Millions of fleet vehicles worldwide operate trouble-free every day with GPS tracking units installed in their under-dash OBD-II (or on-board-diagnostic) ports.

Still, some might be concerned that the devices could pose a danger to a vehicle’s electrical system, or potentially disrupt the diagnostic function of the engine management system. Let’s take a look at these claims about OBD-II ports and fleet trackers and separate the facts from the myths. 


What is an OBD-II Port and how does it work? 

Since 2008, every vehicle sold in the United States has been required to have an OBD-II port accessible in the cabin. The port is a standardized receptacle to which a diagnostic computer can be attached. When the owner (or a mechanic or a technician doing a state certification test) attaches a diagnostic tool to the port, the tool can read standardized codes produced by the vehicle’s engine diagnostic computer. For example, if your check engine light comes on, a diagnostic tool attached to the OBD-II port can retrieve the specific code from the engine computer that indicates the fault in the system—say, a misfire in a certain chamber of the engine. Basic OBD-II reading devices are available for less than $30 at most auto supply stores or on Amazon.   


How does a GPS tracker connect to a vehicle?

GPS Trackit’s most popular vehicle tracking device uses the OBD-II port for power to keep the internal GPS unit running. It queries the on-board engine diagnostic computer the same way a diagnostic tool does, to transmit that information to the cloud and ultimately to the fleet manager’s information dashboard. OBD-II-based devices are extremely popular because they install in minutes and require no special tools for installation or maintenance. If you need to use the port to diagnose an engine issue, it’s easy to pop the GPS tracking unit off, do the diagnostic test, and replace the GPS unit afterward. 


Is a tracker attached to an OBD-II port safe?

OBD-II ports and fleet trackers have worked virtually flawlessly for more than a decade. GPS Trackit’s devices are specifically designed not to return electrical signals to the vehicle—which means it’s impossible for a unit to cause a short or any related electrical issue. Fleet management clients drive millions of miles each month with OBD-II-based trackers and have no issues. 


What if I don’t want to use an OBD-II port for vehicle tracking? Are there options? 

Absolutely! Whether you’re running older vehicles that don’t have OBD-II ports, operating heavy machinery that does not use that technology, or you simply don’t want to attach something to the port, you have options. GPS Trackit offers a three-wire system that connects to the vehicle’s electrical system under the dashboard. This direct-wire system could also be preferable for fleet managers who want to keep tracking units secure and unable to be easily removed by drivers. Both the OBD-II-based and direct-wired systems have built-in alerts that work with the software platform to warn a fleet manager when a specific vehicle is no longer reporting data. 


More questions? Talk to an experienced Fleet Advisor and learn how fleet management software can be a money-saver–and risk-reducer–for your business.