An OBD 2 code reader is an extremely useful device that can save you a lot of time, energy and money when it comes to car maintenance. An OBD code scanner will allow you to diagnose any troubles with your vehicle by yourself. This can save you an expensive an often frustrating trip to the auto shop.
In this article, we're going to answer questions like what are OBD systems, what is an OBD code reader, how to use one to run diagnostics yourself, and which ones are the best on the market.
A Brief Overview of OBD systems 1 & 2
OBD 1 and OBD 2 are both On-Board Diagnostic systems. OBD 1 is the older, original version of OBD systems, which were first introduced back in 1996. Since then, these systems have been adopted by vehicles of all kinds, all over the globe.
OBD systems use a port on the driver's side of the vehicle to connect to a cable and then to a computer that can read information from the car's engine-control system.
OBD 2 came out in the year 2000, and it provides more accurate information about your vehicle's emissions. It’s a more advanced and more powerful iteration of the original OBD system.
What’s the Difference Between OBD 1 & OBD 2?
In addition to reading data from your car's engine-control system, OBD 2 also reads data from your car's electronic control unit (ECU). The ECU controls various functions such as fuel management, ignition timing, and idle speed, so monitoring these is crucial.
OBD 2 can provide more accurate readings because it has more sensors than OBD 1 does, which means that it can get more specific information about what is happening inside your car and detect any hiccups—hopefully before they become serious!
How an OBD 2 Code Reader Works
An OBD 2 code reader is a handheld device that you plug into your vehicle's OBD port (the 16 prong connector typically located beneath the dash) to read DTCs (diagnostic trouble codes).
DTCs are stored in the engine control module (ECM), and they're like little messages that tell you what's wrong with your car. Once you plug in your OBD code reader, it’ll run a bunch of different tests on your vehicle via your OBD system’s sensors. Then, it’ll display the test results on the device’s screen.
The display will show you which DTCs triggered the CEL (check engine light), along with the DTCs’ meaning and it may even suggest possible solutions depending on your device, the DTC, and your vehicle. Some code readers include a glossary where you can look up the exact meaning of DTCs and what to do about them, which is super convenient.
If you don't have an OBD 2 system in your car, you can still use a code reader—it just won't work as well. There are two kinds of code readers: those for cars with OBD 2 systems and those for cars without them.
How to use an OBD Code Reader Step by Step
Using an OBD2 scanner is really simple and you can run a diagnosis in a matter of minutes.
- Turn the ignition on your vehicle and leave the motor running.
- Locate the 16 prong connector in your vehicle, which is typically located beneath the steering wheel on the driver side, or beneath the dash board somewhere.
- Connect your OBD code reader, and it should automatically boot up. Then, in the menu section, you will be able to choose an item that probably says something like start diagnostic. Depending on the device you have, a prompt may come up asking you if you’d like to begin the diagnosis. You can simply choose “Okay” if that’s the case.
- Allow the device to run its diagnosis and read any trouble codes that may appear.
- When, it’s finished read the DTCs and look them up.
- If you’re all done, you can clear the CEL through the menu of your device if it supports that function (most offer this functionality).
What is the best OBD2 scanner?
There are of OBD two code readers out there on the market today. These come in a wide variety of price ranges, but some are going to be a better value in a better deal than others.
A very dependable brand that’s getting really popular is Ancel. They make a wide range of code readers that fit different budgets.
Ancel AD410 OBD2 Scanner Tool
The Ancel AD410 is an excellent mid-range OBD2 code reader that offers a great selection of features. It’s affordable enough for the average consumer who won’t need to use it every day, but has plenty of extra features that offer a more complete look at your vehicle.
The AD410 offers real-time data viewing form the ECU on its large color screen. You can easily monitor things like engine temperature while using the car. Italy has an in-built fault code library so you can look up any stored or pending trouble codes.
Although it does not support Japanese car models, it supports virtually all other major car manufacturers.
In case you’re wondering what is the best car scanner tool at the budget price range, there’s a cheaper alternative that is still very robust and includes all the most essential features—the AD310 by Ancel.
The AD310 is a more basic version of the AD410, and includes everything you need in order to identify pending and stored trouble codes. All you need to do is plug it in and it’ll start automatically. Then, you can use the included library to look up the codes you’ve identified and then clear them out.
Using an OBD II scan tool is as simple as plugging it in. Then, you can look up the codes and learn how to fix them. If you have to bring your car to a mechanic after that, then you should do so if you have no idea how to fix the issue yourself.