If you own or drive a vehicle at this time and age, you would be very irresponsible indeed if you do not have a car code reader or an OBD2 scanner in your toolbox. These handy devices can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in car repair bills if used properly. You can only get your vehicles scanned in a shop and the trip alone will cost you in the past. Now OBD2 scanners are well within reach of the average driver or car owner, letting you take control of how you maintain your car. Having an auto diagnostic tool will let you take care of your car problems DIY-style which is the way to go if you want to save money in the long run. Now that we know it is important and a must-have, what is an OBD2 scanner and why is it so important? Its importance rests on the fact that it will give you access to crucial information regarding your vehicle, literally right in the palm of your hand. In this article, we will give you two things - one, how to choose the best obd2 scanner available, and two, a list of the OBD2 scanners that are considered top-notch in the market. We will go over what makes a great quality OBD2 scanner and the list starts with our top pick and what we feel is that one best scan tool for the money.
TOP 10 Best OBD2 Scanners
OBDLink MX+ OBD2 Bluetooth Scanner for iPhoneStand out features This Bluetooth-enabled wireless OBDII scanner from OBD Solutions is an iOS-compatible wireless OBD scanner in existence today. It is as compact as they come, and being wireless, will not hamper your car repairs in any way. This scanner is compatible with any car released in the U.S. after 1996. The OBDLink MX+ is designed to be compatible with even more proprietary and OEM support for almost all popular brands. It is not just compatible with iOS but with Android and other apps that support scanners as well. On top of its superior compatibility, it can also read and clear regular OBD-II trouble codes as well as vehicle-specific ones. The device also has more live parameter readouts than any other OBDII scanners in the market now. Check Price
Veepeak OBDCheck BLE OBD2Stand out features This OBDII scanner connects via Bluetooth to any iPhone or Android smartphone and is definitely an advantage to other scanners that connect via hotspot Wifi tethering. Bluetooth does not drain the battery as fast and is a more reliable connection over short distances. One thing unique about the Veepeaks scanner is that aside from giving you gas mileage, it can also give you an estimated range until your car will need a top-up. The scanner also has wide compatibility over other apps aside from its companion app. Check Price
FOXWELL NT301 OBD2Stand out features The Foxwell NT301 OBD II Scanner is usually among those found in the hands of professional mechanics rather than with DIY enthusiasts. This is because the device can do so much more than read out trouble codes across a variety of automotive brands. This OBD II scanner can clear and reset codes, as well as provide live data as the engine runs. It has a shockproof ABS plastic shell casing that makes it ideal for the rugged toolbox or a busy shop environment. The large LCD screen provides information even in direct sunlight or harsh shop lights with clarity. The great thing about the NT301 is it allows you to locate bad O2 sensors which are kind of rare in scanners. This scanner also can read VIN and reset multiple error codes. Check Price
Bafx Products - For Android OnlyStand out features This Wireless scanner from BAFX is known as one of the most affordable wireless OBD II scanners available. However, do not let its low price fool you as it is also one of the most feature-packed for its price point. In fact, the device itself is bigger than any wireless OBD II scanner. It will read and clear numerous trouble codes. The device also monitors live data like air-fuel ratio, oil temp, coolant temperature, as well as gas mileage. This comes in two versions, the Wifi, and Bluetooth variants, the Bluetooth is for Android devices while the Wifi is for iOs powered gadgets. The OBD II Scanner works with a dedicated app only and is not compatible with other apps. Simple and easy-to-use buttons allow for fast navigation on the UI. Check Price Bafx Products - For Android Only - Video review:
ANCEL AD310Stand out features If you are looking for a no-fuss and basic OBD II scanner that just does its job, look no further than this scanner from ANCEL, the Ancel AD310. The AD310’s size is just right for the toolbox or the glove compartment and is rare in wired scanners. Don’t let its small size trick you though because it is equipped with a large LCD screen that lets you see the information you need at a glance. The display is bright enough to be read even in direct sunlight, so it does not have any visibility problems in harsh shop lights. It connects directly to the car and does not require batteries or additional devices to work. The design remains faithful to the handheld scanners where the handle gently tapers for that comfortable grip.
