As you enjoy your ride down the highway, you notice that the check engine light has turned on. What’s the problem? You start wondering! Since you’re not an expert, you park your car by the side of the road to discover why the “check engine light” is turned on. You grab your OBD2 and start diagnosing your car.
If you’re new to using OBD2 scan tools, it’s essential to know how to read the OBD device instead of visiting the mechanic every time the CEL comes on. This gadget can pinpoint the problem and allow you to decide whether to call the mechanic immediately or wait for some time.
In this post, we’re going to educate you on using an OBD2 scanner from start to finish. Note that this only applies to the OBD2 scan tool or vehicle makes and models made after 1996.
How to use an OBD2 automotive diagnostic scanner
Step 1: Locate the OBD2 port
Before you start using the OBD ii scanner, you have to locate the OBD2 port and plug in your device. The data link connector is usually located beneath the dashboard or near the steering wheel. Note that some vehicles have the port located on the passenger side or around the center console.
If you can’t find your OBD2 port, go through your user manual to know where it’s located. However, it’s also crucial to know that not all diagnostic scan tools are the same. Some are wireless, and others have a cable. Regardless, you will have to plug in something in the port for any scanner to work. If the OBD2 port doesn’t work properly, you need to fix it.
Step 2: Plug the automotive scan tool into the port
After locating the OBD II port, plug the end of the diagnostic link connector into the vehicle’s OBD II port but don’t start the engine. Ensure you have a secure fit so that the scanner can communicate well with the vehicle’s onboard computer. Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that the car should be off before inserting the scanner into the port.
When you’re done inserting the diagnostic scanner, turn on the car engine. OBD II diagnostic scanners download data from a car’s onboard diagnostic port. The port gives the user access to anything the car detects.
Related article: Steps you should follow to clear OBD2 codes without a scanner
Step 3: Read the car codes
One of the critical parts of using a diagnostic scanner is reading codes. Besides, the diagnostic scan tool can download and read codes, so you have an idea of what’s happening. OBD2 scanners can show you the O2 sensor, engine transmission data, air temperature, airflow sensor information, control module voltage, etc.
If you want to read codes properly, start by turning on the diagnostic scan tool. Next, access the automotive scanner. Some devices will begin automatically to read the car codes when powered on. Others have a button that you have to press for the tool to start reading.
Unlike a standard OBDII diagnostic system, a Bluetooth OBD2 scanner such as Fixd or OBDLink LX comes with an app that you will have to turn on and read the scanner from your smartphone or tablet. Regardless of the type of scan tool, you will be required to enter your vehicle’s VIN into the device if you’re using it on a new car for the first time.
After the scan tool has completed reading the live data, you should record it. Sometimes, the scanner will give you detailed information, but you will have to take note of the codes and look for an explanation online later.
If you don’t desire to leave the check engine light on, you can use the automotive diagnostic scanner to clear the warning light.
Step 4: Interpret the data.
When you’re done reading and recording the data, the next step is to interpret the data. The codes can be confusing, and you will need a scanner to translate them into words. There are numerous ways that you can apply to interpret codes, and some of them include:
- Read the data straight from the automotive code reader. Not all code readers will interpret the codes for you. Usually, advanced scan tools are the ones that interpret error codes. However, most scanners will give you a basic idea of what the codes mean.
Related article: Easy ways to pass the OBD2 emissions test
- Secondly, you can search online for the trouble codes. Just enter the code online (manufacturer website), and it will give you detailed information on the meaning of the error codes recorded.
- You can also use specialized software to interpret codes. Some third-party computer programs can download error codes from the OBD ii scanner and read the information straight from laptops or desktops.
Step 5: Fix the problem
The final step to using an OBD2 scanner is fixing the diagnostic trouble code. You can either do this or hire a professional mechanic to fix the problem for you. If you decide to rectify the problem, make sure you have a high-end professional automotive scan tool to pinpoint the real issue. Low-end or basic scanners don’t usually identify the real problem. They are not designed to check pending codes.
Tips for appropriately using the OBD2 scan tool
- Despite highlighting a step-by-step guide on using the OBD2 scanners, please read and follow the device owner’s manual included in the package to understand the OBD2 codes. Note that some scanners may require you to download an app and operate them from your smartphone or tablet.
- When connecting the plug with the OBDII system of your vehicle, try to be gentle and cautious as the plug comes with 16 pins, and they are very delicate. Please don’t force the plug into the pin as it might bend.
- It’s vital to ensure that the vehicle is turned off when connecting the OBD2. Only turn on the car after connecting the scanner. This will help you to avoid corrupting the OBD2 software. If your units become corrupted, you may have to incur the cost of buying a new scanner.
Now that you know how to use an OBD2 scan tool, you don’t need to waste money to have the mechanic or technician pinpoint your engine or computer car problems. Get a quality OBD2 scanner and find out what the problem is ahead of visiting the mechanic.
It’s also vital to understand that not all scanners are built the same. Additionally, some have limited functions, which can only be diagnosed by the most advanced scanners on the market.