OBD is the acronym for Onboard Diagnostics, the standardized system in vehicle computers that allows cars and trucks to run diagnostics. It was developed and adapted to strict specifications by the Society of Automotive Engineers. OBD2 is the standard in all vehicles manufactured in 1996 or later. It differs from the older ODB1 in that the 1996 standard implements protocols, error codes, and connectors supported by all vehicle manufacturers. This means that a single OBD2 scanner can retrieve diagnostic codes from any vehicle made in 1996 and beyond.
Our picked Best OBD2 Scanner for DIY in 2018
- Bluedriver Bluetooth: (Check Price >> | Read Review)
- Innova 3160: (Check Price >> | Read Review)
- Autel AL519 AutoLink Scanner (Check Price >> | Read Review)
How OBD2 Works
Because they follow a specific set of standards, OBD2 scan tools are easy to use. They fit the same connector, which is present in all vehicles, as defined by SAE standard J1962. Often these connections are located under the dashboard near the driver’s seat, depending on the vehicle make.
Typically, the scanner is simply plugged into the connector, the vehicle is powered on (but not started), and you follow the simple menu on the display to retrieve any diagnostic codes saved to the onboard computer. These codes remain in memory until the problem is fixed or they are deliberately cleared.
Professional-level scan tools have much greater capabilities and require some training. Diagnostic technicians can do much more, such as perform specific bi-direction tests on running vehicles or connect to OEM-specific devices and controls to get feedback that won’t normally generate error codes.
If your Check Engine light is on, or your vehicle has been running rough, an OBD2 scanner can help you identify the problem. It’s definitely a good thing to keep handy. While you’ll have to spend thousands to get the diagnostic capabilities of a good auto shop, there are a number of OBD2 readers that are very affordable. Here are five of the most recommended diagnostic tools.
Best OBD2 Scanner Automotive Diagnostic Scan Tool
|OBD2 scanners for Automotive repair shop||Best OBD2 scanner for DIY||Cheap OBD2 scanner|
|Maxisys pro ms908p||MaxiDas DS708||Launch X431 pro3||Innova 3160g||Innova 3100||BlueDriver||Actron CP9680||MaxiDiag MD808||Foxwell NT614||Autel MS300||Bafx 34t5||ScanTool 425801||Autel AL319||Autel AL519|
|See Price||See Price||See Price||See Price||See Price||See Price||See Price||See Price||See Price||See Price||See Price||See Price||See Price||See Price|
Best professional automotive diagnostic scanner: If you can spend a large budget for the procurement of professional scanning tool performance, these tools are suitable. Usually, these tools are often used for automotive repair shops or professional mechanic. There are have prices fluctuate relatively high for the individual user but the effectiveness of these tools are great, but the cost is quite high and in the range of $ 1000 – $ 4000.
Best OBD2 Scanner for DIY: This tool meets the basic requirements as well as additional display features or Bluetooth and USB connectivity. The relative scanning speed but often used to check basic features such. Suitable for individuals using amateur and skills as well as basic knowledge about repairing and maintaining a somewhat cars that
Best OBD2 Scanner for the money: If you have only a small budget under $50 then this would be the most appropriate tool. With reasonable prices along these basic functions needed by a scan tool. The cheap OBD2 scanner is often the OBD2 code reader and display error code and then find a way to fix. Usually, these tools use for the individual want buy the OBD2 scanner under $50.
Our recommendations for the best OBD2 scanner should buy
It is the best OBD2 scanner for the automotive repair shop I have ever met. It is a smart diagnostic tool with powerful functions.
Another highlight is it having a free TS601, TS601 is a good TPMS tool. A good product deserves to recommend to you guys!
Autel Maxisys Pro ms908p scanner is a revolutionary smart solution for Specialized Automotive Diagnosing and ECU programming. It provides a fantastic diagnosis performance and offers amazing features with an ease of use.
It covers all possible OE-Level diagnostics making it the best diagnostic solution for all peerless smart technology vehicle repairs.
The Maxisys Pro runs on Android Operating System. It enables the user to perform multitasking and managing multiple applications at the same time.
