Table of Contents
- An Introduction to OBD2 Scanners
- The Top 5 OBD2 Scanners in the Market
- In Conclusion
Today, cars are equipped with various technologies, like GPS, for instance. Another piece of technology that cars can be equipped with are OBD2 scanners. These computer-like devices determine which component of your car performs which function, and more importantly, let you know when a component has malfunctioned. Thus, these handy devices help prevent problems from blowing up into huge issues that could affect your car’s functionality, lifespan, as well as blow a huge hole through your savings!
OBD2 scanners, short for “Onboard Diagnostics 2”, are standardized systems in cars and trucks that are used to self-diagnose and report issues. A majority of the cars that were manufactured in or after 1996 come equipped with standardized computer systems that monitor emissions and all electrical sensors within your vehicle. The computers store this data, which can be retrieved only via an OBD2 scanner.
A result of the regulations set by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and implemented by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), these scanners were initially used for testing emissions, but can now detect and display codes that tell you that your car is in trouble. One thing that you need to remember with OBD2 scanners is that they always display only codes, so you’ll need to know what each code means to know what’s wrong with your car.
There are two main types of OBD2 scanners:
- Code Readers: Code readers are the cheapest scanners on the market, costing you as little as $15. These devices can read and clear codes from any vehicle that is OBD2-equipped but apart from this basic function, code readers lack information on manufacturer-specific codes and offer very limited access to any other data.
- Scan Tools: On the more expensive side, scan tools come with a whole range of features that make up for what code readers cannot offer. Thus, these devices offer more access to manufacturer-specific codes and related information, offer access to live or recorded data and even advanced information on troubleshooting.
Using an OBD2 scanner can give you lots of benefits, such as:
- A diagnosis of your vehicle in a standardized manner, as all OBD2 scanners are designed to meet the EPA standards of 1996 which means they are compatible with all vehicles..
- A thorough scan of all electronic systems in your vehicle.
- Gives car owners a sense of peace and assurance about their vehicle’s safety.
- An easily affordable method of problem identification in vehicles.
Now that we’ve understood a little bit about OBD2 scanners, it’s highly important to understand how to choose the right scanner for your vehicle. A good scanner would typically have most or all of the following features:
- Compatibility with all types of vehicles, even those manufactured pre-OBD2
- Easy to understand and use
- Capability to provide maximum and relevant data in the shortest time possible
- Can be upgraded
- Capacity to store data
- Usable on various platforms such as tablets, smartphones, and laptops
- Easy to handle and carry
- Equipped with an alternative source of power
- Comes with the necessary accessories like adapters and cables
- Has wireless capabilities
- Has the manufacturer’s warranty and gives you good value for money
- Allows car owners to fix their car themselves instead of spending huge amounts at the garage
Scanners can be a great addition to your car and there are many inexpensive options as well as high-end options. It’s often a good idea to check with your local mechanic or do-it-yourself mechanic stores for options. Thus, determine whether you want to invest in a high-end unit (that will obviously give you lesser problems and more features) or a basic unit that performs basic functions.
Additionally, consider if the scanner can be upgraded. This means that your old scanner can work on a new car model that you purchase. Each update will cost you, though, so ensure you know how much it may cost you. Lastly, check to see if the OBD2 scanner you are purchasing is compatible with your car’s computer. Not all scanners may be compatible with the pre-installed computer that your car has, despite what manufacturers claim.
You can also choose a scanner based on its type, such as:
- PC-based scanners that use your PC’s power to diagnose and troubleshoot issues with the vehicle.
- Bluetooth scanners that you can connect to your Bluetooth devices and that transforms your device into an advanced scanner for live feed and performance data.
- Handheld scanners (that are often used by professional mechanics) to diagnose any engine, brake, or transmission failures.
We completely get you if decision-making has never been your thing. But that’s why we’ve got you covered with our reviews of the top 5 OBD2 scanners in the market, based on their features, price and cutting-edge technology! So if you’re confused about buying an OBD2 scanner, rest assured; you’re in the right place and reading the right article!
The “Innova 3150 F” diagnostic code reader is the epitome of power. Not only is this scanner superior in its technology, it is also a product of one of the best “tech” brands out there, Innova Corporation. This scanner comes with the following features:
- Compatible with any foreign or domestic vehicle such as cars, trucks, SUVs and hybrids (1996 make or newer).
- Resets “Oil Light” on popular OBD2 vehicles.
- Resets battery maintenance light and initialization.
- The device’s “Fix Assist” feature provides help in troubleshooting.
- This product is supported by free services and technical support from the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence. Users get real-time technical support and online services.
- The tool has a bi-directional control system that lets the scan tool graphically present data as well as analyze and transmit on a live screen at all times.
- It is highly durable with great user warranty and the technical support provided.
- The code-reader can read various types of codes, whether generic or manufacturer-specific.
