How To Use OBD2 Scanner to Read & Understand Its Live Data

OBDII Fault Code Reader

OBDII Fault Code Reader

Whether you are a car owner who is enthusiastic about vehicles, or you have pretty basic-level knowledge about cars, it is undeniable that your vehicle will need quite a lot of maintenance. Therefore, as a car owner, you will need a system that can scan and identify problems and troubles with your vehicle so that you can get it fixed before you face any larger problems.

Today, the most popular and common system that cars use to identify problems is the OBD2 scanner. OBD stands for on board diagnostic. Since 1996, all vehicles are compelled to have an OBD2 scanner system in them. This compulsion is part of the reason why your car needs an OBD2 scanner.

Other reasons for having an OBD2 scanner in your vehicle are the technological advances that are being incorporated into these scanners. You will easily find OBD2 scanners that connect to your smartphones through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, and that allows you to have better access to real-time insights about your vehicle, resulting in better and efficient management and maintenance of your car.

Step-by-step guide to OBD2 scanner

OBD2 CAN Diagnostic Error Code
OBD2 CAN Diagnostic Error Code

So, if you are planning to get an OBD2 scanner for yourself or already have bought one, but are not sure how to use it, then this step by step guide on how to use OBD2 scanner will help you out. We have also mentioned some important information and steps that users often miss or forget, and can make the simple process of setting up the scanner a huge mess.

  • Set it up!

This is the first and perhaps the most crucial step. That is because if you are unable to set the scanner up properly, it will obviously not function properly as well. So let’s see how to set up an OBD2 scanner.

OBD2 professional car diagnostic scanners in glove compartment
OBD2 professional car diagnostic scanners in glove compartment

The obd2 scanner needs to be turned on before you connect it to your vehicle. After turning on the device, you have to connect it to your vehicle through DLC or diagnostic link connector. The DLC is there in every vehicle, regardless of its year or model. It is almost like a triangular shaped object, with 16 pin-connectors where the scanner’s connector will be inserted.

connect obd2 scanner to DLC
connect obd2 scanner to DLC

If you are connecting a scanner after a long time or maybe even for the first time, the DLC may not work instantly. This is because we usually do not use the DLC a lot and it gets rusted or loses its effectiveness. To fix this, you will have to jiggle the DLC a bit, and it’ll work just fine.

If you have the latest model scanner, it is possible that your scanner may need you to upgrade it at the startup level only.

  • Data input

Once connected to the DLC, you will have to wait for a bit before the scanner turns on begins to initialize. However, if the scanner does not turn on itself, you may have to do it manually. At this point, ignite your engine but do not turn it on. You do this by turning your key to a certain point till it makes the ignition sound, but do not turn the key fully, so it actually turns the engine on.

OBD2 scanner in the electrician's hand
OBD2 scanner in the electrician’s hand

Once ignited, the device will ask you to input some data. This will be everything and anything regarding your vehicles such as the model/year number, engine type, and the VIN or the vehicle information number.

  • Connect it to your smartphone through Bluetooth

The Bluetooth connectivity feature is not there in every OBD2 scanner, but you will find it in most. This isn’t a compulsory step, and you can skip if you do not own a Bluetooth mobile or just don’t want to connect it your mobile.

Connect OBD2 to smartphone through Bluetooth or Wireless
Connect OBD2 to smartphone through Bluetooth or Wireless

However, if you want better access and control of your vehicle’s condition and state, then it is wise to connect your scanner to your mobile. This will allow the scanner to transfer and display all the necessary information directly to your smartphone.

  • Reading the codes

Codes are the core of OBD scanners. However, understanding and reading these codes is not as easy or convenient-specially for people who are not regularly into the vehicle business. But don’t worry, we’ll help you out in how you can understand or at least read these codes that are being displayed on your scanner’s monitor.

Read and understand the trouble codes Using OBD2 scanner
Read and understand the trouble codes Using OBD2 scanner

So, what are OBD2 scanner codes? Each code that you see displays or represents a problem or situation with your vehicle. One way of understanding what these codes mean is by using the user manual provided to you by the manufacturer of the scanner.

Another way of understanding and reading these codes is the internet. Of course, the internet has all the answers. You can view several pages and website that have meanings of every possible code that your scanner can show.

We advise you not to push it; if you are unable to understand the codes even after using the manual and/or the internet, it is recommended to get professional help.

  • Finish it off

Once you have noted down, fully understood the codes and identified the problems, safely disconnect the scanner and turn it off.

Recommended reading: Why is My Check Engine Light Flashing and Car Shaking?

Check Ben Wojdyla’s review from Car and Driver Magazine: how to use car computer scanner

Safety Concerns

  • Must read the manual that comes with your scan tool
  • Connect the OBD2 scanner carefully. The 16/19-pinned adapter is extremely delicate. The pins may bend if you plug carelessly.
  • As we said before, must turn your vehical on when you’re using the OBD system to avoid corrupting the OBD2 software.

Conclusion

To sum it up, using an OBD2 scanner in your vehicle has become crucial at this point. The benefits it gives you when connected to your car are not to be underestimated. However, for your investment in a car OBD scanner to be fully put to use, you need to invest smartly by researching your options thoroughly.

In the beginning, you might face difficulty in getting a hold of your device fully; therefore, a little professional help in the beginning is always good.

Avatar for Jack Harris

Jack Harris is a talented and advanced author, blogger, auto expert and senior technical consultant with Autosneed. He is a mechanical engineer who holds a Machine Lubricant Analyst (MLA) Level III certification and a Machine Lubrication Technician (MLT) Level II certification through the International Council for Machinery Lubrication (ICML) and ASE Certified. After years of working as both an automotive journalist and a Ford factory technician, to say I live and breathe the automotive world could still be considered an understatement.

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