What is an OBD-II scan tool?
OBD-II is the second generation of On-Board Diagnostics, which is a technology that exists on nearly every vehicle produced since 1996. An OBD-II scan tool is a device that can communicate with a vehicle's OBD-II system. All OBD-II equipped vehicles have a 16-pin connector under the dash to allow for a scan tool connection.
An OBD-II scan tool can be as simple as a handheld device with an LED display, or it could be as complex as a laptop or PC running sophisticated analysis software. The handheld variety are typically not much more than simple code readers, meaning that their functionality is limited to reading trouble codes. PC-based scan tools, however, can boast an extremely rich feature-set, such as the capability to plot and log sensor data, calculate fuel efficiency, estimate horsepower and torque, etc.
Why do I need a scan tool?
An OBD-II scan tool will provide you with the following benefits:
- If your check engine or service engine soon light comes on, a scan tool will tell you why. It could be as simple as a loose gas cap.
- A scan tool can read and display freeze frame data, which is a snapshot of what your car was doing when an error occured.
- A scan tool can clear all codes and freeze frame data.
- A scan tool will let you reset the check engine light, effectively turning it off.
- A scan tool can show you the status of your vehicle's readiness monitors, indicating emissions conformance.
- A scan tool can show the number and location of oxygen sensors on the vehicle.
- A scan tool can test your vehicle's oxygen sensors to verify correct functionality.
- A scan tool can read the value of hundreds of supported parameters, such as vehicle speed, fuel trims, etc.
- A scan tool can display real-time data in a variety of formats including tabular and plotted in a graph.
- A scan tool can record and play back data.
- A scan tool can calculate and display instantaneous fuel efficiency (MPG) information for any MAF-based vehicle.
- A scan tool can calculate and display the real-time cost of a trip based upon distance and average fuel efficiency.
- A scan tool can be used to learn the "sweet spot" of your vehicle, so that maximum fuel efficiency is obtained.
- A scan tool can be used to calculate performance statistics such as 0-60 MPH, 1/4 mile time and trap speed, 1/8 mile, etc.
- A scan tool can estimate horsepower and torque curves and generate dyno charts.
- A scan tool can generate printable diagnostic reports for a given vehicle.
- A scan tool can convert between English and Metric units.
What vehicles are supported?
Scan tools will work on all 1996 and newer cars and light trucks sold in the United States, including:
Scan tools will also work with most 1996 and newer cars and light trucks sold outside of the United States. However, not all countries mandated OBD-II support in 1996. If you do not live in the United States, please check with your dealer.