How To Use OBD2 Scanner Devices: What You Need To Know

How To Use OBD2 Scanner Devices: What You Need To Know

If you’re interested in scanning your car yourself without relying on your mechanic whenever you suspect that something is wrong with your car or it’s “check engine” light comes on, you will need to use an OBD2 scanner.

This is a type of device that connects to your car’s OBD port to be able to gain information from your car’s computer.

Can you use an OBD2 scanner on any car? If your car was made in 1996 or later years, it will have an OBD2 system on board. An OBD2 scanner can then be used to gather information from this computer system.

Whether you’re a DIY mechanic or a complete beginner when it comes to scanning your vehicle, you’ll be able to use an OBD2 scanner.

Ready to get started? Here’s everything you need to know about how to use OBD scanner devices properly. 


How To Choose The Best OBD2 Scanner

If you’re interested in scanning your car for any problems with the use of an OBD2 scanner, you will first have to ensure you buy the right kind of scanner.

This can feel overwhelming if you’ve never shopped for an OBD2 scanner before, but to help you out here are some important things to look for in a scanner.



It’s not enough that your car has an OBD2 system on board.

Although many OBD2 scanners will be able to work with such vehicles, you also have to consider if they will be compatible based on what kind of codes you want to scan.

Basically, scanners that can read generic trouble codes will be more universal.

If you want extra scanning features, such as the ability to monitor your car’s ABS and transmission systems, then you’ll need to ensure that the scanner can deliver on its promises and is compatible with your specific vehicle.

Clear display

Even if you have experience with using OBD2 scanners on your car, you want to make sure that using one is a stress-free experience.

This is why you have to look for OBD2 scanners that have bright, colorful displays so that the information they give you is easy to view.

Backlit screens are a bonus, especially if you’re working in a dark garage.


There are a variety of user-friendly features that will make using an OBD2 scanner a breeze.

Look for a scanning device that makes it easy for you to navigate through its menu to find what you need, and which allows you to easily transmit the information to your printer or via email so you can read the reports in your own time and have a record of them when required.

Live data reporting


Some scanners will enable you to gain information about your car in the form of live data. This is great because it helps you to better monitor how your car’s engine is working in real-time.

Trouble code definitions

The last thing you want to experience when using an OBD2 scanner is receiving an error code and not knowing what it means, and – worse – not having a guide in the scanning device to inform you of its meaning.

Therefore, make sure the device you purchase has a lookup tool so you will always know what’s wrong with your vehicle right away.


It’s a waste of money to use a scanner that doesn’t actually let you know what’s wrong with your vehicle.

While it’s not always easy to gauge the accuracy of an OBD2 scanner because it might work better on certain car makes and models, it’s definitely useful to read reviews online about the scanner you wish to purchase before you go ahead.

You will be able to view professional reviews on the product and see what people who’ve bought the scanner have to say about it.

If you see people reporting that the scanner isn’t accurate, then give it a miss in favor of a different product. 

How To Connect An OBD2 Scanner 

How To Connect An OBD2 Scanner

The great thing about OBD2 scanners is that they offer you various ways in which to connect them to your car so you can start scanning it for any problems.

These scanners usually get inserted into the OBD2 port in your car (more on that in the next section!), but they offer various ways in which to connect to your car.

For example, some OBD2 scanners will make use of Bluetooth or Wi-Fi in order to connect, which gives you much more convenience when using them.

These scanners make use of apps that communicate with them while they’re plugged into your car’s computer, providing you with various information about your car on your smartphone or tablet.

This is one of the areas in which OBD2 scanners shine because when compared to OBD1 devices they really enable much more user-friendliness when it comes to connectivity.

OBD1 scanners can only be connected via wires.

When choosing an OBD2 scanner, it’s important to think about what’s most convenient for you and how you want the information to be displayed, such as if you’d rather access it on a scanner device screen or if you want it on your phone in the form of an app. 

Steps To Follow When Using OBD2 Scanners

Steps To Follow When Using OBD2 Scanners

Now that you have an OBD2 scanner, you need to follow some steps to ensure you use it correctly.

  • Start by making sure your car is off. 
  • Then, find the car’s OBD2 port. This is where you’ll plug in your OBD2 scanner and this port is usually found underneath the steering wheel. Plug your OBD2 scanner into this port. 
  • Put your car’s key in the ignition so that you can turn it to “on.” Note that some car scanner tools require you to turn the engine on and leave it on idle, but this is not the case for all devices so it’s important to check the manual beforehand. 
  • Turn on the car scanner tool and select the “scan” or “read” option. 
  • The device will scan the car’s engine so that you can receive information about anything that’s wrong with your car. 
  • You will receive Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs) from the device, so it helps to know what they mean. You might find that some devices will give you the chance to connect them to your computer via a USB cable so that you can read through the codes. Others will allow you to print or email the resorts. 
  • If the OBD2 scanner is one of quality, it will have a dictionary installed so that you can easily find what the trouble codes mean. Otherwise, you’ll have to ensure that you look them up online. 
  • Once the scanner has scanned your car’s computer, you will need to turn off your car and unplug the scanner. Note that some OBD2 scanners enable you to leave them plugged in as they won’t drain your car’s battery, but check the user manual to find out before you go ahead and leave them inserted in the car’s port.

Extra Tips When Using OBD2 Scanning Devices

  • Be gentle when inserting the scanner into the OBD2 port in your car. This port has 16 delicate pins. You don’t want to accidentally damage them by pushing the device into the plug too roughly.
  • When shopping for an OBD2 scanner, make sure you bear in mind that these devices vary from code readers. The latter are basically ways to read trouble codes that are more generic. They won’t give you additional features and vehicle-specific codes. OBD2 devices are better than code readers because you’ll get generic and more specific codes in one tool.
  • If you’re using your OBD2 scanner to remove the “check engine” light, you should always make sure that you repair the problem that’s causing this warning light to come on otherwise it will just come back on. 
  • Even if you’re not going to repair your own car, you can still make use of OBD2 scanners. For example, they can perform smog checks to ensure that your car’s emissions are within a healthy range. This will also help your car to pass the emissions test because you’ll be alerted to the fact of your car having too high emissions so you can remedy whatever is causing it. These scanners can also monitor things like your car’s battery and engine performance, oil and coolant temperatures, and more.

Related Questions

How can you reduce your car’s emissions?


You can do this in various ways, such as changing your car’s oil and air filter. Check your car’s emissions with an OBD2 scanner regularly to stay up to date with them and if they’re within a healthy range. 

Will European vehicles work with OBD2?

Most European vehicles will have European On-Board Diagnostics (EOBD) built into them, but this is basically the same as OBD2.

When shopping for OBD2 scanners, make sure you check their vehicle compatibility. 


If you want to monitor your car for any problems, you should ensure that you purchase an OBD2 scanner.

However, there are some important things to know about these valuable tools, as we’ve seen in this article.


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