DTC diagnostic trouble code is a code that your car stores when it detects an issue in any of its systems. One diagnostic trouble code signifies one particular issue. Because your car consists of many systems, each of which consists of various parts, there are hundreds of codes that your car can generate depending on the nature of the issue that it detects. The purpose of this code is for diagnostic purpose, i.e. to let you or your mechanic know the part and the system that are affected by the issue so that proper measures can be taken to fix it. In order to retrieve the stored code, you need a code reader or a scan tool that you should plug into a port in your car.
How Is DTC Diagnostic Trouble Code Generated?
Your car includes a built-in diagnostic system called onboard diagnostic (OBD), which is responsible for the generation of DTC diagnostic trouble code. Since 1996 in the United States, this diagnostic system is standardized and all cars that are manufactured and marketed in the United States after 1996, regardless of their manufacturers, share a similar diagnostic system and a similar assortment of diagnostic trouble codes. The new standardized system is called OBD2.
The OBD2 system constantly monitors your car’s systems. If it detects that a certain component is malfunctioning or isn’t operating properly within acceptable time limits, it will generate a DTC diagnostic trouble code and store it in your car’s memory. It will also notify you about the issue by turning on the check engine light on your car’s dashboard. When you see the light, you know that something wrong is happening. If the light is static, the problem is usually slight and not considered serious. If the light flashes, you should know that something really bad has happened and you should not ever start your car before checking the issue.
How to Scan DTC Diagnostic Trouble Code
The check engine light is the only visual clue that you can see when an issue occurs. The DTC diagnostic trouble code will remain stored in your car’s memory until you retrieve it using a code reader or a scan tool. A code reader is the most basic device to read the generated code without fancy extra features. A scan tool, on the other hand, reads the code, interprets it for you, and performs more advanced scanning tasks with its extra features.
When you plug this device into your car’s DLC port, which is usually located near its steering wheel, the code will appear on the device’s screen. If you can interpret the code, either by using the advanced scanner’s features or by referring to your car’s code list, you can take the right measures to repair the problem. You can either fix the problem yourself or take your car to a mechanic to have the problem fixed.
DTC Diagnostic Trouble Code Format
DTC diagnostic trouble code consists of five characters that begin with a letter (P, B, C, or U) followed by four numbers. The letter determines the location of the problem (P for engine and transmission, B for body, C for chassis, and U for network) and the numbers determine the nature of the problem.