7 Best Heavy-duty Truck Diagnostic Tools 2023 [Review]

Are you looking to buy a scan tool for a 24V heavy-duty truck or a 12V gas/diesel truck?

Either you’re a diesel DIYer or professional, either you’re working on a diesel truck or heavy-duty equipment, I’ve got you covered.

Many people bought a truck scan tool and got disappointed because it didn’t support their vehicle or didn’t perform the functions as expected or described?

I’ve spent hundreds of hours doing research and testing 41 scan tools for (gas/diesel) heavy-duty trucks and equipment before writing this article (to make sure they work).

In this article, I’ll show you:

Note: If you’re looking for an OBD2 scanner for cars or light trucks, read this review instead.

I make sure that they 100% work on your truck.

Remember, don’t pay for what you don’t need. Don’t buy a $1,000 scan tool and then use half of what it can do. That’s a waste!!

Best Diagnostic Tools for Heavy-Duty Trucks/Equipment Comparison Chart

ModelRecommended forRatingAction
(Editor's Pick)
NexLink NL102P

NexLink NL102P
12V 24V
heavy duty trucks/
equipment
(DIYers only)
4.1/5Check Price

Read review
(Editor's Pick)
autel ms908cv

Autel MaxiSys CV
Heavy duty trucks/
equipment
(Professionals only)
4.5/5Check Price

Read review
(Editor's Pick)
nexlink nl102

NexLink NL102
12V cars/
light trucks or
24V heavy duty
trucks
(DIYers only)
4.4/5Check Price

Read review
(Editor's Pick)
fcar f507

FCAR F507
12V 24V
heavy duty trucks/
equipment
(DIYers only)
4.3/5Check Price

Read review

Keep reading, so you can take the right one for your needs and pocket.

Top 4 Diagnostic Tools for Heavy-Duty Trucks/Equipment

Not all scan tools can run diagnostics on semi-trucks and class 4 to class 8 heavy trucks (24V, diesel).

These include commercial vehicles such as delivery trucks, school buses, bucket trucks, garbage trucks, long heavy duty trucks, construction trucks, agriculture trucks, and any other heavy-duty vehicles or equipment!

#1. NexLink NL102

nexlink nl102p
  • Scanner type: Full-system scan tool
  • Fit for: HD truck owners
  • Vehicle type: Car/Light truck/Heavy-duty truck/equipment
  • Connection type: Corded
  • Work on: HD-OBD/OBD2 vehicles
  • Price range: Under $200

4.1

Read codes

4.2

Service functions

4.2

Vehicle coverage

4.5

Customer support

3.6

Buy this scan tool if you want to …

Gain insight before taking your car to the mechanic
Try and fix it yourself
Test used cars/light trucks of multiple brands before buying
Prepare for a smog check
Read trouble codes of all systems
Perform advanced service functions

DON’T buy it if you want to …

Perform bidirectional controls (active tests)

Pros

  • Wide range of vehicle coverage
  • Read codes from full systems
  • Forced DPF regeneration
  • Sturdy design
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • No update
  • Advanced functions are limited on some vehicles
  • Bad customer support
What can you do with Nexlink NL102P? Watch the review now!

NexLink NL102P is a quality Diagnostic Scanner that works well for both cars and trucks. It can read/ clear harmful codes, display live data in graphs, retrieve vehicle details, carry out EVAP tests, sensor tests, and others in cars.

It can quickly check engine, transmission, brake and identify fault codes. Also, It can provide 10 modes of OBD tests for a complete diagnosis and battery power checks of cars & light-duty vehicles.  It has unique functions, including oil light/ service reset, sensor reset, and DPF regeneration on heavy-duty trucks.

Notably, the NexLink NL102P is the only other scan tool that can run checks on pre-1996 vehicles with OBD1 protocols. 

The NexLink NL102P reads code easily but doesn’t clear them. Also, it doesn’t have a recall option for ancient codes, and it doesn’t support trucks not listed in the three major protocols.  Also, it doesn’t perform forced DPF regeneration. 

