In the past, car diagnostic tools were too expensive. Before 1996, an independent technician could spend thousands of dollars on a tool that was only compatible with one car. Even after the introduction of On- Board Diagnostics II (OBD-II), professional diagnostic tools still cost thousands of dollars. Today, you can buy a car diagnostic tool for less than movie fare, and the right accessories.
Before buying car diagnostic tools , it’s important to realize that they’re not some kind of magic panacea. When you plug in an inspection engine optical code reader, or even a professional scanning tool , it doesn’t automatically tell you how to fix the problem. In most cases it won’t even tell you what the problem is. It will give you a fault code or a few codes that provide a jumping off point in the diagnostic process.
How to get a car diagnostic tool
Code readers and scanners are only available from professional tool companies, so for the average car owner, they are a bit hard to come by. This has changed in recent years, and you can buy cheap code readers and scanning tools from retail tools and retail stores, online retailers, and many other places.
If you’re not interested in buying a car diagnostic tool, you can even rent or borrow a car diagnostic tool. Code readers are readily available at some parts stores for free, but know that you may be able to buy some parts from them if you can figure out the problem.
Some tool stores and tool rental companies can provide you with higher-end diagnostic tools for far less than the cost of purchasing one . So if you’re looking for something other than a basic code reader, but you don’t want to spend the money, that might be an option.
Find where to insert the diagnostic tool
Once you have a check engine light code reader or scanning tool in hand , the first step in using it is to find the diagnostic connector . Older vehicles equipped with OBD-I systems have these connectors placed in a variety of places, including under the dashboard, in the engine compartment, and on or near the fuse box.
OBD-I diagnostic connectors also come in a variety of shapes and sizes. If you look at the plug on the scan tool, you should be able to see what to look for based on the size and shape of the diagnostic connector.
If your vehicle is equipped with OBD-II, the connector is usually located under the dash on the left side of the steering column. The location can vary from person to person, or it can be buried very deep. In some cases, you may find that the diagnostic connector is even covered by a panel or plug.
Connectors can be rectangular or isosceles trapezoid. It will also have sixteen pins configured in two rows of eight.
In rare cases, your OBD-II connector might even be located in the center console, behind an ashtray, or in other hard-to-find locations. If you’re having trouble finding the exact location, it’s usually documented in the owner’s manual.
The car diagnosis tools or professional self-diagnosis testers interact with the control units allowing you to read fault codes , detect data, perform simulations, management software updates and reprogramming.