The onboard electrical diagnostic system in your car is called the OBD-II. This system of codes assists the scanner in checking your automobile’s systems and their performance. All cars built after 1996 have an OBD-II on board. Some older models had diagnostics installed as after-market products. These systems are not always recognizable, but may be found if you know what to look for.
- Look in unlikely places such as in the cover above the floor or under the ashtray in older model cars for a connection that looks like a mouth with two rows of teeth, with 16 possible points of connection. Some systems were placed under the dashboard. The connection must be placed within three feet of the driver.
- Watch for a light to flash on your dashboard that says, “check engine.” This light is usually indicates the presence of an OBD-II scanner.
- Ask your mechanic to perform a scan of your electrical systems. If he attaches wires to a computer and receives data on it, then you most likely have an ODB-II scanner. You could just ask your mechanic too.
- Rifling around under the hood will most likely give you very little information, since the OBD-II is in a sealed casing. Look instead for a sticker placed under the hood that states the car is OBD-II compliant.
- Check with the California Air Resources Board for a list of vehicles that were OBD-II compliant prior to 1996. See “Resources” for more information.