OBD scanners can help you save money, but you must pick one carefully, this OBD scanner buying guide is designed to help you in this regard.
It will answer all your questions related to scanners while making it easy for you to pick the right scanner.
Some were extremely good, some were extremely bad. We made sure to only include the best OBD2 scanners after comparing them on features, prices and other such factors.
What Types of OBD Scanner Do I Need?
This largely depends on your vehicle and requirements. Ideally, you should go for OBD2 scanners since they are more powerful. However, OBD2 scanners do not support old cars (usually older than 1996 models), so that can be a problem. We are OBD scanner buying guide.
Pick a obd2 scanner that is compliant with your vehicle.
The next step is to consider different types. They are explained below with the help of comparison charts.
OBD1 Scanners vs OBD2 Scanner: A Comparison
Have a look at this table, this is OBD scanner buying guide you can pick the right scanner for your car:
Criteria OBD1 Scanners OBD2 Scanners
Vehicles Compatibility Cars manufactured before 1996. Some trucks may also be supported Cars manufactured in 1996 and beyond. Some scanners support selected big trucks and electric cars as well
Use of Use Easy to use but limited functionalities Easy to use with more functionalities
Diagnosis Semi-automatic Fully automatic
Main Functions Can check actuator and sensor for high resistance, shorts and opens. All values that are out of range are sent back to the ECM. Can do all that OBD1 scanners do with additional functions including smog tests, graphs, customization, record and playback data, etc.
Solution Give result after considering fuel and energy consumed by the vehicle while comparing it to the output Improved messaging formats and signaling protocols that take into account different factors and calculations
Reliability Low Very High
Interface Manufacturer (each scanner is specific to one manufacturer) Universal (one scanner supports multiple cars)
Messaging Example CEL (Check Engine Light) C2132 (alphabet followed by four digits)
Connection Typically connected to the console Most of them work remotely via Bluetooth or Wifi
Code Readers vs DIY Scanners vs Professional Diagnostic Tools Comparision Chart
Basic Code Readers DIY Scanners Professional Diagnostic Tools
Very affordable Affordable Expensive
Can read and clear DTC’s Meant for basic tasks but can perform some advanced functions as well Can perform both basic and advanced tasks
Give access to few PIDs and can also clear set engine light, but don’t offer troubleshooting, live data, graphs, and other such detailed features Do all that basic code readers do with access to all major PIDs. Plus, offer code definitions and information on basic troubleshooting. Can also handle bidirectional communication Do all that DIY scanners do with added features as some come with additional testing tools like multimeters and scopes. Plus, some may give access to additional PIDs.
Good for DIYers and people trying to know their cars better and solve small problems Perfect for car lovers who wish to upgrade their vehicles and saving trips to the mechanic Meant for professionals and mechanics. Not suitable for people with little knowledge about cars
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The right type of those troubleshooting scan tools depends on your needs. DIY scanners seem to be most popular since they offer a balance between basic and advanced tasks.
If you are a car enthusiast or DIYer then you should go for DIY scanners. They are easy to use and are also compact in size. Plus, they also often come with guides and tutorials.
However, if you are a professional or need very advanced features then opt for professional scanners. They are large in size but offer almost everything that a mechanic needs.
You should pick the scanner that supports your vehicle which depends on the year it was manufactured in. There are some 2in1 scanners as well that support both newer and older car models.
They can be a good option if you have two or more cars from different eras. Just make sure to pick a scanner that offers all the functionalities that you need.
What Vehicles Are They Compatible With?
Support most cars manufactured between 1991-1996. Plus, few newer and older models might also be supported You may, however, need to purchase cables separately.
Moreover, since they are not standardized, a scanner made for Ford will not work for Toyota. You will get different diagnostics even if both cars have similar issues.
Best OBD1 Scanners Comparison Chart
This is best OBD scanner buying guide.
They support almost all models released after 1996.
However, they might not work with hybrid and electric vehicles.
OBD2 Basic VS Advanced Functions
OBD2 scanners can perform a mix of basic and advanced functionalities. However, what they can do largely depends on the manufacturer and app they support.
Some basic functions that OBD2 scanners cover include:
CEL, RPM, Speed, Fuel, Pressure, Check Engine Light Reset,
Coolant Temp, Air Fuel Ratio, Live Map, Freeze Frame Data,
Live Readings, Oil Temp, Coolant Temp,
Fuel Pressure, DPF Temp, Smog Testing, O2 Sensors and Fuel Trim.
Other than this, most OBD2 scanners offer Graphs, Digital Display, Data Export, and Dashboard Customization as well. Plus, they can all suggest repairs but some may come with more reliable solutions than others.
Some advanced features that OBD2 scanners cover include:
ABS, Misfire Counts, Oil Change, SRS, Weather Check,
BMC Coding, Mileage, Battery Information and Initialization,
Video Overlay, Oil Reset, Supplemental restraint system,
Anti-brake lock system and Airbag Problems,
Key Coding, ECU coding, ECU programming, Online Programming, etc.
Do I Need an OBD2 Scanner with Advanced Functions?
Only you can answer this question. If you are not a tech geek or have no knowledge of codes and vehicle maintenance, then there is no point in going for a scanner with advanced features.
You will not be able to understand most of the codes and will anyway have to take your vehicle to a mechanic.
However, if you are a tech enthusiast or professional then you should go for advanced features.
A scanner with advanced features will help you understand your car better. Plus, the right OBD2 scanner can even allow you to customize your vehicle and get more out of it.
