An engine code reader is an OBD scan tool that can diagnose the engine system.
But, not all engine code readers are made equal. Some provide more diagnostic data than others. For example, you can get an engine diagnostic tool that pulls both generic and manufacturer-specific codes.
Such a tool would definitely give you more codes than one which can only display generic codes. Still along the same lines, some check engine light scanners are capable of displaying live data, freeze frame data, emission status and so much more.
Generally, the more the functions the better the engine scanner. And with that in mind let’s take a look at some of the best engine code readers on the market today.
Let’s check it out NOW!!
Table of Contents
- 1 Best Engine Code Reader Reviews
- 1.1 1ANCEL AD310 Universal OBD II Engine Code Reader
- 1.2 2Launch X431 Creader 3001 Check Engine Light Code Reader
- 1.3 3Autel AL519 OBD-ll Engine Diagnostic Tool with Mode 6
- 1.4 4Autel AutoLink AL319 OBD2 Automotive Engine Code Reader
- 1.5 5BAFX Products OBD2 Check Engine Light Reader (for iOS Devices)
- 1.6 6FOXWELL NT201 Auto OBD2 Check Engine Code Reader
- 1.7 7AstroAI OS320 OBD II Auto Check Engine Diagnostic Tool
- 1.8 8Autophix OM126 OBDII Check Engine Light Scanner
- 1.9 9TT Topdon AL200 Check Engine Code Reader
- 1.10 10TryAce SR950 Check Engine Light Code Reader with O2 Test
- 2 Engine Code Reader: Editor’s Top Picks Comparison Chart
- 3 Recommendation
- 4 FAQs
Best Engine Code Reader Reviews
1ANCEL AD310 Universal OBD II Engine Code Reader
The ANCEL AD310 engine scan tool is compatible with OBD2 vehicles. It covers all models made in the U.S. since 1996 and those made in Europe and Asia since 2000.
Once connected to a vehicle, the AD310 identifies the vehicle automatically. It retrieves vehicle information, including VIN, CIN and CVN. That’s important information when you’re buying a vehicle or trying to find replacement parts.
As far as engine diagnostics, this code reader reads and clears generic as well as manufacturer-specific engine codes. It follows that you can use it to reset the MIL. If you are absolutely new in the diagnostics field you will love to know that each code comes with a brief description.
Additionally, the scanner supports live data stream from sensors. You can also view freeze frame data. Both types of data help when you need to pinpoint faulty sensors, monitors or modules.
Alongside codes and data, the ANCEL AD310 displays I/M readiness status. You can use to determine whether your car will pass a smog test. Plus it supports diagnosis of emission systems, including O2 sensors.
In sum, this check engine light reader is a good buy for any car owner. It provides all the essential functions that you may need to diagnose the engine and emissions system. Plus it may help you reset the Check Engine Light.
- For every code the scanner gives a detailed description
- Intuitive interface makes it easy to use
- Wide vehicle coverage
- Very affordable
- Very quick and pulling and clearing codes
- Comes with 3-year warranty
- Compatibility issues with some EU and Asian made cars like 2004 BMW 325ci and 2005 Toyota Prius
- Construction feels cheap, mostly due to the largely plastic body
2Launch X431 Creader 3001 Check Engine Light Code Reader
Coming in at seventh is the Launch Creader 3001 engine fault code reader. Like all the scanners before it (in this review), the Creader 3001 is an entry-level device with a low price tag that matches its basic functionality.
It is designed to work on all mainstream OBD2-compliant vehicles sold in the U.S. since 1996. More specifically, the scanner supports all 10 OBD2 protocols. So there’s every chance it will be compatible with any OBD2 vehicle.
Like the ANCEL AD310 above, this engine code reader automatically identifies vehicles using their VIN. You don’t have to search through its database or enter your car make and model manually.
More importantly, you can use it to read and erase engine DTCs. With a built-in lookup library, the Creader 3001 helps you understand each code better. And you can use it to reset the CEL.
