How to Use An Automotive Diagnostic Tool
OBD II scanner, where OBD stands for On-Board Diagnostics, is a car diagnostic tool. The OBD-II scanner reads your car’s computer system that includes all the major components, for instance, transmission, engine and others. We can say that it’s a standard automotive diagnostic tool to get into the vehicle’s computer and collect information about the functioning of the internal parts.
Below you will find comprehensive detail on how to use a car diagnostic tool, including other relevant information to help you out in the process the next time you use the automotive diagnostic tools.
WHEN TO USE A CAR DIAGNOSTIC TOOL?
You may need to use the car diagnostic tool when you come across the following scenarios:
- Check engine light is illuminated: That warning light on your car’s dashboard comes on even when the engine is not apparently failing is an indication of other problems that may have occurred elsewhere. It can be in the engine, transmission, or exhaust systems. If you think your car is working fine but the check light is on, a car diagnostic scan tool might help to identify the actual cause.
- Collect information about the vehicle’s performance/statistics: Given there are different types of car diagnostic tools, the high-end ones offer more than just reading engine codes. Advanced versions of the OBD-II scanner can also record live data of the vehicle’s system to help you fix the setup then and there.
WHAT THINGS DO WE NEED?
- OBD-II diagnostic tool: This tool reads onboard diagnostic codes that vehicles generate when it detects a problem. You may also find some scanners listed as ‘OBD 2 Scanners.’ Make sure you buy automotive tools that best fits your need and provide correct readings.
- OBD-II port: Ideally, all cars manufactured after 1996 come with an inbuilt OBD-II port and diagnostic system to work with the OBD scanner. If your car’s model is older than 1996, you have no other choice than to go for diagnosis traditionally by opening the hood or taking your vehicle to an auto service centre. Thus, in case you are planning to buy a used car in the UAE, make sure the model has an OBD-II port.
- Location of the port: You also must know the location of the OBD-II port. It is usually located near the steering wheel, somewhere under the dashboard. Some cars may have it on the passenger side or around the centre console. It’s better to refer to the user manual for specificity. Remember to turn the car off before inserting the car diagnostic scan tool into the port.
HOW TO USE A CAR DIAGNOSTIC TOOL?
All automotive diagnostic tools are generally similar in design and function. Some high-end tools may have advanced features like statistics reading capability, but ultimately, they all are simple to use as you can just plug and scan. Therefore, you are only required to learn and follow one process that we have detailed below.
USE A CODE READER
Basically, your car diagnostic tool is designed to receive diagnostic trouble codes that the vehicle records by default whenever the internal computer detects a problem. The same process is followed by mechanics, except that their equipment is much fancier and arguably more capable.
We have explained the process of using car diagnostic tool in detail below:
PLUG THE TOOL INTO THE OBD-II PORT
The data is primarily downloaded from the OBD-II port by the diagnostic tool. When you plug in the tool, it provides you access to virtually anything the vehicle has detected in terms of issues/faults. Once you have reached up till here, you only have to tweak the setup a bit to get the complete information.
The OBD-II port is universal, which means any type/kind of diagnostic tool can be plugged into it. Ensure a good fit of the end connector into the port so the tool can effectively communicate with the onboard computer. Turn the car on, in case your vehicle doesn’t store car codes in the memory. Only turn the engine on when the onboard computer required it to monitor the vehicle’s health in real-time.
READ THE CAR CODE(S)
Any car’s diagnostic process is viable and feasible because ideally, it can read the codes that are generated in response to mechanical problems within your vehicle. The tool can easily download these codes and present them to you – although it won’t be any help for you unless you are fluent in the programming language.
Once you have found a good, secured fit, turn on the diagnostic tool by switching on the power button on the unit. You can also turn it on from Bluetooth if it is Bluetooth enabled. Next, access the diagnostic scanner if it doesn’t automatically start reading once on. You may have to press the “scan” button or something like it to initiate the process.
Before we proceed, keep in mind that some Bluetooth car diagnostic tools would need a compatible third-party app to be accessed if it doesn’t have its own application. Also, you’ll have to enter the vehicle’s VIN number if you are using it for the first time in your vehicle.
After the scan has been completed within a few seconds, you’ll receive information on any specific trouble or error codes that are detected. Record this data or take note of the codes if the scanner isn’t providing a detailed explanation of what it means.
You can also download the codes on a computer, while some scanners may store them for you. Usually, scanner apps for Bluetooth-enabled tools give more information as compared to ordinary ones.
As a pro-tip, you can reset the check engine light using the car diagnostic tool and clear the codes, if you want to turn off the light.
INTERPRET THE RECORDED DATA
The next part of the process is reading or interpreting the recorded data from the automotive diagnostic tool. However, you cannot make sense of the codes even if you Googled them. You need to have a code reader to translate the patterns into plain words. In that case, you have three ways to go about it:
- Search online for car diagnostic codes: you might find some information on the automotive/manufacturer website.
- Take help from specialized software that can download the trouble codes from the diagnostic tool and read it from the desktop.
- Read it from the diagnostic tool itself. Some high-end tools provide a code description on the device as well, while others don’t. However, you can get a basic idea of the issue from the recorded data.
FIX THE PROBLEM
After getting some basic diagnostic information from third-party apps or online searches, you’re well-prepared to enter the final and fourth phase – which is the fixing part. As a disclaimer, this step depends entirely on the level of your mechanical skills or experience. So, let’s dive in.
To fix the problem read by your car diagnostic scan tool, you have two options to go about it.
- DIY: If you hold basic experience in automobile repair, the trouble codes and their descriptions will give you a good starting point to determine the issues and fix them without a professional’s help. However, it is important to note that trouble-code alerts not only indicate damaged parts, but might also indicate other problems in the internal components instead.
- Get a professional mechanic to resolve the issues. It’s always recommended because your experience and tools cannot really match that of a mechanic. You may find the repair expensive but it’s always worth it instead of causing problem in the car computer in an attempt for a DIY method. They have professional car diagnostic tools with advance features that help detect the problem in a better way.
PRICE OF CAR DIAGNOSTIC TOOL
There are different types of car diagnostic tools, OBD-II scanner available in the market. The prices, therefore, vary given they have basic or basic+advance features, however, serving similar purposes. However, the price of an automotive diagnostic tool in the UAE starts from AED 100.
Where to buy: Amazon.ae
This is all on how to use a car diagnostic tool, when you want to check the health of your vehicle or when the check engine light turns on. Besides, if you scan your vehicle before taking it to a professional technician, note the codes and provide them for a quick overview. It’s better that you don’t reset the check engine light if the error remains unidentified because there is a high probability to revert.
Stay tuned to UAE’s top auto blog for more information related to vehicle parts, their maintenance and repair guides.