Do you own an OBD1 vehicle (made before 1996) and need an OBD1 code reader for it? Or are you looking to have an OBD1 and OBD2 scanner for both old and new vehicles in your family? If yes, I’ve got you covered.
But, which is the best OBD1 scanner? And Which OBD2 scanner covers OBD1 vehicles?
In this article, I will show you:
- Types of OBD1 scanner;
- Best OBD1 code readers;
- Best OBD1 and OBD2 scanners;
- Best OBD1-to-OBD2 converter cables (for different vehicle brands); and
- Bluetooth OBD1 scanner.
First, let’s start with the types of OBD1 scanner.
Table of Contents
OBD1 Scanner: Which Type Should I Go for?
Manufacturer-specific OBD1 Code Reader (stand-alone style)
The OBD1 protocol is built around gathering emissions information from the vehicle and producing warning messages. As the name implies, manufacturer-specific OBD1 code readers are designed to work with certain car brands. In essence, this means that a code reader for Ford won’t work for other brands.
For instance, the INNOVA 3123 GM OBD1 Code Reader is designed to be used exclusively with GM vehicles. The INNOVA 3145 Ford Digital OBD1 Code Reader is another excellent example. It only works on Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury domestic vehicles from 1982 to 1995. Because it is manufacturer-specific to Ford, it can perform self-tests on Ford that other code readers can’t perform.
OBD1 and OBD2 scanner
Unlike manufacturer-specific OBD1 code readers, universal OBD1 and OBD2 scanners can work with multiple vehicle brands to perform basic OBD1 diagnostics. They can check the emissions systems, monitor engine performance, and print error codes on most OBD1 vehicles. The codes can be read on the attached screens on the stand-alone variants of these scanners.
Before you buy one, we recommend checking to ensure that your vehicle brand is covered. Innova 3120E, Innova 3170RS, and Actron CP9690 Elite are all OBD2 scanners with OBD1 support that cover different brands.
OBD1 Bluetooth Scanner
With Bluetooth OBD1 adapters, your mobile phone or PC becomes a dependable diagnostic scan tool interface. A Bluetooth scanner is still plugged into your car’s ECU, but your phone or PC is used as the interface where you can read codes and select diagnostics options. You’ll also need to install a suitable app for the scanner on your phone or computer to control the scanner. Needless to say, wireless Bluetooth scanners are much easier to use than wired traditional scanners that keep you in your vehicle.
ALDL OBD1 Bluetooth scanners allow you to monitor and record your GM car’s performance data on your Android phone or Windows PC. You’ll need the ALDL Scan or ALDLdroid app on Android devices, while on Windows, you can use TTS Datamaster. The ALDL scanners also display real-time data like newer cars.
Best OBD1 Code Readers
Below are the best OBD1 code readers in the market today. They are for Ford and GM vehicles only.
1. INNOVA 3123 – GM OBD1 Scanner
The Innova 3123 is designed to work on most OBD1 GM vehicles. This OBD1 scanner accesses your vehicle’s onboard computer systems and retrieves trouble codes. More specifically, it covers US GM cars and trucks between 1982 and 1995.
This OBD1 code reader reads ECM (engine) and ABS (anti-lock braking system) codes. If you have this GM OBD1 scanner with you, it will only take a few minutes to retrieve the DTC codes and understand the problem. The dimensions of 10 x 2 x 6 inches make it compact enough to fit in your vehicle’s compartment.
If you’re not a mechanic, you probably won’t understand what each code means. The good news is that this OBD1 scanner comes with a guidebook that contains definitions of DTC codes. So once the Check Engine Light (CEL/MIL) comes on, you can perform a DIY diagnosis yourself.
Just use this OBD1 scanner to retrieve all the DTC codes. After that, refer to the guidebook for the definitions to understand what each code means.
Basically, the information you will get is a report of what’s wrong with your vehicle’s engine. From there, you can either fix it yourself or take it to a repair shop. Obviously, it all depends on the nature of the problem. Either way, once the issues are gone, the CEL will turn off.
