OBD Scanners, either OBD1 or OBD2 Scan Tools, are devices used to diagnose your cars and tell you why the check engine light (CEL/MIL) is on. They also help turn off the CEL and perform complicated functions.
They’re designed to help save time and money and are used by not only professionals but car owners as well.
Keep on reading my complete Buying Guide for the Best OBD scanners. It will help you choose the best OBD scanner for your vehicles.
This Complete Buying Guide includes all you need to know before buying an OBD Scanners such as Types of OBD scanners, Best Brands of OBD Scanners, OBD Scanners for Vehicle Brands, etc.
You will also find at the end of the this guide the Best OBD2 Scanners Review of 2019.
Let’s start NOW!!
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is An OBD Scanner?
- 2 What are the Types of OBD2 Scanners? What can they do?
- 3 Should I take an OBD1 or OBD2 Scanner?
- 4 Infographic: How to choose the Best OBD2 Scanner?
- 5 Should I Take Corded Or Bluetooth OBD2 Scanner?
- 6 How about Bluetooth Adapters For iOS, Android, and Windows Devices?
- 7 Are There Any OBD2 Scan Tools For A Specific Car Make Or A Group Of Vehicles?
- 8 What Are The Best OBD2 Scanner Brands?
- 9 Which Protocol Is Supported By My Vehicle?
- 10 Other Things To Consider Before Buying An Obd2 Scanner
What Is An OBD Scanner?
An OBD scanner tells the car owner or the mechanic regarding the status of the car’s subsystems and if something is wrong with the car. This might include MIL (malfunction indicator light), trouble codes, and other malfunctions with the car.
There are built-in sensors in these scanners that help detect abnormalities in the car such as issues with transmission, engine oil, spark plugs, catalytic converter, airbags, SRS and so on.
Why Do I Need An OBD Scanner?
There are many perks of getting an OBD scanner for your car, such as:
DIY: OBD scanners are like your personal automatic diagnostic assistants. Once connected, they diagnose your car for problems and tell you where and what the problem is.
These mostly have dedicated apps and are run on smartphones thanks to Bluetooth connectivity. However, you may get some corded options, too.
This way, you get to learn more about your car and fix car issues yourself.
Save Money: An OBD scanner is very easy to use and with it, you can learn what is wrong with your car.
Even if you’re not a professional at using OBD scanners and have little information about how a car works, you can still benefit from it.
They display CEL lights along with a code. DIY and advanced scanners will provide an explanation along with the code as well to let you know the exact problem.
This way, you can rear codes, view basic PIDs yourself and save money.
What If I’m A Mechanic?
As mentioned earlier, OBD scanners are suitable for professionals as well. If you’re a mechanic then advanced OBD scanners are best for you. They help you diagnose complex car problems such as EPB, DPF, key programming etc.
They’ll help you save time and serve more clients.
What are the Types of OBD2 Scanners? What can they do?
It depends on your needs. Here’s a rundown of some scanners with basic, DIY and advanced features and what they do.
Basic Code Readers
Basic code readers are budget-friendly and they let you perform basic features such as reading and clearing CEL, performing smog test etc. There are some basic code readers that offer Bluetooth connectivity as well, so that’s a plus.
Basic Code readers offer Basic Functions such as:
- DTC: Shows generic or specific manufacturer codes. The issue in a vehicle is explained in this code.
- MIL: Shows code for the blinking dash light.
- Smog: Inspects car’s exhaust system.
- Freeze Frame: Stores data related to faults in the emission system.
Best Car Code Reader ANCEL AD410 Enhanced OBD II Vehicle Code Reader
Also GreatAutel AutoLink AL319 OBD2 Scanner
DIY scanners come somewhere between basic code readers and professional scanners. They offer basic features and a few advanced ones too such as check and clear ABS, SRS, oil service light reset, etc.
DIY Scanners offer many diagnostic functions:
- Speed: They are much faster than basic obd2 readers and offers Bluetooth connectivity as well.
- Fuel: DIY scanners let you perform fuel tests.
- Pressure: Some DIYers let you check the pressure levels in the engine.
- Graphs: These scanners offer a graphical presentation of data.
- Digital Display: Most of the DIY scanners show results on the digital display.
