What is Car Diagnostic Software?

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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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Car diagnostic software has grown substantially in the last five to eight years. As computers become more integrated into car engines, engine problems are diagnosed with computers and software. Professional car mechanics have been using this type of software for many years. Car diagnostic software has completely changed the industry.

There are three different features in most car diagnostic software programs: input tools, interpretation logic, and model specific data. The price for car diagnostic software programs varies widely, depending upon the target audience and number of models included. The vast majority of software programs are designed to work with a broad range of hardware components, providing a great deal of flexibility to clients.

The primary purpose of car diagnostic software is to provide the mechanic or car owner with accurate information to assist in the troubleshooting process. The information this type of software can provide ranges from basic output of readings and comparison to standards to a list of possible issues based on the readings taken from the car.

Modern cars have a computer processor installed in the engine compartment. The software collects the data from this processor and uses it to assist in the diagnosis. The actual data collected varies by model, but typically includes readings on engine temperature, gas output, electrical impulses, and gas consumption. All this information can be used to identify potential areas of difficulty or eliminate other areas as potential problems.


There are two different classes of car diagnostic software: personal and professional. Personal software is designed for home use and provides minimal functionality. This type of software takes the data the computer processor has stored on it and provides a list of common possible issues. The issues list is often quite basic and not fully comprehensive.

Professional car diagnostic software is intended for use by a trained, professional mechanic. This type of software reviews all the data provided by the processor and provides the mechanic with the ability to input additional information or observations. Calculations and logic is used to provide a comprehensive list of possible issues. As the mechanic reviews the different options, he or she can update the system with additional information, resulting in a revised list of possible issues.

Each car diagnostic software product includes a database of information and specifications for a wide range of product models. The upper and lower tolerances are included for the different data sets collected by the processing unit. The program compares the actual readings against the specifications to identify possible issues.


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Post 2

@hamje32 - Yeah, but that’s nothing compared with the professional tools that the mechanics have. I used a portable diagnostic tool when my check engine light came on and it gave me an error message that meant it could be one of several things, a bad oxygen sensor or a bad catalytic converter.

I didn’t know which one it was. I took the car to the mechanic and he said it was a catalytic converter. He had professional software that gave accurate readings and of course he had some hardware too so that he could measure the flow of fuel through the system.

While I appreciate the personal auto diagnostic software products out there, I don’t think that I would have the same confidence in their results as I would if I simply took the car to the mechanic.

Post 1

I believe that the most basic computer diagnostic software that you can get comes with a tool that will read your OBD diagnostic codes. You can buy one from the auto shop fairly cheaply.

If your check engine light comes on just plug this tool into your OBD slot. The location of that plug will vary depending on the make and model of your car but it’s usually beneath the dashboard.

You can then get a readout with the code which is tripping your check engine light to come on. You might be able to hook up the device to your computer, I don’t know. Usually it provides you with basic information but it’s enough to point you in the right direction in my opinion.

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