Q:

How do you determine what is wrong with your car?

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Quick Answer

All modern cars feature data ports, On-Board Diagnostic ports, or OBD II, through which diagnostic scanners can be connected to the internal sensors and computers. The diagnostic scanners provide useful information about the car’s condition and decipher more than 200,000 error codes displayed by the car’s computer systems.

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Full Answer

When a car’s computer system encounters a problem, it stores the fault as a code and turns on the check-engine light on the dashboard. The OBD-II scanner extracts the codes from the computer memory and interprets them into particular faults. Additionally, these scanners monitor other engine parameters such as speed, temperature, and vital track systems such as steering, brakes and ventilation.

All cars manufactured after Jan. 1, 1996 have inbuilt ODB-II systems, and connectors are located in the passenger compartment for ease of access from the driver’s seat. The location of the ports is usually under the dashboard, behind or near the ashtray. Over the years, the diagnostic toolkit have morphed from bulk units costing thousands of dollars found in repair shops to simple handheld sensors that display the trouble codes. Many online resources, provided by car manufacturers, provide useful interpretation of the trouble codes received from the car’s computer system. The data from the OBD-II scan pinpoints out the source of the problem and eliminates trial-and-error repairs.

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