- Dashboard customization: Some DIY scanners let you customize the features on the scanner and put the most used features on the dashboard to save time.
- Data export: Some DIY scanners can be connected to a computer with a cable to export data while some allow to send it directly from WiFi.
- Advanced Features: Not all but some DIY scanners let you read and clear ABS (anti-lock braking system) and SRS (lets you know if the airbag system is working or not).
Best DIY ScannerBlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDII Scan Tool
This type of scanner will let you perform advanced functionalities such as EPB, DPF, TPMS, key programming, SAS etc. These can be a bit expensive but they are worth it if you want to check and solve complex problems yourself. In fact, many mechanics also use professional diagnostic tools.
Professional Diagnostic Tools support Advanced Functions like:
- EPB: Reads, clears and offers electronic park braking on flat roads.
- DPF: shows errors in the DPF system (removes soot from exhaust system).
- Oil Reset: Reminds you to change the oil when required.
- BMS: Shows all the information related to the battery management system.
- ABS: Reads and clears anti-lock braking system problems.
- Key Programming: Used for enhancing car security by serving as a code that starts the engine.
- TPMS: monitors air pressure in the tires.
- ECU Coding/Programming: Helps control engine and transmission by storing a ROM file in the engine’s management ECU.
Best Professional Diagnostic ToolAutel Maxisys Pro MS908P Automotive Diagnostic Scanner
Do I Really Need An OBD2 Scanner With Advanced Functions?
If you do not have an in-depth knowledge of how a car works and how to solve complex problems then an automotive diagnostic tool with advanced features isn’t necessary.
Most of the codes mentioned will be out of your grasp and eventually, you’ll need a mechanic’s help.
However, if you are professional or a mechanic, take one.
Should I take an OBD1 or OBD2 Scanner?
You usually have two options to pick from obd1 scanners and obd2 scanners.
- OBD1 scanners: are for older cars (1991-1995 models)
- OBD2 scanners: should be your first priority as they have better performance as they support modern cars, released in and after 1996.
Note: Choose the type of scanner that is compliant with your car.
There are many differences between an OBD1 and OBD2 scanner. Let’s learn about them through a comparison table:
|OBD2 Scanners||OBD1 Scanners|
FOXWELL NT301 Professional Enhanced OBDII Diagnostic Code Reader
INNOVA 3120 Diagnostic Scan Tool/Code Reader
|Diagnosis Type||Fully automatic||Semi automatic|
|Cars Supported||- All the cars that are manufactured in and beyond the year 1996|
- Some trucks and electric cars manufactured in and after 1996
|Cars manufactured before the year 1996 won’t support obd2 scanners but obd1 scanners. |
- Some new trucks are also obd1 supported.
|Features||- Clear and read error codes, perform smog tests, graphs, customization etc.|
- Advanced obd2 scanners can perform key programming, actuator tests, DPF, EPB, SRS, SAS, etc.
|- Check shorts in actuators and sensors.|
- Detect engine issues.
- Show trouble codes.
|Connectivity||Corded/Bluetooth/Smartphone operable||Only corded.|
|Standard||Federal Standard (Standardised to support modern cars)||- California Standard. |
- Works on outdated standards.
|Interface||Universal specific (a single scanner is compatible with many car brands)||Manufacturer specific (compatibility issues are at large).|
|OBD Advisor's Reviews||Best OBD2 Scanners Review||Best OBD1 Scanners Review|
Infographic: How to choose the Best OBD2 Scanner?
The INFOGRAPHIC below is a simple guide that tells you things to consider when picking an OBDII scanner.
Should I Take Corded Or Bluetooth OBD2 Scanner?
Corded scanners are fast and more reliable because they do not require any phone connectivity. In fact, they have their own interface which is quite easy to use.
Corded scanners are often disliked by users because the cord is frustrating and hard to handle. If you pick a corded one then go for an option that has a long cord so you can keep it in your lap.
On the other hand, Bluetooth scanners are much more convenient as they operate wirelessly, from a phone.
Make sure to pick a Bluetooth scanner that supports the platform (Android, Windows or iOS) that your phone uses.
It’s usually a personal decision. There isn’t much difference in price and performance.
Which Is Better?
