When there’s a problem with your semi-truck, heavy-duty truck, or other large commercial equipment, you can’t expect your home diagnostic scanner to be able to diagnose it. Instead, you’ll need a truck code reader or heavy-duty scanner that supports these engines’ unique protocols.
Whether you’re an independent owner/operator or the manager of a commercial fleet, a truck code reader can be a considerable help identifying issues with your engine. It’s also a smart investment, saving you money at the mechanic.
How do you know which scan tool is right for you? We’ve picked out our top heavy-duty scan tools and reviewed them here. Whatever kind of truck you drive, one of the diagnostic tools below is sure to meet your needs (and budget).
Top Heavy-Duty Truck Scan Tools (Editor’s Picks)
|Editor's Picks||Products||Our Rating|
|Best Overall||Nexas NL102 Plus||9.5/10|
|Runner Up||Launch CReader HD Plus||9.5/10|
|Best Budget Buy||KZYEE KC601||8.5/10|
|Best Value||FCAR F506||8.5/10|
|Also Great||Bosch HDS 250||7.5/10|
Buying Guide: How to Choose a Suitable Truck Scanner
Benefits of Truck Scanners
Scanners Save you Money
A trip to the mechanic is going to cost you—there’s no getting around it. If you don’t own a scan tool, you have no choice but to turn to a professional when there’s a problem. With a scan tool, you can figure out what’s going on from your home garage and sometimes even fix it yourself.
You Can Find and Fix Engine Issues
Drivability issues like sluggish acceleration or reduced gas mileage can be symptoms of a host of engine problems. A scan tool lets you identify the source, so you know if it’s something you need to repair right away.
Module Data Helps you Optimize Your Engine
When you drive a heavy truck, small changes to your gas mileage can have a significant impact on your pocketbook. With a scan tool, you can read module data and identify places the system could be more efficient. Even devices that don’t have ECU programming can help you stay on top of routine maintenance and keep your engine running smoother, longer.
They’re Easy to Use
Hand-held scan tools use a simple interface that you don’t need to be an expert mechanic to navigate.
Sound like something you need in your garage? Let’s take a quick look at the best massive truck scan tool brands and the different scanners they sell.
The main focus of Nexas is on the end-user. Their scan tools are easy to use and affordable, so it’s no surprise their diagnostic equipment is famous worldwide. A robust quality assurance department means you can count on their scan tools to work reliably for years, making Nexas diagnostic tools an excellent long-term value.Check Price at Amazon
Launch scan tools put diagnostic power in the hands of everyday drivers. They manufacture both professional scan tools and more straightforward code readers. At all levels, Launch scan tools offer buyers an incredible value and broad vehicle compatibility.Check Price at Amazon
FCAR Tech is one of the world’s leading suppliers of aftermarket professional diagnostic equipment. Based in the US, their focus on innovation means you can count on their scan tools to use the latest technology.Check Price at Amazon
Bosch makes a range of diagnostic equipment, from primary OBD2 code readers to professional bulky truck scanners. Efficiency is their primary focus, and they strike an excellent balance between value and performance. The streamlined interface on their scan tools is easy to navigate, too, making them a perfect on-the-road choice for professional drivers.
Recommended products – Bosch HDS 250
Based in China, KZYEE has been making diagnostic testing software since 2006. Like FCAR, their focus is on innovation. In KZYEE’s case, it’s on the software side of the equation. Their development department has experienced repair professionals who know what drivers need in a diagnostic scan tool.Check Price at Amazon
Autel is best known as a manufacturer of professional scan tools. Their products are well-built with a reputation for accuracy and quality. While their scan tools are typically more expensive than those from other brands, Autel scanners are worth the investment if you need the best performance.Check Price at Amazon
Types of Truck Scanners
Truck Scan Tools
You can tell what code readers do from the name. This type of scanning tool is primarily focused on reading and clearing trouble codes generated by the engine. While some will also include functions like live sensor data or freeze frame data, they rarely include repair, calibration, or reset functions.
In terms of compatibility, you’ll want to check the supported classes carefully on truck code readers. Some will work with any non-commercial truck, including large class-5 trucks like Ford F-550s or Ram 5500s. Others will only work on light or medium trucks or may have full compatibility for all truck classes.
All heavy-duty Truck Scan Tools are designed for use with trucks in classes 4-8. They’ll often include adapters for non-OBD2 diagnostic ports and compatibility with the protocols used in commercial vehicles.
Function-wise, heavy-duty truck scan tools are usually more comprehensive than truck code readers. They’re still primarily aimed at diagnostics but will diagnose more systems and read more modules.