- Multilingual manual
- A guidebook of code definitions included
- Very affordable unit
- Compact size
- Metal prongs are not sufficiently strong.
The Innova 3123 OBD1 Scanner is ideal for ordinary GM owners. As long as you have it, you will be able to diagnose your vehicle yourself, saving you a lot of time and money that you would have spent going to a repair shop. You don’t have to worry about harming your vehicle even if you don’t have any diagnostic knowledge.
Innova 3123 is exactly the best OBD1 scanner for your GM vehicles.
2. Innova 3145 – Ford OBD1 Code Reader
Innova 3145 OBD1 code reader works on most Ford vehicles between 1982 and 1995, including Lincoln and Mercury. While it covers Ford cars and trucks, the cars in question should not be more than one ton heavy.
The scanner diagnoses Ford’s EEC-IV and MCU systems. With Innova 3145, you can retrieve engine and transmission trouble codes. The OBD1 code reader will tell you exactly what problems your vehicle’s engine has. In case the MIL is on, once you’ve fixed the identified issues, the Innova 3145 will switch it off.
This Ford OBD1 scanner has a built-in memory for storing codes. It will save the data for the following view even after you have unplugged it from the vehicle.
As a compact and discreet OBD1 scan tool, Innova 3145 measures 10 x 2.1 x 6.2 inches and weighs 1.2 pounds. The Ford OBD1 scanner has a 1.5-inch LCD screen that displays numeric trouble codes.
To make your work easier, Innova includes a user manual that contains codes and their definitions. It also offers step-by-step guides on conducting the KOEO, KOER, cylinder, and relay check tests.
- The user manual contains instructions for OBD1 diagnostics and all Ford OBD tests.
- Comes complete. The package contains the OBD1 diagnostic tool and 2AA batteries. That’s all you need.
- Easy to use and fast operation.
- Covers most Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury vehicles that are OBD1-compliant.
- Very affordable.
- The OBD1 adapter cable is short.
Innova 3145 OBD1 scanner is the perfect tool for resetting the MIL on Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury vehicles made before 1996.
The scanner provides numeric codes that are very simple to understand, even to a layperson. That is why the scanner is perfect for ordinary car owners. Innova 3145 is definitely the best OBD1 scanner for Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury.
Note: I recommend that you buy the Innova 3149 extension cable to use with this OBD1 code reader.
Best OBD1 and OBD2 Scanners
OBD1 protocol works on cars made in or before 1995, and it was created to diagnose vehicle failures. On the other hand, OBD2 code readers mainly work with cars made from Jan. 1996 through a 16-Pin connection. However, many OBD2 scanners can work with OBD1 vehicles via a manufacturer-specific OBD1-to-OBD2 adapter.
Rather than having two different scanners for old and new vehicles (OBD1 and OBD2), you can have just one that diagnoses both systems.
Innova 3120E is just right for OBD1 diagnostics. Older cars can be harder to repair, but Innova 3120E takes all the stress out of fixing vehicles made before 1996. It can also work for OBD2 vehicles, so you can use it for newer vehicles as well. Innova 3120E is easy to navigate because of its large, all-in-one screen with up to 25 information on your car.
This OBD1 OBD2 scanner is a great way to save yourself some money on repair costs. Its sturdy build means that you can use it for a long time. With it, you can discover the reason your Check Engine Light is on. You can also check for emissions readiness and perform ABS/SRS and battery tests all by yourself from the comfort of your garage.
It also features a memory backup for later review of the accurate diagnostic results it generates. The device comes with an OBD1 adapter, both of which can be neatly stored in its carrying pouch.
INNOVA 3170RS allows you to use an array of diagnostic functions to check your OBD1 or OBD2 vehicle for trouble codes. One of its nifty features is the RepairSolutions2 App by Innova, which allows you to check and verify your repairs. It is undoubtedly one of the best OBD1 scanners because of its range of advanced features at an affordable price point.
