Communication protocols used in modern vehicles are incompatible with standard computer protocols (RS-232, USB, and so on). An OBD adapter (sometimes referred to as “vehicle interface adapter”) is an electronic device that allows a computer to access the vehicle network. It is similar in operation to a computer modem or a gateway, in that it translates messages from one protocol to another.
Normally, the data flows both ways — to and from the ECU. For example, in order to display the RPM or trouble codes, the following series of events must take place:
See also: Choosing an OBD Adapter