Recommended product – NEXAS NL102 Plus
Professional Heavy Truck Scanners
The most advanced heavy truck scan tools, these models include advanced features that allow you to repair and replace components, or even rewrite the ECU. Scan tools at this level also usually offer broad compatibility since they’re designed for use by professional mechanics, who will need to service a wide variety of vehicles.
Recommended product – Autel MS908CV
The functions of a scan tool are the first thing you need to consider. Not everyone needs a professional-level scan tool. For most everyday drivers, the diagnostic features are more critical than service functions like ECU programming, which is more advanced than their repair skill set.
Here are the most common features you’re likely to see on a heavy-truck scan tool:
Reading and Clearing Codes
Even the most basic code reader will give you this function, which lets you read trouble codes activated by the engine, which are the source of maintenance warning lights illuminating your dash.
Module and Sensor Data
Most code readers will also allow you to view readings and data from the engine’s various sensors and modules. How many and which sensors you can read will vary from one scanner to another, with the more expensive, comprehensive scan tools reading all engine modules.
Tests often included in this function are oxygen sensor tests, EVAP system tests, and I/M readiness tests. Any scan tool that offers all ten modes of OBD2 will be able to conduct emissions tests.
Not all scan tools can read error codes from every system. More straightforward code readers tend to focus on the engine but don’t detect systems like the suspension or transmission. Scan tools with multi-system diagnosis or all-system diagnosis fill in these coverage gaps, giving you a complete picture of your engine’s health.
Recommended product – NEXAS NL102 Plus
Diesel particulate filters on diesel engines need to be cleaned and emptied periodically. Forced DPF regeneration lets you manually activate the regeneration process and reset the associated warning light.
Calibration and Adaptation
After you replace or repair engine systems, the associated sensor and module readings often need to be adjusted or reset to match. Failing to make these adjustments can trigger false alarms from diagnostic systems or even cause incorrect readings that change how the truck handles. Calibration and adaptation functions allow you to make these adjustments at home, rather than paying a professional to do it.
Also called bi-directional control, this allows you to test mechanical components in the engine on command. It helps identify failed valves and solenoids, sparing you the need to test them manually. You’ll typically only see this function on professional heavy-truck scanners.
A feature found only on the most advanced professional scan tools, ECU programming abilities, allows you to rewrite the engine’s computer, adjust parameters, or reset systems inaccessible to other scan tools. This operation helps you install aftermarket components or tune your engine, but is something only professional mechanics and advanced home mechanics will have the knowledge to use correctly.
Recommended product – LAUNCH X431 V+
You don’t have to spend a fortune for a code reader. That said, the adage holds: you get what you pay for. More expensive scanners offer more advanced functions, faster and more accurate diagnosis, and wider vehicle compatibility.
While there’s always some variation between brands and models, here’s the gist of what you should expect from truck scanners in different price ranges:
$150-$300: Heavy truck scanners priced in this range are ideal for drivers and beginning home mechanics. They’re usually very portable hand-held devices with user-friendly interfaces designed to be accessible to non-experts. Function-wise, they’ll primarily focus on diagnostics, with few (if any) more advanced functions.
Recommended product – Nexas NL102 Plus
$300-$1,000: Scanners in this mid-range price point are great for intermediate home mechanics or commercial fleet owners. They also make great travel or back-up scanners for professionals on the road. They’ll typically offer multi-system diagnostics as well as essential repair functions like DPF regeneration.
Recommended product – Bosch HDS 250Check Price at Amazon
$1,000+: At this price range, you’re looking at professional heavy-duty truck scanners. They’ll include advanced features like bi-directional testing and programming capabilities and full-system diagnosis and necessary repair and adaptation functions. While they’re worth the investment for professionals, they’re often more scan tools than everyday drivers need.
Recommended product – Launch X431 V+ for Heavy Truck
Compatibility and Coverage
Heavy trucks are divided into eight classes depending on their weight. Most trucks in classes 1-3 (14,000 pounds or less) use the same OBD2 diagnostic system as other road vehicles like cars and SUVs. To diagnose these vehicles, you’ll use a standard OBD2 scan tool.
Trucks that weigh more than 14,000 pounds are between class 4 and 8. Class 8 consists of any vehicle weighing more than 33,001 pounds, including semi-trucks and other commercial vehicles.
Heavy trucks use various diagnostic protocols and may even use a different pin format in the diagnostic port. Because of this, standard OBD2 code readers won’t work on these vehicles. Instead, you’ll need to get a scan tool designed for use with heavy trucks.
The other primary division in trucks is the type of fuel used by the engine. You’ll find both diesel and gasoline engines in everyday use. Some scan tools will work equally well with both, while others are designed more for use with one or the other.
If you’re concerned about a scan tool’s compatibility with your vehicle, the best option is often to reach out to them directly with your vehicle’s make, model, and year. They’ll be able to tell you exactly which functions are supported and if it’s a good match for your truck.