INNOVA 3170RS goes beyond engine diagnosis to check for manufacturer-specific codes in all the systems in your vehicle. It can access live data to see real-time readouts of all the data you’ll be getting. It also has desired features like ABS bleeding, TPMS reset, and many other service features.
Using the scanner is straightforward as well. You’ll enjoy using its hotkeys for quick selections instead of scrolling through multiple menu options. It has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, so you can easily get information from Innova. If your vehicle needs urgent repair, INNOVA 3170RS will tell you through its code severity feature.
Made by one of the most popular names in the car diagnostic tool marketplace, Actron CP9690 boasts a solid selection of diagnostic features in a pocket-sized device. It is equipped with features to read codes and diagnose both OBD1 and OBd2 vehicles. This way, you don’t have to buy two different scanners.
Actron CP9690 can report live data and get freeze frame data, features that are not always available in diagnostic devices. Some advanced functions are also available as well, including battery reset, oil reset, and diagnostics of up to 3 vehicle systems. These features are designed to be easy to use on its large, color, LCD screen.
Both drivers and mechanics can benefit from its code definitions to better understand the faults. But it also offers CodeConnect Technology – a massive database of verified repairs for DTCs. CodeConnect will definitely make your life easier and is one of the biggest reasons to buy Actron CP9690.
First, let’s check out the comparison chart of the top 3 OBD1&2 scanners today.
Top 3 OBD1 and OBD2 Scanners Comparison Chart
ACTRON CP9690 ELITE
|Supported protocols||OBD1, OBD2||OBD1, OBD2||OBD1, OBD2|
|Vehicle coverage||1981-2019||1981-2019||1984 - 2013|
|OBD1 cable included||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Read & clear OBD1 codes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|OBD2 functions||8/10 test modes||10/10 test modes||10/10 test modes|
|System diagnostics||Engine||All systems||Engine, ABS, SRS|
|Advanced reset functions||Oil reset||8 functions||n/a|
Read on to find out the similarities and differences between the products.
Which to Buy: Innova 3120E, Innova 3170RS, or Actron CP9690 Elite?
Read and clear OBD1 codes
The three scanners can perform OBD1 diagnostics on different vehicle models. OBD1 allows you to perform emission system diagnosis, read and clear codes from the ECU, ABS, and transmission, and show warning messages. Innova 3120E and Innova 3170RS cover most Ford, GM, Honda, Chrysler, and Toyota/Lexus vehicles equipped with OBD1 systems. Actron CP9690 Elite also covers GM, Ford, Chrysler, and Toyota. Both Innova 3170RS and Actron CP9690 Elite can read live data about your vehicle in real-time. Although Innova 3120E can’t read live data, it retrieves OEM enhanced and transmission diagnostic codes in OBD1 cars.
We recommend Innova 3170RS because it works on more OBD1 vehicles than the Actron scanner, and it can also read live data.
The three scanners support OBD2 protocols on the ISO 9141, Keyword 2000, J1850 PWM, J1850 VPW, and CAN networks. With OBD2 diagnostics, your scanner can ask the ECU to provide live data, freeze frame data, stored, permanent, and pending trouble codes, onboard system tests results, oxygen sensors test results, vehicle information, as well as clear emissions-related data and control onboard systems. Innova 3170RS and Actron CP9690 Elite support all ten test modes, while Innova 3120E only supports 8 test modes. Innova 3120E is missing the ability to control onboard systems and request onboard system test results.
You can choose Innova 3170RS or Actron CP9690 Elite for your OBD2 diagnostics.
OBD2 scanners can access your ECU modules to read and clear trouble codes in different systems. Innova 3120E only supports diagnosing ABS, but the Innova 3170RS variant supports all-system network scan beyond check engine, powertrain, ABS, and SRS modules. Lastly, Actron CP9690 Elite only offers system diagnostics on the airbag, engine, and ABS systems.
Innova 3170RS’s all-system network diagnosis makes the scanner a top choice in this category.