NexLink NL102P
NexLink NL102P
3.5
The NexLink NL102P does not only run basic OBD diagnostics, but also regenerates the DPF and resets the oil service light. It runs complete systems diagnostics on many 24V heavy-duty trucks and is a perfect option for any truck owner.

#2. NEXLINK NL102

nexas nl102
  • Scanner type: Full-system scan tool
  • Fit for: HD truck owners
  • Vehicle type: Car/Light truck/Heavy-duty truck/equipment
  • Connection type: Corded
  • Work on: HD-OBD/OBD2 vehicles
  • Price range: Under $200

4.4

Read codes

4.6

Customer support

3.9

Easy to use

4.5

Value for money

4.4

Buy this scan tool if you want to …

Gain insight before taking your car to the mechanic
Try and fix it yourself
Test used cars/light trucks of multiple brands before buying
Prepare for a smog check
Read trouble codes of all systems

DON’T buy it if you want to …

Read trouble codes of all systems
Perform advanced service functions

Pros

  • Battery voltage check
  • Support OBDII and HD-OBD vehicles
  • Read codes from full systems
  • Sturdy design
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • No new update
  • Bad customer support
Unbox NEXAS NL102 and explore its features.

The NEXAS NL102 heavy-duty diagnostic scanner comes with a clear 2.8-inch TFT color screen and has an interface that is easy to navigate.  It has a DPF/ sensor calibration/oil reset + vehicle engine inspection amongst others as features and can work smoothly with heavy-duty trucks that meet the expected specifications.

This scanner has troubleshooting tips that help mechanics, technicians, and car owners understand the problems and suggest solutions faster, saving money and time.

Other scanner features include reading and clearing of codes, DTC definition display, freezing of frame data, resetting monitors, etc.

For anyone looking for a scanner that is affordable, easy to operate, and can work on heavy-duty trucks, they should look at getting the NEXAS NL102 heavy-duty diagnostic scanner.

The NexLink NL102 sometimes reads codes without clearing them, especially for 2019 Pete 389 with an X15, 2015 Freightliner Cascadia DD15 DT12 automatic, and others. Also, the emission function of the scan tool tends to malfunction almost every time. 

NexLink NL102
NexLink NL102
4
The NexLink NL102 is an excellent OBD2, HDOBD and EOBD tool capable of running full system diagnostics. This device works on most 12V light trucks and 24V class-8 heavy trucks at an affordable price.

#3. FCAR 507

fcar f507
  • Scanner type: Full-system scan tool
  • Fit for: HD truck owners/HD truck mechanics
  • Vehicle type: Heavy-duty truck/equipment
  • Connection type: Corded
  • Work on: HD-OBD/OBD2 vehicles
  • Price range: Under $300

4.3

Read codes

4.6

Easy to use

3.8

Bi-directional control

4.4

Value for money

4.5

Buy this scan tool if you want to …

Try and fix it yourself
Read trouble codes of all systems
Perform advanced service functions
Perform bidirectional controls (active tests)

DON’T buy it if you want to …

Code a car’s ECU

Pros

  • Read codes from full systems
  • Perform 10 bi-directional tests
  • Special functions for ABS and transmission
  • Anti-glare screen
  • One-click screenshot

Cons

  • Difficult to use for beginners
  • Cheaply made cable

FCAR F507 is an exceptional scanner that provides unique diagnostics functions and serves as a full system truck scanner, OEM grade diagnostics, and code reader. This scanner has fantastic features that support class 8 trucks, automatic search, and routine operations like reading and eliminating error codes, reading the latest data, freeze frames, graphics, and others.

Also, the FCAR F507 has existing software, which makes it possible for it not to be updated before use. It is ideal for small garage owners, mechanics, and technicians who want to save money, time, and effort.

This scanner comes with improved and modernized configurations, which makes it a joy to behold for owners. The adorable 3.5 TFT color screen makes it easy to view displayed results. Also, the processor is super-fast and responds without lagging.  It is a must-have for everyone who wants to save time and enjoy a seamless scanning process.

The FCAR F507 is a high-end scan tool, but it is complicated and expensive to maintain and repair. It may be challenging to cope with for small business owners and professional busy auto mechanics who don’t have time.

