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.
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||Ranking||Rate|
|Actron CP9690 Trilingual OBD I/OBD II Elite AUTOSCANNER Pro Kit with Color Screen||1st||4.95/5|
|INNOVA 3100 Diagnostic ScanTool/Code Reader||2nd||4.9/5|
|BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDII Scan Tool||3rd||4.8/5|
|Actron CP9580A Enhanced AutoScanner Plus||4th||4.75/5|
|INNOVA 3160 Diagnostic Scan Tool||5th||4.7/5|
|Best OBD2 Scanner for the money||Ranking||Rate|
|Autel MaxiScan MS300 CAN Diagnostic Scan Tool for OBDII Vehicles||1st||4.9/5|
|BAFX Products 34t5 Bluetooth OBDII Scan Tool||2nd||4.85/5|
|ScanTool 425801 OBD Adapter/Diagnostic Scanner||3rd||4.8/5|
|Autel AutoLink AL319 OBD II – CAN Scan Tool||4th||4.7/5|
|Autel AL519 Color Screen OBDII/CAN Scan Tool||5th||4.7/5|
|Best professional automotive diagnostic scanner||Ranking||Rate|
|Autel Maxisys Pro ms908p scanner||1st||4.95/5|
|Autel Maxisys MS908 Automotive Reprogramming Diagnostic Tool and Analysis System||2nd||4.85/5|
|LAUNCH X431 PRO3 V2.0 Scanpad Diagnostic Scanner||3rd||4.75/5|
Best professional automotive diagnostic scanner : 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 full features of a tool usually the auto premium will use this toolkit to meet the needs to start gathering the most accurate and correct and saves engineers time.
Best OBD2 Scanner: 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
Third group is Best OBD2 Scanner for the money: this tool is the group most cost-effective and meet the basic features of a scanner OBD2 scan tool, this product is suitable for individuals who sometimes used to test car features and expected time to put the car in for repair or maintenance.
Best professional automotive diagnostic scanner
This one is the best I have ever met. You can not imagine how wonderful to use it to test cars. A smart diagnostic tool with powerful functions, no difficulties to reprogram the keys, the wide coverage of cars, can diagnose the different car versions. Such as, it can program transmission for mercedes s550 2007 and abs unit for bmw and ews for bmw. Another highlight is they send 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. It helps you to keep an eye on impacts on other parts, while fixing a particular part of the engine.
Who is Autel Maxisys Pro ms908p scanner Built For
As it’s clear from the name, it’s a PRO Version of the tool. If you are a novice or a single car owner then it’s not wise pouring your money into this diagnostic system device and Maxisys Pro, like all other Maxisys it is a high priced diag scanner. Moreover, it was not designed for the individual in mind but to assist the professional automobile repair shops and mechanics.
On the other hand, if you want to close down the deals faster yet reliable you must not miss this device. The performance of this device equals to that of a small team. I give it 100 out of 100. So if you are running a car shop and can afford the price of autel maxisys pro ms908p, you should add it to your toolkit. It’s a value for money piece of equipment.
The MaxiSys designed with the DNA of Autel’s diagnostics family, the MaxiSys is built to offer many of the prestigious qualities of the MaxiDAS DS708 with extreme ease of use and powerful diagnostic performance. However the MaxiSys has evolved far beyond the original capabilities. Utilizing an A9 quad-core 1.40GHz processor that offers 50% increase in speed versus competing products, a 9.7” LED screen with a resolution of 1,024 x 768 capacitive touch screen, the revolutionary multitask-capable Android Operating System, combined with the best possible coverage of OE-level diagnostics, the MaxiSys is the perfect diagnostic solution for shops and technicians who demand unrivalled smart technology and smart repairs.
Autel MaxiSys MS908P Features :
MaxiSys is the fastest scanner ever in the market. It features an extraordinarily fast A9 quad-core processor, a 32G solid state hard drive and a highly sensitive 9.7″LED capacitive touch screen. The revolutionary open source Android °pearling System allows you perform multiple tasks easily and intuitively. The system boots up in only 20 seconds, which is 5 times faster than competion products, and the diagnostic time for some vehicles is greatly reduced, allowing you to perform your job much quicker.
Featuring the latest AutoVIN technology to identify CAN vehicles in one touch, and combined with the exclusive AutoScan function, the MaxiSys is the most intelligent system in the industry. These functions allow the technicians to easily detect vehicles, scan all the diagnosable ECUs on every vehicle and run diagnostics on selected systems. Another advanced feature, the industry first colud-based online community, puts you in touch with the latest tips and expertise from technicians around the world.
The MaxiSys features advanced dual-band(2.4GHz and 5GHz)802.11n Wi-Fi that’s up to twice as fast as any previous-generation diagnostic systems. The MaxiSys Vehicle Communication Interface(VCI) connects via dependable Long-Range Class 1 Bluetooth to the host tablet. Once the wireless VCI is connected to the car, the technician is completely free to move around anywhere in the shop. Its wireless connectivity also means you can field updates to the latest software releases, allowing for update anywhere and anytime.
