Is it worth investing in a Ford diagnostic tool?


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On the Internet and in aftermarket Ford diagnostic equipment is offered, with which you can make a quick and accurate diagnosis of modern vehicles. Since motor vehicles are increasingly equipped with electronics to meet current safety conditions and strict emission regulations, the use of Ford diagnostic equipment is necessary to be able to diagnose a vehicle.

With a Ford diagnostic device, it becomes possible to quickly locate problems in a vehicle and thus identify flaws. However, which Ford diagnostic equipment is suitable for individuals who want to maintain their own vehicle or properly assess a used vehicle. We want to get to the bottom of this question and present here the different Ford diagnostic devices and their advantages and disadvantages. So, if you want to check your vehicle yourself and don’t plan to depend on the garage, you should read this article carefully.

What is a Ford Diagnostic Device?

Since the 1970s, Ford diagnostic equipment has been used in authorized workshops to simplify the diagnosis of motor vehicles. They became necessary because more and more electronics were being used in cars to comply with increasingly stringent emissions regulations or to make vehicles safer. Examples include anti-lock braking systems or even just automatic air conditioning. All these modern functions are made possible by control units, of which up to 100 are used in a modern vehicle.

At the end of the 1970s, the authorities in the American state of California had to enact new exhaust emission regulations for motor vehicles due to high levels of air pollution. However, since exhaust systems can also lose their effectiveness due to high mileage or technical problems, a system also had to be developed to test the function of the systems. For this reason, on-board diagnostics (OBD) was developed, which allows an external check of the exhaust systems with a Ford diagnostic device. Self-monitoring by OBD should ensure that exhaust emission standards are still met years later and can be independently verified.

The OBD2 standard for the Ford diagnostic device

Over the next few years, it was not only electronics in automobiles that had evolved. The OBD standard has also been adapted to modern electronics in motor vehicles. Vehicles can now be equipped with up to 100 different control units, and not just to comply with emissions regulations. Meanwhile, vehicles are equipped with anti-lock brakes, anti-skid systems, to automatic air conditioning. Each of these functions is controlled by a control unit and is connected to the other control units by a CAN bus. The OBD2 standard was also developed for this purpose, which can be used to check and monitor much more than just the exhaust system.

Due to the decentralized control units, which are connected to each other with a CAN bus, the OBD2 interface also offers an ideal possibility to read out and check all control units. Likewise, the OBD2 makes it possible to read the current values of all sensors and check the error codes, as well as the information of all control units.

The OBD2 connector for the Ford diagnostic device

To be able to connect a Ford diagnostic device to the vehicle, each vehicle has an OBD2 adapter. It is located in the driver’s compartment and is usually placed under the dashboard, between the steering wheel and the driver’s door. The plug is always black on Ford and is usually protected from environmental influences by a plastic cap.

Is it worth investing in a Ford diagnostic device?
Is it worth investing in a Ford diagnostic device?

The OBD2 connector is equipped with 16 contacts and has a trapezoidal appearance so as not to be confused with any other connector.

The different types of Ford diagnostic equipment

Over the last few years, many different types of Ford diagnostic equipment have been developed. Many manufacturers have found their own solutions for automotive diagnostics that adapt to the specific requirements of the user. We would like to introduce you to the different types and what they can be used for.

Original Ford diagnostic equipment

The first test devices were developed by the respective vehicle manufacturers. They are leased to authorized repairers and are designed to enable them to diagnose cars quickly and as efficiently as possible. Not only are they rented exclusively to authorized workshops, but the manufacturers also train the technicians themselves, who are supposed to use the device to diagnose customers’ vehicles.

Original Ford diagnostic devices are only rented, because they are partly very complicated and above all very expensive, so that they are not suitable for the use of private persons and also a purchase is out of the question.

Handheld Ford diagnostic equipment

Since independent workshops do not have the option of renting Ford diagnostics from the manufacturers, a market for third-party suppliers emerged. In most cases, these are devices that can be held in the hand and have their own screen. In most cases, they are delivered in very robust cases so that they can withstand the rugged daily routine in the workshops for as long as possible.

Is it worth investing in a Ford diagnostic device?
Is it worth investing in a Ford diagnostic device?

One of the advantages of third-party diagnostic equipment is that it can diagnose vehicles from many different manufacturers. With most providers, workshops are given the opportunity to select the scope of diagnostic options themselves and adapt them to their requirements.