It depends upon the scanner’s ability to remain connected for longer and doesn’t lose connection.
Moreover, you can also opt for a Bluetooth scanner that supports all the mobile platforms including Android, Windows, and iPhone.
Let’s have a look at the differences in detail through this chart.
|Bluetooth Scanners||Corded Scanners|
BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDII Scan Tool
Autel AL619 Corded OBD2 ABS SRS Scan Tools
|Mobility||Better mobility because you can control the scanner from the backseat of the car, from outside the car etc.||Limited mobility. Corded scanners offer mobility as much as the cord length.|
|Speed||Not be as fast as the corded scanners because they need to establish a Bluetooth connection first, which can be weaker and it might affect the speed.||Fast and reliable because they have their own interface and do not require any external connectivity.|
|Price Range||Most Bluetooth OBD2 Scanners are cheap (Under $100).||Available in a wide range of price depending on what features they are providing.|
|Apps||Require an app to work.||Do not require any external software or app to run.|
|OBD Advisor's Reviews||Best Bluetooth OBD2 Scanners Review||Best Corded Autel OBD2 Scanners Review|
How about Bluetooth Adapters For iOS, Android, and Windows Devices?
Each Bluetooth adapter is compatible with several OBD2 Apps while an app can work on more than one adapter. Therefore, it’s critical to choose the right app for your devices.
In the chart below are some of the best OBD2 Bluetooth adapters/scanners for iOS, Android and Windows:
|Bluetooth Scanners for Android||Bluetooth Scanners for Windows||Bluetooth Scanners for iOS|
BAFX Products Bluetooth Diagnostic OBDII Reader
OBDLink MX Bluetooth: Professional Grade OBD-II Automotive Scan Tool
BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDII Scan Tool
|Devices Supported||Android||Android and Windows||iOS and Android|
|Read and Clear CEL Codes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Are There Any OBD2 Scan Tools For A Specific Car Make Or A Group Of Vehicles?
Yes, there are. If you are frustrated with your current obd2 scanner failing to diagnose your car perfectly then it might have some manufacturer specific compatibility issues.
You will need to get an obd2 scanner made for a specific car. Do some research before picking one.
Here are some of the best BMW specific tools:
- FOXWELL NT510 BMW Scan Tool (Supports BMW models from 1987 to date): Battery registration, brake deactivation, EPB, oil reset, oil light information, ASR, SAS, and ABS.
- MAOZUA V7.7 Creator C310+ BMW Scan Tool (supports BMW series 1,3,5,6,7,8, X, Z and mini): Engine oil reset, read and clear CEL, graph display, clear adaptation, live stream data, ABS, SRS, etc.
These obd2 scanners match AUDI configuration perfectly:
- Xtool Vag401 (Supports Audi models from 1996 – 2016): Clean CEL codes, supports all OBD2 protocols, service oil reset, reset airbag codes, mileage reset, throttle adaptation.
- U281 OBD2 OBDII CAN Auto Scanner (Supports 1996 and later OBD2 compliant Audi European, Asian and US Models): Reads and clears DTCs, airbags, ABS, retrieves VIN and offers automatic transmission as well.
These OBD scanners will support most of the Ford models.
- Autophix 7710 OBD2 Automotive Diagnostic Scanner (Supports all FORD models from 1996 to 2017): ABS, SRS, TCM, PCM, EPB, TPMS, DPF, intake air throttle valve, transmission, CEL reset and oil change injector.
- INNOVA 3145 Ford Digital OBD1 Code Reader (Supports obd2 compatible FORD models before 1996)s: Transmission, CEL, code storage.
VW Scan Tools
These obd2 scanners are well known to support VW cars.
- Xtool VAG401 (Supports VW models from 1996 to 2016): Airbag reset, actuation tests, VIN, oil reset.
- AUTOPHIX V007 OBD2 Scan Tool for Volkswagen (supports all VW models that are obd2 compliant): TP position check, oil reset, brake pad reset, ABS, airbags, transmission.
These are some of the best Toyota scanners on the market.
- Autel Maxilink ML619 Auto Code Reader with special features: SRS, ABS. It is top-notch and time-saving.