Exceptional OE-Level Coverage
As the fastest growing diagnostic company in the world,Autel has been committed to providing the best and easiest-to-use diagnostic solution with the most extensive coverage of all systems for all the major vehicle manufacturers. This enables independent garages to confidently provide comprehensive servicing in their own workshops without relying on dealer availability. Continual software enhancement will provide additional vehicle coverage.
ECU Coding and Programming
The Coding function is used to configure the vehicle control modules(ECUs) with extra parameters, while Programming is used to reflash the vehicle ECUs. These functions allow you to update the computer software on the vehicle to the latest version, as well as to reprogram adaptive data for certain components after making repairs or replacements. MaxiSys is one of the very few diagnostic systems in the world with the capability of preforming safe and reliable coding and flash programming with affordable costs.
J2534 Reprogramming Capability
The VCI for MaxiSys PRO is a SAE J2534-1 &-2 Compliant Programming Interface. Using the updated OEM software, It is capable of replacing the existing software/firmware in electronic control units(ECUs), programming new ECUs and fixing software-controlled driveability issues and emission issues. Fully compatible with both SAE J2534-1 and J2534-2 reprogramming standards Performs the standard Passthru J2534 functionality Fast performance ensures quick reprogramming of even the newest controllers *Requirements: Both a pc and OEM Data subscription are required. Neither is included in this kit.
LAUNCH X431 PRO3 V2.0 Scanpad Diagnostic Scannerworks well and it have so many function.For the professional technician,it worth to buy it.
My overall impression of the X431 Pro 3 was very positive. I found the hardware very well suited to the purpose, rugged, fast, easy to use and light. The software was slick in its operation and it did all I asked of it during the test period. I made a couple of calls to the team at Launch and my queries and questions were dealt with promptly. This segment of aftermarket, multi marque diagnostic scan tools is extremely competitive. The Launch X431 Pro 3 is a highly competent product that discharges its duties very well.
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!
X-431 PRO integrates 3 runs on Android 5.1 operating system
X-431 Pro3 with configurable processor 1.3 GHz Quad-Core
Touch display 10.1 “IPS capacitive Touchscreen
Memory capacity of 16 GB and can be upgraded to 32 GB external memory card
Battery capacity 7,000 mAh Líthion up to (be able to maintain continuous operation for 6-8 hours)
Configuration connect Bluetooth / USB cable (optional)
Best obd2 scanner
The ACTRON CP9690 is a premium scanner capable of reading both OBDI and OBDII. This makes it a great choice for a professional mechanic or an amateur enthusiast. The CodeConnect feature allows quick diagnosis of issues and help save both time and money. Time data logging. This allows data to be saved and sent to a computer. This is an advanced scanner is designed for. .. But for someone who is familiar with the new vehicles, the ACTRON CP9690 can make the diagnosis and repair of much less scary.
There are many OBDII scanners on the market; However, less common OBDI scanner. In addition to full compatibility for OBDII vehicles from 1994 to the present, ACTRON CP9690 can also read DTCs for OBDI fits 1984-1996 car of GM and Ford, and Chrysler 1989-1996 and Toyota. As the OBDI diagnostic port not standardize the scanner comes with the appropriate cables to communicate with these vehicles. The other feature is the ability to read and clear ABS and airbags DTCs for many different vehicles and the ability to reset the oil change lights, and flashlights. The ACTRON CP9690 provide a with three languages (English, Spanish, French) readout.
Most people love CP9690 ACTRON, and we give it a rating of 4/5 stars. Some of our friends have used this tool has some criticism with it. According to our experience, these classified into two types:
The ACTRON CP9690 don’t always work to read and SRS or ABS code clear. It must be noted that ACTRON not qualified the car list have SRS and ABS code can be read. So, if you need to delete SRS and the ABS code, make sure your car is included in the list of the ACTRON!
ACTRON’s customer service sucks. One of the biggest complaints we’ve heard about is their customer service was at least par. .. I’ve heard of friends did not get a manual with the scanner! (this is available online though).
The CodeConnect database to make any of the defects listed above. It is time-saving feature is a lot of time in the diagnosis of the problem and allow you to fix your car.
Actron CP9690 Special benefit
Complete overhaul diagnosis – The extensive data reading of this device enables technicians to carry out a detailed check of the engine status. The ability to detect and provide solutions that are definite to the vehicle model and production year is a superb benefit.
Cost free technical backup system- giving you free access to skilled ASE technicians.
Wide application – This model practically works with all OBD2 accommodating automobiles.
