Maintaining your car to ensure your investment lasts for years doesn’t always come cheap. For most car owners, a trip to the dealership or local mechanic is at the top of the list when the dreaded check engine light illuminates. But sometimes you might be able to fix the issue yourself—the hard part is determining exactly what’s wrong.
That’s where OBD2 scanners come in handy. These devices plug into your OBD2 port and will let you know the error code, so you can troubleshoot the issue yourself. Before you purchase an OBD2 scanner, you’ll have to make sure your vehicle is OBD2 compliant. In Canada, all vehicles model year 1998 and on were required to be equipped with OBD2, but if you’re unsure, check your vehicle’s manual to confirm.
Using an OBD2 scanner is fairly straightforward. You simply plug it into your vehicle’s OBD2 port to diagnose what the issues are. Some scanners will also let you access driving data and stats, allowing you to actually fine tune and control certain settings for your vehicle.
Below, you’ll find our top picks for the best OBD2 scanners along with information on how to choose the one best for you and your vehicle.
1. Editor's Pick: BlueDriver Bluetooth OBD2 Scan Tool
When it comes to OBD2 scanner, very few products are as straightforward as this recommendation from BlueDriver. No complicated screens and buttons to learn, this is our top pick if you’re simply wanting to know what’s going on with your car. With this option, you’ll have to pair it with a smartphone and use the BlueDriver App to get a complete vehicle repair solution. This device will match your vehicle’s make, model and error code to find a specific fix from a database of millions of repairs. That means not having to search the Internet for a fix; it’ll be provided to you and the recommended fixes have been verified by ASE Certified Technicians.
Along with reading and clearing codes, this scanner can run a smog check to see if your vehicle is ready for an emissions test. You’ll also be able to access vehicle information such as specifications, maintenance schedules, any recalls or service bulletins. Driving data can also be exported so you can review the information on a computer.
For certain vehicles, you’ll have access to enhanced diagnostics, which includes information on other systems of your vehicle such as the ABS, airbag, climate control and more.
2. Best Full Featured Scanner: Innova 3150 Pro OBD2 Scanner
If you want more detailed information of what’s going on with your vehicle, take a look at this OBD2 scanner from Innova. It’s packed with high-end features and the ability to get verified fixes through the RepairSolutions2 App. Along with reviewing check engine lights, this device can also diagnose ABS and SRS issues, check your battery and charging system, reset your oil maintenance light and run a smog check.
Live data can also be presented in real-time to assist you in diagnosing any issues you have with your vehicle. All of this information is presented to you on the device’s screen in an easy-to-read fashion. This OBD2 scanner is ideal for car owners who want to get as much data as possible and are comfortable with working on their car.
3. Best on a Budget: Autel Autolink AL619 Scan Tool
Not everyone wants to spend an exorbitant amount on an OBD2 scanner, especially if it ends up costing more to purchase a scanner than it does to fix the issue with your car. For that, we recommend Autel’s Autolink scan tool, which is packed with all the features you need to start troubleshooting your problems. This option will read and clear all OBD2 codes, ABS codes and SRS codes, along with giving you access to turn off the malfunction indicator light. In addition, you can also run a check to see if your car is ready for an emissions test.
Equipped with a TFT color screen, this scanner has a DTC (diagnostic trouble code) Lookup function so you can get a better explanation on the diagnosis. It also supports TF memory cards so you can backup any data or update the software of the scanner. Connect it to a PC or laptop and print reports that you can hand to your mechanic if you aren’t able to fix the issue yourself.
If you’re really on a budget, Autel also offers the much more affordable AL301 that you can use to troubleshoot the basics.
4. Best for Multi-Language Support: Actron CP9690 Trilingual Autoscanner Pro Kit
Featuring an easy-to-read color LCD screen, this OBD2 scanner is capable of displaying its menu options in English, Spanish and French. It’ll read, display and erase generic and enhanced DTCs with on-screen code definitions, along with access to Code Connect, which has over 26-million experience-based fixes. Use this OBD2 scanner to reset your check engine light, oil light and battery warning.
When you first plug this scanner into your vehicle’s OBD2 port, it’ll automatically identify your vehicle. For those who love data, the scanner can present information on a colorful graph that can further assist with diagnosis. You can also connect the device to a PC so you can print out any information you need. This scanner also retains the five most recently scanned vehicles’ data and configuration, ideal if you plan on using it on more than one car. For convenience, built-in battery power allows you to review data away from your vehicle.