- DIAGKING Toyota Techstream Diagnostic Cable Mini VCI J2534 OBD Scanner V2.0.4 for Toyota Lexus TIS Techstream (Updated Version): read and clear DTC engine codes, reset airbag.
One way of ensuring that the diagnosis of your GM vehicles is accurate and speedy is by using a dedicated scan tool.
GM is one of the leading brands of today. Here are some of the best obd2 scanners for this make.
- iCarsoft i900 (supports all obd2 compliant GM models): read and clear DTCs, show live data, full system diagnosis, PCM, freeze frame data.
- INNOVA 3123 GM OBD1 Code Reader (Supports all obd1 compliant GM models): ABC and ECM.
Here are some of the best truck and diesel heavy-duty scanners.
- LAUNCH CReader HD Plus Heavy Duty Truck Obd2 Diagnostic Reader (Supports many obd2 compliant trucks and diesel vehicles): I/M readiness, VIN, CIN, CVN, smog, CEL, reads and clears generic and manufacturer specific codes, DTC lookup, mode 6, battery status check.
- NEXAS NL102 Heavy Duty Truck Scan Tool: The hand-held reader can be used to Read /Clear codes/View live data in a text or graphics format for trucks. They provide two years warranty, so it is no risk to purchase it.
What Are The Best OBD2 Scanner Brands?
Below are the most popular OBD2 Scanner Brands and the Best OBD2 Scanners Reviews of each Brand available on OBD Advisor.
When it comes to diagnostic tools, Autel is a well-known name. It has released a vast range of obd2 scanners, professional scan tools like Maxidiag and many others.
Here are some of the Best Autel Scanners Reviews:
- Autel AutoLink AL319: A basic, corded obd2 scanner that offers basic features such as CEL, freeze frame, Live PCM, VIN, CIN, CVN, I/m readiness etc.
- Autel MaxiDiag MD808: It’s a professional obd2 scanner supporting all modern vehicles. Apart from offering all basic features, it supports many advanced features, too, such as oil reset, parking brakes, ECU brake light, BMS, SAS, DPF, EPB and reset the battery.
One of the biggest concerns faced by users when it comes to Bluetooth obd2 scanners is the mobile platform it will work on, Bluedriver takes care of that with its cross-compatible scanner.
It turns your smartphone into a scanner.
BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional: It offers many features such as CEL, RPM, fuel, pressure, graphs, dashboard customization, data exporting etc. It works on Bluetooth and supports both Android and iOS.
Another innovative and leading tech brand that deals in making some of the best obd2 scanners of all times.
Situated in Ontario, CA with more than 300 employees working day and night to fulfill the demands of the customers. Some of the best Launch Scan Tools are:
- Launch Creader 4001: This corded scanner can read and erase DTCs, show live data, freeze frame data and show MIL codes as well.
- Launch CRP129: Apart from offering basic features, it offers advanced ones too such as SRS, SAS, OIL reset, ABS and EPB.
They make some of the Best Innova Scanners for cars.
- Innova 3040E ABS Scan Tool: This OBD2 Scanner can scan and read “Check Engine” light warning and ABS light trouble codes. Furthermore, the 3040 E can erase these trouble codes. You can reset the Oil Service light of all OBD2 vehicles manufactured in 1996 and newer.
- Innova 3150f Bluetooth Check Engine Code Reader Scan: One of the best obd2 scanners for people who are looking to perform both basic and advanced features. It offers features such as airbag problems, ABS, SAS, oil reset, battery initialization, and many basic features, too.
FOXWELL OBD scanners offer quick solutions for car problems. Here are some of its best products:
- FOXWELL NT301: It lets you perform o2 sensor test, fuel pressure test, reset monitors, CEL etc.
- FOXWELL NT510 BMW Scan Tool: If you are looking for a more powerful Foxwell scanner then this one can let you perform oil reset, battery registration, brake deactivation, EPB, ASR, SAS, ABS, etc.
You’ll find many ANCEL OBD2 Scan Tools ranging from basic to advanced scanners that support most of the OBD2 compliant cars.
- ANCEL AD310: This particular obd2 scanner lets you perform many basic features such as CEL, MIL, freeze frame data, o2 sensor test, and smog test. It’s a corded device and supports all obd2 compatible vehicles.
