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Can Diagnostic Software Keep a Car Safe?

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 27 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Diagnostic Software Fault Eobd Laptop

When the fault sign lights up on a car’s instrument panel, it’s only natural for the driver to start worrying. Checking the vehicle’s handbook rarely helps. Under “fault sign”, the handbook is likely to tell the driver to take the car to the nearest garage without delay.

Going straight to a garage isn’t always practical, though. What’s more, most drivers would like further details about a fault before they face the prospect of a repair bill.

Car diagnostic software can work out what’s wrong with a car. This helps puts a driver’s mind at ease when the fault sign appears. It also allows a driver to judge whether he or she is safe to carry on driving for the time being.


Car diagnostic software comes in the form of a disc. In other words, it’s like any other form of computer software.

The way to run the software is on a laptop. A driver takes the laptop into a car, connects it to the vehicle management system and lets the software diagnose the fault.


A modern car has an on-board computer. This is able to report on problems that arise with a car’s various controls. The motor trade refers to this process as Europe On-Board Diagnostics (EOBD). EOBD has been a legal requirement for all petrol vehicles since 2001, and all diesel vehicles since 2003.

Car diagnostic software carries a notice that states it is EOBD compatible. The software may also be suitable for OBD-II (On-Board Diagnostics II), the American equivalent of EOBD.


To ensure a safe and uniform approach, EOBD diagnostic software must meet ISO standards. Among these are the road vehicle diagnostic standards ISO 9141, 14230 and 15765.


For anyone who has a modern car and a laptop, buying car diagnostic software is a modest investment for peace of mind. Some diagnostic software is even free.

It’s vital, though, to ensure the software is right for the job. General software suitable for any car may not give the diagnostic details a driver wants. It may be better to buy specialist software for a specific make of car.

Before making a purchase, it’s wise to check software specifications and reviews. These help to give a clear idea of what the software can do.

Operating Systems

Drivers with a PC laptop should check they have the right operating system for the software. This is usually Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7. Mac laptop owners can use car diagnostic software but need to confirm a Mac version is available. They must also ensure they have the correct Mac operating system.


A driver connects his or her laptop to the vehicle management system with a cable. This may not come with the software. The cable runs from a USB port on the laptop to a socket under or near the car’s dashboard. The car handbook should show the socket’s position.

On some cars, it’s possible to connect a laptop to the vehicle management system using Bluetooth. The car handbook should have the necessary details.

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