Featuring a color screen, this engine scanner is capable of displaying freeze frame data and live PCM data. We’ve already seen the benefits of those two types of data so there won’t be any need to go into details.
As is routine with most engine scanners, the Creader 3001 checks I/M readiness status. It can test O2 sensors, perform on-board monitoring tests and do EVAP system tests.
To put it simply, the scanner has everything you might need to check the engine, diagnose the emissions system and reset the MIL. It is designed for car owners.
- Simple to use. Has 4 buttons only and color screen makes navigation easy
- Covers all mainstream OBD2-compliant vehicles, domestic and foreign
- Doesn’t require batteries, draws power from car battery
- Small and compact handheld device
- Good value for the money
- Compatibility issues, especially with Asian cars like 2002 Mazda B2300 and 2003 Honda Element
- Unreliable support for US-based customers
3Autel AL519 OBD-ll Engine Diagnostic Tool with Mode 6
The Autel AL519 can pass as an engine code reader for DIYers and enthusiasts. That boils down to its impressive range of features.
First off, the scanner does what most of the other engine code readers do. I.e. it can read and clear engine codes, provide code definitions, display live PCM & O2 sensor data, retrieve freeze frame data, show I/M readiness status and retrieve vehicle information.
So what sets it apart from the rest? Well, for one you can configure it to test particular monitors in the ECU. Secondly, it offers various types of feedback for emission checks. There are color coded LEDs for visual feedback, a built-in speaker for those who want audio notifications and of course the screen for reading data.
Similarly, you can choose to view live data either as text or graphs. On top of that, the scanner reads all types of engine codes, namely generic, manufacturer-specific and pending DTCs.
It is that versatility that makes the Autel AL519 one of the best engine code readers on the market. Not to mention that it works on most OBD2-compliant vehicles. In summary, this scanner is just as good for enthusiasts and DIYers as it is for car owners.
- Provides diagnostic feedback in many different formats
- Supports storing and saving of diagnostic data
- Compatible with most foreign and domestic OBD2-compliant vehicles
- Retrieves diagnostic data fast and doesn’t lag while at it
- Easy to use. Has simple-to-follow menus
- Refresh rate is too fast in some cases. You can miss important data
- Autel discontinued updates for this product
4Autel AutoLink AL319 OBD2 Automotive Engine Code Reader
Autel’s AutoLink AL319 is an entry-level engine code reader designed for OBD2 vehicles. It’s compatible with domestic and foreign vehicles sold in the U.S. since 1996. Plus it is built with Auto-VIN technology and can automatically display a car’s VIN, CIN and CVN.
Functionally, this budget-friendly check engine light scanner is surprisingly oomph-y. For starters it can read and erase engine trouble codes. That goes for generic, manufacturer-specific and pending codes.
Note that clearing engine codes will reset the MIL. To make your work easier, the AutoLink AL319 provides code definitions to help you understand the problem more.
In addition to trouble codes, this Autel engine scanner displays live PCM data, freeze frame data and I/M readiness status. Live engine data is always essential when you need to identify a faulty sensor.
Freeze frame data, on the other hand, tells you exactly when a code was recorded. It’s basically historical data that can help you figure out what triggered the problem that is associated with a particular code.
Finally, I/M readiness status informs you whether the car is ready for emission tests. You need that info to know whether the car may pass state and federal smog tests.
Overall, the Autel AutoLink AL319 makes a great buy, especially for ordinary car owners. It’s affordable yet packs most the features you need to diagnose the engine system successfully.
- Very affordable
- Has LED lights to warn you about the severity of a problem
- Covers all OBD2-compliant vehicles
- Provides code definitions to help users who are new to OBD
- Has a one-click readiness key for checking I/M readiness instantly
- Complicated process when updating software
- Compatibility issues with newer versions of Windows OS (from Windows 8)
5BAFX Products OBD2 Check Engine Light Reader (for iOS Devices)
If you prefer using an adapter over a stand-alone engine fault code reader then the BAFX Products Check Engine Light Reader might just be what you need. Contrary to a stand-alone scanner, an OBD2 adapter pairs with your phone and allows you to run OBD straight from the phone.
