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scan tool
coolant temp
engine coolant
modern cars
different meaning
How To Choose Obd2 Scan Tool For Personal Use
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How to Choose Obd2 Scan Tool for Personal Use

Modern cars are computer-controlled. The computer is called PCM (powertrain control module), ECM (electronic control module) or ECU (electronic control unit), depending on manufacturers. The computer monitors the condition of a car all the time as well as it gives signals to devices so the engine runs effectively and efficiently.

When something goes wrong in the system, the computer quickly detects it and tell a driver so by turning on check engine light. At the same time as the computer turns on the light, the computer keep memories of what is or was wrong in the form of code, like P0010, B1142, C0046, U0100 and so on. Each alphabet stands for P powertrain, B body, C chassis and U network. The type of codes that turns on check engine light is P-codes.

Scan tools are necessary to retrieve these codes. Code's numbers between P0100 to P1000 are generic codes. Generic codes are standardized among all manufacturers. The same number of code has the same meaning in any manufacturers. The code's number higher than P1000 are manufacturer's specific codes. Although a number is the same it has different meaning in each manufacturers.

There are many types of scan tools on the market. The least expensive scan tool is a code reader. It can show only code's number without description. You need to look up a definition in a book or internet. You can clear the code and turn off check engine light. The price is no more than 50 dollars.

Better scan tools show code's number and descriptions. Some of them show both of generic and manufacture's specific code's descriptions, some of them show only generic's. And much better ones also show live date, real-time readings of many sensors like RPM, engine coolant temp, mass air flow volume... and much more. The price range from 100 to 300 dollars.

Not long ago, scanning ABS or Air Bag codes are retrieved by only dealers scan tools. Now they are available on the market for affordable price. For example, Equus Innova 3160 can get ABS codes as well as P-codes and live date. The price is around 250 dollars.

There are much more advanced scan tools. They have a big and color screen and show many parameters on graph. They even have diagnostic information for each code. But they cost thousands of dollars. They are not likely for personal use.

Lastly, this is the best option in terms of features and cost performance. If you have a smartphone or laptop you can use them as a scan tool. You download and install an app and connect your mobile device to a car via either USB cable, WiFi or bluetooth interface. Now your cell phone or laptop is very sophisticated scan tool. They show not only codes but also parameters on graph, dial or bar style, calculate fuel economy, keep records and etc. The price of these interfaces are relatively inexpensive, 20-100 dollars.

OnStar tells subscribers a lot of information (including obd2 codes, ABS, Air Bag, TPM (tire pressure monitor) maintenance schedule) by email. OnStar retrieve from vehicle's computers. In other words, all car equipped obd2 system are capable of showing those information. In the near future, more apps will be developed and you will be able to see them on PC, cell phone or car's display for navigation system.


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