Who is Autel Maxisys Pro ms908p scanner Built For
As it’s clear from the name, it’s a PRO Version of the tool. It was not designed for the individual but to assist the professional automotive repair shops and mechanics. It’s price on the market about $2500
The performance of this device equals to that of a small team. I give it 100 out of 100. So the professional automotive repair shops and mechanics should add it to your toolkit.
Autel Maxidas DS808 can be a wonderful additional tool for your garage tools because you can use the car diagnostic equipment this advanced to access diagnostic Trouble codes and diagnosis of your OBD2 compliant vehicles.
Autel Maxidas DS808 is the upgraded version of Autel Maxidas DS708 about configuration. Other than the DS 708, DS 808 using chip-Cortex-A9 processor (1.5 GHz) running the Android operating system version 4.4.4 with a 7-inch screen resolution 1024 × 60, wifi connection ports 802.11 b/g/n, beside Autel Maxidas DS808 has weight is 788g (2.42 lb)
In addition to checking the error interrupt your car, Autel Maxidas DS 808 can also be used to monitor the smooth operation of the engine, chassis, electrical systems and processes maintenance check of the vehicle.
You can easily get information on DTCs also is the reason behind the activation of the MLS and delete them, if necessary, is a breeze.
Autel Maxidas DS808 is one of the best OBD2 scanner diagnostic tools on the market. It’s quite popular due to the compact design and modern technology. This scan is useful for both mechanical specialists as well as for the DIY car owners who want to take care of their vehicles. You can use this scanner to assess what is wrong with your car when confronted with certain problems, even when it is moving because it is portable.
This scanner is quite easy to use-just plug it into the port information is provided in your car and your scanner will access and decrypt the information that is provided by on-board diagnostic system. After evaluating the code, you can decide whether you want to take the car to a service station in his spare time, or drag it right if serious engine problem hinders it because the drive can cause serious engine damage.
Some of the features related with Autel Maxidas DS 808 are:
- Expertly created by the recognized business experts.
- A best in a class analytic framework that gives exact, steady, extensive, less demanding and speedier determination of the vehicle.
- Likewise, covers expansive vehicle scope for every single electric arrangement of the cars.
- Programmed Wi-Fi refreshes are accessible for this model.
- Accompanies imaginative double processor innovation for speedier diagnostics and fast boot up.
- Remote access because of Wi-Fi web capacity.
- Progressed USB correspondence framework for quick and precise diagnostics.
- Easy to utilize: touch screen and natural operation.
- Remarkable, intense ergonomic plan that includes multi-layered elastic assurance and reliable lodging to guard this gadget against unplanned harm
Based on the Android operating system, the X431 Pro III is the latest diagnostic tool from Launch.
With remote diagnostic features and a built-in social network, this tool encompasses the best in Launch technology and tablet computer usability.
Encorporating the best in already existing Launch diagnostic tools, the Pro 3 can read and clear DTCs, read a car’s data stream, perform actuation tests and more.
The Launch X431 Pro III has been designed to connect vehicles and workshops, with wireless and Bluetooth connectivity. A built-in social network service enables users to connect to a community for help with diagnosis, while
A built-in social network service enables users to connect to a community for help with diagnosis, while remote diagnosis is possible with golo option. Users also have access to a car database and repair tips, allowing for faster and more efficient performance.
Why should buy this scan tool?
The X-431 PRO3 series is based on the Android operating system and connected via Bluetooth to the car. Besides higher diagnostic depth as usual it has comprehensive functionality additions: In combination with the X-431 Golo PRO / PRO 3 perform remote diagnostics and can be converted into a incl CRM- convenient system. Social services – customer management on the next level!
Benefits when buying Launch X431 Pro 3
Fast and efficient data coding– with All the hallmarks of a fast device, the mechanic and the driver are at peace in getting fast data coding and repairs. This reduces the repair time and the amount of money likely spent on the other repair processes.
Multilingual– the OBD scanner has the interface covering several universal languages. The mechanic needs no effort in trying to get translations in as far as the code meanings and repair formulas are concerned.