The handheld Ford diagnostic tools can be very comprehensive. However, special training is needed in most cases to use all the functions. The cost of these handheld devices is also relatively high, so private individuals cannot afford them in most cases. The cost of brand-name equipment can sometimes amount to several thousand euros.

Software as Ford diagnostic software

Since in the first years there were no diagnostic devices available for private persons, there were some companies that offered the possibility to connect a laptop to the OBD2 port to allow diagnostic possibilities with a software. This software is still used today so that third-party control units, such as ignition systems or fuel injection systems, can be programmed.

Software as Ford diagnostic software has proven to be impractical in recent years, as a laptop always has to be taken along. Software is mostly only used for special purposes, also because the expensive laptops are not suitable for use in workshops. For the most part, they have been replaced by software that can be used on smartphones and tablets.

Smartphone or tablets as Ford diagnostic devices

The computing power and storage capacity of smartphones and tablets have improved impressively in recent years. Most smartphones we use every day today are many times faster than the computers we used just a few years ago.

It therefore makes sense to use smartphones and tablets as Ford diagnostic devices. The Carly OBD Scanner replaces the classic Ford diagnostic device and offers a convenient way to diagnose a vehicle. Special training, as is the case with other Ford diagnostic tools, is not necessary, as the Carly OBD Scanner software guides users through the diagnostic process in simple steps. As soon as the adapter is plugged into the OBD2 port and the vehicle’s ignition is switched on, the software reads all the data from the vehicle so that it can evaluate it in the smartphone.

After the data is read, the Carly OBD Scanner software displays a traffic light system. If the traffic light lights up red, error codes have been found that indicate errors that must be corrected immediately. An orange traffic light indicates error codes that need attention but do not represent current safety issues. If the traffic light shows green, no error codes have been found.

Why is Carly OBD Scanner the better Ford diagnostic tool?

The purchase of a Ford diagnostic device can be considered from many angles. Financially, the Carly OBD scanner is certainly the best decision when compared to diagnostic devices that can cost a few thousand euros. Also due to the ease of use, none of the other diagnostic devices can compete with the Carly OBD Scanner. But correspond to some other features for the mobile application of Carly:

  • Ease of use: Carly OBD Scanner offers even inexperienced users the ability to diagnose a vehicle within minutes. This can determine whether there are any errors that need to be eliminated quickly. However, the software also provides the means to query in-depth information from the vehicle’s electronics. Experienced mechanics can use it to quickly and accurately locate the problems in question.
  • Convenient: the Carly OBD Scanner app can be installed on any smartphone or tablet. The adapter for the OBD2 port is very small and can therefore be easily stowed anywhere. This gives the possibility to perform a vehicle diagnosis more often and thus to be able to constantly check the reliability of a vehicle.
  • Flexibility: the Carly OBD Scanner is not only an excellent Ford diagnostic tool. It can be used for many other vehicles and the user has the possibility to extend the functionality of the software as needed through subscriptions.
  • All-rounder: The Carly OBD scanner not only has the ability to read the fault codes from the vehicle. It provides users with simple descriptions for each error code and can be very helpful in other situations as well. For example, the Carly OBD Scanner can also be used to check whether the mileage of a used car has been manipulated or what faults may occur in a vehicle in the future. Carly OBD Scanner offers many other functions that can be very useful in diagnosing a vehicle.
  • Carly Smart Mechanic: If you want to repair your vehicle yourself, you can subscribe to Carly Smart Mechanic. This offers detailed repair instructions made by specialists. It also gives you access to diagrams and drawings that are normally only available to mechanics in specialized workshops.

Which fault codes can be read with a Ford diagnostic device?

Before you decide to invest in a Ford diagnostic device, you should take a deeper look into trouble codes. Electronics in motor vehicles have become increasingly complicated in recent years. Up to 100 different control units can now be used in modern motor vehicles, making vehicles safer, more economical and more efficient.

All these control units have a specific task and collect information that they can also provide to other control units. Through the CAN bus in a vehicle, this information can be retrieved and used by other ECUs and the OBD.

What information do the error codes consist of?

The California Environmental Protection Agency’s primary goal with OBD was to create a way to check the exhaust system of motor vehicles. However, as more and more electronics have been installed in vehicles in recent years, the system has now developed into a very comprehensive diagnostic system.

The up to 100 control units in a vehicle exchange information with the other control units and the central unit in a vehicle. The OBD2 port is integrated into this network and therefore offers the possibility to briefly retrieve and clear all data and errors from the network.

