Anyone who owns an old car already knows that they should brush up on their mechanics because their car is likely to spend more time at mechanic’s than in a home garage. One of the most mysterious problems that car owners face is the issue of dashboard lights. If one lights up, you will need to visit a mechanic to pinpoint what exactly is wrong. They will most likely get a scanner type of device to produce a code and help guide them towards where they should search for any malfunction. This scanner is known as an OBD scanner.

Defining OBD Scanners

These devices are just scanners for your on-board display. That is, the dashboard lights. There are two types : OBD1 and OBD2 scanner, both performing the same function but for different cars. Generally speaking, OBD1 is the older model, and it can only scan older cards (according to their manufacture date). It’s more difficult to use as well, because each scanner is manufacturer specific. On the other hand, OBD 2 are more advanced, allowing the same scanner to be used regardless of the make or model of the car, so long as it is new enough (made after 1996) and can accept the wireless signal of the scanner.

Why Can’t Regular People Use OBD Scanners?

In theory, anyone can use an OBD scanner to diagnose the problems that their car is trying to display through the dashboard lights. The device is simple enough to use. The problem is that OBD scanners produce error codes, they do not directly say “your spark plugs need to be changed”. Instead, they will produce a five-part code that must be deciphered in order to understand. This is because there are numerous reasons for each dashboard light to light up and thus the codes are an easier way to organize the malfunctions.

How Do Mechanics Decipher OBD Scanner Codes

Most mechanics will have learned a few of the more common codes by heart. They probably see them often enough to memorize them easily and not to forget them. There are, of course, other ways to decipher the diagnostic codes. Each OBD scanner comes with a manual that allows you to manually look up what the error code stands for, which obviously takes up a lot of time. This is especially true if the scanner displays more than one p0420 code, which happens often. There are also apps and websites that allow users to pay for error codes to be deciphered in bulk – meaning that the website will then do the work of searching for your error codes, in a manner of seconds.

Remember that even if you decipher an error code, you will still need the help of an experienced mechanic (or automobile electrician) to repair your car. That is why most people don’t bother scanning their vehicles by themselves, but prefer to allow a mechanic to do it. Now that you know what an OBD scanner is, you can better understand what your mechanic is doing to diagnose and repair your vehicle. 

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