Advanced reset functions
The three scanners are pretty limited in advanced reset functions. Innova 3120E only performs oil light reset while Actron CP9690 Elite has oil light reset and battery reset. Innova 3170RS has more reset functions than the other two scanners, including oil light reset, battery reset and initialization, SAS calibration, Electronic Parking Brake reset, ABS bleeding, TPMS data, reading battery cell voltage when diagnosing hybrid cars, and transmission temperature.
Innova 3170RS has the highest count of advanced reset functions, including a function for hybrid cars, making it our recommended diagnostic tool for service functions.
Supported protocols, OBD1 adapters, and vehicle coverage
Innova 3120E, Innova 3170RS, and Actron CP9690 Elite are modern scan tools that fully support OBD1 protocol alongside OBD2 protocols on covered models. This way, you can use the scanners on vehicles made during the OBD1 era between 1982 and 1995. They also serve modern cars produced since 1996 till date as well.
Specifically, Innova 3120E and Innova 3170RS support OBD1 and OBD2 protocols in most Ford, GM, Honda, Chrysler, and Toyota/Lexus vehicles made since 1982, and they come with all the required OBD1 adapters for those vehicles. Actron CP9690 Elite supports 1984 and newer GM, Ford, Chrysler, and Toyota vehicles, and it includes an OBD1 adapter for each brand.
Read more: Best OBD2 scanners review 2021
Read on to find the right OBD1-to-OBD2 Adapter for your vehicle.
Best OBD1-to-OBD2 Converter Cables/Adapters
You can always use an OBD2 scanner to diagnose an OBD1 vehicle by connecting it via an OBD1-to-OBD2 converter cable. Below comes the best cable for popular OBD1 models.
We recommend the Keenso and Jahyshow adapters for GM and Chevy car dealers, mechanics, or owners who need a high-quality OBD1 to OBD2 adapter. They are both compatible with OBD2 scanners, long enough and stable for lengthy diagnostics. You should buy the Jahyshow adapter if you want to shave off a few bucks and still get a great tool.
Need to convert a 7-pin OBD1 adapter for your 16-pin OBD2 diagnostic tool? Your choices are the MOTOKU Replacement adapter and the CBK 7 Pin adapter. However, the Motoku Replacement adapter doesn’t support trucks and pickups, so you should buy the CBK 7-pin adapter if you have a truck or pickup, or one might come by your mechanic’s workshop.
If you already have a scan tool for BMW by Creator like Creator C310+, buy the compatible Creator 20-pin adapter as well. Otherwise, the Goliton OBD OBD2 16 Pin Connector will serve you better since it is compatible with other scan tools.
The Goliton and E-car Connection are 3-Pin male OBD1 to 16-Pin female OBD2 adapter are specially designed for Honda owners, enthusiasts, and mechanics. They are plug and play and easily connect to any compatible diagnostic tool for Honda.
The FidgetGear and Keenso adapters are excellent solutions for pre ’96 Nissan owners who want to diagnose their 14-pin OBD1 connector-equipped vehicles with modern 16-pin-equipped diagnostics tools. The Keenso adapter’s cord length is perfect for drivers who want a long cable.
The Motoku adapter cable is a handy tool for all sorts of OBD1 tests on all models of Jeep, Chrysler, and Dodge vehicles with an OBD1 connector. It is a nifty solution to finding faults and other diagnostics with an OBD2 scan tool.
Anyone with an old Toyota, 1995 and earlier, who wants to diagnose the vehicle for errors or perform emissions test with an OBD2 device can pick up the EEE 22 Pin OBD1 to 16 Pin OBD2 converter.
Mazda owners and mechanics alike can take full advantage of the OBD1 functions in older vehicles with the Baoblaze 17 Pin OBD1 to 16 Pin OBD2 adapter. It is durable, automotive-grade construction that promises to do its job well.
