Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Nunz asks: T’was just wondering how exactly it came to be that the OBD diagnostic system became universal across all brands and makes of cars. I mean, was it via government mandate, or via the voluntary cooperation of competing auto manufacturers? (I should know this…but I don’t! Although, I smell gov’t mandates on a grand multi-continental scale!).
My reply: The first scannable onboard diagnostics systems appeared in the late ’60s – VW was a pioneer, it used such a system with the Bosch-injected ’68 Fastback/Squareback. Other manufacturers added similar systems of their own, as they switched from carbs to EFI.
It was just a diagnostic tool – as it is today. Many included a “check engine” light to alert the driver to the need for service.
But each manufacturer had its own (proprietary) system.
CA (of course) was the first state to mandate OBD in the early ’90s.
The SAE (along with others) then recommended a standardized system – with a universal diagnostic plug-in port. This became mandatory for all passenger vehicles in beginning in ’96.
While I loathe and resent the government, OBD does have some good points. A simple (and universal) scan tool that you can purchase for around $100 makes isolating a problem/fault much easier. The key thing is to get a reader that will decipher the codes rather than just give you a code.
. . .
Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!
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