A Look at the OBD Alternative: Using a Computer

While computers are usually your best companions for many technology-based activities, the use of the computer in car diagnostics has revolutionized this field. The central data collection point in most cars has been primarily the car computer, which even the notorious on board diagnostic scans rely on.

The use of computers to scan cars depends on the use of software with the capacity to get the required data. The use of computers is quite common because of they are user friendly. Some advantages of using the computer are:

  • Ability to edit – the data codes that come through the computer system can be easily edited and so the user can have affect car performance.
  • Tuning the car engine – the whole aim of car diagnostic is to improve the way your car engine works. The tuning process can be done with any personal computer with the appropriate software installed.
  • Car engine programming and reprogramming – the data codes are usually designed by the car manufacturer. The computer systems can be used for the process of programming the car engine codes. In several instances, the car engine codes may require renewal. The car computer or PC can be used for this purpose.

What is the process?

There are several approved applications which can be installed on the PC for car diagnostics.  These applications may sometimes be downloaded for free or may need to be bought from the several sites where they are offered for sale.

By installing this software on the computer, the user has the chance of literally saving several thousands of dollars. When the installed software has been run and set up, it may be time to get the car engine connected to the computer using the available USB cable. This cable helps in the transfer of data codes to the computer screen.

At the click of the mouse, where the cursor points to the several areas of the display features, a prompt menu pops up. This menu can be scrolled either up and down or sideways by using the keyboard. This helps in making a choice.

The next step will be to prompt the scanning process with the help of the software; the scanned data is usually displayed on the screen just like in the OBD 2 scan tools.  The scan process in this manner may however prove to be quite slow and may in some cases not cover the whole car, as is the case of the OBD 2.

Read the codes

When the data starts trickling in, the user needs to analyze it, to aid the process of car repair. This is better done when the software is also enabled with a comprehensive data fault code directory for the car in question.

Why is this method not so popular?

The use of computer scanning has not gained much ground in the car repair industry. Apart from the use of the car computer system, there are reasons why this method has not been very popular. These include:


The software programs used in this method are known to cost a lot of money. Moreover, the mechanic shops which can afford them pay upfront and keep the prices high, thus blocking ordinary individuals from using them.

They require more know-how

While the OBD scan tools may not demand much technical knowhow from the user, computer software may not be effectively used if one is not well versed in computers.


There are few applications available in the market meant for sharing by several users. Some cars may not be compatible with some of these applications. It is estimated that they work on 50 to 90% of the data codes.

Rick Man Joorian

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