FCAR F507
FCAR F507
4.6
The FCAR F507 does run typical HD-OBD and OBD2 functions and performs more resets than the others on selected truck brands. The device is a wonderful option for experienced heavy truck DIYers.

#4. ROMONDES RD801

romondes rd801
  • Scanner type: Full OBD2 scanner
  • Fit for: HD truck owners
  • Vehicle type: Car/Ligh truck/Heavy-duty truck/equipment
  • Connection type: Corded
  • Work on: HD-OBD/OBD2 vehicles
  • Price range: Under $200

4.2

Read codes

4.3

Advanced diagnostics

3.5

Easy to use

4.6

Value for money

4.4

Buy this scan tool if you want to …

Gain insight before taking your car to the mechanic
Try and fix it yourself
Test used cars/light trucks of multiple brands before buying
Prepare for a smog check
Read the Engine and Transmission codes

DON’T buy it if you want to …

Read trouble codes of all systems
Perform full OBD2 functions

Pros

  • Work on both heavy-duty trucks & passenger cars
  • Powerful graph live data
  • User-friendly interface
  • Free lifetime update
  • Durable design
  • Nice storage case

Cons

  • Small word size
  • Lag in resetting functions
  • Doesn’t offer advanced diagnostics

ROMONDES RD801 heavy-duty truck scanner is a vital scan tool for you. It can perform all 10 modes of OBD2 tests. It also has features like Live data in a graph, freeze frame, I/M readiness, O2 monitor test, on-board monitoring, DTC lookup, and retrieval of VIN for your vehicle.

Also, this scan tool is compatible with all heavy-duty trucks in compliance with standard protocols (SAE J1939, SAE J1587/J1708).

It is one of the most affordable and effective scan tools ever for technicians, mechanics, and small garage car repairers. It is easy to use, operate and control. Even if you are using the tool for the first time, you will find it easy to run and fix errors. It is compatible with at least 8 languages and comes with full obd2 functions. 

The Romondes RD801 is made for the European/Asia truck market and not the US markets because it doesn’t work in the right way for US users. It also lags in resetting functions and doesn’t offer more advanced system diagnostics and programs

ROMONDES RD801
ROMONDES RD801 Heavy-duty Truck Scan Tool
4.6
The Romondes RD801 is an excellent HD-OBD diagnostic tool for truck owners. The device checks all systems but lags a bit in reset functions. It gets the job done at an affordable price.

Supported protocols and vehicle coverage chart

All three scan tools are compatible with most OBD2 protocols and HD OBD protocols. The NexLink NL102P is compatible with the 5 OBD2 protocols and heavy-duty trucks’ protocols like J1587, J1939, and J1708. The rest have the same protocol compatibility, but the NexLink NL 102P tops the rest as it’s compatible with a wider range of vehicles.

Here’s a table showing the three devices and the vehicles they are compatible with.

NexLink NL102PFCAR F507Romondes RD801
Supported ProtocolsJ1939, J1708 and J1587 and OBD2 protocols.Complete OBD2 protocols,  J1708, and J1939.SAE J1939, SAE J1587/J1708, ISO 1576 and ISO 14230 protocols.
Vehicle Covered (12V Trucks, 24V Heavy Trucks, Trailers)Cummings, Detroit, Maxxforce, Caterpillar, Freightliner, International, KenworthMost car brands. Heavy duty trucks from Volvo, GMC truck, Mack FreightlinerSCANIA, MAN, HINO, FUSO, UD, DAF, Cummings, Detroit, Maxxforce, Caterpillar
John Deere, Peterbilt, Sterling, Mack, Paccar, Westernstar, Mercedes, Volvo, Scania, for Man, Renault, ERF, Foden, Seddon-Atkinson, Iveco, DAF, SISU, STEYR, ISUZU, etc.Mack, Peterbilt, Sterling, Western Star, Fuso, Hino, International, Isuzu, Iveco, Mercedes Truck, Man, Scania, Renault, ERF, DAF, Nissan UD, Paccar.Freightliner, International, Kenworth, John Deere, Peterbilt, Sterling, Mack, Paccar, Westernstar, ERF, Foden, Seddon-Atkinson, Iveco, SISU, STEYR, ISUZU.
This video shows you what you can do with the NexLink NL102P.