- The device can even be used with OBD1-compatible cars.
The “Autel AL519” enhanced scan tool performs all the functions of professional data reading tools without costing you even a fraction of that cost! Designed to perfectly and conveniently fit your hand, the product comes with many useful accessories like a handy case, a cable, a USB cord and a CD to download the required software. Compatible with different car models, the device also provides “Freeze Data” readings on all engine aspects and comes with a “Readiness” test feature that gives you the status of all the monitors in your car in one shot.
Some of the product’s features are:
- Patented one-click “Readiness” key that provides quick information about emission readiness checks and drive-cycle verification.
- Can retrieve generic, manufacturer-specific, pending codes as well as vehicle information.
- Turns of the “Malfunction Indicator Light” (MIL).
- Is portable and easy to carry.
- Includes accessories such as case, cables, user manual and CD.
- Reads, records and plays back live sensor data.
- Features of advanced scanners and functions of basic scanners combined
- Comes with multiple accessories
- Easy-to-use and carry
The “Actron CP9680 Autoscanner” is the perfect combination of durability and reliability. This device has the ability to update on the internet to include newer car versions in its functions and database, which means you can use the tool for longer. It is also highly reliable because of its presentation of live data, graphic representation and accurate data code-reading.
However, the device falls short on one count, and that is the limited access it provides to the “code connect” feature. The data is available only in English, which restricts other languages.
Some of the product’s features are:
- LCD color screen for easy reading
- Trilingual menu
- ABS and SRS Airbag coverage included for most car models from 1996-2013
- Compatible with all 1996 and newer cars (whether imported or domestic), as well as 1994 and 1995 OBD2-compliant vehicles
- Records, plays back and graphs live engine data
- Capable of printing data to PC
- This product is one of the scanners with good compatibility. It can scan several codes regardless of the car’s model, whether imports or domestic.
- It is extremely user-friendly and great for beginners and professionals alike.
- The device can be updated online.
- It makes use of “true link” technology which makes it universally functional by letting it connect to any OBD2-compliant vehicle.
- Live data reading and graphic presentation which lets users have access to data codes in real time and also lets them use graphical representation of the coded data to better analyze faults and rectify them.
- Ability to print from PC.
- Great technical support from the manufacturer.
- Uses varied power sources (external battery power).
The “Lemur BlueDriver” lets you check your car’s engine performance, turn off the check engine light, examine error codes, and even assess whether your car can pass a smog check. With deeper data access and better portability than most other scanners, this scanner comes with a small, monochrome LCD (instead of an integrated scan tool) and an OBD2 cord that connects to smartphones via Bluetooth.
Some of the product’s features are:
- Greatly trusted and endorsed by mechanics as it was developed by the Professional engineers in North America.
- Officially licensed and certified for Android and Apple devices.
- Free vehicle-specific repair reports drawn from over 6.6 million fixes that are verified by certified auto mechanics.
- The BlueDriver application and sensor work in tandem to ensure quality.
- Easy-to-use device.
- Is focused on automotive repair.
- Certified product that is well-trusted by professionals and amateurs alike.
- Can send data to your Android or Apple system.
- Read and clear trouble codes quickly.
A great scanning equipment, the “ScanTool 427201” is one of the newest players in the market. Designed for Android and Windows, this OBD-adapter and diagnostic scanner is highly innovative in its use of mobile phone technology to solve most problems. The product of an industry leader, it comes with the following features:
- Transforms your smart device into a professional automotive scan tool.
- Safe to leave plugged in.
- Hacker-proof wireless security.
- Free application for Android and Windows software.
- Works on all cars and trucks manufactured after 1996.
- Well-developed technology user interface, with great security and safety which makes it hard to hack into
- Easy to use (though not compatible with Apple systems)
- Higher compatibility
- Durability due to the lifetime update warranty from the manufacturer
Like we said, OBD2 scanners are highly beneficial and can save you quite a bit of your money by letting you diagnose and rectify your car or vehicle’s problem without expensive visits to the mechanic. Additionally, even if you do take your vehicle to the mechanic, figuring out the problem isn’t as easy as it used to be a few decades ago, given the advent of technology and its usage in cars. This makes self-diagnosing software a necessity onboard the vehicle.
As for our top product from the top 5, the winner of today’s list is the “Innova 3150 F” for its user-friendly nature, great compatibility and overall efficiency. The other products on our list follow closely behind, but the “Innova 3150 F” takes it a notch higher with its well-rounded functionality. However, one size doesn’t fit all. If you find the “3150 F” not to your liking, always look around, but ensure you keep in mind the previously-decided points to help you decide what to buy. Price, features, compatibility and need for the product are all factors that influence which scanner you buy. Also, decide if you want a scanner or a code-reader, as the latter is less expensive, while the former is relatively more expensive but has more features. Ensure you keep these points in mind and you’ll purchase the device that’s right for you!