LAUNCH OBD2 ScannerStand out features Launch produces some of the most high-tech scanners in the automotive industry and the Launch 129i is a good example of the company’s forward-thinking tech innovations. Almost all Launch products are android-powered, and matches smartphones in terms of computing power but are dedicated solely to scan, correct, and read diagnostic data from your car’s engine. This odb2 reader supports full OBD functions, 15 reset functions, AUTO VIN, battery tests, data share, as well as DTC online search capabilities. The device also can diagnose ABS and SRS trouble codes. Furthermore, the device works on OBDII EOBD/JOBD KOBD Protocol vehicles, making it among those with the widest compatibility. The manufacturer also offers a 5-year warranty and a 60-day money-back guarantee. Check Price
FIXD OBD2 ProfessionalStand out features FIXD is not just an OBD II scanner but is one of the first to implement a car health monitor ecosystem of devices. The system is composed of FIXD OBD2 Bluetooth wireless devices that plug into your OBD II port and an app that continuously monitors the vitals of your car’s engine. Putting several FIXD OBD II devices on each of your cars will enable you to monitor your fleet in just one account and app on your smartphone. The purpose of the system is to warn drivers and owners about periodic maintenance that are due for their vehicles. It will also provide live data as you drive. Along with the scan tool are premium services that you can get with a subscription, such as talking to a mechanic, provide the vehicle’s history, along with helping you pass your emissions test on the first try. Check Price FIXD OBD2 Professional - Video review:
Panlong Bluetooth OBD2Stand out features If you want to read and correct errors wirelessly at a cheaper price than most, check out the Panlong Bluetooth-powered OBD II car scanner. The price on this one will be very hard to beat if not impossible. It works on any Android-powered device such as smartphones, tablets, and car head units. The device also has a dedicated app that lets it read and relay data even faster. Connects via Bluetooth which saves battery power than those that connect via Wifi. You can leave it plugged into the car and it will automatically connect to the app once started. Once a trouble code is found, simply click or touch it and it will go online and interpret the code for you. Check Price
Innova 3160g Pro OBD2 ScannerStand out features Innova is a big name in the OBD II scanner industry and their 3160g Pro is a testament to their experience. The Innova 3160 is simple enough that it can be used by DIY and the common car owner but is also advanced enough to be used by professionals. Aside from the usual reading and clearing fault codes, this device also keeps track and helps you maintain an accurate servicing schedule. It can scan both ABS and SRS systems and boasts wide compatibility across several OBD II Protocols. Oil and battery maintenance has never been so easy because you can easily set these up every time an oil change or batteries are replaced, ensuring that you are on top of things. On top of that, it also has a DTC lookup function for a more detailed explanation of the fault codes, making it super convenient as you do not need to look it up on another device. Check Price
Autel AutoLink AL319 OBD2 ScannerStand out features What sets the AUTEL Autolink is the simplicity of its design and how easy it is to use, even by a complete amateur. It is ridiculously easy to use that anyone can make it work even without a manual. The large LCD screen combined with audible tones as you operate allows a tactile handling experience that is refreshing. You can find the AutoLink AL319 in both the DIYers’ garage and professional shops. The device can read regular OBD II codes but takes it up a notch by also being able to read manufacturer-specific codes and it is a huge plus. It can also perform SMOG tests and conduct live data streams. Check Price
Your need-to-know when choosing the best diagnostic scannerLet us have a bird’s eye view of the characteristics that earned them a place in that said list. Below you will find the factors that we considered and spent countless hours looking at obd2 scanner reviews and research to arrive at our top ten.
Types of OBD2 ScannersThere are primarily two types of engine code reader that are available in terms of connection type. The most common is the wired type and it connects to the OBD2 port via a wire to the scanner itself. The other one that is increasing in popularity is the one that uses a wireless protocol, usually Bluetooth, and simply connects to your smartphone via a companion app. Let us talk about them in further detail below.
