What Is an OBD-II Port And What Is It Used For?

24 Dec 2018

If you bought a vehicle after the year 1996, there’s a good chance it has an Onboard Diagnostics II (OBD-II) port. Every truck or car on the road manufactured after this year should have one installed. But, what exactly is an OBD-II port?

What an OBD-II Port is

An OBD-II is a type of computer that monitors things like:

  • Mileage
  • Emissions
  • Speed
  • Other useful data

It’s connected to your car’s check engine light which illuminates when a problem is detected. The light will stay on, flash or go away completely depending on what the problem is.

Your vehicle’s OBD-II port will likely be located in one of three spots. The most common spot is underneath your dashboard, just left of your steering wheel. Some vehicles may have it located in a protective cover or behind a latch.

What’s an OBD-II Port Used For?

It’s used to plug devices, like GPS tracking devices and diagnostic screening tools. For instance, mechanics use scan tools to identify diagnostic trouble codes. However, you can as well with some technical know-how and the right equipment.

Detect Problems

One particular strength of onboard diagnostics is detecting issues long before you even notice anything is wrong like:

  • Low-fuel economy
  • Low performance
  • Heavy emissions
  • Before the malfunction or “check engine” light comes on

The main method OBD-II alerts drivers of any issues with their vehicle’s performance is through the check engine light. When this light comes on, it means there’s the risk of serious damage to your car and you’re recommended to take your car to a mechanic right away.

Uses Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTC)

DTC’s are stored in the system. These codes aren’t necessarily the same in every vehicle and it’s quite common for foreign manufacturers to use codes specific to the manufacturer. However, mechanics or anyone with an OBD-II scan tool may connect to this port and look at the DTCs, identifying the issue with the vehicle.

There are diagnostic trouble codes for electric problems, some are for transmission problems, some are for Fuel and Air Metering and Auxiliary Emission Controls problems, etc. Each problem has its own error code.

Monitor Car Performance with your Smartphone

You can also monitor your vehicle’s performance through the OBD-II port. For instance, there’s an app that will turn your tablet or phone into an advanced display for engine data.

There are also apps that use GPS tracking to create travel logs with OBD engine logging showing you what any of your drivers are doing at any given time; whether they were stopped, driving or braking. You can also view stats such as the CO2 emissions if you’re looking to be eco-friendly.

GPS fleet tracking through the OBD-II port can also help you locate drivers, see where they’ve been, and where they’re going. All features help you manage your fleet better.

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