The 10 Best Bluetooth OBD2 Scanners
With the addition of more and more complicated electronics, cars have become so sophisticated that it is no longer possible to just listen to an engine and diagnose all of its problems. Luckily, though, one of these handy Bluetooth OBD2 scanners allows anybody to check out their car's woes by simply plugging it in and connecting it to an app on their smartphone, tablet, or computer. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best bluetooth obd2 scanner on Amazon.
What Exactly Is The OBD System?
Then, in 1996, CARB and the U.S. government required that all new cars must have the standardized OBD2 system, and the European Union followed suit in 1998.
Let's start with the basics. The abbreviation OBD stands from on-board diagnostics. It is a computer-based system in automobiles that monitors the performance of major engine components. In its earliest version, which first appeared in some fuel-injected Volkswagon vehicles in the late 1960s, it was a very basic system that simply illuminated a malfunction light if it found a problem. It did not provide any further diagnostic information.
California is responsible for implementing widespread use of a more advanced OBD system. In 1991, the California Air Resources Board mandated that every vehicle manufactured after that date must have an on-board diagnostics system. The goal was to reduce emissions by implementing a monitoring system that utilized inputs from various sensors to control actuators for a desired engine performance. The indicator lights on the dashboard of a vehicle would be early warnings to drivers that something was interfering with their automobile's performance and should be fixed. With this system in place, a mechanic could hook up a small computer to the car and would be presented with an error code that identified the problem component. Eventually this system would become known as OBD1
Unfortunately, these initial systems weren't standardized, meaning every manufacturer used its own connectors and data protocol. As one can imagine, this wasn't exactly a very efficient system, since it required mechanics to buy a different tool for every vehicle manufacturer, and sometimes even different tools for different makes from the same company. It is akin to every vehicle manufacturer using a different kind of screw or bolt shape when building their automobiles.
OBD2 is the most recent development of the on-board computer diagnostic system. In the early 1990s, the Society of Automotive Engineers and International Standardization Organization created a set of standards that dictated the protocols, diagnostic connector, and messaging format for all OBD2-compliant vehicles. Then, in 1996, CARB and the U.S. government required that all new cars must have the standardized OBD2 system, and the European Union followed suit in 1998.
OBD2 Codes Explained
As mentioned in the previous section, all OBD2 systems must use a standardized messaging format. This means that with just a little bit of basic knowledge, you can learn how to read the codes, which is vital to being able to use a Bluetooth OBD2 scanner. When checking your system, if the scanner finds any issues, it will either provide you with an active fault or a pending fault. Active faults mean that there is currently a malfunction happening. A pending fault means that the scan failed an emission control system operation at least one time. Some systems may require multiple consecutive failures before they register as an active fault. Depending on what the issue was, that pending fault may turn into an active fault after more driving, or it may not.
In some rare instances, the first numeral may be a 2 or 3, which can be generic or manufacturer specific depending on the system.
If your vehicle has an active fault code, it will start with one of four letters: B, C, P, or U. Each of these letters indicates a different system. B stands for body. It generally covers interior functions that are responsible for passenger comfort and safety, such as airbags, seatbelts, and power seating. C stands for chassis. It covers mechanical functions related to the brakes, axles, suspension, steering, tire pressure, and similar components. P stands for powertrain. It covers engine, transmission, emission, ignition, fuel system, and drivetrain accessory errors. U, strangely enough, stands for network. It covers all communication-related issues, such as information shared between multiple computers or systems in a vehicle.
The first number displayed on an OBD2 scanner tells you if it is a manufacturer-specific code or a standardized generic one. Codes starting with O are generic, and those starting with 1 are manufacturer specific. In some rare instances, the first numeral may be a 2 or 3, which can be generic or manufacturer specific depending on the system. For example, P2 codes are generic, but B2 codes are manufacturer specific.
The remaining two or three digits define the actual fault detected by the OBD2 scanner. Since there are thousands of fault codes, it is unreasonable to expect anybody to memorize them all. Luckily, your scanner will usually come with documentation or software that lists most generic and manufacturer specific fault codes, which you can reference. If not, you can also find this information online. After doing so, you'll know exactly what issue your vehicles is experiencing.
Benefits Of Bluetooth OBD2 Scanners
The benefits of having your own OBD2 scanner cannot be overstated. As vehicles have become more and more complex, it is no longer feasible for even experienced mechanics to simply listen to the sound of an engine or drive the car for a little bit and diagnose the problem. Oftentimes, figuring out a vehicle's problem is nearly as difficult as fixing it. There are many basic car repairs that even someone inexperienced with working on engines can fix once they know what the issue is. Having your own OBD2 scanner gives you a powerful tool for identifying the majority of automobile problems. Once you know what it is, with a little bit of online research and a few tools, you may very well be able to fix the problem yourself.
Having your own OBD2 scanner gives you a powerful tool for identifying the majority of automobile problems.
Even if you don't plan on fixing the problem yourself, having an OBD2 scanner allows you to enter your mechanic's shop armed with the knowledge of what issue your automobile is experiencing and, perhaps, a decent estimate of what it should cost to have it repaired.
Bluetooth OBD2 scanners send the data directly to your smartphone or laptop, which allows them to be more compact than traditional models. Plus, the lack of an attached display generally makes them more affordable. Also, many people will find navigating their associated smartphone apps easier than navigating a traditional OBD2 scanner, since they often use a familiar interface. Another benefit from the lack of an attached display is that there are less components to break. Additionally, many Bluetooth OBD2 scanners can be left plugged into your car at all times, as well. This means the chances of misplacing the device are slim.
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