WIREDThis type of OBD2 vehicle code reader is usually an auto diagnosis scanner and is characterized by a somewhat bulky screen and connects via a wire to the OBD2 port in your car. The data from the car’s engine is processed by the handheld unit and works with no other devices needed, such as a smartphone or a tablet. The main advantage of a wired scanner is that it works on a stand-alone mode and is generally more robust and durable in construction. It is not uncommon to find ones that are both encased in rubber and tough ABS plastic, making them immune to rough handling.
WIRELESSThese types of OBD2 scanners are increasingly becoming popular due to their cheaper price and the practicality that they offer. The best obd2 bluetooth scanners usually can fit in the palm of your hand, and you can literally forget about them when you attach them to the port. The caveat is that these will only work when connected to a mobile device, such as smartphones or tablets. These devices usually connect via Wifi or Bluetooth. Another appeal of this type of auto code reader is that you will not even notice it was there, having no wires that stick out to speak of. It is however better to get the ones connecting via Bluetooth as they have more range and yet does not consume more battery life.
Top Brands of OBD2 ScannersBecause of the huge demand for diagnostic code reader for cars, there are hundreds of OBD2 scanners, if not thousands, flooding the market as we speak. In an attempt to pierce through gimmickry and marketing, we found the three most reliable brands based on customer satisfaction, and via multiple automotive code reader review we can get our hands on.
ANCELYou can visit ANCEL’s website via anceltech.com for a comprehensive listing of all the products they offer. From there you will see that ANCEL is dedicated to creating only the best automotive products, particularly the best professional automotive diagnostic scanner you can find today. They also make other automotive products, like jump starters, and battery testers. Their products are known for being easy to use, simple, and robust machines. Because of their simplicity, ANCEL’s products are among the most popular when it comes to scanners.
FOXWELLFOXWELL products are used both by professionals and amateur car owners alike. Their products are equally at home in a shop or someone’s garage. They pride themselves on delivering top-notch products that are both innovative and simple to use and this shows in their diagnostics machine. They have some of the best after-sales customer service support available.
INNOVAThe Innova Electronics Corporation is among the worlds leading suppliers of scan tools and testing equipment for automobiles. They are not just experienced but are huge when it comes to OBD II scanners and readers. The company promises that all of its products are high quality and fully researched before reaching any of its customers. Based in the USA, the company maintains a network of certified repair technicians that you can subscribe to for their service.
Key Features that a good obd2 scanner must haveBecause there are a lot of OBDII scanners out there claiming to be the best, here is a handy checklist of what needs to be in a car diagnostic tool before it can be considered a high-quality product. These are the most basic features and functionality that any diagnostics scanner should have.
ScannerWhile this may sound funny, we are dead serious about scanners that are lacking in what they can actually scan. This is critical because some engine diagnostic tool have a limited range on what they can read from the car’s computer. When choosing a scanner, make sure that it can read pertinent data from the various sensors in your vehicle. Take the time to read up on what a particular scanner can read as the data that an obd-ii scanner can vary from engine to engine. Check if the product can only read basic trouble codes or if it can read and diagnose advanced codes.
Access to engine settingsSome of the best car diagnostic tool available will have the ability to change settings in your vehicle that can only be set at the factory. The scanner you choose should have access to different settings and even change or tweak them. Today, any scanner that just shows you trouble codes without access to clearing them or tweaking the setting is seriously lacking in features. Make sure to avoid this kind of car computer reader. One of the ways you can do so would be to look at the particular automotive code reader review to avoid any costly mistakes.
User-friendly interfaceA good quality professional car diagnostic tool will not just show you codes, but also include information as to what the codes are about and the really good ones will also present troubleshooting guides or show you how it can be cleared. Unfortunately, most scanners can only do the simplest, which is to just show you the codes and nothing else. This becomes one of the requirements for choosing the best obd2 scanner for the money. This also covers those that have large LCD screens for easy visibility, especially when working under direct sunlight or bright shop lights.