Top 3 High-end Heavy-Duty Truck Diagnostic Tools for Diesel Professionals

As a professional heavy truck guy, you must need something that offers more advanced service functions than most devices do.

Comparison Chart

Autel Maxisys CV (MS908CV)
Autel Maxisys MS908CV - Editor's Pick
Check Price
LAUNCH X431 PRO3S+HDIII
LAUNCH X431 PRO3S+HDIII
Check Price
LAUNCH X431 PAD V
LAUNCH X431 PAD V
Check Price
Customer Rating
4.1
4
5
Price rangeAutel Maxisys MS908CV priceLAUNCH X431 PRO3S+HDIII priceLAUNCH X431 PAD V price
System Diagnostics Functions10/10*10/1010/10
Advanced Service Functions9/109/1010/10
Coding/ Programming Services9/108/1010/10
Supposed Protocols9/109/1010/10
Vehicle Type Covered (Cars, SUVs, class 1 to class 8 trucks (12V, 24V)9/109/109/10

 *Notes: Excellent: 9-10; Good: 7-8; Fair: 5-6; Poor: 3-4; Very poor: 1-2

autel logo
autel ms908cv
  • Scanner type: Scan tool with ECU programming
  • Fit for: Car/Light truck mechanics, HD truck mechanics
  • Vehicle type: Car/Light truck, HD truck
    (Gasoline/Diesel)
  • Connection type: USB
  • Work on: HD-OBD/OBD2 vehicles
  • Price range: Under $3000

4.5

Bi-directional controls

4.6

Service functions

4.8

ECU coding & programming

4.8

Setup speed

3.9

Buy this scan tool if you want to …

Try and fix it yourself
Test used cars/light trucks of multiple brands before buying
Perform advanced service functions
Perform bi-directional controls (active tests)
Code and program a car’s ECU

DON’T buy it if you want to …

Work with OBD1 cars/light trucks

Pros

  • Great bi-directional controls
  • Professional ECU coding & programming
  • Comprehensive coverage
  • 25 service functions and 23 adaption functions

Cons

  • Takes long to set up
  • Pricey
Watch this 10-minute video to know whether Autel MaxiSYS MS908CV’s worth trying or not.

Autel MaxiSYS MS908CV Heavy-Duty Scan Tool stands out as a robust diagnostic scan tool produced to improve diagnosis on more than 80 public cars, including light-duty, heavy-duty, and medium-duty. It is one of the most sophisticated diagnostic scanners from the excellent Autel brands and offers exceptional service delivery.

The Autel Scanner MaxiSys MS908CV is an updated version of MS906CV and comes with even more functionalities, such as adjustable parameter programming on PCM, ABS, EATS, ADAS, and TPMS. Others are clear LED-backlit multi-Touch display, wireless connectivity that has a range of 230 meters from your car.

If you are a technician or mechanic looking for a complete scan tool that offers you a variety of options, then you should consider the Autel MaxiSYS MS908CV.

Autel Maxisys CV (MS908CV) is a fantastic scan tool, but one of its most significant weaknesses is that it is too expensive compared to other models. Also, it is challenging to set up and takes too much time.  

Autel Maxisys MS908CV
Autel Maxisys MS908CV
4.1
The Autel Maxisys CV (MS908CV) is a great diagnostics tool made for any heavy commercial vehicles and trucks. It offers amazing functionality at a relatively affordable price.

RELATED POST:


#2. Launch X-431 PRO3S+HDIII

launch logo
launch x431 pro3s+
  • Scanner type: Bi-directional scan tool
  • Fit for: Experienced enthusiasts, Car mechanics
  • Vehicle type: Car/Light truck/HD truck (optional)
    (Gasoline/Diesel)
  • Connection type:
  • Work on: OBD1/OBD2/HD-OBD (optional) vehicles
  • Price range: Under $1,500

4.5

Easy to use

4.5

Tech support

4.7

Versatility

4.9

Live data graph

3.9

Buy this scan tool if you want to …

Try and fix it yourself
Read trouble codes of all systems
Perform advanced service functions
Perform bidirectional controls (active tests)
Code a car’s ECU

DON’T buy it if you want to …

Program a car’s ECU

Pros

  • Great car coverage
  • FCA AutoAuth
  • Solid design
  • Reliable Bluetooth connectivity
  • Excellent customer support

Cons

  • Slow refresh rate when displaying more than 8 graphs
  • Cannot use ECU coding without buying a subscription
Is Launch X-431 PRO3S+HDIII V2.0 worth the investment? Check this 10 minute video to learn more about it.

