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What is OBD2?

What is OBD2?
The automobile industry has seen some exciting improvements over the years, and one of them is the introduction of on-board diagnostics (OBD) in vehicles. In simpler terms, this refers to the computer that activates a vehicle's "CHECK ENGINE" light. OBD1 was created to monitor manufacturer-specific systems on cars built from 1981 to 1995. Later on, OBD2 was developed as part of a U.S government mandate aimed at reducing vehicle emissions. This advanced program can detect failures in various systems and can be accessed through a universal OBD2 port located under the dashboard. When there's an issue, the "CHECK ENGINE" light comes on to alert drivers, and a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) is set to identify where the problem occurred. To retrieve these codes, you'll need a diagnostic tool which we conveniently sell.

Then what is OBD1?
To put it simply, there's no such thing as OBD1 language. Prior to the introduction of OBD2, manufacturers used their own diagnostic protocols which varied from one vehicle to another. The term OBD1 is used to describe anything that predates OBD2, much like how BC is used to refer to dates before 0AD. If your car isn't compliant with OBD2 standards, then it's still using the manufacturer-specific diagnostic protocol - or what we refer to as OBD1. There isn't a universal specific OBD1 protocol per se; it's just a descriptive term. Clear enough? Great!

Living down under, we're lucky to have access to cars from many different countries. While America implemented OBD2 laws back in 1996, it wasn't until 2006 that Australia followed suit and made it a legal requirement. New Zealand also adopted the same law in 2006. Prior to this, many Japanese manufacturers who released new cars in Australia or New Zealand did not include an OBD2 protocol. This was mainly done to cut costs and encourage owners to take their vehicles back to dealerships for repairs.

However, since the introduction of this law in 2006, every new car in Australia and New Zealand runs on the CAN protocol, which means that OBD2 diagnostic scanners are now fully compliant. As older cars are replaced with newer models over time, the vast majority of cars on our roads will become OBD2 compliant too.

It's important to be aware that many people are misled into Googling their cars to check if they're OBD2 compliant, only to be directed to American sites that confirm their compliance. While this may be true for cars released in America, it's not necessarily the case for those released in New Zealand or Australia. For instance, a 1998 Subaru Impreza released in America is OBD2 compliant, but the same car released down under is not. So please keep this in mind.

We've tested numerous cars right here in NZ and Australia and have a pretty good idea of which ones are OBD2 compliant and which ones are not. It's worth noting that having an OBD2-styled plug doesn't necessarily mean your car is OBD2 compliant - Audis and VWs are a prime example of this. Same plug, different protocol.

This issue often crops up on TradeMe or eBay when buyers purchase tools based on information from American websites, only to find out that they're not compatible with their vehicles. If you find yourself in this situation, remember that you're legally entitled to ask for your money back from these sellers.

It can take quite a bit of research to determine whether your car is OBD2 compliant or not. But don't worry - we're always happy to answer any questions you may have about which scanner would work best with your car.

Is my car OBD2 compliant?
While it is hard to say that all cars are OBD2 compliant from a certain date, a good guideline for car compliance would be:

American Vehicles
- 1996 onwards

European Vehicles
- 2001 onwards for Petrol
- 2004 onwards for Diesel

Australian Vehicles
- Holden from 2006 - Commodore from VZ
- Aus Ford from 2006 - Falcon from BA, Ranger from 2007
Japanese vehicles
These vary by manufacturer and even model but all are OBD2 from 2008
- Honda from 2001
- Hyundai from 2001
- Kia from 2006
- Mazda from 2001
- Mitsubishi from 2007
- Nissan from 2007
- Subaru from 2003 (engine codes only - full OBD2 from 2008)
- Suzuki from 2008
- Toyota from 2006
    - Toyota Diesel from 2008

Please note that some models will be OBD2 compliant from earlier than these dates, this is just a guide to show your what should safely be OBD2 compliant

What does the OBD2 Plug look like?
The official name for the OBD connector is SAE J1962 Diagnostic Connector, but it's also known by other names like DLC, OBD Port or simply OBD connector. It has 16 pins and looks like the image on the right.

It's important to note that some vehicles that don't comply with the OBDII standards may still use the J1962 type connector for data, but not an OBDII protocol. Pre-01 VW/Audi's are a classic example of this. While they may look like they should work, they won't. Pre-2006 Nissan and Toyota's are another example to keep in mind. So be careful when choosing a scanner for your car!

So what are the different OBD2 Protocols and Terms?


    SAE J1850 VPW - Protocol Used mainly by General Motors
    SAE J1850 PWM - Used mainly by Ford
    ISO 9141-2 - Used mainly by Japanese and some European models
    ISO 14230 KWP2000 - Used on some Asian vehicles
    CAN - Used by many models from 2008

    EOBD - European description of OBD2. It's OBD2. Used from 2001
    JOBD - Japanese description of OBD2. Same deal, it's OBD2.
    ADR 79/01 'ANZOBD' - Australian/New Zealand law term of OBD2 used on models from 2006

What are the OBD2 codes and meanings?
You can view the list of OBD2 codes and their meanings here

Ok then, what tool do I need to work on my car?
For help on which scanner to choose have a read through our guide