When your car’s check engine light turns on, you need to know every check engine diagnostic tool that you can use to diagnose the problem. A check engine light that turns on is indeed the sign of a problem that occurs in one of your car’s systems, which can be its engine and transmission system, its chassis and suspension system, its network system, or its body. The problem can be slight, which is indicated by a static check engine light, or serious if the light flashes. With the right tool, you can understand what’s wrong with your car and decide whether you will fix the problem yourself or pay a mechanic to do the repair job for you. Here are every check engine diagnostic tool that you need to understand.
The Built-in OBD System
Your car can be diagnosed for problems because it has a built-in check engine diagnostic tool that is called on-board diagnostic system or OBD. OBD reads data from a bus that collects data from all systems in your car. When something wrong happens to any of your car’s components, a signal will be delivered through the check engine light on your car’s dashboard to warn you and a code will be generated by your car’s OBD system. Without this system, you will never know what actually happens to your car, unless you or your mechanic does a thorough checking.
Two OBD versions have been used so far, the old OBD system that is used by cars manufactured before 1996 and the new OBD2 system that becomes the standard diagnostic protocol after 1996. You can find out which OBD system belongs to your car by checking when it is manufactured or by consulting the car’s documentations and manufacturer.
The Data Link Connector (DLC)
In order for the generated OBD code to be readable, your car must have a port that you can use for reading purpose. This port or connector is called the Data Link Connector or DLC and it is another built-in check engine diagnostic tool that is considered essential for diagnosing your car.
If your car uses the old OBD system, its DLC is very likely located near the fuse block in your engine compartment. If you cannot find it there, refer to the car’s documentations to locate the DLC. In the new OBD2 system, the DLC is mostly located at the driver’s cockpit near the steering wheel.
The DLC of the old OBD system is not standardized, so different car manufacturers use different designs for their cars’ DLC. The new OBD2 system, on the other hand, uses a standardized DLC with design that is similar across all manufacturers.
While the two tools above are built-in, a scanner is a plug-and-play check engine diagnostic tool that you must buy separately. The scanner is used to retrieve the OBD code and to interpret the identified problem. To use the scanner, you should plug it into the DLC port of your car. The scanner for the old OBD system is unique for each manufacturer due to the absence of standardization. The scanner for the new OBD2 system, on the other hand, is a universal tool that can be used with all compatible cars, regardless of their manufacturers.