it down.
When that check engine light goes on–as it inevitably will–the hunt for the problem begins. Sometimes the car makes it easy for you to discover the problem quickly. Maybe it just needed an oil change, a relatively easy thing to accomplish. But other times, the problem can be elusive, and merely guessing could cause even more harm to your car. Before you start dismantling your vehicle to investigate, set yourself up for success with an OBD Scanner.
What is an OBD Scanner
OBD stands for On-Board Diagnostics and is a tool used to monitor the efficacy of your engine, gather emissions data, and help you identify any problems your car might have. This nifty tool is extremely helpful. Your vehicle runs tests consistently to help maintain the functioning of your car. Your car will record a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) and turn on the check engine light if it detects a problem. Before the invention of the OBD Scanner, you would have to take your car into a shop to figure out what was wrong. But because this scanner now exists, your life is simplified. Simply plug in this scanner, and it will interpret the DTC for you. Once you have looked up the DTC, you are equipped with the necessary knowledge of what is wrong with your car.
Types of OBD Scanners
Cars have been around since 1886, and they have gotten more efficient and complicated since then. In 1968, Volkswagen put the first computer in a vehicle for the average consumer. The addition of computers, while helpful, did add a whole new set of problems–and solutions.
There are two eras of OBD Scanners on the market right now. An OBD1 Scanner and an OBD2 Scanner. If your car was manufactured in 1996 or later, you will want to use an OBD2 Scanner. If your car is a bit more classic, you will want to look into an OBD1 Scanner.
This scanner revolutionized a car owner’s ability to maintain their vehicle. However, the codes were not standardized across manufacturers. This means that if your car was made between 1981 to 1985, you have to have a specific scanner for the make and model of your vehicle. If you tried to plug in an OBD1 Scanner designed for a Ford vehicle into a Toyota, you will likely get a different code. The dangers of this are many. If you don’t have the correct scanner, you are likely to get the wrong code, which will lead you to the wrong issue, and in turn, you could do more damage to your car!
- INNOVA 3145 FORD OBD1 Code Reader
- INNOVA 3123 GM OBD1 Code Reader
These are two examples of OBD1 scanners. We will expand on how to know which version of the code reader you will need below.
In 1996, the diagnostic codes were standardized for vehicles across the United States. This means that any car manufactured after 1996 that is OBD2 equipped supports any OBD2 Scanner. OBD2 vehicles have the same port across make and model. This means you could potentially have one scanner for all your vehicles.
How to Know Which Type to Buy
There is a simple test for knowing which version of the scanner you should use. If your car was manufactured in 1996 and later, you will be looking for an OBD2 Scanner. But first, check the “Vehicle Emissions Control Information,” usually found under the hood of your car. There should be more information telling you if your vehicle is OBD2 compliant in the top right corner.
If your car was made between 1981-1995, you will likely want to purchase an OBD1 Scanner. If you have a classic car that you love, you may be looking at this type of scanner. Don’t forget to research which OBD1 Scanner will correctly read your car’s DTCs.
Code Reader VS OBD Scanner
An OBD2 code reader is a more primitive device (if you can call a computer that interprets problems in your vehicle primitive). A code reader plugs into your car, displays DTC information, and resets your check engine light. It is simple and will get the job done.
If you are looking for more detailed information, you will want to get an OBD2 Scanner. Because manufacturers can put codes unique to them, a code reader may not be able to pick these up. A scanner will be able to. Scanners are designed to deliver real-time data, analyze unique diagnostic issues, and even estimate repair costs! These professional-grade scanners will give you the most accurate information you would need about your car.
Because you love your car and want it to run smoothly and efficiently for as long as possible, you need to equip yourself with tools that will help keep you informed about what is happening under the hood. An OBD1 or OBD2 Scanner is a perfect tool in your arsenal. This tool will keep you up-to-date and in the know when your check engine light turns on, or even before that happens.