Wide compatibility– Covering several European and Asian cars, the device has what it takes to be used globally. The addition of the Indian car models makes its use even more widespread.
Why should buy Innova 3160g:
The Innova 3160g include the features of Innova 3160e.
However it has everything you want: 3.5″ Color Screen, live data, read ABS/SRS codes and display other engine conditions that many tools don’t show.
Bluetooth app connect, Reset Battery Maintenance Lights and Initialize vehicle batteries.
Customers have generally had a lot of positive things to say about its ability to read and erase the ABS/SRS codes.
The really cool thing about this device is it can graph, display and record the data in real time. If you’re someone who likes to know exactly what is going on in the device and your vehicle, then this is the perfect tool for you to use. And if you have an older OBD1 vehicle, you have the option for an upgrade to use it on those as well!
Key Features Innova 3160g:
- 3.5″ Color Screen
- Stream, record, and graph real-time Live Data for a more precise diagnosis.
- Bluetooth App Compatibility
- Connect OBD 1 port by Accessories Ford OBD1 Adapter, Toyota OBD1 Adapter, OBD1 Extension Cable,…
- Reset Battery Maintenance Lights and Initialize vehicle batteries.
Basic Features Innova 3160g
- It has an anti-lock brake system (ABS) which is meant to speed up the manner in which the braking system works. The hydraulic system improves it even further. This is further made to work with a combination of several sensors which enable the OBD2 coding easier.
- A safety/ supplement restraint system (SRS) which is in most common within the air bag. The system if fitted activates itself and is able to warn the vehicle occupants if there is a fault. This is usually in the form of a light sensor. When it blinks, the engine system is faulty and needs some action.
- Has a unique coding feature which makes it compatible with several models of vehicles ranging from the newer versions of the OBD2 scan to the older models.
- A live data relay system made possible by the enabled improvements through the society for automotive engineers (SAE). This helps the technician to be able to get the data quickly and in the process be able to act on the areas where there is fault.
- It has a relative light weight of 2.5 pounds, making it just a perfect driver companion.
- A USB data transfer mechanism which is possible through connection to any personal computer. This can also enable the technician print the OBD2 scanned data for further action.
- Innova 3160g Bluetooth App Compatibility
- It has a clear and concise accessory list all in a soft pouch; these include the ever important USB cable the OBD2 cable for connecting to the vehicle engine and a reference guide.
- It has a high compatibility ratio with several new OBD2 vehicle models and other known OBD1 models. The ability to decipher both manufacture specific and generic codes makes it rather fit within this category. However, certain emission restrictions are noted to exist with its use.
By choosing INNOVA 3100, you get a versatile scan tool and code reader with battery backup and ABS technology that works excellently with several types of vehicles. It is compact, portable, and therefore travel-worthy. Its automated system quickly diagnoses engine light warnings in both domestic and foreign vehicles, while its patented all-in-one design supports monitoring of emissions readiness, drive cycle verification, and erasure of ABS trouble codes of most Toyota, Chrysler, Ford, and GM motor vehicles. You also get a large backup memory that stores data and an auto refresh feature (every 30 seconds) that enables you to monitor car repair progress in real time.
Why should buy this scan tool?
This tool provides the guaranteed technical tips to handle the scan tool in efficient manner. Even the ASE team will give hand to make use such new brand tools and the traditional practice, which support to make use in very simple manner. It is high cost effective software to install over the car.
They provide quick deliver service, which geared behind the engine problem so it will be consider as one of the first quality solution. Then they provide the 24 hours customer support by ASE technical team. It is highly durable to make use for a long time over the cars. It works with independent batter back up so it will be more comfortable for the customer to make use with no risk.
Therefore, you can make use of scan tool over vehicle and simply monitor the whole action to avoid the major problem.
Several benefits are there, however the following are notable;
Why should buy OBD2 Bluetooth Scan Tool?
OBD2 Bluetooth Scan Tool is an auto diagnosis tool which has been included in this list due to its various useful features like preparation of repair report, reads and clears error codes, emission check of your vehicle to make it ready for smog test. Moreover it sends all the information to your Bluetooth enabled device for you to view.
