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Using an OBD II Scanner Tool—What you Should Know

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The OBD2  scan tool is a type of car diagnostic instrument that offers a range of features to help you find out what is wrong with your car.  These tools generally include some form of knowledge base and a code reader, which gives you the ability to see and sort live data.  There is also a professional OBD2  scan tools that has many more features, which can include:

  • Diagnostic procedures
  • An extensive knowledge base
  • Some may have built in multi-meters, scopes, and other tools used for diagnosing what is wrong with your car.

What it can do

These diagnostic tools are designed to interface with your cars on board diagnostic (OBD) system to help speed up the diagnostic process.  In addition to the OBD II scanner tool, there is also an OBD I scanner tool for cars made before the mid-90’s.  If they are not a part of your cars diagnostic center you can purchase them and plug them into the socket made for these scanner tools.  They have the capability to read and clear code like a car code reader and let the owner see the data readouts that are sent from different sensors in your car but many go beyond these basic functions.  They may also be able to do the following:

  • Store and play back live data, which is important because many of the scan tools provide a lot of data from different sensors. This will give the driver time to drive the vehicle and then review the recording of certain sensor output readings after being driven.
  • Read both manufacturer and generic specific trouble codes
  • Provide trouble code definitions
  • Graph data
  • Display pending codes
  • Provide troubleshooting tips or procedures

It is important that your OBD2  scan tool have the ability to read and clear codes it is also important and very helpful if the scan tool provides additional functions to help solve a diagnostic problem.

Scan tool knowledge bases

This is also an important part of the OBD2  scan tool because there is scientific information contained in these bases.  What information is contained there will vary from one manufacture of scan tools to another.  If you have no prior experience with the problem you are dealing with this knowledge base can help to save you time because this base will usually give you the definition of the code, and the tests that you can do to find the root cause of the problem.  This knowledge base may also list the potential faults that led to the code that was sent.

If you are not sure which OBD2  scan tool you need check with your local automotive store for help.