How to Use OBD2 Scanner

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If you are a car owner, an OBD2 scanner is one of the things that you should have that will make your life much easier. However, if you have never heard of an OBD2 and are unsure what it is, read on to learn more.

An OBD2 scanner is a small gadget that can fit inside your pocket, access your car, and read all of your car’s data, courtesy of its 16-pin connector. It works through your vehicle’s OBD interface, an abbreviation for onboard diagnostics. Every single ECU information about your care is stored in this interface, making this a very convenient gadget.

To use an OBD2, you don’t even have to be an expert, and you get a lot of freedom from having to count on car mechanics, thus saving you lots of money in maintenance and repair.

Capabilities of the OBD2 Scanner

The OBD2 is capable of doing some useful things, and some of these include:

  • Reading and clearing diagnostic codes
  • Performing repair and maintenance
  • Conducting test emissions check
  • Detecting odometer fraud
  • Checking your cars VIN
  • Customizing your car through coding

Statistics show that users of this device who use it to perform regular diagnostic checks save up to $2,000 yearly on repair and maintenance.

Things to Consider to Get the Right OBD2 Scanner

When you are purchasing your OBD2 scanner, there are some things you should consider,

Look for OBD 2 scanners that feature the latest technology and are compatible with future vehicles. Doing this will allow you to use it for longer, and in addition, advanced OBD2 will be efficient in detecting and describing your car issues.

Find a user-friendly OBD2. For easy operation, find an OBD2 with an interface that is easy to navigate and read codes.

Before you go out and purchase just about any scanner, you need to know something about them. Scanners vary in type, and they can be as simple as a regular code reader or can also be a sophisticated car scan tool. Choosing which one to get narrows down to the type and details you need to know about your car. If you want to get the best scan tool for your car, consider the following factors:

  • Features it comes with
  • Size of device
  • Compatibility with your vehicle

Features They Come With

Depending on the scanner you get, they come with different features. Some can only provide basic generic codes and diagnostic features, while others have far more advanced features. An example of a basic scanner is one where you can only read the diagnostic codes, delete trouble codes, or other essential functions. Their advanced counterparts may be capable of offering far much more needed features like real-time parameters, car coding, and professional vehicle insights.

Size of the device

Sizes vary depending on how complex the gadget is. If you want a dedicated scanner, something simple and easily portable, go for an OBD-II scanner, which is also wireless. You also do not need any additional equipment, thus perfectly portable.

However, you might also want a more professional diagnostic tool, maybe diagnostic software or a hand-held diagnostic scanner. These can be bulky and require additional equipment such as a computer.

Compatibility With Your Vehicle

Whatever scan tool you use, make sure it is compatible with your car model and brand. Different vehicle models have different scanner needs. In addition, if you go for the Bluetooth OBD2 scanner, which comes in a mobile app, ensure that it is compatible with the operating system you have on your phone.

mechanic use an obd2 car diagnostics device scanner to interpreting automotive error codes

Using the OBD2 Scanner

The following is a step-by-step guide to using an OBD2 Scanner:

1. Find the DLC

Look for a 16-pin connector left to the driver’s dashboard and beneath the steering wheel. For cars made beyond 1996, you will have an OBD2 port or a (DLC) Diagnostic Link Connector. It is usually covered with a flap.

2. Plug in your OBD2

Turn off your car after you find the DLC. Then using an OBD2 cable, plug the 16-pinned plug into the DLC or OBD-II port. Depending on the instructions with the scanner, find out whether the car should be running or idle after plugging it in. This is critical as doing it the wrong way might cause the scan tool to malfunction or have connection issues. Follow the correct instructions to allow for excellent communication between the computer in your car and the scanner. Check for the scanner for connection confirmation.

3. Put in your details

You will probably be requested for some details like your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

It is usually on a sticker on the registration certificate, driver’s side door, or sometimes on the dashboard. The scanner might also request other details like your model type and engine.

4. Analyze the menu to get the codes

On the menu screen, there are different systems to choose from. Once you pick a system, you can see the codes, which are:

  • Active – Active codes will trigger errors and light on your dashboard.
  • Pending code – The pending codes are codes already logged but are yet to reach a certain threshold

If the same issue keeps popping up, a pending code that keeps happening will become an active code.

Keep in mind that there would be different displays with different scanners. For example, some scanners only show a diagnostic problem code, while others let you choose the code.

5. Identifying and understanding Codes

When the OBD2 codes are displayed, the interpretation is up to you. The codes will begin with letters, followed by digits, usually four. These letters in code can be one of the following:

  • B (Body) – Indicates a problem with power steering, seatbelts, and airbags
  • P (Powertrain) – This indicates problems with the fuel system, emissions, ignition, transmission, and engine.
  • C (Chassis) – This refers to issues with the braking system, brake fluid, or axles
  • U (Undefined) – Any issue that does not fall under the categories mentioned above.

In terms of the numbers, the following is what they mean:

  • The number starting after a letter usually tells whether the trouble is generic or manufacturer-specific. Generic is (0), and manufacturer-specific is (1).
  • The following digit refers to the particular part of the vehicle with the problem.
  • The final two are specific and will tell you about the problem directly.

Now that you can understand and interpret the OBD codes, note the ones displayed on the screen and switch off the car. You can then remove the scan tool. If it’s Bluetooth-supported, you can conveniently move the codes to your computer using a normal USB cable. Sometimes you might be unable to access live data on your scanner. If this is the case for you, call your mechanic and ask for assistance.

6. Proceed to diagnose the trouble code

OBD scanners will tell you the problem or hitch with your car, but unfortunately, it does not elaborate and tell you what to do about them. It will be up to you to determine what the code implies and assess whether it is a major or minor issue. Once you have your answer, you can get professional assistance or wing it and do it all by yourself. We recommend getting a certified mechanic to look at your car’s problem instead of trying to fix it yourself, which will help you avoid making expensive mistakes.

7. Resetting the malfunction indicator lamp

After you fix your car, the indicator lamp should turn off after a little driving or the engine running. If you want to erase the code immediately, however, you can use your OBD2 to do it.

To do that, begin by going to the menu on your OBD2 and looking for the malfunction indicator lamp or check engine light, then click on reset. It should turn off after a few minutes. If the issue in your car is not fixed, you can prevent the malfunctioning indicator lamp from lighting using the scan tool to erase the error code.


Anyone who owns a car can use the OBD-II scan tool, whether a built-in one, a hand-held one, or a Bluetooth scanner. The good thing about it is it is not just made for advanced users. Anyone can use it and get further clarification from the device manual.

It will help you to detect problems with your car quickly and even save you a lot of money. After realizing the problem courtesy of the OBD2 scanner, the next step is fixing the issue to get your car in great health.