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How to Interpret Freeze Frame Data

Freeze frame data can help you identify problems with your vehicle. Learn more about freeze frame data and how to interpret your OBD II system.

What is OBD II Freeze Frame Data?

Freeze frame data is a computerized data output system
An OBD scanner is a tool that allows you to read the trouble codes on your car’s On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) system.

In so many words, an OBD II freeze frame is a computerized data output system that allows a vehicle owner to interpret and diagnose potential problems. The OBD II freeze frame system has been required by law for all US vehicles since 1996, in order to better track and regulate emission data.

If the vehicle senses a fault while running, the on-board diagnostics system (often referred to as OBD II) will take a snapshot of every system status in the vehicle at the time of the fault. This snapshot, known as freeze frame, can provide data critical to fixing a complex car problem.

You may find it necessary to check your vehicle’s freeze frame data if the so-called “Check Engine” light illuminates on your dashboard. This light – properly known as the “malfunction indicator light” or MIL – indicates that the engine control unit has sensed a fault and created a freeze frame data set accordingly. In most vehicles, you will need a specialized scan tool in order to download and analyze this data.

How Can You Access a Freeze Frame?

In order to access freeze frame data, you will need an OBD II scan tool
OBD2 Protocol Detector & Break Out Box Tester

In order to access freeze frame data, you will need an OBD II scan tool. Next, you must identify the location of the on-board diagnostic socket on their make and model. Though this socket is often located under the steering wheel or in the glove compartment, you may need to consult your owner’s manual for further information on its precise appearance and location.

After locating the on-board diagnostic socket, you should follow the instructions included with your scan tool in order to link up to the vehicle’s computer system. This may take some time, in order for the scanning device to download data from your vehicle’s main computer system. After linking up, you should navigate to the “OBE II” section presented on the scan tool. Once there, you simply need to navigate to the “Freeze Frame” menu in order to access all stored freeze frame reports.

Freeze frame data is saved into your vehicle’s computer every time a major or minor fault is detected. These snapshots are often stored indefinitely, allowing a vehicle owner or specialist to check for patterns of vehicle conditions that may be causing the fault. However, some vehicles only feature a limited capacity for saving freeze frame data. In this case, the OBD II is capable of overwriting previous freeze frames in order to store new information on a high priority failure.

How Can You Use The Freeze Frame Data?

Freeze frame data can be used in a variety of applications, including identifying, interpreting, and diagnosing internal vehicle problems. This includes identifying when internal sensors are faulty or have failed entirely, leading to dodgy freeze frame data. While some vehicle owners are capable of researching and interpreting the data found in a freeze frame on their own, most car owners seek out further input from mechanics and manufacturer specialists.

Most OBD II scan tools will provide an error code to indicate what fault or failure triggered the freeze frame creation. This code – known as a DTC or “diagnostic trouble code” – provides a succinct readout that you or a specialist may use to better pinpoint your vehicle’s precise problem. You can find more information on DTCs and other freeze frame data interpretation below.

No matter its use, freeze frame data can help you or a specialist identify the root of your vehicle’s problems, especially those that cannot be easily identified on sight. Keeping a clear and consistent record of all freeze frame data, including relevant codes, will help to ensure optimal performance throughout the vehicle’s lifespan.

How To Read Freeze Frame Data?

Freeze frame data can be read by   OBD II

The OBD II uses a specialized language in order to output data

At face value, freeze frame data may be difficult to read and interpret. Like regular consumer computers and mobile devices, the OBD II uses a specialized language in order to output data. Freeze frame data includes several different categories, each of which may play an important role in diagnosing your vehicle trouble.

Perhaps the most important piece of information in each freeze frame is the “diagnostic trouble code” or DTC for short. With the proper translation, this code can help pinpoint the exact fault that caused the OBD II to output a freeze frame. These codes always follow a set pattern of letters and number, with each permutation indicating a unique error. Some codes are universal, meaning they carry the same meaning regardless of the vehicle’s manufacturer. However, some DTC codes are unique for each manufacturer, requiring further research online or with a manufacturer specialist in order to interpret. Always be sure to take note of the DTC in a new freeze frame, as a specialist may need to reference the code while diagnosing your vehicle’s problem.

Each freeze frame carries information relating to the vehicle’s condition at the time of the fault. Though some scan tools provide more or less additional data, most OBD II scan tools provide information the fuel system status, engine load value, engine coolant temperature, short and long-term fuel trim, RPM, and vehicle speed. Below is an example freeze frame data set, drawn from a BMW vehicle. Note: DTC codes and other data may vary depending on your vehicle’s manufacturer.

Example of Freeze Frame Data set

DTC that caused freeze frame data storageP0341
Fuel System 1 StatusOL
Fuel System 2 Status--
Calculated Load Value 2.7%
Engine Coolant151F
Short-term Fuel Trim – Bank 10.0%
Short-term Fuel Trim – Bank 1-4.7%
Engine RPM680rpm
Vehicle Speed Sensor0mph


In total, freeze frame data can play a crucial role in diagnosing many of your vehicle’s underlying problems. Using the on-board diagnostic system (OBD II), you’ll be better able to identify patterns in your car’s performance, especially those that cause faults or failures. With the proper scan tools and a bit of diagnostic trouble code (DTC) research, you’ll be well on your way to getting your vehicle back in ideal working order.

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