Best Truck Scan Tools Review
1. Nexas Heavy Duty Truck Scan Tool NL102 Plus
This heavy-duty diagnostic scanner works with all the standard protocols, including those for class 4-8 trucks. It can diagnose problems with all the major systems, from the engine and transmission to the instrument panel. This broad diagnostic capability is crucial for making significant repairs.
The repair features of the Nexas NL102 Plus are somewhat limited, though it covers the basics. Namely, you can reset the oil light or force the diesel particulate filter to regenerate. One thing to note is these features aren’t available for all compatible models, so you’ll want to verify it works for your truck before you get this tool.
From a design perspective, the lNexas NL102 Plus is compact and lightweight, perfect for quick diagnoses on the road. The 2.8″ color screen is clear and easy to read, while the intuitive controls are, on the whole, simple to learn.
The compact alNexas NL102 Plus is an excellent option for diagnosing problems with your truck when you’re on the road, with full-system diagnosis supported by most protocols and truck classes.Check Price at Amazon
2. Launch CReader HD Plus – Heavy Duty Truck OBD2 Diagnostic Reader
Versatility is the main strength of the Launch CReader Plus Heavy Duty diagnostic scanner. It not only diagnoses class 4 through class 8 heavy trucks, but you can also use it on any OBDII-compliant vehicle, including light pickups, SUVs, and cars from the US, Europe, or Asia. It consists of a 6-pin, 9-pin, and 16-pin connector on the hardware side, so there’s no need to purchase an extra adapter.
Along with broad compatibility, the Launch CReader HD Plus offers multi-system diagnosis. It can read and clear codes or read live data for eight systems, including the engine, transmission, instrument panel, and more. It’s also faster at conducting these diagnoses than most scan tools we’ve seen. In mere seconds, you can both identify the vehicle information and scan for any error codes.
The screen and design of the Launch CReader HD Plus are similar to the Nl102 above and equally intuitive to navigate. Both life and freeze frame data are easy to interpret on the crisp color screen. It’s also an easy unit to update, though you should be aware you’ll need a Windows device to do so since it’s not compatible with Apple or Android operating systems.
We recommend the Launch CReader HD Plus for independent truck drivers and owners because it’s easy to use and can also diagnose your vehicle’s issues.Check Price at Amazon
3. FCAR F506 Heavy Duty Truck Scanner
Those looking for a professional performance from a hand-held scanner will love the FCAR F506. It’s capable of reading and clearing trouble codes associated with all major systems. That includes things like the IMMO system and battery that get neglected by other scan tools.
You can also read more module data with the F506 than other tools. The ability to check parameters like the engine temperature and alternator voltage helps you identify potential problems before they become serious issues. You can better monitor your truck’s health and keep it running at its optimal level.
The FCAR F506 is compatible with most trucks that use J1708 or J1939 protocols and any vehicle that uses OBD2. For heavy trucks, this includes commercial vehicles from Mitsubishi, Isuzu, and Nissan, to name a few. We also appreciate its rugged construction and the ease of the one-click update feature.
The FCAR F506 is an excellent choice for professionals because of its durability and ability to diagnose all systems on your truck.Check Price at Amazon
4. Bosch HDS 250 Heavy-Duty Scan Tool Kit
The Bosch HDS 250 works excellently with trucks from class 4 to class 8 with diesel and gasoline engines. It’s also compatible with 12-volt and 24-volt systems, covering any medium and massive truck on the United States road. This complete kit includes both 9-pin and 16-pin cables, too, so you won’t need to buy an adapter.
The Quick Test feature might be our favorite thing about this scan tool. Start it, and you’ll see all the codes triggered on your truck. You can read systems and modules manually, as well, including the engine, anti-lock brakes, and transmission. When it’s time to update, you can do so easily right on the device.
Bosch HDS 250 is an excellent choice for professional mechanics who want to make quick diagnoses on the road. The convenient carrying case lets you keep all the cords with the device without a mess. It’s a potent tool, too, with a rubberized housing that’s both easy to grip and great for preventing damage from drops.
The Bosch HDS 250 is easy to use with most heavy trucks on the road. The multi-system diagnostics and Quick Test feature give it strong points for both versatility and convenience.Check Price at Amazon
5. KZYEE KC601 Heavy-Duty Scan Tool
KZYEE products come backed by world-class customer support, as well as lifetime free updates and a 2-year warranty, which gives buyers great peace of mind to know they’ll get a reliable scan tool that will continue working just as well a few years down the line.
The KZYEE KC601 is compatible with class-8 trucks that use a J1939 or J1587/J1708 protocol, including familiar brands like Kenworth, Freightliner, Peterbilt, and many others. While this is more limited compatibility than you’ll find with other brands, this tighter focus lets them give you more features for your money.