It clears error codes very efficiently. For instance, if there is an error in your engine light then it will diagnose the causes of the problem and provide you all the possible solutions for it. It is the best feature for the people who maintain their cars themselves. They can easily fix the problem at priority with the help of this tool, if it persists frequently. It can also read important information about your vehicle including engine data, assembly location, fuel consumption, temperature of engine coolant and VIN number of your vehicle. It can also help in smog check and emission test. It will provide you report of the tests along with possible solutions for the problems detected.
Though it is an affordable tool available at $99.95 but while using it you will have to face certain issues like Bluetooth connectivity and proper working of its app as sometimes they may disappoint you. Moreover it is not compatible with Windows phones, which is very discouraging for a large number of people. Along with it this tool is not suitable for all the OBDII vehicles, as claimed by the manufacturer. Some of its features do not work with certain vehicles like live data feature do not work with BMWs, Volvos, Hyundais and VW Golf along with Ford Excursion with 7.3 litre Diesel engine.
- Read and Clear Enhanced Codes: ABS, Airbag, Transmission, and so forth for GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota (accessible around the world) and BMW/Mini (available in North America),
- Repair Reports: Code Definition, Possible Causes, Reported Fixes (Vehicle-particular for each DTC),
- Stop Frame: Vehicle depiction when a code is put away,
- Exhaust cloud Check: See if the vehicle is prepared for a brown haze test,
- Mode 6: Advanced test outcomes (like failure to discharge tallies),
- Live Data: Graph various PIDs or fare log to a record
This is the new vesion of Actron CP9580A (It is the best seller of actron at 2014 – 2016). Actron CP9680 autoscanner plus can act as a great technical assistant for you. It very sophisticated, but on the very easy to use. Displays OBD2 diagnostic code readability with direct statistical automatically allows you to identify the problem faster. In addition, it has technology additional links provide the key to diagnosis a 26M repair experienced database.
Displays OBD2 diagnostic code readability with direct statistical automatically allows you to identify the problem faster. In addition, it has technology additional links provide the key to diagnosis a 26M repair experienced database.
The Highlights feature of Actron CP9680 are the LCD color screen; oil light reset options plus batteries, fast charger, check options tracking systems, and much more.
The special benefits of this product is that when the press the “CodeConnect” you will be linked to a giant database with 26 million validation fix has been tested and approved by the highly qualified ASE technician
The CP9680 Auto Scanner Plus is suitable for almost all types of vehicles. The outstanding features of it makes it the best choice for customers to ensure them quick, precise and detailed troubleshooting results along with solutions to get a diagnosis to ensure 100%. It’s easy to use for professionals and self-do-it your-selfers alike.
Reasonable price: compared to many other technology brands in the brand on the market at OBD2 special equipment, reasonable price.
Superior technology: Link technology, in addition to many other features such as live engine records, live chart data, incorporated computer printing function and many others.
The all new MaxiDiag MD808 is worked to take your diagnostic experience to a whole new level. Stacked with oil service reset, battery enlistment and reset, parking brake cushion relearn after substitution, steering edge sensor relearn and diesel particulate filter regeneration capacities, MD808 can access Engine, Transmission, ABS, and Airbag (SRS) frameworks for the best finding operations. With all that encased in a 4-inch handheld gadget, there is no better multifunctional filter device available.
- Bolster Read/Clear Codes and Live Data capacities for Engine, Transmission, ABS, and Airbag (SRS) frameworks
- Scan and remove inconvenience codes, control and test BMS/Oil Reset/SRS/EPB/DPF frameworks
- Bolster oil benefit reset
- Support battery enrollment and reset
- Diesel particulate administration including constrained recovery
- Reset directing point sensor (SAS) usefulness
- Relearn stopping brake cushion after substitution
- Reset benefit mileage and management interims
- Kill ECU brake cautioning light
- Perform O2 screen, onboard display, I/M status and segment testing
- Print indicative reports using PC connection
- Worldwide OBD II scope for U.S. local, Asian and European makes and models
- All OBD II conventions, every one of the 10 test modes and upgraded OBD II mode 6 bolster
- Doesn’t work consummately well on all vehicles
- Not exceptionally instinctive
- Doesn’t support Macintosh PC just windows
Foxwell NT614 is intended for private auto proprietors to check Engine, Transmission, ABS, Airbag SRS, Oil light administration, EPB flaws. It offers professionals precise, steady and simple conclusion to enable you to discover what’s the matter with your vehicle.
