Home » Automotive » Simplified OBD1 vs. OBD2 Comparison 2024: What’s the Difference?

Simplified OBD1 vs. OBD2 Comparison 2024: What’s the Difference?

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Introduction to our Comparison of OBD1 vs. OBD2

What is the difference between OBD1 and OBD2? Is OBD1 better than OBD2? We answer those questions here.

Running a diagnostic on your car used to be something we would leave to the experts. If the engine conks out or the car needs an oil or water change, we would just drop the vehicle off at a service center, cross our fingers, and hope for the best. This fatalistic attitude usually bit back at car owners as mechanics would spout technical jargon their way, and the owners would end up getting themselves paying more for simple resolutions.

The introduction of on-board diagnostic (OBD) scanners helped change this. Especially with newer models, car owners get a better sense of how their vehicles work, what the most common issues are, and how to deal with them on their own. Consequently, the feedback one receives from an OBD scanner ensures that they don't fall for any gobbledegook thrown at them by a mechanic; they get the right services for the issue at the right price.

But, as there are two OBD types, you have to ask if these are interchangeable or if one works better than the other. In which case, today’s look between OBD1 vs. OBD2 should clear any misconceptions regarding the use of either system.

OBD1 vs. OBD2: First of All, What Exactly are On-board Diagnostics?

To start our OBD1 vs. OBD2 comparison, let's consider a bit of history.

Initially developed in the 1960s but first implemented in the 1980s, onboard diagnostics is a collective term referring to a system for diagnosing vehicular issues, usually partnered with a reporting function to prime technicians or mechanics about these issues in order to determine a course of action.

obd1 vs. obd2: photo of obd 2 scanner

Even today, OBD systems are used to monitor the performance of an automobile for the purpose of both fine-tuning and repairs.

The engine control unit (ECU) serves as the brain and heart of an OBD system as this generates the necessary information regarding the state of a car's health. The information generated by the ECU goes into the OBD, which presents each issue based on a predetermined code. These codes help technicians assess the issue and determine a solution for it.

Key Points of Comparison between OBD 1 vs OBD 2

Years Used1980s; phased out in 1995OBD automotive diagnostic device
Vehicular CompatibilityVehicles manufactured from the 1980s to the mid-1990sGas-powered engines manufactured from 1996 onwards and diesel engines built from 2008
System CompatibilityN/ADepending on the brand, these may be used on both iOS and Android devices. Connectivity may be done via Bluetooth or data connection
Legal ComplianceN/AMandatory for all vehicles manufactured from 1996 onwards; some countries also require OBD2 systems to have features related to emission control
Diagnostic CapabilitiesReports up to 300 data parameters (PDIs);Issue coding is decided by individual manufacturers;Basic issues relevant to cars produced prior to 1995 are covered;Single-manufacturer compatibility means you can only use an OBD1 with cars produced by the same manufacturerReports up to 15,000 PDIs based on nearly 7,000 codified issues;For use in all vehicles regardless of manufacturer produced after 1996;Updated capabilities include codes for airbag deployment systems, automatic braking systems, Readiness monitors to check whether or not a vehicle can pass muster on emissions or compliance testing
Communication ProtocolsManufacturer-dependentStandardized, though most current-generation devices are programmed to include J1850 PWM, J1850 VPW, ISO9141-2, KWP2000, as well as controller area network protocols

What is the Difference Between OBD 1 vs. OBD2?

OBD1: Exclusively for What We Make

So how do you set apart OBD 1 vs 2?

When the first mass-produced OBD systems rolled out over 40 years ago, automakers ensured that these could only be used in their cars, and the idea of using a single OBD scanner for vehicles for those made by other manufacturers was unheard of. 

Comparing OBD1 vs. OBD2, individual (or manufacturer-specific) OBD1 systems each have their own operational protocols, interfaces, and brand-specific connectors. So you could not use a Honda-made OBD to run a diagnostic on a Toyota or a Ford.

obd1 1

This aspect of the first-generation OBDs meant that individual car owners could get one specifically for the brand and make of the car they had. However, unless they worked for brand-specific service stations, most mechanics and auto technicians needed to buy at least one OBD1 scanner per brand – an expensive necessity even in those times.

OBD1 was the standard in use well through 1995, but US authorities, particularly in California, called for a standardized automotive diagnostic system when a 1991 government mandate declared that all vehicles needed OBD capabilities.

OBD1 systems rolled out between 1991 and 1995 and started to support multiple vehicular protocols. Instead of needing to buy one scanner per brand, mechanics were required to get adapter cables to use a single scanner on multiple vehicles. But despite this change, the automotive industry noted that the OBD1 lacked numerous critical features. This realization paved the way for the development of the OBD2.

OBD1 vs. OBD2: The Case for the OBD2

The standard OBD2 systems currently in use were introduced to the global automotive sector in 1994, following the 1991 call of the California Air Resources Board to introduce diagnostic technologies into all cars for the sake of public safety. 

However, the system only became standard two years later, in 1996. This explains why current-generation OBD2 scanners only work on gas-powered vehicles manufactured after 1996 and diesel engines produced after 2008.

obd2 2

If you compare OBD1 vs OBD2 connector, OBD2 systems follow standardized diagnostic protocols, as well as a master set of codes for numerous issues that could affect one's vehicle. (Some of today's scanners are able to detect nearly 7,000 known problems for resolution.) These systems share a single communication protocol, and vehicles in which they feature use a universal connector for scanning.

That said, OBD2-compliant vehicles have a connection port just under the dashboard for any standardized scanner. Simply plug the scanner in to gain access to the data held by the vehicle's internal computer.

Keep in mind that while OBD2 is a general term, it is referred to as OBD-II in the United States, EOBD in Europe, and JOBD in Japan or for vehicles manufactured in Japan.

Conclusion to our Comparison of OBD1 vs OBD2

obd1 vs obd2

Now let's wrap up our comparison of OBD1 port vs OBD2 port;

So is OBD1 better than OBD2? We have to say, not quite. We favor the OBD2 system in this case. The development of OBD2 diagnostic systems has made it much easier to gain a comprehensive view of the state of your car's health. This isn't just beneficial for individual car owners but also for those who run vehicular fleets for public transportation and shipping. Excellent OBD2 scanners like FIXD are a great option.

That said, having OBD2 in a vehicle accords the following benefits:

  • Regular monitoring of numerous internal systems for issues that may not be seen outright unless one has the technical skills to do so. This could reveal issues regarding the functionality of both the engine and the transmission of one's vehicle;
  • Full access to relevant information regarding the performance of one's vehicle, including metrics related to environmental emissions;
  • It becomes easier for both vehicle owners and professional mechanics to keep tabs on the state of any given vehicle, enabling them to make the necessary repairs or modifications as soon as possible; and
  • It ensures that your vehicle is compliant with existing vehicular safety standards.


Can I use an OBD1 diagnostic scanner with any car regardless of which company made it?

No. In vehicles produced before 1996, any diagnostics could only be done with a brand-compatible scanner. You can’t scan a Ford for issues using a Volkswagen OBD1 scanner or a Mitsubishi scanner on a Porsche.

Do I need brand-specific OBD devices with any vehicle produced after 1996 or 2008?

Not necessarily. All OBD2 systems installed in vehicles produced after those years are standardized, so you can use a single device on multiple cars regardless of make.

If you've read all the way through this OBD 1 vs OBD 2 comparison, we are grateful. We have reviewed several other products in detail, feel free to check them out;


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