Operating a car in the 21st century can be expensive, especially if it’s out of warranty. Troubleshooting can be especially costly, especially if the repair center has resale experience to ensure you do repairs with them.

Ongoing computerization of automotive systems means repairing often components (much like repairing a desktop computer), which means the modern mechanic needs a good understanding of electrical systems as well as those traditional mechanical components still in use.

However, all this means that you can save on repairs. Vehicles out of warranty performing their own troubleshooting using a dedicated USB cable and diagnostic utility. You can then use this information to track down a problem with a specific component (perhaps a temperature sensor, perhaps the brakes) and arrange for necessary repairs.

Troubleshooting in the car

One of the biggest challenges for car owners in the 21st century is troubleshooting. Even 20 years ago, repairing a car meant finding the problem through a series of checks. Some of these checks may not be entirely reliable and may also require the removal of entire subsystems, but overall it was an easier process. The cars were mostly about mechanics, which meant no special computer knowledge was required.

Since about the mid-1990s, this has changed at almost every level of mass-produced vehicle manufacturing, and the rapid spread of computerization and the introduction of sensors and electronic monitoring of components and subsystems has meant that some parts may be blocked. replaced and how.


After all, how do you replace a part if you can’t diagnose the problem? Diagnostics these days takes place under the scrutiny of a repair team or expensive third-party manufacturers.

But this is optional.

What is OBD II?

Somewhere in your car there is an OBDII port, a SCART style connector that provides connection to the ECU (engine control unit) and through which diagnostic information (and monitoring data) can be obtained.


The spec for OBDII says the port should be no more than three feet away from the driver, so inspect the crank and handle, under ashtrays, under the dash, etc.

Once found, you can connect an OBDII compliant diagnostic machine to your vehicle to find faults. These can be purchased online for around $30, but are a cheaper option to purchase a dedicated Bluetooth cable or device that usually comes with software that is compatible with a Windows 8 laptop or tablet (such as the Microsoft Surface Pro,

This means you can repeatedly diagnose problems and monitor your car’s performance! You can even combine it with Windows-based navigator installation plans, perhaps using an old laptop or netbook. .

Purchasing an OBDII connection cable

Different car manufacturers use different protocols for OBDII. Although the physical connectors are the same, the wiring will not be the same for all car brands.


The solution here is simple: make sure the OBDII connector you purchase is for use with your vehicle. You can go online on Amazon and eBay to find the right connector. remembering to check in the product notes that it is compatible with your vehicle.

These devices are inexpensive, and if you have compatible hardware to run the software, you should be able to diagnose any problem with your car in minutes.

However, when it comes to devices, using a compact OBDII Bluetooth connector is a better option than throwing cables around the driver’s seat.

Diagnosing vehicle problems with OBDII connector and diagnostic utility

To find out the cause of any malfunctions your car may be showing (traitor light flashing on the dash or refusing to stay on after ignition), you need to connect an OBDII device to your computer. The best option for this is a Bluetooth OBDII device as mentioned above; Just make sure your computer has Bluetooth or a Bluetooth USB dongle connected.


Various applications are available for Windows users. You can try the free OBDwiz at www.scantool.net to get basic functionality (they sell various premium alternatives including a touch app) such as a graphical toolbar and diagnostic tools.


Logs can also be kept, but remember that the data collected is only as good as the sensors in your car, so make sure to replace them when they stop reporting correctly.

Using diagnostics in any of these applications is a case of switching to the correct mode, running a scan, and getting error codes that will be displayed along with an explanation of the error.

Your diagnosis has been made — what’s next?

Once you have determined what the problem is with your car, you can take steps to fix it. For example, my 1999 Vauxhall Zafira recently had a heater problem. Without the diagnostic software, I might have had to replace the entire subsystem, not just the fan component.

However, this was a relatively easy fix — other issues may require much more intensive work, for which you may consider getting help if you don’t have experience with car repairs.

Have you used a diagnostic app and an OBDII cable to help fix your car? fix your car with ? Is this something you could try? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Featured Image Credit: Professional Auto Mechanic Working in Auto Service via Shutterstock

Image credit: Auto mechanic with laptop via Shutterstock, OBDII Fault Scanner on white background via Shutterstock, MMMinderhoud, Florian Schaeffer

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