- Coverage incorporates 49 producers
- Works on the most recent 2012/2013 models
- Compatible with both OBDI and OBDII autos, SUVs, minivans, light-obligation trucks sold around the world
- Reads and clean codes and turns up MILs of motor, transmission, ABS and airbags
- Requests and records live sensor information
- Provides live information charting
- Merges charts for simple and instinctive determination
- Displays solidify outline information
- Retrieves ECU data
- You will have the most recent bug fixes with web get to
- Newly included parameters and functionalities readily available.
- Free for the initial year and a half after your enlistment
- Shows live vehicle sensors information in content and diagram groups.
- Not perfect with all vehicles
- Supports every one of the 10 OBDII test modes, for example, live information, O2 sensor test, part test and then some
- Enhanced OBDII Mode 6 usefulness
- Code troubleshooters give you speedier and simpler finding
- Multilingual menu alternatives and code definitions
- SD memory card for information reinforcement and programming refresh
- As simple as 1-2-3 with huge TFT shading screen and menu-driven operations
- Ergonomic outline and toughly worked for both shop and street tests
- This item is worked to last.
- It’s built to oppose effect and harm in the extreme workshop condition.
- The safe fit, additional corner cushioning and screen defender guarantee your output device will be around for quite a while.
Why should buy MaxiScan MS300
Using the Autel MaxiScan MS300 CAN Diagnostic Scan Tool, the user is bound to accrue the following beneficial effects;
Cost-effectiveness– considering the several features and the user interfaces the tool has, it is unbelievable how affordable Autel MaxiScan MS300 CAN Diagnostic Scan Tool for OBDII Vehicles is. It is even lower on some of the shops which sell it at quite lucrative prices which makes it look like it is for free.
Wide usage– the OBD scan given its high affinity to most cars and the support for several protocols, it is amazingly beneficial to any user. With this tool, you will b e relieved of having to purchase other scan tools available in the market.
The several models and brands of OBD scan tools present the users with diverse choices when it comes to the selection of the tools. The basic requirement is to be able to know your car and the tool which is compatible with it. If you have a tool like the Autel Autel MaxiScan MS300 CAN Diagnostic Scan Tool for OBDII Vehicles Diagnostic Scan Tool which covers a wide range of cars, then you are good to go.
Note: The Autel MaxiScan MS300 CAN Diagnostic Scan Tool is not a Bluetooth scanner, but is included in the list due to customers’ overwhelming support.
Why should buy BAFX OBD2 scan tool?
BAFX Products OBD2 Bluetooth scanner, this car scanning tool is in the list of top best car diagnostic tools because of its extremely affordable price of $21.99 on Amazon.
People using various car diagnostic programs prefer to use it because of its compatibility to almost all the third arty OBDII apps available at PlayStore. It can scan various issues in your vehicle including reading sensor codes, engine light codes, rest engine light and prepare your vehicle for emission test. It also works well with various third-party applications like torque. The statistics provided by it like readings of horsepower, RPM, braking info, acceleration along with the graph of the speed of the vehicle keep the car geeks occupied for several hours. The CD provided by its manufacturer allows you to install its reader on your PC.
- Though it is a good device still it has certain issues.
- It is not compatible with Apple devices as well as the vehicles with J1850-PWM protocol.
- It is also not much reliable as it can stop working anytime.
- Another drawback of this tool is that it only reads the stats even only from OBDII system.
- It does not suggest possible solutions for your problems.
- So if your car has other types of sensors then you will have to use some other scanning tool to resolve their problems.
- This tool is good only for analysing basic problems of your car containing OBDII system due to its affordable price.
