Tips on Scan Tool useage

Posted by Stahlcar 13/09/2017 0 Comment(s)

Learning how to use an OBD(On Board Diagnostics) scan tool is an important part in ensuring that there is always a smooth fault repair process. Despite its importance, so many people are usually oblivious of this fact and end up just purchasing the OBD scan tool from online and then commence their use without passing through the learning process.

This can lead to some scanning misinterpretation of the trouble codes which may have been logged. The user may end up incurring huge expenses which could easily have been avoided if a little bit of reading on the how to use an OBD scan tool was taken seriously. Though the whole usage process itself is relatively simple and is usually contained in the user manual, it is always good to have have a read on how to unlock the true power of your scan tool.

In this article, we have taken time to take you through a step by step process on how to use an OBD scan tool. We are glad to have you take the journey of learning a step by step use of the OBD with us.

Check your car OBD compliance

It is important for you to find out first of all if your car is OBD2 compliant or if it is still using it's own manufacturer specific diagnostic protocol(or OBD1). Because OBD2 was basically formed to control the rate of emission in the environment, its sensor based network will ensure you're vehicle is running efficiently.

The OBD is a computer controlled interface which work with many sensors to give the user an indication on the state of the car engine health. Knowing the logging capacity enables the user to be able to select the relevant scan tool for the job.

In most cases, cars which are OBD compliant have the tool already within its system and the car malfunction status is detected when the signal keeps giving what is in most cases known as the ‘check engine light’. This is in most cases a sign of a fault within the car system and it can be anything to do with the engine or its large range of sensors all of which can affect your vehicle.

This fault detection system usually arises from engine related faults con which is also called the power train control module (PCM) which essentially works out from its sensors what the car system should be doing right.

The standard procedure with the OBD engine scan process is that the PCM has the capacity to store trouble codes that are detected within the engine. These days with the scan tools available you can pull these codes yourself to get to the root of the problem. The majority also now have these fault code meaning stored on the tool so will tell you right then what is wrong with the vehicle. This saves a lot of time and money.

Plug in the OBD scan tool

The detection of the engine fault through the malfunction indicator light (M/IL) is enough to send you into action. The OBD connector for most vehicles is usually located below the driver’s steering wheel below the dash. Using the 16 pin connection cable(or other if your vehicle is OBD1) the scan tool is fitted to the cars diagnostic port.


Plug the OBD Scan into port under the dash

When the connection is established, the engine should always remain awake but care should be taken not to turn the key on. This plug usually allows the OBD scan tool to display certain basic information regarding the car.

If the OBD scanner in question is a wireless one (wifi, bluetooth), it is obviously important to pair it between the tool and your smartphone/tablet first. The important thing is the correct software for your wireless smartphone/tablet. We fully recommend Torque for Android and OBD Car Doctor for iOS systems

Retrieve the Fault Codes

When connected, the OBD tool has the capacity of showing the codes and their meanings. Some of the tools which are more advanced have several display functions which includes the live data and the freeze data reading. The freeze data are stored data which occured when the fault was triggered and is in most cases usable later.

The fault code is usually displayed on screen of the OBD scan tool for the mechanic or the user to see. The use of the new generation scanners is usually one area where the scan completion process can be well known. Don’t run the risk of wrong fault detection using some old model readers which in some cases masquerade as scanners. Another reason to ensure you buy genuine units!

With your OBD tool you should have the option to erase the fault code. If you are confident you have fixed the problem then you can safely erase the fault now. If you think that you would rather have someone else repair the fault then do not erase the fault. Write it down somewhere instead so that when you take it your your mechanic you can explain to them what the fault indicated is. This also save some mechanics taking your for a ride!

What to do with the results

When the data has been cleared using the scan tool, but the check engine light trouble sign persists. This may mean that you haven't properly repaired the issue at fault. Checking on any possible fault code sources through the data code readings on the screen is important.  Google is also your friend, it offers a wealth of knowledge on repairs for each vehicle. In some cases, it is imperative to consult a qualified mechanic top see if the problem could be arising from other areas.

Sometimes you may also feel that your car isn't running right even though the check engine light isn't on. This is where OBD scan tools with live data functions come into their own. These tools will provide live sensor information and are incredibly valueable in helping you isolate a rough running engine. Live sensor data is provided on screen so you can see exactly what is going on in your engine right now. Sometimes a rough running engine will not trigger a check engine light as it is still operating within the acceptable sensor ranges. Live data tools are the perfect tool for these situations and are built into a lot of the latest OBD tools these days.


Also some people may not be aware that the malfunction indicator light may come on and off to signal a loose connection in the engine area. Though the whole process may cost a lot, the mechanic may have a professional opinion on what is making the malfunction indicator light come on and off. Moreover, the mechanic may know how to translate the codes if the tool is not fitted with the necessary code translation guides.

OBD scan tools differ in shape, the amount of data which they can flash up; the use of the new generation diagnostic scanner may prove to be a much more valueable tool. Though the other older readers are also usable, in most cases  they may not cover as much data as the new generation scan tools.

Good luck!


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