The modern-day car is more like a computer on wheels than anything else. Long gone are the days when a weekend mechanic could attempt to fix an issue in their garage. If you own a relatively modern vehicle, then you know that they are quite reliable, but, from time to time, issues can arise. However, the on-board computer is very sophisticated and is linked to an army of sensors, and when something does start to go wrong, this computer will analyse the issue and send you a dashboard warning. Still, an illuminated warning light is all very well, but how can you get to the bottom of the issue after that?
This is where an auto scan tool comes into its own. It can provide a remarkable amount of information to a knowledgeable technician. Your friendly mechanic will have one of these devices and when you take the vehicle into them, they will plug it into a receptacle to download information from the computer.
These devices are known as OBD-I or OBD-II scanners, and they are far more sophisticated than the simple reading device you may be able to get from your parts store. For example, once they are connected, these professional tools can read the trouble codes generated by the system, whether they are manufacturer specific or generic, and the machine will also define the extent of the problem.
The tool is able to playback live data from the computer and store it for future reference and can provide a graphical interpretation of the information if needed. It will also be able to display pending or 'soft' codes that may relate to other problems on the horizon that may not have triggered a dashboard warning as yet.
Accessing Live Data
The ability to store and playback live data is invaluable as this will allow the technician to take the vehicle out for a test drive while active so they can view a recording of sensor activity. This will help them to diagnose and come to a conclusion so that they can carry out a repair as soon as possible.
The most sophisticated tools today have all the relevant information and a knowledge base built into the tool itself. Occasionally, the technician may need to refer to other sources for clarification, but, generally speaking, they'll be able to find out what's wrong with your car very quickly.