Are you looking for the Best Car Diagnostic Tool? Then you are on the right page now.
To clarify, car diagnostic tools are divided into 3 types depending on the need and skill level of the users.
Don’t have enough time to read the whole review?
Don’t worry!! I’ve picked out the best choice of OBD2 scanner for you right here:
>>For Professionals: Autel Maxisys MS906 Scanner: Check Price at Amazon.com
>>For DIY’ers: BlueDriver Bluetooth: Check Price at Amazon.com
>>For Beginners: BAFX Bluetooth for Android: Check Price at Amazon.com
Scroll down for more details about the 3 types of car diagnostic tools.
- Professional-grade diagnostic tools are capable of performing all the functions a professional mechanic may require.
- Do-It-Yourself diagnostic tools are capable of diagnosing and monitoring more complex issues on your vehicle.
- Basic code readers simply determine the fault codes present and can clear codes.
Here is the best car diagnostic tool review for each level.
I. BEST CAR DIAGNOSTIC TOOL for PROFESSIONALs
The professional grade scan tools are used in automotive repair shops and by those with extensive training or knowledge about vehicle systems.
Professional automotive diagnostic scanners may not provide the most comprehensive data and tips for diagnosing but can access the widest array of data streams and all kinds of codes, both generic and manufacturer-specific.
1/ Autel MaxiSYS MS906 WiFi Car Diagnostic Tool
Autel, a rising name in the automotive diagnostic tool industry, has a professional grade scan tool in the MS906.
It is an Android-based scan tool that can be connected either through a VIC module or with a wired cable.
The wired cable comes with the kit, as do connectors for every possible application you can think of.
Autel MaxiSys MS906, if you buy the VIC, is probably the closest thing to a manufacturer grade scan tool you’ll find, but the cable version is a close second.
The Autel MaxiSYS MS906 is perhaps the most versatile aftermarket scan tool you’ll find. It’s capable of performing key coding for a variety of makes and models and can code ECMs just like a dealer’s scan tool. It can:
- read the VIN number from the ECM to populate your year, make, and model when you scan the car so you’re looking at correct information when you check for codes.
- read manufacturer-specific codes as well as generic codes and works on virtually any brand that uses OBDII, so any vehicle from 1996 to current.
- It’s as intuitive as you’ll ever find on such a complex scan tool, and even beginners and DIY handymen will be able to navigate their way through to read codes.
An introduction video about MS906:
The Autel MaxiSYS MS906 isn’t perfect, however.
The device still has characteristics that show it is a Chinese-made unit in both the language on the scanner and the diagnostic information you view.
It is perhaps overly complex, even for a professional user, as the owner’s manual is 104 pages long.
There is information this scanner can do that you’ll never use, and that can get in the way of finding some of the data you actually need.
2/ Launch X431 V+ Car Diagnostic Tool
The Launch X431 V+ is an Android-based tablet that functions as a scan tool with the pros as below:
- has a 10.1-inch touchscreen for easy, colorful viewing operation.
- connects wirelessly through a Bluetooth connector in the DLC and is WiFi capable, so updates are simple and diagnostic information is easy to find.
- is capable of scanning all diagnostic trouble codes from all major manufacturers in North America, Europe, and Asia.
- can retrieve and clear generic codes and manufacturer-specific codes for ABS, airbag, and body control functions.
- has a full database of repair information for virtually every car you can think of, including TSBs and recall information.
- operates quickly and smoothly, though it takes a while for the device to boot up initially.
- The battery should last around 8 hours according to the specs.
The problem with this unit is that it is obviously from China.
The language and terminology used can be difficult to understand and can lead to some frustration that may lead the user to avoid using this tool if possible. That’s unfortunate because there are so many things this diagnostic tool can do including live data tracking, key and ECM programming, and ABS and airbag communication.
The initial startup takes forever as well because you can’t really use it until you register the tool.
The manual is on a CD and not paper, meaning if you need to access the manual you’ve got to use another computer with a CD drive, which is getting more difficult to find these days. A USB drive or SD card would be more helpful.
A Video about unboxing and using Launch X431 V+:
3/ Launch X431 V+ vs Autel MS906 Comparison
They are quite comparable in size and manufacturing also.
The Launch includes a wireless Bluetooth connector while the AutelMaxiSYS VCI needs to be purchased separately.
So if wireless use is important to you, the Launch X431 V+ could be the better way to go.
