Should I Trust My On-Board Diagnostics?

In 1990, the government came out with the Clean Air Act (CAA) to protect the environment. Motor vehicles are one of the major sources of air pollution, and it’s often difficult to determine if your vehicle’s emission system is in need of repair. The CAA requires cars manufactured after 1996 to have an inspection and maintenance (I/M) program, which is monitored by an on-board diagnostic (OBD) computer-based program. OBD is an early warning system that alerts car owners to the need for vehicle repairs. Most commonly, it’s the check engine light, but as technology advances, newer cars may offer even more specialized information about your vehicle.

Is My OBD Working Correctly?

Generally, a vehicle is working correctly when the check engine light isn’t lit on the dashboard while you’re driving. When you turn the car on, you should see the check engine light come on and then go off. This is an indication that the OBD system is on and monitoring your engine. If the light comes on when you’re driving and stays on, you should seek attention soon. The OBD monitors many different things in your vehicle, including the gas cap being on correctly. If checking the gas cap doesn’t correct the situation, you should see a Sun Devil Auto ASE Certified Technician.

If the check engine light blinks on and off while driving, it generally indicates a more severe engine problem. Although you can generally drive safely, you should have it checked as soon as possible. Try to avoid driving until you get your system inspected. Sometimes, the check engine light may come on and stay on while driving, then go off. This most likely means that the system corrected itself, and it is not a fault in the OBD system.

Who Uses OBD?

Vehicle owners certainly benefit from the OBD systems installed on light-duty vehicles and trucks. Repair technicians also use the tool to diagnose problems within the engine and emissions. However, state agencies also rely on OBD to ensure vehicles meet certain standards and are being maintained to control air pollution. Vehicle manufacturers install the system, then use the information gathered by the computer to increase efficiency of their vehicles and to stay within EPA guidelines. 

As a general rule, you can trust your on-board diagnostics. Trained OBD technicians have the capability to use your OBD system to pinpoint a particular problem and make repairs based on the manufacturer’s recommendations. The OBD helps technicians work more effectively and quickly to get you back on the road. Schedule an appointment at one of our service centers if your check engine light is on.