OBD1 vs OBD2: Definite Interpretation and Comparison

When the conversation between OBD1 vs OBD2 arises, many do not fully understand the differences. In the first place, there are actually more things that separate the two than first meets the eye. Of course, OBD scanners help read error codes, but they can help mechanics in very specific manners.

OBD1 vs. OBD2: The Basis

When it comes to these two onboard diagnostic testers, vehicles are scanned by the computer in each device. Originally, the on-board diagnostic (OBD) process was only used to turn off lights that were malfunctioning in the vehicle. Now, there are a lot more detailed differences.

Evolution Of OBD Scanners

The OBD1 years invovled supporting vehicles made in the 1980s all the way up to 1995. These vehicles could be tested and diagnosed for any issues.

On the other hand, the OBD2 years stated with vehicles produced in 1996 to present day. As the years have gone by, the OBD2 has garnered more popularity because more and more cars are of the newer variety. With cars aging, and less people spending time on renovating older cars, the OBD2 is the more purchased option.

California Standard

In 1991, the California Air Resources Board, or the CARB, started to enforce a new policy for all vehicles sold in the state need to have some variety of OBD to work. Specifically, this referred to OBD1 because, at the time, OBD2 had not been created and used in among the masses yet.

What Is OBD1?

OBD1 have been used in cars since the 1970s an 1980s to diagnose engine problems
The OBD1 years involved supporting vehicles made in the 1980s all the way up to 1995

Particularly, when it comes to OBD1, it can connect to the console of the vehicle, but it only shows a check engine light (CEL) messages. No detailed codes are shown to help the mechanic along, and vehicle models newer than 1996 are not compatiable with this scanner. 

What Year Did OBD2 Start?

A few years after the California standard, a fedaral standard was created for all vehicles to enhance the testing of a OBD scanner. As a result, the OBD2 scanner now used an automatic diagnosing system that had a universal interface.

In 1996, the conversation between shifted from just OBD1 to OBD1 vs. OBD2. OBD2 was now standardized on all vehicles from 1996 on.

Is My Car OBD1 or OBD2?


an OB2 connector shown in your car or in user’s manual

The dates that we talked about earlier give you an idea, as to what your car uses, but let’s go a step further. Any light truck and car sold in the United States of America after January 1, 1996, use OBD2. So, with vehicles built in late 1995, they specifically use OBD1 technology.

Another way to know what type of OBD your car is involves an OB2 connector shown in your car and/or user’s manual. Additionally, there would be a sticker under the hood reading “OBD 2 Complaint.”

OBD1 to OBD2: Excellent Development of Car Technology

The difference between OBD1 and OBD2 came in 1996, but the technology dates back first to 1968. OBD was originally brought about by Volkswagon in 1968. This scanning technology was also introduced by Datsun in 1978, with a simplistic type of OBD scanner that was limited in nature.

By 1980, General Motors hopped on board, by using engine diagnostic technology using the interface RS-232. But, before everything was standardized across the board, manufacturers had their own tools and models to check out problems with their vehicles.

Why Was OBD1 Developed To OBD2?

For OBD2, the scanner can pinpoint the problem, where it is occurring, and how to fix it
OBD2 now could do a diagnostic test that would read back trouble codes for mechanics to see

The movement continued, in 1988, as diagnostic tools started to be standardized across manufacturers. The 1988 Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) recommended that a standard scanner is made to work with all vehicles at all times.

Of cours, the changes of OBD1 came in 1991, and OBD2 in 1996, but what did these changes come about. Well, the main reason OBD1 could not cut it was because emissions tests were not being treated the same. With OBD1, emissions tests were no consistent with different makes and models.

The United States, wanting to create continuity and environmental protection across all 50 states, moved to OBD2 to achieve this model of consistency. OBD2 now could do a diagnostic test that would read back trouble codes for mechanics to see.

Difference Between OBD1 and OBD2: Complete Comparison Chart


 OBD1 OBD2
InterfaceSpecified from manufacturer to manufacturerA universal scanner that works with all makes and models
PopularityMinimalA high use
AccuracyOnly shows CEL info and no codesDisplays messages and codes
Supported VehiclesAnything before 1995 that has OBD functioningFor cars after 1996
InstallationConnects directly to the console of the carCan work with Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth
FunctioningChecks sensors and other signsPerforms all that OBD1 does, while seeing graphs and other data for battery usage, smog tests, etc.
Usability Helps with fuel and energy consumptionUses an improved signal to help with formatting messages

OBD2 vs OBD1: Key Differences Explained

Now that you know the basics OBD1 / OBD2 differences, let’s dig deeper. For the OBD1 scanner, it can check emissions, engine performance, and warn you of any upcoming issues. However, these are the basics for OBD1.

No further details are given to where the problem exists. It is then up to the mechanic to handle the issue from there. However, this is a great tool for extending the life of your car’s engine.

For OBD2, the scanner can pinpoint the problem, where it is occurring, and how to fix it. Altogether, this is an upgrade in the realm of automotive technology.

Should I Take An OBD1 Or OBD2 Scanner For My Car?

To this point, you may be asking what scanner you should purchase for your vehicle. Of course, if your car fits into a natural age range, then it is easy to know what one you need. However, this also depends on what you know about your vehicle. In conclusion, you should answer this question: do you have a good feeling for fixing problematic issues? If you are a good mechanic, you may be good with only a OBD1 because you know what to do next. On the other hand, if you are interested in know more about the coding issues, you can use an OBD2 scanner.

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