- ANCEL AD410: This one too offers all basic functionalities but with a few advanced features such as leak test, monitor fuel tanks.
The JDIAG 101 has caught quite some attention recently.
- JDIAG 101: If you are looking for a good basic or DIYer obd2 scan tool then JDIAG 101 can be of great help. It offers many basic functionalities including I/M readiness, freeze frame, CEL, MIL, VIN, CIN, CVN, offers 7000 code definitions and lives data.
Topdon is a fairly new brand in the world of OBD scanners but it is giving a tough time to its rivals thanks to the superior quality we find in its products.
- Topdon TD300: A basic obd2 reader that lets you read and clear CEL, MIL, freeze frame data and retrieve VIN.
- Topdon OBD CAN Elite: Read and clear ABS/ SRS from 24 well-known car brands, free online updates for a year, supports many car protocols and offers almost all the basic functionalities.
VXDIAG has made quite a name for itself by manufacturing top quality products.
One of the best options of VXDIAG is VXDIAG VCX Nano JLR SDD Diagnostic Programming Tool. With this advanced tool, you can reprogram your car, diagnose trouble codes, perform active and utility tests, DPF, brake bleeding etc. Moreover, it also offers many basic features as well.
Veepeak is another OBD2 Brand that has excellent scan tools (Bluetooth and corded).
One of the best item made by Veepeak is Veepeak OBDCheck BLE OBD2 Bluetooth Scanner for iOS and Android. This scanner helps you understand why your check engine light is on or why other indicators are blinking. It also provides all kinds of useful information, such as live sensor readings and even whether your car will pass emissions.
To find out the suitable protocol for your vehicle, follow these steps:
- Look for the OBD port under the glove department, dashboard, below the steering column or a few feet away from the car’s centerline.
- The OBD port will be located in one of the above locations.
- Now, look at the DLC pinout, specifically at the inner teeth that are on the serial bus. Follow these steps to know the protocol supported by your vehicle:
- J1850 PWM: If the connector has pin 2 and pin 10, the protocol is J1850 PWM. The connector should also have metallic contacts inside pins 2, 4, 5, 10, and 16.
- J1850 VPW: Pin 2 is a must. The connector must have material contacts inside pins 2, 4, 5, and 16. However, pin 10 should not be there.
- ISO9141 and 14230 (KWP2000): PIN 7 is a must while pin 15 is optional. Metallic contacts inside the connector should consist of pins 4, 5, 7, 15, and 16.
- ISO 15765 (CAN): Pins 6 and 14 should be there, while the metallic contacts should have pins 4, 5, 6, 14 and 16.
Other Things To Consider Before Buying An Obd2 Scanner
It is important that you check a few more things mentioned below before buying an obd2 scanner. These include the price range, update policies of apps etc.
There are no rules about the price ranges of the scanners. But generally, code readers and DIY scanners are cheaper than professional automotive diagnostic tools.
If you are looking for a basic code reader then it might cost you between $10 to $100. As for DIY scanners, they are a bit more than basic code readers and can be bought between $50 to $250. Lastly, professional automotive diagnostic scanners are between $250 to $3000+.
It is essential to check the update policy of the scanner before buying it. Some might come with a 1-year warranty and some can offer more than that and cover free updates for 2-3 years.
Many obd2 scanners such as Autel AL319 offer free updates for a year. Other than that, OBDLink MX and LX come with lifetime free updates for software as well.
However, there are some scan tools that do not offer free updates and you must pay chargers which can be as high as $40.
Updates are necessary because they help you tackle new problems in your car.
Most of the obd2 scanners offer a maximum of 1 or 2 years of warranty. However, the best warranty deal is offered by OBDLINK MX and LX.
Both come with a 3-year warranty for manufacturing faults.
After Sale Service
It is important to buy a scan tool from a brand that values its customers. This can be determined by reading online reviews from the internet.
Autel is one of the best when it comes to customer care.
The type of tech support you’ll be needing involves quick solutions to problems. There should be a representative available online to help you walk through problems and to answer all the queries that you have.
Not many companies will refund money unless a defective product was sent. You can confirm about the refund policy directly from the brand by visiting their website and getting online support.
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