Universal fault code scanner
There are many check engine / OBD / fault code scanners which are heavily advertised to be "fully universal", and that they are "the only scanner you will only need". Of course, in reality they are not even close to fulfilling that promise.
The first problem is the multitude of different systems available in the car which would need to be accessed. The following is a non-exhaustive list:
OBD I -- system of the very old cars (most scanners no longer would be able to scan such cars)
OBD II -- the newer, current system of most US domestic and foreign cars
ABS (anti-lock brakes) system codes. This may or may not include the ability to also cycle the ABS pump to properly bleed the system, although such tools are usually car manufacturer-specific (usually, only the dealer would have such a make-specific tool).
Airbag system codes
CAN -- the newer bus interface of modern cars.
Some makes (VW, Audi, etc) have proprietary system such as VAG which cannot be accessed with an OBD II scanner.
Fortunately, there usually still remains the wire-jumper method of viewing and / or clearing such codes as the airbag and ABS system if your OBD II scanner cannot access those systems.
The second and well-hidden fact is that most of the heavily advertised scanners on the market cannot scan all makes of cars. Scanners usually can only do either domestic or import makes, but not both. This can only be found in small-print on the website of the scanner manufacturer.
Recently, there have been more scanner models which can do features such as live (or realtime) scanning and reporting (or graphing), and ones which have an Internet-updateable database of faults and / or solutions.
There are also cheaper and usually Asian-made USB-based scanners which require a computer. These may be sufficient for your task at hand of you have a limited budget.
So, when purchasing a check engine / fault / OBD scanner, make sure that it is compatible with as many makes as possible, especially that of your car. Try to get one which will also access other systems as well.
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Page last modified 31-Dec-12 22:27:17 EST