An automobile is a synchronized assembly of electronic systems like transmission system, engine management, ignition, telematics, entertainment system etc. All these are connected to the onboard diagnostic computers, which receive error messages from different systems in case of their malfunctioning. However, these messages come in codes, and it is not possible to decipher the meaning unless you connect the computers to an automotive diagnostic scanner. These are essential tools in interpreting and analyzing the error codes sent by different systems. It is an essential tool for both DIYs and workshops.
On Board Diagnostics
Modern cars have a standard on-board-diagnostic-interface known as On Board Diagnostics Version II. It is connected to all the parts of the car through sensors. These sensors collect data on various parameters from respective parts and feed them into the on board computers. The inputs in the form of data are analyzed by the on board diagnostic computers. The computers also send commands to various systems either to start or stop them or fine tune their performance. However, when a system is malfunctioning the relevant sensor sends coded messages to the on board diagnostic computers. There are different codes for different type of errors. You need a device that can read these errors to detect the problem. For this you need an automotive diagnostic scanner. These scanners are connected to the on board diagnostic to read and interpret the data.
Automotive Electronic Systems
An automotive electronic system is a combination of several electronic modules that together control every aspect of running of the automobile. These are embedded systems that are distributed all over the car and tasked with collecting and relaying different datasets.
Types of Distributed Systems
Based on the function, automotive control electronics can be divided into 8 subtypes.
- Engine control system
- Chasis control system
- Transmission control system
- Driver assistance system
- Passenger comfort system
- Safety control sysem
- Entertainment system
- Integrated cockpit system
However, the on board diagnostic system is not capable of deciphering the error messages sent by these systems. It needs assistance in interpreting these errors codes. You need a scanner to do this.
Diagnostic Scan Tool
There are various automotive scanners in the market. Selecting the right scanner for your car depends on many factors. When you browse through various scanners you must have a comprehensive idea about the utility of various brands and their compatibility to your vehicle. To ensure that you need to see that selection process involves all the factors that can affect the compatibility of the scanner to your vehicle.
Factors That Affect The Selection of a Scanner
While some scanners are mere tools for error code reading and analysis some others are an assembly of complex functions. Most of the advanced scanners serve a wide gamut of purpose like data erasing, sensor calibration, flight record, service resetting, remote programming, system identification, activation function, key programming, injector programming, other components programming etc. So you have to see that the scanners supports a wide variety of functions.
Some scanners also serve some special functions that are mostly manufacturer specific such as Idle RPM Correction, Intelligent Key Programming, Auto Drive Position Setting, Leakage Test etc. If you are a DIY enthusiast then you should enquire about the special functionalities of the scanner. These will help you in fine tuning the car.
Electronic Systems and Circuits
There are several systems and circuits in vogue in automobiles. These are ENG, ECS, EPS, ENG-2, AHLS, BM/GM, AIRBAG/ETR (SRS), CCS, ASD, EA, RB, ADS, RST, IMMO, A/C, AAC, FWDS, FFH, KCS etc. You have to take note of the system running in your car.
There are scanners in the market that don’t cover all the brands. So while selecting the scanner you have to see whether the tool is compatible with your brand of car or not.
This is a very important aspect of selecting an automotive diagnostic scanning tool. Scanners get regular software updates that enhance their range and performance. Some companies charge a fee to their customers for such updates while some others do not do so. So while selecting a good scanner for your vehicle do enquire about the software update aspect, i.e whether it is free or paid.