How to Use Off-the-Shelf OBD Diagnostic Tools to Find Faults in Your Car

Modern vehicles are equipped with advanced onboard computer systems that monitor various components and systems for faults. To access and interpret these diagnostic codes, an off-the-shelf OBD (On-Board Diagnostics) diagnostic tool can be immensely helpful. In this blog post, we will guide you through the process of using such a tool to identify faults in your car and provide a list of popular OBD II diagnostic tools available on the market.

Understanding OBD II:
OBD II is a standardized onboard diagnostics system implemented in most vehicles manufactured after 1996. It allows access to valuable diagnostic information through a standardized port located under the dashboard. OBD II diagnostic tools can communicate with this system and retrieve fault codes, enabling car owners and technicians to diagnose and troubleshoot issues efficiently.

Steps to Use an OBD II Diagnostic Tool:

  1. Choose the Right Diagnostic Tool:
    Selecting a suitable OBD II diagnostic tool is crucial. Consider factors such as compatibility with your vehicle’s make and model, desired features, and budget. Below is a list of popular OBD II diagnostic tools to help you make an informed decision:

a. BlueDriver OBD2 Scan Tool: This tool offers wireless connectivity with mobile devices and provides advanced features such as live data streaming, enhanced diagnostics, and repair reports.

b. FIXD OBD-II Active Car Health Monitor: It connects to your smartphone and provides real-time diagnostic information, along with maintenance reminders and estimated repair costs.

c. Autel MaxiCOM MK808: This professional-grade diagnostic tool offers comprehensive diagnostics, advanced functions, and wide vehicle coverage, making it suitable for DIY enthusiasts and professional technicians.

d. Innova 3160g Code Reader/Scan Tool: With a large display, it provides access to a wide range of diagnostic information, including ABS and SRS codes. It also offers live data streaming and supports various reset functions.

  1. Locate the OBD II Port:
    Locate the OBD II port in your vehicle, usually positioned beneath the dashboard on the driver’s side. The port may have a cover that needs to be removed to access it. Refer to your vehicle’s manual if you’re having difficulty finding it.
  2. Power On the Diagnostic Tool:
    Power on the OBD II diagnostic tool by either connecting it to the OBD II port or using an external power source, depending on the model’s requirements.
  3. Connect the Diagnostic Tool:
    Connect the diagnostic tool to the OBD II port using the provided cable. Ensure a secure connection is established.
  4. Turn on the Ignition:
    Start your vehicle’s ignition, but avoid starting the engine itself. This will power up the OBD II system and enable communication with the diagnostic tool.
  5. Read Diagnostic Codes:
    Access the main menu of your diagnostic tool and select the “Read Codes” or similar option. The tool will communicate with your vehicle’s OBD II system and retrieve any stored fault codes.
  6. Interpret the Fault Codes:
    Once the diagnostic tool has retrieved the fault codes, they will be displayed on the screen. Each code consists of a letter followed by a series of numbers (e.g., P0420). Consult the tool’s user manual or search online to interpret the codes accurately. Many tools also provide brief descriptions of the codes on the display.
  7. Diagnose and Troubleshoot:
    Use the fault codes as a starting point to diagnose and troubleshoot the issues in your car. The codes will indicate which systems or components are affected, helping you pinpoint the problem areas. Look up the specific fault codes to understand their meaning and potential causes.
  8. Clear the Fault Codes (Optional):
    Some diagnostic tools allow you to clear the fault codes from your vehicle but this is not recommended as it runs the risk of deleting factory data too.

Overall the OBD2 diagnostic tool is more useful as information for easy understanding of the vehicle’s problems or behavior even as you would take it to the service station.