If you have a used or even a new car, it’s important to have access to an on-board diagnostic scanner, otherwise known as a OBD code reader. This will allow you to see what the problem is if the check engine light ever comes in, saving you the trouble and the cost of needing to bring it into the shop.
Plus, depending what the problem is, you can probably keep using your car instead of needing to rely on friends or a taxi to take you around until the auto shop is done with it.
Why You Need Your Own OBD Scanner
Having your own OBD code reader is the best option as opposed to renting or borrowing one. You’ll always have one when you need it, and to be frank, they’re affordable enough that if you buy one, it will pay for itself in savings relatively quickly.
Also, with your own device that you always have when you need it, you can perform regular checkups to catch problems before they get any worse. The ability to monitor your car’s systems and find any “pending codes” before they become “stored codes” is a great benefit.
This alone can save you lots of money in potential repair costs that you could have avoided if you were doing regular check ups.
What’s the Difference Between Pending Codes and Stored Codes?
Pending codes and stored codes are two different types of DTCs (diagnostic trouble codes). When you use your OBD 2 code read to perform a diagnostic on your vehicle, you may encounter one or more DTCs.
A pending code is something that has been identified as a developing issue. Your car’s OBD system could have picked up on some wear somewhere along a certain system. In this case, it will tell you what its sensors have detected through a pending code.
Your OBD II scanner will then interpret this code, and a good OBD scanner will offer you a definition of the code, letting you know what the most likely culprit is. This is not always an exact science though. Sometimes there are faulty readings due to faulty sensors, or misdiagnoses. That’s why it’s a good idea to start over and run your diagnostic if it comes up with DTCs. Then, you can be sure that the code reader is reading the same thing each time.
A stored code is a DTC that triggers the CEL (check engine light). This is a more serious problem that most likely needs immediate attention. Some stored codes are the result of things that can actually be ignored, but this is probably not a good idea if you care about the longevity of your vehicle.
How to Connect an OBD 2 Code Reader to Your Car
Hooking up your code reader is simple. First of all, you need to buy a good OBD II code reader.
Once you have one, locate where the OBD port is on your vehicle. On most cars, it’s inside the car below the dashboard. The connector has 16 terminals, so you should be able to easily identify where your car adapter for the OBD reader device can be plugged in.
Attach your car adapter to the port and plug it into your device (or vice versa). Turn the ignition on your vehicle to start your engine.
How to Get an OBD Code Reading
The code reader should automatically come on, and bring you to its main menu. To conduct a diagnostic, choose the option that says “run diagnostic” or something along those lines from the menu.
Then, the device will communicate with your vehicle’s OBD system to see if any DTCs come up. If any do, you should be able to get a definition for them depending on what model code reader you have.
Using a Bluetooth OBD II Scanner
Not all OBD 2 code readers use a cord to plug into your car. These days, there are more modern options that will actually let you use your own smartphone as the screen.
With this method, the OBD code reader will plug directly into your car’s OBD port without a wire. Then, the OBD code reader and your smartphone will connect through Bluetooth and you’ll be able to use a menu through an accompanying app that has the ability to issue commands and interpret readings.
This is a super convenient method because you can save all of the readings that you get directly onto your smartphone. You can then share them with others as needed, or even print them out to show your auto technician.
An excellent Bluetooth compatible OBD2 scanner is the Ancel BD200. This device is affordable yet comes with all of the functionality you might need in an OBD2 scanner and more. It’s a state of the art device that any car enthusiast who loves technology will appreciate.
The Ancel BD200 makes a great gift, but if you don’t have an OBD 2 scanner yourself, you should buy at least one to keep in your vehicle or in your garage at home.
Are Bluetooth OBD 2 Scanners Better Than Traditional Ones?
Put simply, Bluetooth OBD 2 scanners are usually just as good as normal OBD 2 scanners, but they have the added bonus of wireless technology. This is ideal for people who have back pain or difficulty bending over into tight spaces and don’t want to have to use a corded model.
The ability to share results is also a great advantage. However, whether one scanner is better than another comes down to which models you’re comparing. Be sure that the model you select includes the features you need.
Using an OBD code reader is easy enough for almost anyone to do. The hard part comes when you have to decipher what the DTCs that come up mean. Although many code readers include definitions for the codes within the device, this can still take some technical knowhow.
In conclusion, everyone should have their own OBDII code reader, so pick one up now and always keep it in your vehicle.