Launch X-431 PRO3S+HDIII V2.0 is an updated version of LAUNCH’s superior diagnosing technology and works with many vehicles. It comes with several unique features that make it easy to generate accurate test results. 

Its unique features include simple Bluetooth or Wi-Fi communication between VCI (Vehicle Communication Interface) device and the display tablet, making it easy to get a complete diagnosis. 

Other features include reading DTCs, Clearing DTCs, Reading Data Stream, Actuation tests, and advanced Functions. The scan tool also uses the internet connection to link one-click updates, remote Diagnosis, and Repair of Data, all of which help to analyze vehicle problems better. 

It is a unique vehicle diagnostic tool ideal for technicians, mechanics, and small truck shops because it offers specific features at a good bargain and helps save money and time.

 LAUNCH X431 PRO3S+HDIII can only work for 12V to 24V diesel trucks only.  After the first-year update, subsequent ones cost around $600, which may burden the user. Also, if you have not opened the x431 v plus account, you will find it difficult to activate, and you can’t download the diagnostic software from the manufacturer’s website.

Launch X-431 PRO3S+HDIII
Launch X-431 PRO3S+HDIII Heavy-duty Truck diagnostic Tool
4.1
The LAUNCH X431 PRO3S+HDIII offers great services for technicians who wish to have long-lasting quality. It lets you do anything you want on any heavy truck.

#3. Launch X431 PAD V

launch logo
launch x431 pad v
  • Scanner type: Scan tool with ECU Programming
  • Fit for: Car/Light truck/HD truck mechanics
  • Vehicle type: Car/Light truck/HD truck
    (Gasoline/Diesel)
  • Connection type:
  • Work on: OBD1/OBD2/HD-OBD vehicles
  • Price range: Under $2,500

4.7

Versatility

5.0

Battery life

3.9

Vehicle coverage

4.9

Value for money

4.8

Buy this scan tool if you want to …

Try and fix it yourself
Perform advanced service functions
Perform bidirectional controls (active tests)
Code & program a car’s ECU

DON’T buy it if you want to …

Have a split screen

Pros

  • Online programming supported on 9 brands
  • Topology Mapping to easily locate faults
  • 50+ Reset service functions
  • Competitive pricing with a big discount
  • 5 years warranty

Cons

  • Low battery capacity of 9,360mAh
  • 1-year free update

Launch X431 PAD V comes with a range of fantastic features, making it a good scanning tool for car/truck owners, mechanics, and technicians.

With a better Smart box 3.0, Launch X431 PAD V can analyze the passenger and heavy-duty vehicles with a single dongle. This scan tool can carry out extensive functions, including full car diagnostic, ample car model coverage, powerful functions, and precise test data.

Also, it comes with a customized J2534 adapter that makes the scan tool one of the most advanced in the market.

 The Launch X431 PAD V is easier to use and operate and can work with more than 80 cars/trucks, displaying its versatility and quality. It can quickly examine cars, commercial vehicles, and big heavy trucks without any issues. 

Other advanced features include an Android 7.1 customized system, Qualcomm 8-core processor, 10.1-inch capacitive touch screen, support QC3.0 fast charging, and a host of others.

You can never go wrong with owning one of the Launch X431 Pad V diagnostics scanners.

For the LAUNCH X431 PAD V, the update for the first year is free but subsequently, you need to pay $600 which can be an issue for those who don’t have a plan to do that. Also, it is challenging to print the diagnostic report because the print button is made uniquely for the launch printer.  

