These days, when you take your car to the shop, one of the first things you will see them do is get this little hand held with a plug on it and hook it up to your car. That’s what’s called an OBDII reader and what it does is read your cars ECU, the computer that controls it, for error codes. These error codes will give the mechanic an idea as to where to start when diagnosing your vehicle. This is one of the primary examples of automotive repair software in use today.
Prior to 1996 there were several revisions of various diagnostic standards, but none of them caught on well until 1996 when all vehicles were required to have an OBDII port for diagnostics and testing purposes. This allowed for a single, unified standard across all makes and models which made accessing these diagnostics options more accessible for individuals and small shop owners.
OK, it gives you a unified interface for connecting to the cars computer. So what? What benefit is it going to offer? Well, for one it allows the state to perform testing on all makes and models without separate equipment for different years and makes. This is not only cheaper, but saves time as well. The second thing is that it allows small mechanics shops to have the same diagnostics capabilities as a dealership. Of course, this has changed in recent years, but in the beginning it was a plus.
How does it work?
Today’s cars have way more sensors than at any other point. There are sensors for just about everything. These sensors control the timing of the engine, when the transmission shifts, and if you get a check engine light. In most cases it is actually the sensor that has failed, not the system it is reporting on.
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