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OBD1 vs OBD2: Definite Interpretation and Comparison

When the conversation between OBD1 and OBD2 arises, many people do not fully understand the differences.

Indeed an OBD scan tool is handy when you want to find out the problem in your vehicle. But, you may ask yourselves some questions.

• Is my car OBD1 or OBD2?
• What are the differences between these?
• Which one is better in terms of diagnosing the trouble?

This article will give you detailed information about OBD1 and OBD2 to answer your questions, and tell you which one is for your car.


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) message. It doesn’t show detailed code to help the mechanics, and vehicle models newer than 1996 are not compatible with this scanner.

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


A few years after the California standard, a federal standard was created for all vehicles to enhance the testing of an OBD scanner and the conversation shifted from just OBD1 to OBD1 vs. OBD2.

The OBD2 years were started with vehicles produced from 1996 to the present day. As the years have gone by, the OBD2 has become a more popular and more purchased option because of cars aging and fewer people spending time renovating older cars. As a result, the OBD2 scanner now used an automatic diagnosing system that had a universal interface.


For OBD2, the scanner can pinpoint the problem, where it occurs, 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 course, the changes of OBD1 came in 1991, and OBD2 in 1996, but what did these changes come about? The main reason is with OBD1, emissions tests were not 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 consistency model. OBD2 now could do a diagnostic test that would read back trouble codes for mechanics to see.


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

The dates that we talked about earlier give you an idea of 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.”


The difference between OBD1 and OBD2 came in 1996, but the technology dates back first to 1968. Volkswagen originally brought about OBD in 1968, and Datsun also introduced this scanning technology 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. However, before everything was standardized across the board, manufacturers had their own tools and models to check their vehicles’ problems.

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

Difference between OBD1 and OBD2: complete comparison Chart

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 of 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 as 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 occurs, and how to fix it. Altogether, this is an upgrade in the realm of automotive technology.


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, it is easy to know what 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 about fixing problematic issues? If you are a good mechanic, you may be good with only an OBD1 because you know what to do next. On the other hand, if you are interested in knowing more about the coding issues, you can use an OBD2 scanner.

Here are some posts that can help you to choose your scanner?  

BlueDriver OBD2 Bluetooth Scanner for iOS & Android Review

8 Best OBD1 Scanners Review 2020

Best car diagnostic tool: complete buying guide and review 2020

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