OBD stands for "on-board diagnostics," a computer-based system built into all model year 1996 and newer light-duty vehicles. OBD monitors the performance of some of the engine’s major components, including individual emission controls. The system provides owners with an early warning of malfunctions through the dashboard "Check Engine" light (also known as a Malfunction Indicator Light). By giving vehicle owners this early warning, OBD protects the environment as well as consumers.
This early warning system was required by the 1990 Clean Air Act (CAA), which also required that checks of the OBD system be included in all mandatory I/M programs to help ensure that vehicle owners take this early warning seriously. I/M programs help reduce excess emissions by identifying vehicles in need of repair and requiring that they be fixed.
When you turn on the ignition, the Check Engine light should flash briefly, indicating that the On-board Diagnostics system is ready to scan your vehicle for any malfunctions. After this brief flash, the light should stay off while you drive as long as no problems are detected. This system can save you time, money, and fuel – in addition to helping protect the environment.
If the light comes on and stays on, this means that the OBD system has detected a problem. Your vehicle might have a condition that wastes fuel, shortens engine life, or causes excessive air pollution. If left unaddressed, these conditions could damage your vehicle and lead to increasingly expensive repairs. This is your vehicle’s way of telling you to seek attention soon.
It helps to ensure that your vehicle is running optimally. Make sure to keep up with routine maintenance and keep an eye out for your Check Engine light. Always turn off the engine before refueling and always tighten the gas cap securely. You'll save money on fuel and repairs while helping out the environment!