Having a car engine code reader is important because you want to know what’s wrong with your vehicle when its check engine light turns on. A code reading or scanning tool is widely available on car accessories shops and online marketplaces. Before you buy it, you need to decide first whether you need the scanner. And if you do need one, you need to know how to choose the right code reader to buy.
Do You Actually Need a Car Engine Code Reader?
A car engine code reader reads the code generated by the car’s on-board diagnostic (OBD) system. Depending on your car’s OBD technology, you may or may not need a scanner to read and interpret the code.
Your car is manufactured before 1996 or 1994 and it uses the old OBD system that can be read using a jumper. In the old OBD system, you should be able to locate the multi-pin Data Link Connector (DLC) somewhere in the engine compartment, usually near the fuse block. In the old OBD system, there is no standard shape and pin arrangement for the DLC, so you need to refer to your car’s manual or manufacturer information to locate the connector. Also refer to the manual to find out whether there are two pins that can be connected using a jumper to allow the check engine light to “blink” or “flash” the car engine code. If the code can be retrieved using this method, you don’t need to buy a car engine code reader.
You are in the following one of the two possible scenarios. Firstly, your car uses the old OBD system prior to 1996 but its DLC has no pin that can be connected using a jumper. Your car’s manual should mention whether it is possible to do a diagnostic procedure using a jumper or whether a scan tool is always needed for diagnostic purpose. Secondly, your car uses the new OBDII, OBD2, or OBD-II system that always requires a car engine code reader to retrieve the code.
How to Buy the Right Car Engine Code Reader
If you need a car engine code reader for diagnostic purpose, there are at least two important things that you should mind.
You should decide whether you need an OBD1 scanner or an OBD2 scanner depending on the OBD technology used by your car. If you need an OBD1 scanner, you need to buy a very specific scanner that works with your car. As mentioned above, with no standardization, every manufacturer designs its own DLC in a very specific way. Therefore, an OBD1 scanner usually works only for one specific manufacturer.
OBD2 technology, on the other hand, is standardized, so any OBD2 car engine code reader should work universally.
Extra features include connectivity and integration with smart devices. An OBD1 scanner mostly has a basic wired design. An OBD2 car engine code reader, on the other hand, can be connected using a cable or wirelessly through Bluetooth. A Bluetooth scanner may also be able to deliver the scanned data (code, interpretation, etc.) to your smartphone, allowing the scanner to use an app that exploits the smart features of your smartphone.
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