How Mechanics Understand Dashboard Lights

Although older cars have their charm and many motorheads enjoy owning them, they do tend to need a lot of repairs. If you’ve ever looked into a used car’s dashboard, you’re likely to find more than usual signals lit up. The problem is that there are so many dashboard lights that it can be difficult (even for experienced mechanics) to diagnose what is wrong with a car solely by looking at the dashboard.

How Mechanics Translate Dashboard Lights

Mechanics have a device – an OBD 1 and 2 scanner that can be connected to a car in order to translate dashboard lights into more specific information. These OBD scanners are able to produce a code that can then be interpreted in order to provide more direction as to the location of the car’s malfunction.

What Type Of Information Does An OBD Scanner Provide

The information provided (in coded form) by an OBD scanner is simply used to show where the malfunction is – it shows which area, and which system of the car is malfunctioning, The mechanic can then save themselves the guesswork and check the specific area that the scanner diagnosis provided – and repair it accordingly. Deciphering OBD Scan Codes

Unfortunately, a car is as simple as it used to be, and there are about a thousand or more things that can go wrong. Every signal on the dashboard indicated numerous different codes that signify different areas that must be repaired. It is unreasonable to expect a mechanic to know all the scan codes byheart, but most mechanics have a few of the more common malfunctions memorized. Otherwise, they need to consult with the user manual to decode the scan results, or use an app (or website) to save themselves time. However, such services usually cost money, so not all mechanics are willing to go by that route.

Should Vehicle Owners Buy An OBD Scanner?

Unless you are particularly well-versed in how a car works and what needs to be repaired, it might not be worth your investment to buy an OBD scanner. Even if you are able to successfully decipher the scan results, it is only a diagnosis  – the first step towards repairing your car. However, some individuals still purchase these scanners to have a better idea about what needs to be repaired in their car. It can also help them assess the urgency of repairing the malfunction, which means they can drive around for weeks with the “check engine” light flashing – without a care in the world.


Dashboards lights are indicators that are meant to bring the driver’s attention towards a malfunction in their car, without being too specific. The details of said malfunction can be diagnosed easily by a mechanic that knows how to use an OBD scanner, as it can provide a diagnostic code. The results need to be further deciphered – allowing a mechanic to pinpoint the area they will be able to find a malfunction and then subsequently it if the vehicle owner wishes to do so.