Have you ever taken your car to a mechanic or auto parts store and asked why an indicator light on your dashboard lit up? If so, the first thing they likely did was hook your car up to an automotive diagnostic tool. As if by magic, they looked at the tool and knew exactly what the problem was.
That nifty device isn’t a tricorder for your car, though it does look like something straight out of Star Trek. It’s a bidirectional scanner, and it’s essential for diagnosing and repairing modern vehicles.
What does a bidirectional scanner do, and how does it work? Read on to learn all you could want to know about this innovative device.
What Is a Bidirectional Scanner?
Did you know that your car runs on a computer? Every modern commercial car comes with at least a basic on-board diagnostics (OBD) chip. It’s responsible for monitoring your engine status and communicating with various sensors, keeping your car running well, and lighting up a dashboard indicator when something’s wrong.
A bidirectional scanner, also known as a coding scanner or engine scanner, is a small handheld device. It has a display screen and comes with a variety of wires that can connect it to the OBD via a port in your car (often under the steering wheel). It works as a code reader that interprets data coming from your car’s computer to tell you exactly what is and isn’t functioning.
What Does a Bidirectional Scanner Do?
The interesting thing about a bidirectional scanner (as opposed to a standard one) is that it can do more than read the OBD’s inputs. It can also send outputs to test a variety of modules in your car, including:
- Brakes and ABS
- Engine function
- Transmission function
- Door lock systems
- Battery health
- Oxygen, air pressure, and temperature sensors
When you run a bidirectional scanner, it will either present you with an error code or indicate that no problems were found. Fancier models may also notify you of modules that may fail soon, making them useful for preventative care. Remember that a scanner can’t fix any of your car’s problems—all it does is identify what’s wrong now and what may go wrong in the future.
If you’d rather diagnose your car’s problems without taking to a shop, you can buy a bidirectional scanner of your own. They tend to run around $600, but if you’re a car lover or hobbyist, this tool could end up paying for itself. When choosing the best automotive scan tool for you, make sure to read through ranked lists of the latest models to find one that’s compatible with your needs.
Now You Know All About Coding Scanners
Learning about the tools used to diagnose car problems can help you take better care of your vehicle. The next time you take your car to a mechanic, instead of asking “what does a bidirectional scanner do?” you’ll be able to ask informed questions about the error code it displays.
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