Are You Down with OBD…Yeah, So Are We

So, the title is a little goofy and it shows my age… but whatever. Here we are. The library now has an on-board diagnostic tool that you can use to figure out what is wrong with your car. Before I explain a little more about this nifty tool you can check out at the library, let me just say that I know a tiny bit about cars. I certainly don’t know everything though and that’s exactly why this tool is so helpful. Whenever I’ve had to bring my car to a mechanic, I feel a little lost and totally reliant on what they tell me. If you have a good mechanic, then it’s usually fine. However, I’ve found myself in situations where I’ve sort of doubted whatever they told me. I would have loved to have had a tool to confirm or deny what a mechanic told me before I spent hundreds of dollars on a repair. Side note:  we called every auto place in town and none of them offered this device for free. Some even charged upwards of $200 to “rent” a tool like this.

Most cars built within the last 20 years, have an OBD II port that you can use to plug in our device. An on-board diagnostic system simply allows an external tool to interface with the computer in your car. These have become more and more important as cars have become more technologically advanced and software has become the key to fixing a lot of problems. OBD has been around since the ’80s when emissions became more regulated and electronic fuel injection became a thing.

So, the port you need to be able to locate is usually under the dashboard on the driver’s side. When a car’s sensors decide that there is something going wrong with your car, they create a “trouble code,” which usually manifests itself as a warning light on the dashboard. An OBD scanner lets you check this code and determine exactly what is wrong. Side note:  it should also let you clear the code from the memory so that once the problem is fixed, the warning light will disappear from your dash.

So, what about the free OBD scanner that you can check out from the library? We have the Autel AutoLink AL539. It does something that other OBD scanners can’t:  it scans for electrical problems as well. It’s actually pretty small and light and has a long cable so you don’t have to be all hunched over in your car. It has a nice, color screen and icons for major functions. It also tells you things like engine speed, coolant temperature and other items.

All in all, the OBD won’t fix your problem for you but it might arm you with more information for when you need to talk shop with your mechanic. And it’s free to check out with  your library card–sounds like a good deal to me! autel autolink



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