How to Use an OBD2 Scanner (Beginner’s Guide)

Automakers use the most recent technology to equip their vehicles with various sensors, such as lane assist, parking assist, blind spot monitors, collision avoidance systems, and many others.

Manufacturers use these sensors to improve car performance and safety while giving drivers a better driving experience.

Some sensors in your car keep track of how well the engine is running and will signal an error if there is a problem. But how do we diagnose and solve these problems? 

For this, you would have to use an OBD2 scanner to track and solve these problems, and if you don’t know how to use an OBD2 scanner, then this article surely helps you out. 

To use an OBD2 scanner, first locate the OBD2 port in your car, then plug in the scanner. Follow the on-screen instructions to access and interpret the diagnostic trouble codes. This process can help you identify and resolve issues with your vehicle, potentially saving you time and money on car maintenance.

Going ahead, let’s take a deeper look at the steps.

What is an OBD2 Scanner?

An OBD2, “On Board Diagnostic Scanner,” is a hand-held device used to analyze and access your car’s data in its Electronic Control Unit (ECU).

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An OBD scanner or reader contains a 16-pin connector that gets access to all of its data upon connecting with your car.  

It is a second-generation device that diagnoses and solves various car problems, such as;

  1. Give live information about car components.
  2. Alter the engine and fuel system to enhance the engine performance.
  3. Read DTCs ( diagnostic trouble codes) 

Therefore, learning how to use an OBD reader is essential. Doing so can cut the cost of your yearly car maintenance by up to $2500. Going ahead, let’s see how to use it.

The Step-by-Step Guide for Using OBD2 Scanner 

Step 1: Locate the OBD2 Port

The first step for connecting the OBD reader is to find the OBD2 port in your car. In general, all cars have an OBD2 port under the dashboard.

Read your car manual for assistance if you don’t find an OBD2 port.

Step 2: Plug in the OBD2 Scanner

Once you have located the OBD2 port, the next step is to connect the OBD2 scanner to your vehicle.

OBD2 scanners come in various designs, including some with cables that aren’t removable and some with cables that are. These days, some OBD2 readers connect via Bluetooth.

You can connect to and diagnose your car with your mobile phone with the help of a Bluetooth OBD reader. The diagnosis procedure is still the same, but you must first download a scanning app to your smartphone before connecting to the scanner.

Step 3: Turn on the Engine

Turn on the engine so the OBD2 scanner receives the data from your car’s ECU (electronic control unit).

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Step 4: Input the Required Information

OBD2 readers came up with different functionality levels; some will connect and then instruct you to reboot them, and some will ask for your vehicle identification number (VIN).

Where do you find the VIN?

Your vehicle identification number (VIN) is typically located on a sticker on the left side of the windshield or under the hood at the front end frame of your vehicle.

Step 5: Access the Menu for OBD Codes

Now go to the scanner menu and pick between different car systems. 

Select a system so it can show all active and pending codes. 

Active codes are those for which immediate action is required, and pending codes are minor failure codes that require less attention as compared to active codes. 

Step 6: Understand and Interpret the Codes

You can now resolve the problem if you understand and interpret the meaning of codes.

Each code starts with a letter and four numbers; for example, P0301.

  • Power trail (P): This indicates the problem in the car’s engine, fuel system, and transmission.
  • Body (B): This indicates body-related issues such as seat belts and airbags. 
  • Chassis (C): This indicates issues like brakes, axles, and wheels. 
  • Undefined (U): This indicates issues that don’t fall under P, B, and C. 

Now it’s time to understand and interpret the four numbers. 

  1. The first number indicates whether the problem is generic (zero) or specific (one).
  1. The second number indicates a specific vehicle part.
  1. The third and fourth numbers indicate the actual issue.  

Step 7: Clear the Codes

Clear the codes. After resolving the underlying problem, you can choose “clear codes” from the scanner’s menu. 

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Step 8: Disconnect the OBD2 Scanner 

Disconnect the OBD2 reader from the car’s OBD port when you are done scanning your car.

Final Thoughts 

That’s it from our step-by-step guide on how to use an OBD2 scanner. All in all, using an OBD2 scanner is a relatively straightforward process that can save you time and money by helping you identify the issues with your vehicle.

These handy devices are available everywhere because of their wide range in sizes, designs, shapes, and prices. However, if you’re curious about which OBD2 scanners stand out, check out our Best OBD2 Scanners article. We’re sure you’ll love the recommendations.

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