OBD-II Adapter: Making Your Car Smarter

What is OBD?

On-board diagnostics (OBD) is, in short, your vehicle’s built-in self-diagnostic system. OBD means an automotive term that refers to a vehicle’s self-diagnostic and reporting capability. OBD systems provide access to the status of the various vehicle subsystems to the vehicle owner or repair technician. OBD- II  originates from California where the California Air Resources Board required OBD in all new cars from 1991 onwards for emission control purposes.

So, if you own a vehicle that was launched after the year 1991, then you can connect it with a device called, ‘OBD II adapter’ and access tons of useful data from your car, such as, your fuel efficiency, engine lights, etc., easily.

The amount of information that can be gathered through OBD, has differed widely since its invention. Early versions of OBD would simply illuminate a malfunction indicator light if any problem was detected. 

Modern OBD implementations use a standardized digital communication port to provide real-time data in addition to a standardized series of diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) which allows a person to instantly identify and correct the malfunctions within a vehicle.

Most cars have an on-board diagnostics (OBD) computer inside which allows the mechanics and regulators to troubleshoot any computer-controlled parts of the car. From 1991 onwards, all cars sold in the United States were required to have an OBD-II compatible port. This comes with the perk that anyone with an adapter can read any information from their car. People might have noticed this when a technician checked their emissions.

Mostly, OBD-II tools were only used by accredited professionals for gathering information such as what might be wrong with the engine light, or whether a car is meeting emission standards, etc. However, OBD-II ports can be used to gather and read a lot more helpful data. 

So, if you are wondering how to make your car smarter with an OBD II adapter, then read ahead.

Getting started with OBD II Adapter

When you have decided about the type of adapter you want to use, you will need to plug it into your car through a port. 

The OBD- II  port in cars looks something like this.

obd ii adapter

The port may be situated at different locations, depending on the model of your car. Usually, it is situated near the steering wheel, might be just underneath the wheel, or near the fuse panel. When you find it, you need to plug the adapter in. 

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Many adapters use  Bluetooth, so you will have to open up your phone and pair it to the Bluetooth. This process may be slightly different for each phone, you will need to start by navigating the Bluetooth settings.

Next, you will have to enter the four-digit PIN for your adapter. You can find this in the instructions of your adapter, but usually, it is 0000 or 1234.

Once you have detected and entered the PIN, tap on the ‘OK’ option.

You should now see your adapter on your phone in your list of devices, in the Bluetooth section.

Now you need to install any one app on your phone, for example, Dash, Torque, etc., and connect it to your car. 

These apps will then gather information about your car and also keep track of your trips, the money you spend on fuel, etc.

Note: Certain systems such as the ‘Automatic Pro’, will have a different setup process since it uses the 3G Network to track your car instead of Bluetooth. You need to read the instructions about the app to proceed further with the setting up process. 

~ Uses of OBD II Adapter

People can buy a basic Bluetooth adapter, remember the expensive Bluetooth adapters come with more features. You can make your car smarter with an OBD II adapter. You just need to connect these adapters to apps such as Dash (available both on Android and iOS) and Torque (only available on Android). 


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One disadvantage of cheaper Bluetooth adapters is that the battery gets drained up fast if they are left plugged in. There will be no issue if you drive your car every day or if you only plug it in when you want to check on your car. In case you don’t use your car that frequently, you should use a more high-end adapter.

Expensive whole-package OBD-II systems come with adapters that connect to 3G networks, including GPS, have power-saving features, and their app. 

You can use OBD II adapters to check how much amount do you spend on gas or fuel, how much would it cost to fill up your tank, how much does it cost to drive to work. Certain apps track the distance you travel, compare that to the cost of gas in your area, check the efficiency of your car, and also maintain a record of the amount you spend on fueling up on your car each time. For each trip, it can show you how much you spent to get there. 

These adapters identify your check engine lights. There might be a default in your car’s check engine light and you might never know about it until you go to your mechanic, unless you have an OBD II adapter. Torque and Dash are the apps that have been invented to give you a more specific and detailed error code. These apps tell you the exact problem with your car. With such accurate information, you can figure out whether you need to hurry to the mechanic right away, or you can deal with it on your own.

The OBD II adapters can be used to detect the location where you parked your car. You just need to connect to apps (Torque/ Dash) and use your phone’s location to inform where you parked it. Certain adapters can even locate your car when it’s away from your phone.

If any of your acquaintances use your car or if it gets stolen, you can track exactly where it is from your phone with the help of the OBD II adapters and the apps and take help from the emergency services. 

Some adapters can detect severe car crashes too. An operator will then call you and ask if you need assistance and then they will send emergency services for your help. The operators will stay on the call with you until the emergency services arrive at your location.

These adapters can even be connected to Alexa and other such smart apps. You can even pair them with your host of other smart home gadgets through certain apps like IFTTT. 

IFTTT lets you diagnose the check engine lights, turn your lights on when you get home, turn them off when you leave, send your text messages while working, etc.

These OBD-II adapters are an easy way to add your car to an assortment of smart gadgets and you don’t even need some expensive head unit or a brand new car for that.

So this was all you need to know about OBD II adapters. 

We hope that this was helpful to you and you understood how to make your car smarter with an OBD II adapter.

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