5. Best All-Around Scanner: Foxwell NT301 OBD2 Scanner
Want to balance price with features? Consider Foxwell’s NT301 OBD2 scanner that presents all its information on a 2.8-inch wide TFT color screen. The company gives lifetime free software updates, so you know this investment will last even if you end up buying newer vehicles. Like all of our other recommendations, this scanner will let you know what’s causing your check engine light to turn on, and gives you the ability to erase the codes once the issues have been solved.
According to Foxwell, this device supports multiple code requests, including generic, manufacturer specific and pending codes. Once it figures out the error codes, DTC definition will automatically be displayed but it’ll be up to you to figure out a fix. Live sensor data can be displayed in both graph and text form so you can narrow down when symptoms are occuring. You’ll also be able to run a smog check to see whether your car is ready for an emissions test.
Even if after all that you’re not able to fix the issue yourself, hook this scanner up to a computer so you can print the diagnostic data and send it off to a mechanic for assistance.
6. Most Basic: Panlong OBD2 Bluetooth Scanner
An extremely affordable option, Panlong’s OBD2 Bluetooth Scanner is as basic as it gets. Still, this device will allow you to monitor numerous specifications with your vehicle including its speed, RPM, fuel consumption, fuel pressure, coolant temperature, intake manifold pressure, intake air temperature, ignition timing advance, throttle position, oxygen sensor voltage, air flow rate and more. It will, of course, also monitor any faulty codes so you can diagnose any issues with your vehicle and clear the codes once you’ve resolved them.
The interesting part about this scanner is that you can use it with several different apps, including the recommended Torque Pro. Which you choose is up to you, so long as it’s compatible with the Panlong OBD2 scanner. Pair it to your phone via Bluetooth, download the compatible app of your choosing, and get the data you want to figure out what’s happening with your vehicle.
One thing to keep in mind, you may not find any compatible apps on iOS. It appears you’re stuck with Android for this device.
Tips on Buying OBD2 ScannersWhen it comes to diagnosing problems with your car, the OBD2 scanner is one of the best tools you can have for the job. That is, assuming, you know how to use it correctly. Below, you’ll find some tips, tricks and what to look out for when choosing the best OBD2 scanner.
Check Your Car’s CompatibilityNaturally, this is the most important factor to consider. After all, if the OBD2 scanner isn’t compatible with your car, it’s pointless. First, you’ll want to make sure your car is equipped with OBD2 and then make sure the scanner you are interested in is compatible with your specific vehicle. Most scanners will work for all OBD2 vehicles, but some may not function on hybrids or electric vehicles.
Do You Need Bluetooth?Some OBD2 scanners feature Bluetooth, which allows you to connect your smartphone and use a compatible app with the scanner. For some scanners, this is required in order to show you all the information. Keep that in mind when you’re shopping for OBD2 scanners and if you’re purchasing a Bluetooth one, that you have a compatible device to use with it.
Features To Look For?
The most basic OBD2 scanners will read and clear check engine lights, but more expensive ones offer advanced features such as data logging and monitoring other systems of your vehicle. Choose what’s best for your needs, based on the issues you’re experiencing with your vehicle.
Frequently Asked Questions about OBD2 ScannersOBD2 scanners are an invaluable tool if you’re planning to diagnose and troubleshoot issues with your vehicle. In the best-case scenario, you’ll save time and money, along with a trip to the mechanic being able to fix the issue yourself. In the worst-case scenario, you can know what’s wrong with your vehicle and make sure a mechanic isn’t trying to scam you. Check out some frequently asked questions about OBD2 scanners.
What are OBD2 scanners?OBD2 scanners are devices that allow you to get information from your car’s computer. This is particularly important if you’re experiencing issues with your vehicle or the check engine light is on.
What can an OBD2 scanner do?This largely depends on the actual OBD2 scanner. Some are more basic and will only read and clear check engine lights, while others will monitor other systems of your vehicle and even connect to a database to give you confirmed fixes for your issue.
Do all OBD2 scanners work on all cars?No, not every OBD2 scanner is compatible with every car. Even if you know your car is equipped with OBD2, you will want to ensure the specific scanner is compatible with your vehicle prior to purchasing.
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