Best OBD2 Scanners 2018
Last year I spent more than $300 on a new OBD scanner for my car. It was not a good model as i did not do a good job at researching the right model for my needs, to the point that it did not help me at all and even died after a few months...
After such an unpleasant experience, I decided there wasn’t enough information out on the web, so I decided to take matters into my own hands and I built this review site WLAP with the help of a car mechanic friend!
Back in the days, a skilled car mechanic could easily find out what was going wrong with your vehicle by just listening to it's engine and quickly popping it's hood up. But this is not the case any more. Today's modern cars use sophisticated state of the art electronics that require onboard diagnostic tools to assess faulty parts. Imagine owning the same tools that professional car mechanics use to diagnose issues on cars for only a fraction of the price?
In 2018, there are a growing number of code scanning devices that are compatible with newer vehicles. With one of these OBD2 scanners you will know what's wrong with your car before taking it to the mechanic or before attempting to fix it yourself.
Each of these devices offers a variety of features with prices ranging from $20 up to $3000. Anyone in the market for a new scanning device will need to do a little homework in order to find a model that best fits their needs. Read more to find the best OBD scanners reviews!
Greatest OBD2 Scantools - A Comparison Table
- BlueDriver – This code scanner has plenty of features you won’t commonly find in other models in this price range. It also offers Bluetooth connectivity and is compatible with both iOS and Android devices, making it a steal for the price.
- Innova – This is a smart, compact detecting device that provides users with a wealth of diagnostic information and an easy to use interface. However, the scan tool fails to clear permanent codes without a sufficient amount of drive time and the terminology and overall data readout fails to clearly explain vehicle diagnostics in a manner that would be helpful for beginners.
- Foxwell – This is a scanner that’s a great option for the beginner. It offers basic code reader features and reads and clears codes quickly. But due to certain limitations, we feel that this scanner is best suited for home use only. This model doesn’t provide enough diagnostic info for use in a professional environment.
- Veepeak – This compact scanner is very easy to use and perfect for the DIY mechanic. The scanner’s wireless capabilities and affordable pricing make this one of Veepeak’s top sellers.
- Autel – This model by Autel is a device that has it all. Clear codes, run diagnostics and even get tips on how to fix the underlying problem, all with just one click of a button. This OBD2 electronic scanner scored well with consumers, but it does have some compatibility issues with older GM models, which can be a major deal breaker for the pros.
Not every scanner is created equal. In fact, there are plenty of models that don’t even come close. As part of the OBD2 standard, the US Environmental Protection Agency has mandated a basic set of emission related readings must be supported on every OBD2 vehicle. There are many lower end models that will only support emission related readings, which will give users access to only a dozen or so useful parameters, which can be very limiting. While these devices can still provide basic information, they’re just a small set of the vehicle info that’s available via the OBD2 port.
First of all, the device you purchase must support the vehicle you’ll be working on. While it’s true that OBD2 is the standard, there are currently five different types of hardware communications that are used by OBD2 vehicles. Some of these devices will support all hardware communication types while others are simply manufacturer specific.
Basically, shopping around for the best OBD2 scanner can take some research, especially if you need a model for both work and home. We’ve compiled a list of the best 5 models on the market to date, in the hope that one of these models can provide you with the features and functionality you’re looking for. Each of these devices has something special to offer, such as a great user interface, special features or a more budget friendly price.
An in-depth review of our top picks!
1. Autel AL519 AutoLink Enhanced OBD2 Scan Tool Review-Top OBD2 Scanner in 2017
The Autel Al519 AutoLink Enhanced OBD2 code reader and scanner features a patented one click I/M readiness key for quicker emission scans and drive cycle verification.
This scanner allows the user to retrieve manufacturer specific and generic codes, in addition to pending codes and VIN, CVN, and CIN. You can also clear codes, and playback or record live sensor data.
The AI519 provides pro level advanced data readings and won’t cost you a fortune. This mid-priced scanning tool comes with a long hookup cable, software, USB cord and a handy carry case.
This model is pretty versatile and works on a wide range of SUVs, cars, and trucks. However, there have been some reports that this model has trouble linking up with older models of GM vehicles. This is simply a matter of upgrading the software, so we can anticipate that Autel’s next software upgrade should fix this issue.
Aside from this issue, the device works fine on all other vehicles. Some features it offers really stand out, such as the one click I/M readiness key, the built-in speaker and the large TFT color display screen. The combination of both audible and visual capability for readiness verification really showed us that this code scanner is something special.
The scanner’s fast data reading will save you plenty of time in your workshop. In most cases, this detector proves reliable. It not only reads diagnostic codes but it can also provide the user with tips on how to fix the problem, which is a major plus for beginners or vehicle owners on a budget.
The freeze data feature is also pretty cool, offering users readings on all aspects of the engine, which gives us the impression that this scanner is very thorough. The readiness test is a feature that will also save you some serious time spent in the garage. Just one click and the device will display the status of all monitors in the vehicle.
The scanner’s issue with older GM model compatibility is a deal breaker for some. Until this software issue is fixed, Autel is essentially losing out on a large portion of their customer base. This glitch simply tells consumers that if the scanner has issues with a particular make or model, what’s to say it’ll work with their older vehicle? And they may be right, but from the tests we have performed, we had no further issues with the code reader’s compatibility and software glitch.
However, if you do happen to own an older GM, manufactured before 2008, then you may want to pass this model by.
2. Veepeak OBD2 Scanner Automotive Diagnostic Scan Tool Code Reader Review-Best Value
The Veekpeak OBD2 scanner offers a wider range of vehicle coverage and is compliant with Asian, European, and US vehicles. The scanner will allow you to clear manufacturer specific and generic codes. This model can provide the same type of info you’ll get when you use a higher priced scanner.