Actron CP9690 first available on Amazon on July 13, 2015, it’s new and offers advanced do-it-yourselfers and technicians features they asked for in a scan tool with ABS and SRS Airbag coverage for most 1996-2013 GM, Ford, Chrysler, Honda, Nissan, Toyota and Hyundai vehicles
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.
What to Like Actron CP9580A Enhanced AutoScanner Plus
The scanning tools are used for many purposes and it get high famous among folks. There are a number of excellent featuring scanners are available in the market. The high featuring auto scanner plus with code connect is highly popular due to its excellent performance and it not only used for reads and also used to displays the CAN & OBDII plus ABS & SRS codes, but it helps you prioritize the process of trouble shooting with reported fixes especially to the vehicles make engine, year and model at the touch of the code connect and hotkey to “connect” with the right solution to that problem. Apart from that, it access to over the range of 4.3 million ASE fixes is certified. In addition to that, it has two notable benefits such as longevity and user-friendly features. This tool only allows the user to enjoy the tool with the stress-free method. However, it is to be updatable while this tool to be used very longer periods of time. it provides stronger user support as well as it supports the code data which is important for the easy as well as fast coding process.
The excellent featuring auto scanner tool includes the special feature as custom data listing for the graph reside data and also real information. Although, it support some usual and special functions such as freeze framework data, print information assistance and drive cycle setting condition as OBD check. This type of code connect feature allows the devices to pinpoint where the fault is as well as present a unique answer, that has absolutely observed it offer more than 4 million fixes, globally. Apart from that, the scan tool is friendly with the range of 1996 plus CAN plus OBD II automobiles. In addition to that, it also provides on-screen graphing, report plus playback data stream and code protection. Furthermore, Actron CP9580A newly improved car scanner and additionally offers AAA dried type cell batteries. Moreover, it will make it feasible to use it independently on the device, without linking it in order to automobile. Apart from that, it also has an enormous hardware, software, and innovative features.
Why should buy INNOVA 3160 Diagnostic Scan Tool ?
Using the INNOVA 3160 Diagnostic Scan Tool is associated with the following benefits both for the owners and the technicians;
- Efficiency- with the enabled accessories which accompany this scan tool, one need no hustle when getting the data. By just correctly fitting the scan machine, the live data feed is enough to eliminate any worries.
- Wide user scope– covering several vehicle models ranging from both the new OBD2 types and the older versions of the OBD1, you are likely to get served with this.
If you’re looking for an advanced scan tool that can perform a wide range of functions, and you don’t mind paying more for all the extra modes, then the Innova 3160 is the right choice for you. At a price generally ranging from $200 to $250, it’s certainly not the cheapest model on the market, but does have numerous features and accessories to justify the price.
There are, however, a few disadvantages that may eliminate the Innova 3160 from your scan tool search, so let’s take a look and see if it’s right for you.
Car service repair shops use code readers to diagnose problems in the vehicle’s computer system. Price of that tools almost about thousands dollars, but there are products like the Innova 3150 that are oriented towards the average consumer to use at home.
The product itself will be useful mainly for those car owners that like to work on their own cars instead of taking them to a repair shop but fail to do so due to the lack of such of device that can read the error and pin point the problem.
I good auto code scanner such as the Innova 3150 will give you the ability to find any faults in your on-board computer system, and also find the correct solution for each different problem. They are massive time savers, and will also save you a lot of money too.
The model, can “check engine” light warnings for most cars and SUVs manufactured after 1996. Their ABS an SRS reader can only check GM, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda and Ford vehicles that were manufactured after 1996 as well.
Unfortunately, owners that have a different brand will have trouble using it. Then again, most code readers from this price range read the error codes only for the above mentioned manufacturers.
Ease of use
The device itself is fairly intuitive to use even without a manual. It only has a couple of navigation buttons and four buttons for code reading. In the worst case scenario, the manual can be use as it will not take more than a few minutes to get the hand of it.
Display and readings
Innova used a monochrome blue display for the device. It might not be a high resolution display but it can deliver plenty of information without having to scroll down for a full reading. The upper side of the screen shows only icons for the motor status while the middle and bottom show the error code and the description of the problem or possible fix.
The Innova 3150 can be connected directly to a PC via a mini USB cable. In the package a software CD can be found that contains the installation driver and desktop tools. Additionally, the device comes with a 16 pin cable that can be used to read ABS and SRS codes. The PC connection cable will be required for software updates but new ones are not released very often.
Best OBD2 scanner for the money
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 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.
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.
So is the Autel AL519 right for you? Let’s take a look and see…
The Autel AL519 usually costs around $80 to $120, depending on where you are purchasing the unit and whether you’re buying new or used. This is the medium price range for scan tools. There are basic units for less than $50 and advanced tools that cost upwards of $300. Of course, if you’re a trained technician, you can find scan tools for $3,000 or more, but for most people, the Autel AL519 is priced around the middle.
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.