It is noted that the following benefits will accrue if ScanTool 425801 OBDLink SX USB: OBD Adapter/Diagnostic Scanner for Windows is put to use;
- Economic benefits– with its feature which updates and teaches the driver on fuel saving mechanisms, it is likely that spending on fuel will be reduced. The trickle down effects of such a move will; save the economy lots of money. In addition, its wide compatibility does not allow one to source for many OBD2 scan machines.
- Convenience – the OBD2 scan tool is enabled with several features which are known to conveniently and relay the coded data. For instance, the live data feed system give real-time updates, while the screen display gives the technician tips on which part to handle.
This is an affordable and easy-to-use OBD2 diagnostic scanner that works on all models and makes of car, that are newer 1996 year of issue. With Autel AutoLink AL319, you wouldn’t need to go through a guesswork and work out what part of the whole system has gone out of order. It quickly detects all malfunctions, notifies a user about error codes by displaying a message on a screen and explains the issues so that it’s not necessarily to look up online for further explanation. Autel AutoLink AL319 will assist users in verifying road tests, solving basic engine problems, checking the emission monitor status, resetting monitors, displaying and clearing error codes and viewing freeze frame data.
The Autel AutoLink AL319 is an affordable scan tool with the some of the same perks as the larger more expensive scan tools. This lightweight scan tool can surely aid with any check engine light repair.
- OBD II & CAN compatible
- Colorful LED screen
- Audible alerts
- 1 pound of weight
- 63 x 17.7 x 92.5 inches in length
- Readiness monitor status
- Freeze frame data accessible
We enjoyed the easy-to-read color screen, audible tones, and quick access to readiness monitors delightful. We’ve got a few mechanic buddies who use this scan tool in their shop for the quick access to diagnostic trouble codes, and readiness monitors. The quick access features are easier to use then some larger, more involved scan tools that can be found in repair facilities. The features are limited compared to the larger, more expensive scan tools, but for basic diagnostics the ease of access is a sure winner.
- We’ve heard of complaints with this OBD2 not updating.
- We never experienced this issue with our scanner, so we suspect that there are some defective models out there.
- If you do experience any issues with the Autel AutoLink AL319, just make sure you purchase it from Amazon and they will replace it or refund your purchase
When you are looking for a versatile, affordable scan tool that has plenty of options and features, you may want to consider the Autel AL519. This tool brings plenty of features and technology to your garage, and has a system that allows for easy navigation and access.
While the Autel AL519 has many features and modes, there are a couple of things missing from the tool that may make you hesitate.
It is the most well known and easy to use check device for rapidly diagnosing any motor inconvenience code. It bolsters each of the ten methods of OBDII test for a total analysis and gives live OCM data stream, code tips/repairs and diagram information.
The screen on this sweep apparatus has a determination of 320×240. However, it is clear and straightforward to peruse with energetic hues. This is vital because the readouts show just on the screen, as opposed to likewise sustaining to a joined tablet.
This sweep device is easy, lightweight and moderate, and will work with any ODB II right vehicle. If you work in a carport or you are a lover who needs to have the capacity to take a shot at your auto, then this device is an unquestionable requirement have.
What Is OBD2 scanner
OBD2 auto scanning device is a light weight, compact size and auto diagnostic tool with an integrated software, is designed to continuously control a vehicle and notify the owner of all all the problems in a real time mode. This is an excellent professional equipment and customized diagnostics at the service station. Most of the customers preferred to use OBD2 scan through other similar tools by their price, compact size and simple use
Portable OBD2 Scanner is commonly used for the diagnosis of the engine management system of electronic and other systems found in most modern vehicles. When they do not need to connect to the computer, they are handy to keep in the glove compartment and easy access to run a quick scan of a car. OBD2 Scanner for reading purposes only and fault lines of code on a screen.
How to choose best obd2 scanner
There are a growing number of scan tools compatible with 1996 and newer vehicles with a wide variety of features. With prices ranging from $250 to $2500 anyone looking for a scan tool needs to do a little homework to find a tool that best fits their needs.