From a diagnostic standpoint, you can read more detailed information from your vehicle using the KZYEE KC601, which means that it lets you check out parameters like your fuel mileage and idling time other scanners aren’t designed to show. You’ll still get the same standard readings you’d expect from a scan tool, including trouble codes and live readings from on-board modules.
The KZYEE KC601 is our top recommendation for drivers of class-8 trucks. Its in-depth diagnostics and excellent customer support are both strong appeals of this device.Check Price at Amazon
6. Autel Maxisys MS908CV Heavy Duty Diagnostic Scan Tool
All of the tools above are great for diagnosing problems, but if you’re looking to make your repairs and modifications, you’ll need a professional tool like the Autel Maxisys MS908CV. It doesn’t just read and clear fault codes. It has a full complement of 23 adaptation functions and 25 services and reset operations and bi-directional control on components.
Most importantly, the Autel MS908CV supports ECU coding so you can remap or reprogram parameters, which is necessary when you want to optimize the engine or replace many components. The MS908CV can spare you the need to ever go to a repair garage in the right hands.
The large color touchscreen interface on the Maxisys MS908CV makes it easy to read and use. Since it is a professional tool, you’ll have a lot more options than with the smaller scanners above, and it might take you a little while to learn where to find the features you need. It’s also a lot more expensive than most hand-held scan tools i. Ultimately, though, it’s worth the investment of both time and money for its features.
For professional mechanics and fleet managers, the Autel Maxisys MS908CV supports functions like ECU programming and bi-directional control required for advanced repairs.Check Price at Amazon
7. Launch X431 V+ Heavy-Duty Diesel Truck Diagnostic Tool Kit
Another option for those who need professional diagnostic and repair power is the Launch X432 V+. This comprehensive kit includes an array of connection options as well as a tablet pre-loaded with diagnostic software. The large 10″ touchscreen gives you plenty of room to see graphical or text data, and it has a faster processor than most scan tools, giving you more comprehensive results faster.
The Launch X431 V+ is compatible with more vehicles than other scan tools, as well. It works with heavy trucks from 68 brands, more than 220 different models in total. Along with that, it has an equally comprehensive range of functions and features, including OE-level diagnostics and repair functions like DPF regeneration and idle adjustment. It even has a built-in 5-megapixel camera to document issues and identify problems in hard to see areas.
Durability is something else you’ll get from the Launch X431 V+. The housing resists both water and grease so that you can use it in your garage or on the road with no concerns. You can update it quickly, as well, with one year of free updates included with your purchase.
The Launch X431 V+ has the complete compatibility, features, and durability professional mechanics need and is a great value considering its performance.Check Price at Amazon
1. What is a light truck code reader vs. heavy truck scanner vs. diesel scan tool?
The most significant difference between these tools is their vehicle compatibility. Most light trucks use the OBD2 protocol and can be scanned and diagnosed with any OBD2 code reader.
Like semis, heavy trucks often use their unique diagnostic protocols that can’t be read by primary code readers and require a massive truck scanner to diagnose. Similarly, diesel scan tools have specialized functions that are only relevant to diesel engines.
Keep in mind there is also often a difference between a code reader and a scanner or scan tool. Many code readers are single-purpose tools, designed only to read and clear OBD2 error codes. Scan tools can diagnose more systems and often perform repair functions, as well.
2. Can a scanner for light trucks diagnose a heavy-duty truck?
That depends on the vehicle, but very often, the answer is no. If the heavy-duty truck has a 16-pin OBD2 port, you may use a light truck scanner to read necessary OBD2 information, like error codes and freeze frame data. Many heavy trucks use a 9-pin or 6-pin port, though, so you won’t even be able to plug a light truck scanner into it.
3. Can a heavy-duty scan tool diagnose a light truck or other types of trucks?
Some heavy-duty truck scan tools can also run OBD2 diagnostics on light trucks, SUVs, and cars. However, not all of them can, so if you need this capability, you should verify that the tool offers it before you buy it.
4. Do semi-trucks use OBD2?
Some semi-trucks do use OBD2, including some models from Volvo and Mack. For the most part, though, semi-trucks use a different diagnostic protocol. You can tell if this is the case by looking at the number of pins in the diagnostic port. Suppose it’s a trapezoidal port with 16 pins that use OBD2. If the OBD port is round, it uses a different diagnostic protocol.
5. Can a scanner work on both gas and diesel trucks?
Most of them can, at least for diagnostics. That said, scan tools designed for gasoline engines may not include features like DPF regeneration and other diagnostics specific to diesel engines.
Read more information about Best Professional Automotive Diagnostic Scanner HERE