What is an error code?

In the OBD1 standard, the California Environmental Protection Agency has developed a fault code that also triggers a warning light in the dashboard in the event of a problem. However, the number of faults that can arise in the exhaust system made it necessary to add further

Develop error codes. These have been defined in the DTC (Data Trouble Code), in which over 11,000 different ones have already been programmed in the current OBD2 version. This does not include the fault codes, which can be set by the vehicle manufacturer itself. The DTC then only specifies how the error code must be built up.

The DTC is defined in Europe in the SAE J2012 and ISO 15031-6 standards. It always starts with the letter used to determine the position of the affected component:

After the position of the error code has been determined, it is followed by a 1, for a manufacturer-specific error code, or a 0, for a general error. The third position in the error code is then used for the function of the component in which the error occurred.

How are error codes generated?

Each control unit has the possibility to generate error codes as soon as errors occur or values outside the specified ranks appear. If the faults are safety-relevant or serious, this can trigger actions to protect the safety of the occupants or the vehicle technology. In most cases, the central unit in a vehicle is then responsible for taking these safety measures.

When a control unit detects an error, it is stored in the debouncing counter. If the defect does not occur again in the next run, the electronics assumes that it was a one-time error and deletes the entry. However, if the error is registered again in the next run, an error code is generated and stored in the non-volatile memory of the controller. This can then be read out by the Carly OBD scanner and deleted if necessary.

What are control units?

ECUs or in English Ecus (Electronic Control Units) are electronic units that are developed for specific tasks in a vehicle. This allows them to perform the important tasks such as controlling the engine, controlling the anti-lock braking system, or even controlling the automatic climate control. Moreover, they have the advantage of being able to make thousands of queries per second thanks to electronics, thus guaranteeing precise control of their task.

Control units can query and evaluate information from sensors and process complicated logics. This makes it possible to develop highly complicated security systems that require only milliseconds to react.

Modern vehicles can be equipped with up to 100 control units that ensure safety and comfort in a motor vehicle. They are able to exchange information among themselves through the CAN bus. Control units can control many different values and issue error messages if values are measured that are no longer in a predefined rank. This can be a too high engine temperature, the level of the brake fluid or even too high values of the lambda sensor. If any of these values are found to be out of range, an error code is registered. If this represents a real safety problem, the red warning lamp in the dashboard lights up. In order to determine the reason for triggering the alarm, the fault codes must be read out using an OBD scanner.

The CAN bus

A very important part of the electronic system of a vehicle is the CAN bus. It allows the control units to exchange any information. In this way, the central unit can receive and evaluate all information from up to 100 control units.

The CAN bus was developed by BOSCH AG. It requires only two cables to connect the control units, making wiring very simple and inexpensive. The OBD2 port also belongs to a part of the CAN bus and is thus able to read out all ECUs and query the values of individual sensors. This allows a quick and accurate diagnosis of a vehicle.

When is the OBD3 standard coming?

For some time now, the OBD3 standard has been under discussion. It is to be adapted to the new technologies that have emerged in recent years. One of the most talked about capabilities of OBD3 is said to be the transmission of data to the authorities. A fault with the vehicle, especially the exhaust system, could then be recorded by the authorities, forcing the vehicle owner to quickly repair the vehicle. This is to avoid defects that could endanger the environment or other road users. Access to OBD3 could even give authorities the ability to immobilize vehicles if the vehicle owner fails to comply with requests from authorities.

So far, however, only the OBD3 standard is being hotly debated. Before it could actually be used at some point, many legal and data protection issues still need to be clarified. But technically it is already feasible!

Ford Diagnostic Device Conclusion

A Ford diagnostic device can be very helpful when the current technical status of a vehicle is to be recorded. With modern Ford diagnostic equipment, such as the Carly OBD Scanner, the fault memories of the ECUs in a vehicle can be read out in just a few minutes, enabling comprehensive diagnoses to be made. This can be very helpful not only when evaluating used cars. If a vehicle is checked at regular intervals with the Carly OBD Scanner, a long life of the car and safety on the road can be ensured. The cost of the Carly OBD Scanner is so low and the operation is so simple that there is no longer any reason to leave vehicle diagnostics to the specialist workshop alone.

Photo credit: (SDVH) 

Keep in mind, that every car has different software and modules built-in. Therefore specific features will vary with every model.

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