How to Setup and use OBD2 Adapter

A traditional OBD2 code reader will use an interface that plugs into the OBD2 port. Some scan tools will require you to connect your device to a PC in order to view the diagnostic info, while others are handheld units that feature a display and buttons. Many auto repair shops have large OBD2 machines that allow for two-way communication between a vehicle and scan tool. While the pro mechanic’s pricey scanner isn’t necessary for home repair, small compact units are perfect for many do-it-yourself home mechanics.

These new wireless Bluetooth models work with most types of wireless devices. These high-tech models totally changed the OBD2 rules, making complex scanning and real-time diagnostics available even for consumers on a tight budget. These Bluetooth-enabled adapters sync up to your smartphone in a matter of seconds and can provide easy vehicle assessment and scanning of currently running systems. This type of adapter will also store codes on your wireless device’s internal memory and will keep an extensive log for future reference.

Onboard Diagnostics

The term onboard diagnostics will refer to any type of vehicle’s ability to report and register any issues that may occur or have occurred within the vehicle’s system. One of its strengths is its ability to detect problems long before the vehicle’s owner notices any issues such as a low-fuel economy, low-performance, heavy emissions, or before the check engine light turns on.

Like you’d expect, the OBD2 is commonly used by pro mechanics, however, there are also consumer oriented models that any vehicle owner can take advantage of. How to setup and use an OBD2 adapter is fairly simple, and we’ll walk you through this ten-minute process, but first, let’s learn more about what these OBD2 scanners are and how they work.

A Closer look at OBD2 Code Readers

These adapters are able to read diagnostic trouble codes that are stored in a vehicle’s computer system. These codes are exactly the same across all vehicles, however, it isn’t uncommon for foreign manufacturers to create their own specific codes. A mechanic can connect to a vehicle’s port and read the diagnostic trouble codes to identify any problems with a vehicle.

OBD Port

The SAE J1962 diagnostic port is either black or white and is typically located above the brake pedal. The port features space for sixteen pins, however, not all models have sixteen pins. The pin locations will vary based on the signal protocol by the car, truck, or SUV.

The port must be within the reach of the driver as mandated by US federal law. This port will allow a scan tool adapter to be plugged in, which will provide information from the many vehicle’s sensors.

A hand held scan tool is hooked up easily and allows the vehicle’s owner to read the DTCs. However, you’ll still need a reference for the code numbers. You can find these references on a variety of websites or in handbooks dedicated to OBD codes.  Modern models that can be connected to the internet will turn your PC into a very detailed scan tool.

Taking a vehicle into an auto repair shop for a diagnostics test can be expensive, which is why many people have decided to save their hard earned cash and purchase a code reader. Many of these diagnostic tools allow you to keep track of data parameters in real-time.

Other models will allow you to use iOS and Android devices to monitor your vehicle’s performance via the OBD2 port.

Setting up Your OBD2 Adapter

Setting up your OBD2 adapter should only take about ten minutes. Make sure you turn on your Bluetooth settings and ensure data is enabled on your mobile device.

Get in your vehicle, but don’t turn it on yet. Locate the OBD port in your vehicle and plug in the adapter into the port. Vehicles that were manufactured after 1996 should have an OBD port. These ports are commonly located below the steering wheel on the driver’s side.

The next step will involve pairing your device with your smartphone via Bluetooth. You can do this in your Bluetooth settings on your phone.

Next, you’ll want to download the manufacturer’s specific app and create an account.

When you first launch the app, you’ll be prompted to create the account and enter your email address in order to be notified of eligible updates.

Follow the prompted instructions to get to the scan menu.

Now, you can start up your vehicle and hit the connect button. As soon as you turn your vehicle on the app will attempt to connect to the OBD port in order to learn the vehicle’s VIN number.

After you tap the OBD button, the app will let you know when it’s established a connection with your vehicle. Once there’s a connection you can begin driving for real-time diagnostic reports.

To check for codes, hit the scan button on the code reader and follow any direction prompts. The scan should only take a minute or two. Once the scan is finished continue to follow the prompts to determine if the vehicle is reporting any error or trouble codes.

If you’ve used past code reader data to fix your vehicle or if you just want to see if the past code was a one-time issue you can use the device to clear any reported codes and reset the check engine light.

Once you get the trouble code you can do an internet search which can help you diagnose repairs. Higher priced models will provide users with both the code description and the trouble code right on the display screen. Some models even provide vehicle specific info and will report which parts need to be fixed or replaced in order to solve the problem.

Once you have determined what the code means for your vehicle, you can then use that info to buy the necessary parts so you can fix your vehicle yourself.