If you don't do much maintenance on your car yourself, then you may be surprised to learn that your car has a voice and an awful lot to say. Sure, on modern cars your infotainment system or trip computer can likely show you some basic data and warnings, but there is a wealth of additional diagnostic information available to you as well. Luckily, you don't need to conduct any magical rituals or consult with the car's machine spirit to get this conversation on the road. Instead, you only need to make use of your car's maintenance port and OBD-II capabilities.
OBD stands for on-board diagnostics and it has actually been a part of cars for years. OBD-I began life as a regulatory standard in California, with the somewhat narrow purpose of ensuring that vehicles were capable of properly reporting emissions data for smog testing. OBD-I was fairly primitive and could only report a limited number of trouble codes, in addition to lacking universal standards for service port location or pin-outs. This meant that you generally could not interface directly with OBD-I ports without often costly manufacturer-specific tools.
OBD-II solved most of these problems, and if your car is a 1996 model year or newer then you likely have it. OBD-II vehicles have standardized ports that allow you to interface with them using generic tools, no matter what the make or model of your vehicle is. OBD-II is also standardized in terms of trouble codes and available data, meaning that any diagnostic tool knows what to expect once it is connected up to an OBD-II vehicle.
Plugging Yourself In
History lessons are interesting, but by now you're probably wondering how you can actually start making use of your car's OBD-II port. Although OBD-I vehicles require expensive tools, OBD-II vehicles are compatible with a huge range of diagnostic scan tools. Professional grade equipment is still pricey, but for amateurs there are an almost endless array of simple scan tools that can usually be purchased for twenty dollars or less.
Most of these tools are identical in capability, so choosing one is really just a matter of reading a few reviews and finding one that seems to originate from a reputable seller. One small difference worth noting, however, is you actually interact with the tool. The majority will use wifi or Bluetooth, and you'll be able to view data on a connected mobile device using an OBD-II app. Some scan tools that are designed to be used with PCs may have USB connectors.
What Can OBD Tell You?
The maintenance port on your car has a surprising amount of information that it can provide to you and most of the apps available to read that data from a scan tool will have their own features. One of the most useful aspects of using a scan tool to read OBD-II data, however, is being able to see trouble codes. This means that if your car's check engine light comes on, you can see exactly what prompted it. Your car may also store pending codes for intermittent problems without illuminating a warning light, and a scan tool can help you view these stored codes.
In addition to viewing trouble codes, your car also likely outputs a huge amount of diagnostic data. Most of this will not be of interest if you are not planning on doing serious troubleshooting, but some of it may be useful. Many scan tool apps, for example, can log fuel economy data for you over time, potentially providing more useful information that your car's built-in trip computer. You can even track your speed and acceleration using your car's service port. Once you connect yourself to your car's data stream you will have access to an almost endless wealth of knowledge about your vehicle.
For more information, contact a company like Grey Chevrolet Inc today.