OBD1 Bluetooth scanner: 1320 electronics ALDL for Android
The 1320 electronics ALDL for Android is a renowned OBD1 Bluetooth scanner that you can use to monitor and record vehicle performance data from the comfort of your smartphone or computer screen. It works with apps like ALDL Scan, ALDLdroid, and TTS Datamaster to give you the access you need from anywhere in the house or garage without having to sit and wait hours behind your dashboard.
Supported vehicles (brands, years)
The 1320 electronics ALDL for Android only works with GM vehicles made before 1995. As long as your GM vehicle has an OBD1 port, the scanner and compatible apps will work with it.
The base package includes an OBD1 Bluetooth scanner and a 12-Pin adapter to connect to your car. However, you can also buy it with an additional 16-Pin adapter and a USB interface to connect to your PC over a wired connection. The scanner itself is powered with an included external 12v power plug that you can plug into your cigarette lighter.
The Bluetooth scanner mainly works with two Android apps: ALDL Scan and ALDLdroid. ALDL Scan is a free, proprietary Android app that displays analog parameters, shows malfunction codes, resets ECM, and records ALDL data to your smartphone. The other Android app is ALDLdroid, a paid option with more graphical indicators and options to display data as a basic readout like the ALDL Scan, Bar graph, histogram, or gauge. It has a more modern and customizable interface and can also show and log real-time data. ALDLdroid has some tuning capabilities as well if you’re interested in that. For more advanced tuning functions, you should go for one of the compatible Windows PC apps like TTS DataMaster or TunerPro.
How does it work?
You can install ALDL Scan and the ALDLdroid app from Google Play Store. But before you connect to the apps, you must first pair your smartphone with the scanner. A quick Bluetooth scan from your smartphone settings will show the scanner if you have it plugged in. Pairing is as easy as with any other Bluetooth device.
If you have installed ALDL Scan, you should be presented with the “Select Vehicle Protocol (Preinstalled)” option once you open the app. Most protocols come preinstalled, so you only have to select the right one for your vehicle from the list. After that, you can choose View Data, Reset Codes, or any other functions in the main menu. If the .aldl file for your car isn’t preinstalled, proceed to the official website 1320electronics.com, download the file, and move it to the “ALDL” directory in your file manager.
Since ALDLdroid is a paid app, you can only install it after purchasing it from Google Play. Upon launch, you need to move the specific .adx for your vehicle’s computer to /ALDLdroid/adx directory of your vehicle. You can then select the data stream file you just relocated by going to the in-app Settings. Once that is completed, you’re free to connect to the ECU in the main menu and start adding the indicators you want to monitor.
- Easy to connect and operate
- Provides real-time data
- Has tuning functions
- ECM flashing functions
- Free ALDL Scan app
- Limited to GM vehicles
Read more: Best Bluetooth OBD2 scanners review 2021
How to clear OBD1 codes (step-by-step guide)
Using a scanner is the most reliable way to clear the codes on your OBD1 vehicle, but you can also do it without a scan tool. We’ll cover both approaches in this step-by-step guide.
Follow the steps below to clear OBD1 codes without a scan tool:
- Step 1. Put your vehicle in KOEO mode. This means your car’s ignition is turned on, but the engine isn’t.
- Step 2. Disconnect the black ground cable of the battery for about 15 minutes before reconnecting it.
- Step 3. Switch on the engine and drive it for about 15 minutes, during which the codes may be cleared.
Here are the surefire steps to clear OBD1 codes on old vehicles made before 1996 with a scan tool:
- Step 1. Put your vehicle in KOEO mode. Your car is in KOEO (Key On Engine Off) mode when the ignition is turned on, but your engine isn’t running.
- Step 2. Turn off all accessories like the stereo and window.
- Step 3. Connect the scanner and scan the vehicle’s computer
- Step 4. Navigate to or press the reset button on the scanner and wait for it to finish before disconnecting the scan tool.
If you’re in the market for the best OBD1 scanner, you can consider choosing one from the five reviewed above. At least one of them will help, as long as your vehicle was made in the period between 1982 and 1995.
Bonus: Find your best scanner with the Quick Search Tool on https://www.obdadvisor.com/