We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Automotive Diagnostic Software?

By Robert Grimmick
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
WikiMotors is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WikiMotors, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Automotive diagnostic software helps identify and repair problems in modern automobiles. This type of software frequently interfaces with a car’s onboard diagnostic computer, and may be used by professional mechanics as well as hobbyists and home users. Automotive diagnostic software is available for many platforms.

Modern automobiles are a blend of 20th century heritage and 21st century technology. While the most basic concepts of the internal combustion engine haven’t changed much since the birth of the automobile, modern electronics and computer technology have made cars cleaner, safer, and more efficient. Today’s cars and trucks aren’t smart enough to fix themselves, however, so onboard computers can often identify problems before a driver notices them. Automotive diagnostic software bridges the gap between man and machine, and helps both amateur and professional mechanics identify problems quickly and easily.

In the U.S., all vehicles sold since 1996 are required to have an internal diagnostic computer, as well as a standard interface to access data from the computer, emissions control systems, and sensors. This set of standards, known as onboard diagnostics II (OBD-II), replaced earlier systems that were unique to each manufacturer. OBD-II and similar standards in Europe and Asia opened the door for tools and software that could interface with cars from all manufacturers; it also gave independent mechanics a way to access electronic information previously reserved to dealerships.

Today, automotive diagnostic software that interfaces with ODB-II systems is available for virtually every platform, from laptops to smartphones. The capabilities of these programs vary, but most can read diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) that trigger the check engine lights on car dashboards. DTCs can provide specific information about electric and mechanical problems in a vehicle. Sometimes a driver can read or reset a trouble code without a trip to an auto mechanic.

In addition to trouble codes, automotive diagnostic software can use OBD-II and similar European and Asian standards to monitor vehicle functions. The software can send a message to the car’s electronic devices, asking for information about everything from coolant temperature to ignition timing. These functions can provide useful information like gas mileage or diagnose problems that don’t necessarily trigger a DTC.

Professional automotive diagnostic software may rely on more than just OBD-II information. Mechanics and car dealerships might use specialized tools like an oscilloscope to diagnose electrical problems or an exhaust gas analyzer for emissions testing. Software to interface with these tools exists, and can be an important assist for automotive service professionals. In addition, some manufacturers employ codes and messages that are not part of the OBD-II standard which may be unreadable by consumer-level software. These non-standard codes require professional software built with support for a particular manufacturer.

WikiMotors is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

WikiMotors, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WikiMotors, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.