This version of the BAFX Products scanner works with iOS-based devices (iPhone, iPod & iPad). Your task is to install a third party OBD2 app on your iOS device. Once that’s done connect the adapter and your device via Wi-Fi and you will be good to go.
As you may have already guessed, the functionality of this check engine code reader depends on the OBD2 app you use. That said, it generally supports reading and clearing of engine codes, pulling of sensor data, reading live data, data logging and checking emission readiness status.
Of course when you clear engine codes the MIL will reset. Also noteworthy is that the BAFX Products scanner not only shows sensor data in text but it can graph them as well. Make sure you use the best OBD2 software for iOS in order to take maximum advantage of the adapter’s capabilities.
In terms of vehicle compatibility, this adapter works on all OBD2-compliant vehicles. That makes it perfect for ordinary car owners who own OBD2 vehicles and use iOS devices. Note that BAFX Products have a different version for Android and Windows users.
- Very affordable engine code reader
- Quick at refreshing sensor data
- Compact and lightweight. You can leave it plugged in and it will transmit diagnostic data in real-time to your iOS device
- Works on all OBD2-compliant vehicles
- BAFX Products offer excellent customer service for this device
- Strictly an iOS compatible scanner. Android and Windows users can’t use this version
- Depends on third party diagnostic apps
6FOXWELL NT201 Auto OBD2 Check Engine Code Reader
Third on our engine code reader review is the FOXWELL NT201. An OBD2 scanner, this device is compatible with 1996 and newer vehicles made in the US, 2000 and newer vehicles made in Europe and 2008 and newer vehicles made in Asia.
Built with a 2.4-inch TFT screen, the NT201 reads and clears engine codes. As such, you can use it to reset the CEL. Each code comes with a brief description to help the user understand the issue better.
It’s also capable of live data and freeze frame data. As far as live data, you can choose to view it either as texts or graphs. While some users prefer text data, others find it easier to interpret graphs. It doesn’t matter where your interest lies, you can get both with the FOXWELL NT201.
Besides, the engine scan tool also supports viewing of I/M readiness status. It has a dedicated I/M readiness hotkey for easy access to this function. Additionally, there are 3 LEDs that provide a visual feedback.
If your car has a serious emissions-related problem the red LED will come on. If it has a problem that’s not extremely serious but worth investigating further then the yellow LED will come on. When you get a red LED it means that the vehicle’s emission system has a serious problem.
All the above are functions that any car owner needs on a regular basis. It should come as no surprise that the scanner is designed for ordinary car owners. In fact it comes with a low price tag for its target users.
- Provides fairly detailed code definitions
- Color display makes navigation rather fun
- Very affordable
- Covers most OBD2-compliant vehicles
- Effective at pulling engine codes and resetting MIL
- Could use a better user manual
- Process of updating software is a bit tedious
7AstroAI OS320 OBD II Auto Check Engine Diagnostic Tool
Like most other entry-level engine scan tools, the AstroAI OS320 is designed for OBD2-compliant vehicles. It covers most domestic and foreign car brands. As a matter of fact, this scanner supports all OBD2 protocols, including the most popular ones like CAN, ISO9141, J1850 PWM and KWP 2000.
In terms of functionality, this check engine light scanner is capable of reading and erasing engine DTCs. That’s what gives it the ability to reset the MIL. If you are new to OBD codes you will be glad to know that it does provide code definitions.
Additionally, it displays live PCM data as well as freeze frame data. As already mentioned, live PCM data is helpful when you need to pinpoint faulty sensors and monitors. On the other hand, freeze frame data helps you know when a particular engine code was recorded.
