The on-board diagnostic, or OBD-II, port is a way for mechanics to get information out of your car's computer. But you can use it when they're not — which is most of the time you're using your car. And every car made or imported into the US after January 1st, 1996 has one.
There are several different devices you can get from third parties and the auto manufacturers to plug into the port, but some of the best features are the same across devices.
Here are five things your OBD-II port can do:
1. Track your driving habits. Some devices and companion apps can give you tips for better fuel economy or tips to become a safer driver. There's even the possibility to get cheaper insurance if you don't mind the privacy implications.
2. Set geofences and speed limits. Get alerts if the car goes too far, too fast, or someone unplugs the OBD device!
3. Connect to your car's computer over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Some devices can even act as modems to give you an in-car hotspot and add smart car features.
4. Find your car. Lots of the OBD-II devices can save your location to a map. Can't find your car? Just look it up on the companion app.
5. Find out what the heck that check engine light actually means. Check engine? Check engine for what? Some apps will even look up the code and make the translation into English for you.
These are just some of the things you can get from OBD-II plug-ins and while not all devices can do all of them, now you have a better idea what to look for. So race on out and I mean very safely and responsibly check out what's out there!Also see:
Tom is an award-winning independent tech podcaster and host of regular tech news and information shows. Tom hosts Sword and Laser, a science fiction and fantasy podcast, and book club with Veronica Belmont. He also hosts Daily Tech News Show, covering the most important tech issues of the day with the smartest minds in technology.