OBD2 Diagnostic Tool User Guide
Let’s get down to the basics, now you know how a normal automotive scan tool works, but now you need to know how to use it.
Heres a step by step explanation to turning on and using the scan tool:
How to use an OBD2 Scanner: A Step-by-Step Guide
1. OBD2 Set-Up for your Car Scanner
Turn the ignition of your vehicle OFF, this is very important before connecting any equipment.
Locate the 16-pin Data-Link Connector (DLC) port on your vehicle, normally tucked under and behind the steering wheel.
Plug in the OBD connector from your OBD2 scan tool into your vehicle’s port.
Turn the ignition ON, note that the engine does not have to be running.
Use the buttons on the OBD2 scan interface to scroll and select components from the Main Screen.
Press the ENTER/EXIT button to select options from the menu, wait for vehicle information to load.
View the summary of different systems from the Diagnostic Menu, such as MIL status, DTC counts, and Monitor status.
2. How to Read Codes:
Use the Scroll button to READ CODES from the Diagnostic Menu, these can be stored codes, pending codes or permanent codes.
You will be able to read the codes and their definition on the screen.
3. How to Erase Codes:
To ERASE CODES, use the scrolling feature and select ERASE codes, from there you will be prompted to confirm that you want to erase the code.
Select Yes or Confirm that you want to Erase the Code from the vehicle information system.
4. Retrieve Live Data:
To view Live Data, use the scroll feature and the enter/exit button to select the Live Data function.
Wait a moment while the OBD2 scan tool accesses the stream from your vehicle’s engine.
If you wish to view a complete data set, select Complete Data Set and press Enter.
5. Freeze Frame:
To view Freeze Frame Data, select it from the Diagnostic Menu.
Wait for the device to detect your vehicle information.
Use the scroll feature to read the messages from the Freeze Frame data of your vehicle.
If there is no freeze frame data, you should see a message appear that reads ¨no freeze frame data stored¨
6. I/M Readiness:
To retrieve the I/M Readiness of your vehicle, select I/M Readiness from the Diagnostic Menu.
If your device allows for viewing of two different cycles, you will have a choice between DTCs Cleared and This Drive Cycle.
The display screen will show a list of codes to monitor many variables such as Engine Misfire (MIS), Fuel System Monitor (FUEL), O2S (Oxygen System Monitor) and more for both spark ignition and compression ignition engines.
Press Enter/Exit to return to the Diagnostic Menu.
7. Get your Vehicle Information:
To retrieve Vehicle information, select vehicle info from the Display Menu.
An advisory message may appear to remind you to turn the engine OFF.
Wait a moment and then review vehicle information on the screen.
Here you will be able to read VIN number, ID number, Calibration Data and more.
8. Exit OBD2 Test:
To Exit an OBD2 Test, select the Previous Menu button and press the Enter/Exit button.
If a warning message appears, confirm that you want to Exit.
What to do when your OBD2 scanner does not work?
If you are having trouble using your obd2 scanner, I hope to help review some common troubleshooting problems and possible solutions.
The first and most common problem may be an Error when linking to your vehicle.
If the scan tool does not respond when you plug it into your vehicle, a communication error may have occurred.
In order to fix this problem, here are some steps you can take:
Double-check that the key in the ignition in your vehicle is turned to the ON position.
Look at the OBD2 connector of your scan tool and make sure it is firmly connected in your vehicles DLC port.
Verify that your vehicle is compatible with OBD2 technology.
Turn your vehicle off, wait up to 10 seconds then turn it on and try again.
Make sure the device you have purchased is not broken or tampered with.
Error during Scan Tool Operation: Obd2 scanner fails to work
Maybe your vehicle is connecting to your device, but you are experiencing an Error during Operation.
If this is your case, maybe your device is freezing or experiencing slow running and reading times.
To combat this problem, try these steps:
Reset your scan tool.
Turn off your ignition, wait for about ten seconds, and try again.
On the other hand, you may have a more serious problem if your Scan Tool Doesn’t Turn On.
In the event that this is happening, follow these steps:
Double-Check that the connector is secure in your vehicles DLC port.
Look inside the DLC port in your vehicle, there may be some pins that are not straight or are missing.
Check the vehicle battery and make sure it is charged with at least 8.0 volts.
Corded vs Bluetooth Vs WiFi OBD2 Scanner
Corded scanners make use of a wire to connect with the vehicle. Most come with a wire that’s supported but you may have to buy separately in some cases and connect it with the port.
This is the biggest drawback of corded scanners, yet many people still use them. Some also find them to be easier to use because there is no need to worry about Bluetooth or WiFi signals and devices being supported.
However, wireless scanners seem to be more popular. They both do the same job: provide you with diagnostics but using different technologies.
Bluetooth and WiFi scanners can connect with your Windows, Android or iOS device to transfer data. We prefer Bluetooth over WiFi since it consumes less power and is typically faster as well.
However, you will not face much difference in terms of speed since OBD2 scanners only transfer small data.
Apple’s MFi program prevents certain Bluetooth devices from working on iOS devices. This is why some Bluetooth scanners do not support iOS devices.
In addition to this, WiFi adapters can be a pain when connecting to the internet, especially when used with Android devices.
Since they do not serve as modems, you will have to disconnect the internet every time you have to search for a code. This can be avoided by using Bluetooth scanners.
All in all, we would say it is a personal preference. Some people like wires and some do not. Overall, the features provided by a scanner depend more on the brand and less on it being wireless.