LAUNCH X431 PAD V
Launch X431 PAD V Professional Vehicle Diagnostic Tool
5
The LAUNCH X431 PAD V is a professional truck diagnostic tool for technicians that wish to perform any advanced service functions. The scan tool works on a very wide variety of vehicles and its on-board diagnostics are top notch.

RELATED POST:


Below I have compared the top 3 truck diagnostic tools for technicians in the market today.

Please keep reading to find out which one suits you more.

Which to Buy: Autel MS908CV, Launch X431 PAD V, or X431 PRO3S+HDIII?

System diagnostics functions

The three scan tools in this comparison are capable of analyzing all systems on most vehicles manufactured from 1996 to date. The LAUNCH scan tools perform advanced system diagnostics including checking the tail gas after-treatment system, common rail system, etc. The LAUNCH X431 PAD V tops this section being more advanced than the rest but it’s also pricier.

LAUNCH X431 PAD V
LAUNCH X431 PAD V
5
The LAUNCH X431 PAD V is a professional truck diagnostic tool for technicians that wish to perform any advanced service functions. The scan tool works on a very wide variety of vehicles and its on-board diagnostics are top notch.

Advanced service functions

The Autel Maxisys CV MS908CV is capable of making typical resets such as oil light reset, fuel pressure adaptation reset, etc. The LAUNCH X431 PRO3S+HDIII does 31+ advanced service functions, but the LAUNCH X431 PAD V boasts of making 50+ special reset functions including Gear learning, electronic parking brake reset, electronic throttle position reset/learning. But it’s quite expensive. The Autel Maxisys CV (MS908CV) tops this category because it offers most reset functions you need at a more affordable price than the rest.

Autel Maxisys MS908CV
Autel Maxisys MS908CV
4.1
The Autel Maxisys CV (MS908CV) is a great diagnostics tool made for any heavy commercial vehicles and trucks. It offers amazing functionality at a relatively affordable price.

Coding/Programming services

The three scan tools here all do ECU programming and IMMO key programming. The LAUNCH scan tools here are quite expensive, but they offer similar coding services as the Autel Maxisys CV (MS908CV). This makes the Autel Maxisys CV (MS908CV) the best here as it offers ECU programming and IMMO programming at a relatively affordable price.

Autel Maxisys MS908CV
Autel Maxisys MS908CV
4.1
The Autel Maxisys CV (MS908CV) is a great diagnostics tool made for any heavy commercial vehicles and trucks. It offers amazing functionality at a relatively affordable price.

Specialties

The LAUNCH X431 PAD V comes with a huge 15000 mAh battery capable of running diagnostics on your truck for days without charge. Also, the LAUNCH X431 PRO3S+HDIII runs on Android 9 which ensures a very smooth user experience for you. The Autel Maxisys CV (MS908CV) has a special Cortex A-9 quad-core processor that helps the device run quick diagnostics.

Autel Maxisys MS908CV Professional Heavy Truck Scanner

Autel Maxisys MS908CV

Rating

LAUNCH X431 PAD V Scanner for Diesel Truck Professionals

LAUNCH X431 PAD V

Rating

LAUNCH X431 PRO3S+HDIII Diagnostic Tool

LAUNCH X431 PRO3S+HDIII

Rating

Supported protocols

All three tools work with every OBD2 protocol and HD OBD protocols. The Autel Maxisys CV (MS908CV) runs on SAE J1939, SAEJ1708, J1708, KWP, VPW, UDS-CAN, and CDL protocols. The LAUNCH X431 PRO3S+HDIII works with all HD-OBD and OBD2 protocols. And the LAUNCH X431 PAD V tops the rest as it works with J2534, D-PDU, RP1210, all HD-OBD, and OBD2 protocols.

Vehicle coverage

These scan tools work on a variety of OBD2 vehicles and HD OBD trucks. The Launch X431 PAD V and LAUNCH X431 PRO3S+ HDIII boast of working on J2534, OBD2, HD-OBD, and OBD1 protocols. Nevertheless, apart from the J2534 interfaces, the Autel Maxisys CV (MS908CV) pretty much runs on all these making it the best option here at an affordable price.

