Various tools are available that plug into the OBD connector to access OBD functions. These range from simple generic consumer level tools to highly sophisticated OEM dealership tools to vehicle telematic devices.
Hand-held Scan Tools
A range of rugged hand-held scan tools is available.
- Simple fault code readers/reset tools are mostly aimed at the consumer level.
- Professional hand-held scan tools may possess more advanced functions
- Access more advanced diagnostics
- Set manufacturer- or vehicle-specific ECU parameters
- Access and control other control units, such as air bag or ABS
- Real-time monitoring or graphing of engine parameters to facilitate diagnosis or tuning
Mobile Device Based Tools and Analysis
Mobile device applications allow mobile devices such as cell phones and tablets to display and manipulate the OBD-II data accessed via USB adaptor cables or bluetooth adapters plugged into the car’s OBD II connector.
PC-based Scan Tools and Analysis Platforms
A PC-based OBD analysis tool that converts the OBD-II signals to serial data (USB or serial port) standard to PCs or Macs. The software then decodes the received data to a visual display. Many popular interfaces are based on the ELM or STN1110OBD Interpreter ICs, both of which read all five generic OBD-II protocols. Some adapters now use the J2534 API allowing them to access OBD-II Protocols for both cars and trucks.
In addition to the functions of a hand-held scan tool, the PC-based tools generally offer:
- Large storage capacity for data logging and other functions
- Higher resolution screen than handheld tools
- The ability to use multiple software programs adding flexibility
The extent that a PC tool may access manufacturer or vehicle-specific ECU diagnostics varies between software products as it does between hand-held scanners.