Provided InformationThe best scanning tools for cars should clear things up for the mechanic and not add to the confusion. There are a lot of products floating around the marketplaces that make buyers question, which obd2 scanner should I buy? Look for the advanced scanners that will not just spit out trouble codes that need online research to decipher, but those that interpret them into immediately usable information.
ConnectivityWhile the OBD2 port is the only way to access the engine’s computer to read its codes, there are two ways to connect from there to the scanner. Wired and wireless options are two ways to read the data coming from the scanners. For wireless options, there are Wifi and bluetooth obd2 code readers where the module is plugged into the port and then just broadcasts the information to a companion app on a mobile device. Wired scanners connect to the port and the data is fed into a handheld device and operated from there. The wired OBD2 scanners are often stand-alone, meaning they will operate without the need for a smartphone or a separate device. It is important to note though that wired devices have an advantage where they do not suffer from dropped connections or interference that may plague wireless devices.
What to look for when choosing the top obd2 scanner
FeaturesThis goes without saying that in getting the best scan tool, look for one that will no just let you check and view engine codes, but also let you clear them. The features will mean a higher price for sure, but if you choose the right set for your needs, the device will more than pay for itself in the long run. This will also extend to the actual chassis of the device. Some are simply plastic casings that easily break in the rough and tumble garage environment, and others take extra steps and materials to make the device more robust. Choose a fully-featured device that can physically hold up well to get the best price to performance ratio.
InterfaceConnectivity-wise, nothing beats the convenience of a wireless setup, you can go around, under, or even over the engine while it is being diagnosed with an obd2 scanner bluetooth-enabled device. Getting rid of the wires allows an extra dimension to car repair and it is always a plus. However, even the best bluetooth obd2 scanner cannot work without a smartphone or a tablet and this is where wired scanners come in. Wired scanners are stand-alone and will work by themselves.
Value for moneyPrice may be relative but not when it comes to the best cheap obd2 scanner, with this device, the price should correspond with what the feature set is and what it can offer in terms of benefits. This is why a basic obd2 live data scanner will cost significantly less than an advanced unit that can clear and reset codes. Your preference will play a part in this, as well as the features you need. Weigh in on the features that you need to maximize the amount that you pay for the device.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
What Is The Best OBD2 Scanner For iPhone?
The best scanner you can find that is compatible with an iPhone is no doubt the OBDLink MX+. This device turns iPhones into professional-grade top rated obd2 scanners, able to do just about everything a wired scanner can. The best thing about this Bluetooth OBD2 Device is that it is optimized for both Android and iOS operating systems for phones. What makes it the best for iOs is that it comes with a free app, without any hidden fees or annoying in-app purchases.
What OBD2 Scanner do mechanics use?
With professional mechanics, their preferred scanners are mostly wired scanners, as while the wireless counterparts offer convenience, the wired version is more complete in terms of features. In addition, mechanics will not want to purchase additional devices such as smartphones. This is primarily the reason why mechanics use mostly wired odb2 reader in their shops.
Where is the OBD2 port located?
While there may be slight differences between vehicle brands as to the placement of the OB2 port, they are all located somewhere underneath the steering wheel column. Some are to the right, while others are towards the left side or even directly underneath the column. Due to the convenience of the location, this is where most ports will be located. Consult your vehicle manual for a more specific location.
Are car health monitors the same as OBD scanners?
In terms of reading fault codes from the engine’s computer, they are similar. However, car health monitors are continuously monitoring the vehicle’s condition as you go about your daily drives, OBD scanners are deployed only when needed and are not continuously connected to the car’s OBD2 port. The difference between them is that car health monitors are more often than not a part of a digital ecosystem and are always connected to your car’s OBD II port for longer periods.
Will an OBD2 scanner tell me the problem with my car?
In general terms, yes especially if it concerns the engine. More often than not, the best car code reader can tell you and display the correct error codes. In very rare circumstances, some codes are only specific to the vehicle, but this happens only in the higher end or exotic cars. While it is acknowledged that the problem may be a result of another one, a scanner is going to point you in the right direction.