OBD Tools: What You Need to Know
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OBD Tools: What You Need to Know

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The Origins of OBD

OBD or On-Board Diagnostic is a system that enables the car’s computer set-up to interface with external electronics. Its main functions are for self-diagnostic and reporting of the car’s condition and overall performance. OBD allows vehicle owners and technicians to determine specific areas that require repair or unlock certain functions to improve performance.

OBD was introduced in the 1980’s in response to the need to regulate emissions and to deal with the mass production of cars with electronic fuel injection. The early versions of OBD are simple light indicators that illuminate and signal if a car issue is detected.

The Rise of OBD II Scan Tools

OBD II is the updated version of the original OBD system. OBD II can detect the underlying issue of a vehicle via DTC (Diagnostic Trouble Codes). The system analyzes and explains what the code means and suggest the appropriate measures to fix it.

The original version of OBD, the OBD I, provides simple functions like monitoring of the fuel delivery system, oxygen level, engine control module, and the EGR system. It doesn’t have a standard procedure for the different car makers and models to follow.

On the other hand, the OBD II was launched to create a standardization on the features and functions automakers can implement on their different car models. In 1996, the OBD II standards became mandatory to all vehicles produced in the US.


Types of OBD II Scan Tools

There are basically three types of OBD II scan tools available in the market today. These are basic code readers, DIY scanners, and professional scanners.

Basic code readers are cheap and useful tools that perform simple functions. They can detect the current trouble of the car and flash the DTC code of the particular issue. The driver will then have to look at the provided DTC code guide of the car or search online to determine the exact problem.  

DIY scanners are Do-it-Yourself tools that can tell the exact location of the car problem and provide suggestions on how to fix it. They can be connected via PCs or smartphones for convenient access to data. DIY scanners are perfect for drivers who are interested in self-repairs.  

Professional scanners offer more advanced functions compared to the two types earlier mentioned. These scanners are commonly used by automaking companies and auto service centers with advanced facilities and technology. They are at about the size of a tablet and can accurately provide results in just a single scan.

OBD II Functions

An OBD II tool’s most important function is to provide accurate diagnostics. The tools, if used correctly, can also make your car run faster. There are OBD tools that can access and tweak critical systems in the car via a dashboard port. They can track and record the vehicle’s fuel economy, lap time and power output. They can even alter or remap the car’s software to unlock horsepower, bolt on a new air intake or improve the exhaust system. Most of these tools with advanced functionalities are set in the cars of professional racers.

The Future of OBD

Currently, around 150 million vehicles in the US are running with OBD II tools. Convergence or the ability to use Wi-fi signals and integrate with a laptop or smartphone is the next step in OBD II technology. We can also look forward to a more advanced GPS system merged into a super device that will make driving safer, greener, and way more efficient. Driver-less car systems are also in development.  With all these rapid advancements in technology today, the future of OBD II tools is one that’s worth to be excited for.

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