When your check engine light is on or you’re experiencing car problems, an appropriate OBD scan tool will let you talk to your car and help determine what the problem is. But, you may ask yourselves:
- Is my car OBD1 or OBD2?
- What is the difference between OBD1 and OBD2?
- Should I use an OBD1 or OBD2 Scanner to diagnose the trouble?
In this article, we’ll discuss in detail the difference between OBD1 and OBD2 vehicles and the best OBD Scanner for them.
Table of Contents
OBD stands for On-Board Diagnostics. Your car’s onboard diagnostic system is a computer that’s in charge of monitoring your engine through a series of sensors.
These sensors detect any abnormalities in your engine, including:
- irregularities in the fuel/air mixture
- any problems with your catalytic converter
- and spark plug issues, etc.
There’s a special plug that allows you to use a scan tool to communicate with this system directly so you can figure out what’s going on with your car.
What is OBD1?
OBD1 is the On-board Diagnostics standard that was applied to vehicles made for California from 1991 in order to control vehicle emissions in this state. All cars marketed for this area had to be equipped with the system to detect engine issues and report trouble codes. Despite OBD1 being a California state standard, it’s found on many GM and Ford cars that were made during the early 1990s. Unlike the later OBD2 standard, however, OBD-1 wasn’t standardized across manufacturers. This means that an OBD-I scan tool will often work for only one make of car. In addition, the codes themselves aren’t standardized, so a Ford with the same engine issue as a Toyota might give a totally different trouble code. While OBD1 wasn’t exactly the same as OBD2, it was fundamentally pretty similar. The point of the system was to allow your car to monitor itself and relay useful information to drivers and mechanics.
What is OBD2?
OBD2 became a nationwide standard of the United States in 1996, and it’s been used ever since then. Unlike OBD1, OBD2 equipped cars all support the same type of scanner. The trouble codes themselves have also been standardized, although manufacturers sometimes allow the system to send additional specific information. As car computers have got more and more sophisticated, car manufacturers have added more and more capabilities to the OBD2 systems in their cars. You can use an OBD2 scanner to view real-time diagnostic data, interface with your car’s computer, and more.
The biggest improvement from OBD1 to OBD2 is that all OBD2 cars have the same sort of ports that send the same sort of data the same way. In other words, you can buy a single OBD2 scanner and get useful information from any car made by any manufacturer.
Read more about OBDII technology HERE
OBD1 vs OBD2 Comparison Chart
|Nature||California Standard||Federal Standard|
|Functions||Retrieve diagnostic information and inform drivers of engine problems||Retrieve diagnostic information and inform drivers of engine problems|
|Interface||Manufacturer specific||Universal interface|
|Application||Was not able to gain much popularity||Was implemented from the beginning because of the options available|
|Benefit||Total energy and fuel consumed by the vehicle and then output which comes out||Takes into account different calculations and codes to solve the problems that are faced|
|Number of DTCs||less; only manufacturer-specific codes||more; generic codes and manufacturer-specific codes|
Is My Car OBD1 or OBD2?
It depends on the country you are or the market the car was manufactured for. Let’s take cars for the US market as an example. If your vehicle was made in 1996 in the US or marketed to the US then the high chance is it is OBD2-compliant. (But note that, some cars were made in 1996 in the US but OBD1.)
To determine whether your car is OBD1 or OBD2, find the year it was manufactured on the white card on the driver’s side door then check below:
- United States – 1996
- European Union – 2001 (gas), 2004 (diesel)
- Canada – 1998
- Argentina – 2009
- Australia – 2006 (gas), 2007 (diesel)
- Brazil – 2007 (gas)
- New Zealand – 2006
- Japan – 2002
- Mexico – 2006
- Russia – 2012
- Israel – 2003
- India – 2010
- China – 2009
- Chile – 2013 (diesel), 2014 (gas)
- Hong Kong – 2006
- Morocco – 2011
- Taiwan – 2008
- Thailand – 2013
If you still cannot determine if your vehicle is OBD1 or OBD2, find the “Vehicle Emission Control Information” card which is usually under the hood.
OBD1 vs OBD2 Scanners
The difference between OBD1 and OBD2 Scanners
OBD1 scanners only work on old cars. If a car was produced after 1996, it probably doesn’t have an OBD1 port, so you can’t use an OBD1 scanner with it. Even if your car was produced before 1996, you’ll still have to find an OBD1 scan tool that matches that car’s specific manufacturer and find a way to translate that manufacturer’s specific error codes into a format you understand. Carmakers understood that mechanics wouldn’t want to buy five or six different scan tools in order to work with different types of cars. As a result, most OBD1 equipped cars can transmit error codes in a different way. With a bit of work, you can configure these cars to flash out these error codes in code via the check engine light.
OBD2 scanners are necessary to retrieve error codes and diagnostic information from more modern cars. If a car was made after 1996, you’ll need an OBD2 scan tool in order to interface with the car’s diagnostic system. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about make or model. OBD2 scan tools are totally universal as far as newer cars are concerned.
Can I Use an OBD2 Scanner for OBD1?
Yes. But you need an OBD1 to OBD2 connector. Also, some OBD2 Scanners cover both OBD1 and OBD2 vehicles, which means you can use an OBD2 scanner to diagnose an OBD1 car.