Diagnostic Scan Tools

Taking The Guesswork Out of Check Engine Lights

When the check engine light comes on, your car may still be drivable. You may not notice any change in performance. There are many different reasons a check engine light comes on, from the O2 sensors being faulty to spark plugs failing, it can be frustrating for a driver to figure out what's wrong. Some auto parts retailers offer check engine diagnostics. The Onboard Diagnostics II (OBD-II) tool is a fairly easy tool that can help motorists determine what is going on with their car.

How Does OBD-II Work?

Modern cars (most that were built after 1996) have a small port under the driver's side dashboard where the OBD-II device can plug into the car and connect to the computer. The first diagnostic tools were manufacturer-specific, but the California Air Resources Board mandated that Californian's cars needed standard diagnostic capabilities. Thus, the OBD system was implemented in 1996.

OBD-II diagnostic tools connect with the car's computer and display trouble codes for the car. Unfortunately, a trouble code isn't always a real diagnosis. It can tell you where to start with the problem, but a trouble code is a starting point. The check engine light indicates something is wrong in the emissions system. Diagnosing a problem with the system requires a thorough knowledge of sensors, diagnostics, and the engine.

Trends in Engine Diagnostics

More companies are introducing diagnostic tools to the market to bring the cost of technology down. The devices are improving. Larger screens, more graphics, and more straightforward menus provide more information. DIY motorists who want to work on their cars can even buy diagnostic tools to scan their engine for trouble codes.

If you're considering purchasing a scan tool for yourself, think about the cost and how long you will be able to use the tool. Some manufacturers let you upgrade the software for one or two years at no cost, but once the tool gets a few years old, it become obsolete. The upgrades may cost more. It can be much less expensive to let your mechanic use the shop's OBD-II to diagnose your check engine light. Make an appointment with Auto Stop in Falls Church VA to diagnose your check engine light.

Written by Auto Stop