To top the above off, the OS320 checks the I/M readiness status of your vehicle. With it you can know whether your vehicle will pass state and federal emission checks.
Besides, the scanner monitors the emission system, including O2 sensors and the EVAP system. In case there’s a mechanical or electrical problem it will pinpoint it and report to you using a code.
All the aforementioned features make the AstroAI OS320 a handy tool for car owners. It’s affordable, compact and (most importantly) excellent for checking the engine and emissions systems.
- Reads generic, manufacturer-specific and pending engine codes
- Allows PC connectivity for updating software and printing diagnostic data
- Quick startup and delivers diagnostic data promptly
- Has 3 LEDs for reporting emission status
- Very affordable
- Instructions manual has very small font and may be hard to read
- Compatibility issues, especially with Asian-made vehicles
- Has a cheap feel (construction-wise)
8Autophix OM126 OBDII Check Engine Light Scanner
The Autophix OM126 is yet another engine code reader intended for ordinary car owners. Built with a color 2.4-inch TFT screen, the scanner displays generic engine codes and their definitions. It’s also capable of clearing engine codes and therefore resetting the MIL.
Designed for OBD2-compliant vehicles, the scanner is compatible with MOST cars sold in the U.S. since 1996.It supports all 10OBD2 protocols, including CAN, ISO9141, J1850 PWM and KWP 2000.
The Autophix OM126 features a dedicated I/M readiness hotkey for checking emissions and the emission system. Besides informing you whether your car will pass a smog test, this function also checks the whole emission system for faults.
You can check for leaks in the EVAP, diagnose faulty O2 sensors, monitor the integrity of the fuel tank and so much more. To put it simply, the scanner can be a lifesaver for any car owner.
- Comes with free software updates
- Multilingual menu that features English, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Dutch, Finish and Russian
- Solid construction with a rubber sleeve all round to absorb impacts
- Works on most mainstream vehicle brands
- Doesn’t read or erase manufacturer-specific codes
- Compatibility issues with Windows 10 makes it hard to update scanner using that version of Windows
9TT Topdon AL200 Check Engine Code Reader
You’ve probably noticed that the products in this best engine code reader review are entry-level devices designed for car owners. The TT Topdon AL200 is no different. It costs under $30, yet offers everything that a good engine code reader should.
For starters it can read and clear engine DTCs. Consequently, you can use the scanner to reset the MIL. It has a DTC lookup library in case you need more info about a code that has popped up.
Alongside engine codes, the AL200 checks vehicles for I/M readiness. With it you can know whether your car will pass state or federal smog tests. Besides, the scanner allows you to view the status of available emissions-related monitors.
Finally, this check engine light reader is a handy piece for viewing data. Top on the list are live data and freeze frame data. In addition to those two, you can also pull a vehicle’s VIN, CIN and CVN.
In terms of vehicle coverage, the TT Topdon AL200 works on 1996 and newer cars made in the US as well as 2000 and newer cars made in Europe. It also supports all the popular Asian brands that are OBD2-compliant.
- Has multilingual menu with English, French, Spanish, German and Dutch
- Comes with a 12-month warranty
- Retrieves generic, manufacturer-specific and pending codes
- Built-in DTC lookup makes it easy to understand the problem
- Connects to a car’s ECU quickly. Displays progress bar during connection
- Doesn’t have the most exciting user interface
- Doesn’t have rubber sleeve to protect the plastic body
10TryAce SR950 Check Engine Light Code Reader with O2 Test
TryAce is not exactly a household name. Regardless, the TryAce SR950 is undoubtedly one of the most bought engine code readers. Featuring 7 apps on the main menu, this device is simple and straightforward to use. It should come as no surprise that its marketed as a consumer product meant for ordinary car owners.
Of its 7 apps, the two most important are arguably “Diagnostic” and “DTC Lookup”. The former allows you to run engine OBD. You can read and erase engine DTCs, view live data, freeze frame data, vehicle information and I/M readiness status.