What To Look For
The first thing to consider when looking through a variety of available scanner OBD2 diagnostic feature of it .. The cars were produced before 1996 will not be compatible with any scanner on the market school on the grounds they are not equipped with OBD2 port, so be aware. Every scanner provides several built-in diagnostic software programs or CD so that users do not need to buy any special hardware. Diagnostic features vary greatly depending on the model of a device and a manufacturer (however, the plan is to extend the functionality for multiple vehicles). However, there are certain things that are common to all – most likely OBD2 Scanner software update and extend the functionality with the program through the Internet and computer networks. These programs are usually easy to find on the official website of the manufacturer and is available for free download.
In order to update the software or stream data on a display, a scanner should be connected to the storage source via USB, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. This is where you may want to consider available Connection Options of a chosen model and make sure that it will work for you as expected. Portable scanners are usually charged either via a battery or onboard power. Which one to choose will depend on what features you’d like your scanner provide. For example, if a scanner supports printouts, it may be a good idea to buy a battery-operated scanner. When compared to an onboard analog, it will provide an owner with more mobility options so that he can disconnect it and print out all the needed information on a car in any copy center.
The information on a car can be streamed right on a display of a scanner, smartphone or PC, depending on what option is supported by a device. Consider Data to Display feature and check what kind of information is gonna be displayed on your device – a short error code or a code with a definition.
Will it work on your vehicle?
First and foremost, the tool you purchase must support the vehicles you anticipate working on. Although it’s true that OBDII is a standard, there are five different types of hardware communications used by OBDII vehicles. Some tools support all five and some are manufacturer specific.
Not all scantools are equal. In fact, some aren’t even close. As part of the OBDII standard, the US Environmental Protection Agency mandated that a basic set of emissions related readings be supported on all OBDII vehicles. The SAE specification J1979 defines these legislated parameters. Many low-end tools only support these emissions related readings, giving you access to only a dozen or so truly useful parameters. While these give you some basic vehicle information, they are just a small set of the vehicle information available through the OBDII port.
Is it upgradeable?
Each year vehicle manufacturers release new models and revise existing models. For a scan tool to fully support the new vehicles, it must typically be updated. Professional quality scan tools are updateable, although often at a price of $500 or more per update. Most lower end handheld scan tools are not updateable. Check what updates will cost before committing to a tool.
Built in help
For anyone working on his or her own vehicle, the Factory Service Manual is a must-have. But the scan tool itself may be able to provide some of that necessary information. When a DTC is set, does the tool display the DTC number or give the full definition? A tool that displays the full definition will save a lot of time and frustration. Does the tool offer any information on typical readings to explain what the reading is? A simple sentence or two of explanation can save a lot of trips back and forth to the shop manual.
Data logging or storage
A sure way to park your car in a ditch is to try and watch a scan tool display while doing a roadtest. A tool that stores data to allow safe viewing back at the garage is a must. Be certain that the tool you buy has this capability.
Types of OBD2 scanners
These are cheaper, simpler devices that are plugged into a vehicle solely for reading and clearing error codes. They don’t provide any additional information, and may not reflect a wider set of codes in use by various manufacturers. An OBD2 scanner meant for GM vehicles, for instance, will read only the basic codes saved to memory and additional codes for GM cars and trucks only. Additional information is usually provided online or via a reference pamphlet that lists the available codes with brief explanations for each one.
Scan tools are more sophisticated and are available in several levels of complexity, from compact consumer versions to powerful diagnostic computers in use by commercial auto shops. Scan tools typically provide a wider variety of codes, and additional explanations for each code.
Professional or more advanced versions will include options like review of both live and recorded data, options for manufacturer-specific codes, customizable menus, parameters, tests, and code reads, and extensive technical information on troubleshooting each code. Basically, every vehicle sensor that transmits signals to the onboard computer produces codes that can be read with an OBD2 scanner.
They can also read “soft” codes, or codes that have been detected but not yet logged. Many scanners, for instance, must detect a code on three successive vehicle starts before it’s included in the diagnostics, in order to allow for anomalies like false emissions readings or random computer errors.
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