In every other way, the Autel MS906 takes the grand prize. It’s more user-friendly and intuitive to use, and it operates very much like the scan tools in use at car dealerships.
Hands down, the Autel MaxiSYS is the best aftermarket professional grade scan tool your money can buy.
If you need a scan tool for your automotive shop, look at the AutelMaxiSYS MS906.
II. BEST CAR DIAGNOSTIC TOOL for DIY’ERS
These scan tools are meant for people who prefer to perform their own car repairs at home instead of taking them to a repair shop.
They provide a wide array of data, much more in-depth than the basic code readers on the market.
While the scanneers are quite comprehensive, they aren’t all-inclusive like the professional-grade scan tools, and you’ll want to find one that performs all the functions on your particular vehicle.
1/ BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional Car Diagnostic Tool
A Video review about BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional:
The BlueDriver scan tool is a small box that plugs directly into your data link connector under the dash.
You don’t need cables to connect to or buttons to press.
If you want a wireless connection and intuitive, easily read instructions, this is for you.
The app is well laid-out and connects easily to your vehicle. You’ll be up and running in literally 10 seconds.
For most vehicles, the BlueDriver scan tool will pull up your vehicle VIN number, year, make, and model, so you get the most accurate, manufacturer-specific information possible.
One of the best features BlueDriver contains is the code report that it generates for each code.
It contains the code definition, possible causes, and a list of reported fixes for the code your vehicle has, which totally eliminates the need to skip back and forth between the app and Google to search for causes and repairs for your vehicle condition.
For those who want a physical copy of the report, you can send it to a printer on your network. Another neat function is freeze-frame data recorded at the time the code was set.
It can help you determine an intermittent fault’s cause much easier.
BlueDriver reads and clears current engine codes, pending codes, and permanent codes on all makes.
It also reads manufacturer specific codes or ‘Enhanced” codes for GM, Ford, Chrysler, and Toyota with more makes reportedly coming soon.
Unfortunately, as someone who performs as many repairs at home as possible, those missing makes from enhanced codes could be a deal-breaker for many. If you have any other make, you’re still stuck headed to the dealer to diagnose ABS, airbag, or body system problems.
2/ Innova 3040 E Car Diagnostic Tool
The Innova 3040 E scan tool is a highly rated diagnostic tool for the DIY market.
It is a standalone tool that operates by connecting the scan tool via cable to the data link connector. The Innova 3040 E retrieves your vehicle information including year, make, and model, and is very intuitive in its controls.
It has an easy-to-read 2.8-inch color screen and nine buttons to swiftly navigate through your options.
Innova 3040 E reads engine codes from all makes and models 1996 and newer, and reads most ABS codes from popular makes as well. It is incredibly fast to use because it is a standalone scan tool; simply plug it in and read the codes.
The Innova 3040 E can test battery and charging system functions right from the scan tool, eliminating the need for additional testing equipment. You can access live data, freeze-frame data from the moment the trouble code was set and can get information about possible causes and potential fixes with the Innova software.
You can update the software and hardware on the Innova 3040 E for future compatibility.
The Innova 3040 E comes with a few concerns, though.
There are reported issues communicating with some European makes which can pose a problem if you drive a European car.
Hopefully, this will be addressed in a future update.
Also, the only enhanced codes that can be accessed are ABS codes, and only on the most popular makes. For a true, tech-savvy DIY user, this can severely limit the ability to perform all of their own repairs.
Another reported flaw has to do with inaccurate battery testing functions in the Innova 3040 E. Users have said the scan tool will deem a battery faulty while other testing devices report the battery as good, bringing into question the tool’s overall reliability.
The Innova software for additional diagnostic information is difficult to access and requires an internet connection and a user login.
Read more: Innova 3040 E Review
3/ BlueDriver Bluetooth vs Innova 3040 E Comparison
Innova 3040E is a versatile, capable scan tool for the DIY user, covering most aspects that you’ll ever need without the necessity of a Bluetooth-capable device connected to it. It has a reliable DLC connection by cable and is updatable with vehicle connection capabilities expanding.
The BlueDriver Bluetooth diagnostic tool goes a step further with better reporting and diagnostic help readily accessible on your device with the ability to print the data at the touch of a button.
Overall, the BlueDriver Bluetooth Scan Tool is the better choice. While the Innova 3040 E is a great, capable scan tool, BlueDriver performs the same functions more intuitively and on a more easy-to-read platform.
