Many drivers are very familiar with the annoying check engine light. This light usually comes on when you least expect it. Even though the light is annoying, it’s a sign that the vehicle’s system is not okay. If the light is stable, it shows that it’s a minor issue, and you can drive on.

But if the light blinks, it indicates a severe problem that has to be dealt with immediately. Mechanics, technicians, and even drivers use the OBD1 or OBD2 to diagnose vehicle problems. But what is the OBD2 scanner?

What is OBD?

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Before we elaborate on OBD2, it’s essential to define what OBD is. On-Board or OBD1 diagnostics scanner is an automotive electronic system that delivers vehicle self-diagnosis and repair technicians’ reporting capabilities. The OBD provides technicians access to subsystem data for the aim of performance monitoring and analyzing repair needs.

Additionally, On-Board Diagnostics is the standard protocol used on most light-duty vehicles to recover vehicle diagnostic information. Engine control units inside the car create the data. OBD is made up of software that runs diagnostics in the background.

What is OBD2?

On-Board Diagnostics is a diagnostic system that is featured in all vehicles made after 1996. It follows the OBD II Standard and is used to check the engine and other vehicle systems and communicate all the possible faults that may occur. In short, it’s your vehicle’s built-in self-diagnostic system. It helps you monitor your vehicle’s health and safety condition.

The OBD2 scanner brands became more popular after introducing new smog regulations and increased consumer demand for technology advancements. What’s more, the OBDII system was designed by the California Air Resource Management Board (CARB), and it has been through some crucial changes since its introduction in 1996.

OBD2 history

On-Board Diagnostic 2 system dates back to the 1960s. The various organization set the cornerstone for the standard, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), California Air Resources Board (CARB), the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). 

It’s crucial to note that before standardization, manufacturers were designing their own systems. Besides, the tools from each manufacturer had their connector type and electronic interface needs. Also, they as well as utilized their custom codes for reporting issues.  

Here is the OBD history:

1968 — Volkswagen introduced the first OBD computer system with scanning capability.

1978 — Datsun inaugurated a straightforward OBD system with limited non-standardized potentials.

Related article: How You Can Pass OBD ii Emissions Test With a Scanner?

1979 – One of the standardization organizations, The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), suggests a standardized 16-pin diagnostic connector and group of diagnostic test signals.

1980 — General Motors establishes a proprietary interface and protocol capable of delivering engine diagnostics via an RS-232 interface or flashing the Check Engine Indicator Light.

1988 — Standardization of on-board diagnostics was introduced in the late 1980s after the 1988 SAE recommendation required a standard connector and set of diagnostics.

1991 — The state of California needed all vehicles to have some basic onboard diagnostics. This is known as OBD I.

1994 — California made it mandatory that all vehicles sold in the state beginning from 1996 and beyond should feature OBD as suggested by SAE. This resulted from the need for cars to meet emissions testing.

1996 — OBD-II becomes compulsory for all vehicles manufactured within the United States of America.

2001 — EOBD (European version of OBD) is made compulsory for all gasoline vehicles in the European Union (EU).

2003 — EOBD becomes compulsory for all diesel vehicles in the EU.

2008 — from 2008 onwards, all vehicles in the US were needed to implement OBDII via a Controller Area Network as required by ISO 15765-4.

What’s the difference between OBD1 and OBD2?

OBD stands for “onboard diagnostics” system. Before OBD1 was introduced, every manufacturer had their personal set of standards for OBD, implying that mechanics had to spend a lot to get different scan tools from other manufacturers. The first OBD1 was introduced in 1987 and commenced the standardization of onboard diagnostics.

Besides, the OBD1 featured sensors that detected O2 emissions and could reduce them via emissions-controlling valves. Nonetheless, it had many challenges and setbacks. In 1996, vehicle manufacturers began to fit vehicles and trucks with an OBD2 port. Most of the systems are almost the same but with a few variations. These are referred to as protocols and are specific to vehicle manufacturers.

In short, OBD2 code readers are the second generation of OBD or an OBD1 diagnostic scan tool. Moreover, the OBDI was externally connected to the console of a car, while the OBDII was now integrated inside the vehicle. OBD1 was used for cars sold in 1996 backward, while the OBDII was officially used from 1996 and later.  

Related article: Step-by-step guide on reading OBD1 Codes

How does OBD2 work?

Note that OBD2 comes with five basic signal protocols, and they include:

Importance of OBD to motorists

Whenever the malfunction indicator light (MIL) turns on, it indicates that your vehicle has an issue and you need to fix it immediately for your safety purposes. The OBD is very important as it performs a variety of crucial functions. These include:

They are maintaining emission control systems in use. This is crucial because most old and deteriorating vehicles pollute the environment a lot. Thus, knowing if a car is roadworthy or not is vital by carrying out an emissions test.

How has OBD2 helped commercial vehicles?

What Vehicle data can I access from the OBD?

The OBDII provides a lot of information that can help motorists to keep their cars in tip-top condition. Besides, the OBD2 offers access to the Diagnostic Trouble Codes and status information for:


Understanding the difference between OBD1 and OBD2 is very crucial. OBD1 is usually applied to vehicle makes and models built before 1996, while an automotive OBD2 scanner is used on car makes and models made after 1996.

Hi, I am Henry, the owner of this website. If you are a DIY car enthusiast like me and are looking for an all-purpose OBD2 scanner, you’ve come to the right place. With 5+ years of experience in the automobile industry, I have in-depth knowledge about most of the OBD2 scanners regarding their software versions, firmware, features, updates, and compatibility. I love reviewing these gadgets after using and testing them personally. As a result, I always try to provide my honest opinion on the overall product quality.

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