In addition to the above, the TryAce SR950 supports EVAP system tests, O2 sensor tests and on-board monitoring tests. To put it simply, the scanner not only pulls emissions-related codes but also checks the emission system for faults.
Cycling back to codes, the TryAce SR950 displays generic, manufacturer-specific and pending codes. When you select the “DTC Lookup” you will get code definitions. You can print your diagnostic data by connecting the scanner to a PC.
With regards to vehicle coverage, the SR950 is compatible with all OBD2-compliant vehicles. It supports all OBD2 modes.
- Comes with free software updates for the lifetime of the scanner
- Works on domestic and foreign OBD2 vehicles
- Package contains everything you need, including storage case
- Simple to use. Apps are easily accessible from main menu
- Features dedicated I/M readiness key for emission tests
- Doesn’t work on diesel vehicles
- Could use clearer instructions
Engine Code Reader: Editor’s Top Picks Comparison Chart
Launch X431 Creader 3001
4.5 / 5
4.4 / 5
4.5 / 5
|Weight||12.3 ounces||7 ounces||2.05 pounds|
|O2 sensor test||✔||✔||✔|
|DTC Look Up||✔||✔||✔|
Each of the 10 engine code readers above is good at diagnosing the engine and emissions systems. Even so, they don’t all offer the same features and functions. Some are arguably better than others. With that in mind, here are three of the best that you may want to put on top of your shopping list:
Autel AutoLink AL319 OBD2 Automotive Engine Code Reader
The AutoLink AL319 works on virtually every OBD2-complaint vehicle. And it has every function that you may need in an engine code reader, ranging from MIL reset to live engine data and even freeze frame data. It has a lookup library to help those who are new to OBD.
FOXWELL NT201 Auto OBD2 Check Engine Code Reader
The FOXWELL NT201 doesn’t boast the same compatibility capabilities of the Autel AutoLink AL319. Nonetheless, it offers the functions that any ordinary car owner might need.
You can scan the engine, check emissions, view I/M readiness status, freeze frame data and live data. With regards to the latter, the NT201 supports graphical and textual data display.
Autel AL519 OBD-ll Engine Diagnostic Tool with Mode 6
The Autel AL519 is perhaps more superior than the other two. The reason behind that is that it offers everything that they offer (combined) and more. With it you can set the monitors that you want tested.
Plus it gives emissions data in four different ways. The first is text display, the second is graphical display, the third is visual LEDs and the final method is audio notifications.
Why Is My Check Engine Light On?
Because it means two things. First, the light is on because there’s a problem somewhere in the engine and/or emission system. Secondly, the problem could be anything; ranging from a simple and costless issue like a loose gas cap to a more complicated and costly thing like a damaged camshaft.
In case of the latter, you might spend as much as $3,000 to fix the issue. Other problems like blown cylinders cost even more to fix. That’s why the CEL (also known as Malfunction Indicator Lamp or MIL for short) can be a distressing sign.
The good news is that you can identify the exact problem using an engine code reader. With one of those you won’t have to go to a service shop to get the car diagnosed. In fact, you may end up finding that the problem is a minor issue; something you can fix yourself.
What Is An Engine Code Reader?
To put it simply, an engine code reader is an OBD tool that can diagnose the engine system. A vehicle’s engine is managed by the Engine Control Module (ECM).
Also known as the Powertrain Control Module (PCM) or Engine Control Unit (ECU), the ECM essentially gathers information from sensors and runs actuators. When there’s a problem in the engine the sensors will pick it up and report it to the ECM.
In turn, the ECM will record the problem in form of a diagnostic trouble code (DTC). It will then illuminate the CEL to warn or notify you about that issue. As stated already, it could be something as small as a loose gas cap or a much bigger issue like a damaged camshaft.
Either way, you will know about it when you pull the code from the ECM. You can do that using an engine code reader.