III. BEST CAR DIAGNOSTIC TOOL: BASIC LEVEL CODE READERS
Basic code readers or scan tools are meant to provide a quick glimpse into an issue your vehicle is experiencing and allows you to clear the fault codes that are set in the on-board diagnostic system.
They aren’t meant for in-depth diagnosis or monitoring.
A basic code reader is an excellent addition to the toolbox of a car lover who isn’t necessarily tech-savvy.
1/ BAFX Bluetooth Car Diagnostic Tool
For an easy-to-use scan tool that is compatible with Android devices via Bluetooth, the BAFX Products 34T5 is an excellent choice.
This unit itself is compact and plugs directly into your car’s OBDII data port under the driver’s side of your dash.
The tool pairs easily to your Bluetooth-enabled Android phone, tablet, or your Windows computer and operates via an app such as Torque to display the data the BAFX 34T5 can access.
BAFX Bluetooth is capable of:
- Reading and clearing fault codes that can illuminate the check engine light.
- Perform a pre-test for your emissions system so you know if your car will pass its smog test.
- Read real-time sensor data, and can even record your 1/8 to 1-mile drag times directly on your device.
The BAFX Products 34T5 Bluetooth OBDII code reader is not capable of performing more advanced functions like timing advance, turbo tuning, or diagnosing problems with manufacturer-specific trouble codes.
It also does not function with iOS devices at this time.
So if you want to use your iPhone or iPad for your OBDII scan tool, this one is not for you.
There are status lights on the unit that plugs into your OBDII port, but your connector may be positioned so the lights are pointed away from you so you won’t be able to monitor the unit’s status.
It’s not a major issue, however.
Viewing codes and data through the BAFX Products 34T5 Bluetooth scan tool does require an app, which will likely cost you anywhere from $5 to $60 depending on the app you choose and the functions you need.
A Video review of BAFX Products 34T5 Bluetooth:
2/ Autel MaxiScan MS300 Car Diagnostic Tool
Autel is quickly becoming one of the most trusted names in diagnostic equipment.
Even their most basic scan tool, the MaxiScan MS300 is capable of reading and clearing diagnostic trouble codes of most types from nearly any make and model.
MS300 powers up as soon as it is plugged into your vehicle’s OBDII port and operates in an intuitive manner with just two buttons. Because the unit plugs into your data link connector directly with a cord, you don’t need another device or app to read codes.
The MS300 has an LCD display, albeit a small display, that displays the trouble code and its description directly on the unit. One button is used to select an option and the other scrolls through those options.
For being a very simple tool, it is more than capable of reading and clearing codes that could cause your engine light to come on.
Some Cons of Autel Maxiscan MS300
The Autel MaxiScan MS300 is not a powerful computer or scan tool otherwise.
It does not provide system monitoring, and if the trouble code is manufacturer-specific, you won’t get a description of the code on your display and will have to look it up otherwise.
Their manual provides a list of thousands of code definitions, but it appears to be loosely translated from Chinese so it isn’t entirely accurate in English.
Also, the Autel MaxiScan MS300 is completely standalone without the ability to update, so any future vehicles or codes aren’t supported.
A Video review about Autel MS300:
3/ Bafx Bluetooth vs Autel MaxiScan MS300 Comparison
While the BAFX 34T5 Code Reader is provided with higher-level monitoring capabilities, it is only that – monitoring.
It can’t modify data aside from clearing trouble codes.
So unless you want to keep an eye on your fuel mileage or drag times, this function doesn’t really add capability.
The Autel MaxiScan MS300 isn’t able to display charts and graphs for data at all, so the BAFX Bluetooth OBDII Scan Tool gets the edge here.
Autel MS300 comes with everything you need to read your codes in your OBDII system simply by plugging it in while the BAFX 34T5 requires that you download an app and use an Android device to read your codes.
For simplicity and reliability, the MS300 is better.
The BAFX 34T5 is compact and can be left plugged into the data port so you can access your car’s information whenever you want via your device’s Bluetooth, while the MS300 is on a short cord that is awkward and gets in the way.
If you want quick access to your car’s trouble codes without having to carry a scan tool with a cord, BAFX Bluetooth OBDII Scan Tool is a clear choice.
The BAFX 34T5 and the MS300 are very different units for the basic code reader category. While they both perform similar functions, the BAFX 34T5 is a clear choice for a user who is more visually-inclined, while the MS300 is the easier to use the option that doesn’t rely on any other tools or technology to operate.