Autel Maxisys MS908CV Professional Heavy Truck Scanner

Autel Maxisys MS908CV

Rating

Furthermore, the product cannot seriously analyze battery life and crank voltage and the performance decline when different PIDs are used consistently.

This video shows you how to use the Autel Maxisys CV.

Read more: Autel MaxiSYS MS908CV heavy-duty truck scan tool in-depth review

Recommendation

Finally, you have reached the end of your journey in this article. So, once again here are my top picks.

For 12V heavy-duty trucks, the NexLink NL102 is the clear winner as it offers exceptional functionality at an affordable price.

When it comes to 24V semi-trucks and class 4 to 8 diesel trucks, the NexLink NL102P is your best option. It runs complete system diagnostics, a couple of special functions and covers a wide range of vehicles at an affordable price.

And for professional truck technicians, the Autel Maxisys CV (MS908CV) is all you need. It offers great diagnostics for all trucks you would work on. The device is relatively affordable and offers top-notch functionality.

Bonus: Find your best scanner with the Quick Search Tool on https://www.obdadvisor.com/

Truck scanner/heavy-duty truck scan tools: The basics

Benefits of truck scanners

The benefits of truck scanners.
Four 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 significantly impact 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.

Top brands

Nexas

Website: http://www.nexastech.com/

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. 

NexLink NL102 Plus review
NexLink NL102P Heavy-Duty Truck Scan Tool
3.5
NexLink NL102P is an excellent option for diagnosing problems with your truck.

FCAR Tech

Website: https://fcarusa.com/

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.

FCAR F507
FCAR F507
4.6
The FCAR F507 does run typical HD-OBD and OBD2 functions and performs more resets than the others on selected truck brands. The device is a wonderful option for experienced heavy truck DIYers.

Autel

Website: https://www.autel.com/

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.

Autel Maxisys MS908CV Professional Heavy Truck Scanner

Autel Maxisys MS908CV

Rating

Types of truck scanners

Truck scan tools for DIYers

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.

Highly recommended – NEXAS NL102 Plus

Nexas NL102 Plus review
Nexas NL102 Plus Heavy Duty Truck Scan Tool
3.6
Nexas NL102 Plus is an excellent option for diagnosing problems with your truck.

Professional heavy truck diagnostic tools for professionals

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.

Highly recommended – Autel MS908CV

Autel Maxisys MS908CV review
Autel Maxisys MS908CV Heavy Duty Diagnostic Scan Tool
4.9
The Autel Maxisys MS908CV supports functions like ECU programming and bi-directional control required for advanced repairs.

Key Features

The key features of heavy-truck scan tools.
Eight key features of heavy-truck scan tools.

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. 

Emissions Testing

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. 

Multi-system Diagnosis

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. 

DPF Regeneration

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.

Highly recommended – NEXAS NL102 Plus

Nexas NL102 Plus review
Nexas NL102 Plus Heavy Duty Truck Scan Tool
3.6
Nexas NL102 Plus is can do almost everything you need, from code reading and clearing to DPF regeneration, Sensor calibration, or oil reset, etc.

Active Testing

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. 

ECU Programming

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 it’s something only professional mechanics and advanced home mechanics will have the knowledge to use correctly.

Highly recommended – Autel MS908CV

Autel Maxisys MS908CV review
Autel Maxisys MS908CV Heavy Duty Diagnostic Scan Tool
4.9
The Autel Maxisys MS908CV supports functions like ECU programming and bi-directional control required for advanced repairs.

Pricing

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 [for DIY-ers]: 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

Nexas NL102 Plus review
Nexas NL102 Plus Heavy Duty Truck Scan Tool
3.6
Nexas NL102 Plus is an excellent option for diagnosing problems with your truck.

$2,000+ [for professionals]: 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.

Highly recommended – Autel MS908CV

Autel Maxisys MS908CV review
Autel Maxisys MS908CV Heavy Duty Diagnostic Scan Tool
4.9
The Autel Maxisys MS908CV supports functions like ECU programming and bi-directional control required for advanced repairs.

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. Read more here-https://www.fullbay.com/blog/truck-classification/

Heavy trucks use various diagnostic protocols like J1587, J1939 and J1708 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.

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