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How to use an OBD2 scan tool

Published on January 3rd, 2024

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An OBD2 scan tool is a diagnostic tool that connects to your car via the data link connector, also known as the OBD2 port. This is done through a wired connection, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi, allowing you to scan diagnostic trouble codes stored in your vehicle's computer.

1. Locating the Data Link Connector (OBD2 port) and connecting your scan tool.

Note: Video showing OBD2 port location in a 2014 Ford Mustang.

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The picture shows an Innova scan tool that has a wired connection. The wired connection from the scan tool connects to the data link connector (OBD2 port).

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16 Pin data Link Connector (OBD2 Port)

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2. Establishing communication to read your diagnostic trouble codes.

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Now that the wired scan tool is connected to the OBD2 port, you'll need to turn the ignition to the ON or IDLE position. This needs to be done for the scan tool to establish communication with the vehicle's computer. The scan tool will automatically pick up the vehicle's VIN #, then connect to the vehicle's computer to read and display your diagnostic trouble codes.

Note: You can have the engine running when using our scan tools. Some of our scan tools have advanced features that require the engine to be running. Make sure if you have the engine running, always get the engine running 1st, then connect the scan tool 2nd.

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3. Accessing the system status menu for diagnostic trouble codes.

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Once the scan tool has established communication successfully, the check engine diagnostic trouble codes will display right away on the display screen. The check engine codes are listed in order by severity. The check engine codes will provide a description of what they mean. Press the UP ▲ or DOWN ▼ buttons to navigate through the remaining codes if more than one are present.

Press the System Status button on the left side of the scan tool to access further diagnostic trouble code options.

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Use the UP ▲ or DOWN ▼ buttons to navigate through the selections. In this example, the 5210 scan tool reads global OBD2 (Check engine) and ABS (Anti-lock brake) diagnostic trouble codes. After making your selection, press ENTER ↵ to continue.

4. Removing the scan tool.

When finished viewing your check engine codes, or other diagnostic information, you can safely remove the wired connection from the OBD2 port. Make sure to turn the ignition OFF before disconnecting the wired connection. The scan tool will store the vehicle data in its memory.

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