What You Need to Know About On-Board Diagnostic Systems

For a while now, connected vehicles were storing data on fuel usage and driving patterns in their black boxes, to prepare reports and trigger alerts. The On-Board Diagnostic System (OBD system) is a framework for that.

The On-Board Diagnostic System describes a vehicle’s capacity to self-analyze and report issues. This framework was developed back in 1968 when Volkswagen made the first OBD framework with scanning ability in their Volkswagen 3 vehicles.

It was institutionalized in 1994 and named On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) II. It screens how, when, and where a vehicle is being driven, records and analyses this data, and alerts the driver about any issues.

This OBD II System analyzes data provided by the car’s sensors triggers the “check engine light” when something is not right. This way, it warns potential malfunctions in the vehicle. If you’re interested in finding out more about the on-board diagnostic systems, you’ve come to the right place.

Vehicle Diagnostics

Diagnostics are the primary purpose of OBD. When sensors detect something wrong, they trigger a warning that appears on the dashboard. Moreover, OBD scanners can clear these trouble codes from the computer’s memory once they are fixed.

However, trouble codes are just codes. They start with a letter and include four or five numbers. They stand for problems in specific subsystems. Some of them are preloaded with the definition, but usually, you’ll need a list for reference.

Car manufacturers have their specific codes, and identifying one and its meaning can be tricky. ‌ ‌That’s mainly because they usually don’t prefer releasing them to the public.

ODB For Performance

Diagnostics is the main, but not only, function of OBD equipment. It can also make the car faster.

Some aftermarket brands offer performance tuners that can access the central systems in the vehicle through the dashboard. They use data loggers to record lap times or power outputs, for instance. This data is used for racing cars to track their performance and, if possible, tweak them.

Specific vehicles can undergo performance upgrades, which alter the software and unlock horsepower. As we all know, modern vehicles are highly dependent on computer controls. It means that some automotive software changes can affect overall performance. However, such upgrades could harm reliability or fuel economy, for instance. They can also void the factory warranty.

OBD II Scanner

The OBD port can be found underneath the driver dashboard. It’s located under the steering wheel and allows an OBD Scanner to be connected to read data.

This tool records any malfunctions in the vehicle. It serves as an interface for monitoring essential systems and functions. The two types of OBD scanners are Code Readers and Scan Tools.

Code Readers display the DTC with no additional information. The diagnosis could be aided by looking up the codes in a code chart. This type of scanners is inexpensive. Plus, recently a software was developed for them to be able to provide more detailed reports.

Scan Tools are more expensive. They come with many features and provide reports on any faults and offer troubleshooting solutions. They display not only the code but the errors as well. Scan tools work together with programs or mobile apps to assist in diagnosis.

However, these are not the only devices that can be connected to the OBD.


Not all of us can fix our vehicles or change their performance. That’s why OBD II was exploited for mainstream applications with the help of dongles. These are small devices, which plug into the OBD port and wirelessly connect to a network.

Sometimes they are issued to users by insurance companies for a discount. Dongles use the pulled data from OBD II to analyze driver’s behavior on the road. If you demonstrate low-risk behavior, you may receive a discount.

Other devices that can connect to the vehicle’s OBD II enable telematic features. Pairing them with an app on your smartphone, they are very similar to automakers subscription services offerings. These can provide stolen vehicle tracking, diagnostics, or roadside assistance.

Before getting one of these devices, keep in mind that separating your car computer from a network that might contain malware is a defense line against hacking. Giving access to a piece of additional equipment might compromise that barrier.

The connection between the device and a wireless network could be another point of vulnerability. Connected devices can’t guarantee invulnerability to security breaches.

The Benefit Of The OBD II Scanner

The main advantage of the OBD II scanner is its ability to diagnose what triggered the “check engine” light. If you are able to use it, it will show you exactly where the problem is coming from, which saves lots of time.

Moreover, with this tool, you can verify repairs by checking if the issue is still present after you take your car home from service. And last but not least, OBD II Scanners can also be used for a performance upgrade. With the help of GPS enabled Dongles, they can provide you with roadside assistance.