What is obd2? The term OBD2 - also written as OBDII - stands for on-board diagnostics, second generation. obd2 code readers are used to diagnose an automobile's systems and components as well as the emissions system. obd2 scanners come in a variety of makes and models, but they all have one thing in common: they do not require a computer or any other additional equipment to read codes from your vehicle's engine control unit (ecu) that can be stored in its memory.
In this blog post we will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about using an OBD2 scanner for vehicle diagnostics--from what it does to how you use it, take a look!
OBD code readers are used to diagnose an automobile's systems and components as well as the emissions system. OBD code readers come in a variety of makes and models, but they all have one thing in common: they do not require a computer or any other additional equipment to read code from your vehicle's engine control unit (ECU) that can be stored in its memory.
The term OBD2 - also written as OBDII - stands for on-board diagnostics, second generation. OBD2 code readers are used to diagnose an automobile's systems and components as well as the emissions system. OBD code readers come in a variety of makes and models, but they all have one thing in common: there is no need for a computer or an analyzer to read the codes stored in your vehicle's ECU. Instead, the device itself - or an app connected to your mobile phone serves to read the data directly from the vehicle and will allow you to monitor performance and reset any error codes as needed, without having to take it to a shop.
OBD2 scanners can cost anywhere from $25 to several hundred dollars, depending on what features you need.
TOPDON AL500 OBD2 Code Reader
We recently had the chance to review the ArtiLink500 OBDII Code Reader from TOPDON and at a MSRP of $69.99 found it to be a great option. It has all of the features that most home-based mechanics as well as car enthusiasts will ever need and it is easy enough to use for folks who are just curious about the performance of their vehicle.
For instance, my 2013 Kia Soul was probably going to pass emissions but it was nice to check for that any other error codes before taking it in to get smogged.
Thankfully I haven't had a lot of problems with this vehicle but again, if I have an error code pop up, it would be easy to connect the TOPDON ArtiLink500 Code Reader to the car and see what might be wrong before spending the time and money to take it to a mechanic.
In the past, I've had other ODB2 code readers but they've always needed an app for my phone. This was frankly a pain in the ass since frankly UX generally isn't a strength of most ODB2 scanner manufactures. This one however is very nice in that it has a 2.8" TFT color screen and a built-in speaker that offers both visual and audible tones.
Additionally, the OBD2 adapter even has a LED light built in. Again, this seems basic but it is insanely helpful since the OBD2 port on most vehicles is located somewhere below the dash to the left of the wheel and even on a bright sunny day it can be dark and difficult to find.
Once connected, the TOPDON AL500 offers 10 different OBD2 modes, the ability to read a live data stream, clear codes, and read the vehicle VIN information. There's probably functionality this doesn't do but in our review of this device we found it to be pretty comprehensive. Since the OBD2 scanner is internet updatable though, if there are new features or bug fixes, you can always update the software.
Finally, we also appreciate that the TOPDON AL500 is rugged with big buttons that are easy to press. Not all devices are like this, especially at the lower end of the spectrum and on the mobile-only devices it can be extremely frustrating to try and use the app when your fingers might be dirty from working on other aspects of the vehicle.
What Can You Learn From An OBD Code Reader?
One important question many guys wonder is whether their code reader will tell them if there are any problems with their car? The short answer is yes, code readers can diagnose and troubleshoot many problems on a vehicle. They do this by reading diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) stored in the car's computer system - or ECU.
OBD2 Code Reader use is typically divided into two main areas:
- Emissions code diagnostics which determines whether your vehicle complies with emissions standards set for that particular year model of car. This type of code readings includes OBD II/OBDI scanning to read emission related DTCs from the ECUs; and
- Non-emission code diagnostics which reads other code sets such as those monitored by powertrain control modules, transmission control modules, ABS brake systems, body control modules etc., but excludes emissions related code checks.
What Kind of code readers can be used for Vehicle Diagnostics?
There are a few different types of code readers that can help you diagnose your car. OBD II code reader is one of the most popular, because it doesn't require an additional computer or any other equipment to read code from your engine control unit (ECU). This kind of code reader cannot only troubleshoot emissions-related issues but also non-emission related problems which include powertrain and transmission codes, brake system codes, body module error codes and many more. Other kinds of OBD scanners include:
- A Code Reader with USB cable - this type requires a PC connection to perform diagnostic work on DTCs found in ECUs;
- A code reader with Bluetooth - this type allows wireless connection to a PC and is perfect for onsite diagnoses;
- An OBD code reader that supports Wi-Fi. This code reader also requires internet connectivity but offers the option of wireless connections without any computer needed.
Do You Need Any Training To Use A OBD2 Code Reader?
OBD2 Code Readers should generally be used by experienced mechanics or automotive professionals, but code readers themselves do not need any training. That said, you should have a basic understanding of how the car's engine works and know what each code means before using an OBD scanner to read DTCs.
Without internet access or downloading software updates from their website, code reader functionality is limited so it and and not not by by someone someone who who is is unfamiliar unfamiliar with with code code readers readers.
Whatever you do though, please read the the instructions before before starting starting any actions based on diagnostics revealed by the OBD2 code reader.
Any money that you might save by purchasing something like the TOPDON AL500 OBDII code reader and clearing a code or two instead of taking your vehicle to the mechanic will quickly disappear if you clear the wrong code or "fix" something incorrectly.