The scanner will help you to keep your engine in top form by running routine inspections.
The device itself is very simple to use. It’s a standalone model that doesn’t require an additional device to operate, such as a PC or smartphone, however, users do have the option of downloading the app to their Android or iOS device.
The perfect tool for vehicle diagnostics, you’ll no longer have to go to your local auto repair shop to clear a code. If you love working on your vehicle, this scanner will come in handy. The scanner can be used to track your vehicle diagnostics in real time using a mobile app called Torque. You can log your vehicle data onto a PC, smartphone, and tablet using the scanner and the app. Since this device has an on and off switch it’s much easier to log into and use. The data readout can be graphed or reviewed later if you begin noticing there are issues with your vehicle.
Simply put, this is one awesome device. It will show plenty of sensor data info so you can accurately determine what the problem is and whether or not the issue is something you can handle or whether your vehicle is headed for the auto repair shop. The Smart Control app is well designed and easy to use. The scanner itself is compact and durable. Setting up the scanner is easy, simply switch it on and plug it into your vehicle’s OBD port.
This detecting device also uses Bluetooth connectivity, making the model highly portable.
While the scanner is both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth compatible, many users have reported that connecting to the app, or even retaining a decent connection can be difficult at times, requiring the user to constantly restart their device due to the app freezing. Others have reported that using the app takes up too much battery life when used with a smartphone.
This scanner can report data back to the user that will give them a clear reason why the check engine light was triggered. The scanner also allows the user to reset all error codes, which is a huge plus for consumers. Before you use this scanner, we recommend reading the user’s manual in order to gain a better understanding of the process, which a beginner may find confusing in the beginning.
3. Foxwell Nt301 Obd2 Code Scanner Review
This is an affordable, basic code scanner that has a reputation for quality and accuracy. Setting it up and using it to diagnose any check engine light issue is a breeze, thanks to the streamlined user interface.
The Foxwell NT301 OBD2 code scanner can quickly delete and read codes. The on-screen code definitions I/M readiness monitors and built-in DTC library allow the user to determine the cause behind the check engine light, accurately. The scanner’s setup makes it easy to read codes that are manufacturer specific.
The device can clear and read error codes designed for Asian, Us, and EU based vehicles.
The scanner also shows live data information in both graph and text format, so the user is able to focus on any symptom specific parameters.
The TFT color screen measures in at 2.8 inches wide. The device comes with free lifetime upgrades and a three-year product warranty. Users can connect their scanner to their PC for access to the latest software patches and upgrades. This will allow you to stay current using the latest technology.
This model supports a number of languages including English, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, and French.
The scanner provides multiple code requests, including manufacturer specific codes, generic codes, and permanent codes.
Users can turn off the check engine light, clear codes, and reset monitors. The scanner can read freeze frame data, which will display engine conditions including engine coolant temperatures and the fuel trim at the time the MIL was set.
The scanner’s interface is easy to use and understand. The scanner’s accuracy makes it the perfect tool to use if you’re out shopping for a used car. We highly recommend this device to any car, truck, or SUV owner. The ability to connect to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi devices would allow for more versatility and user convenience, especially when shopping for a used car.
One common complaint we came across was in regard to connectivity. At times, consumers reported that getting a stable connection was a problem that required resetting the scan tool, which can be a deal breaker for some consumers. We also felt that the live data feature was pretty basic and not that helpful in terms of detailed results.
This is a versatile, accurate scanner that’s priced reasonably and easy to use, we loved the simple, streamlined interface, the ability to upgrade the scanner’s software for life and the overall quality of this device. In the future, we’d like to see more troubleshooting options in regards to the unreliable Wi-Fi connectivity and a more detailed live data feature readout.
4. Innova 3130C Diagnostic Scan Tool Review-Best Data Interface
The Innova 3130C comes with an in-tool database system called Fix Assist. This is a system which definitely takes all the guesswork out of vehicle diagnostics. This OBD2 scanner will quickly read and remove any check engine light alerts, in addition to ABS codes for newer models of domestic vehicles. This device can even verify repairs with freeze frame data, live data readings and playback data streams.
This model uses a three-color LED light system that will let the user know if their vehicle can pass an emissions test.
Internet access will also allow the user to effortlessly update the software and enjoy program upgrades.
This model is designed for anyone from beginners to pro mechanics. The device also allows you to choose from a wide variety of language options including Spanish, English, or French.
The scanner can read both OBD2 emission error codes and ABS error codes, and OEM codes for some vehicles. This model is more than just an error code reader. It’s also able to read live data. You can connect this device to your PC but you’ll need to create an account on the Innova website.
You’ll find additional resources on the manufacturer’s website including a thirty-day fix assistance, tech support, and a title report.
The Fix Assist feature works well to direct the user to a vehicle’s problems in a way that makes sense to both beginners and mechanics.
This package comes with a micro SD card, USB cable, car cable, scanner, quick reference guide, and batteries. Installation is fast and simple so the scanner will be up and running within just a few minutes.
Users will be able to make repairs, pull codes, and clear codes almost effortlessly with this easy to use scanner.
The included quick reference guide will walk you through the scanner’s basics, giving you a better understanding of exactly what this scanner can do. The USB cable will connect the scanner to your laptop of PC so you can view the entire operations manual or view more diagnostic details.
While many consumers felt that this scanner was well-made, there were some complaints about the live data feature. If you need to disconnect a sensor for troubleshooting, you’ll be unable to do any type of live data lock, although you’ll still be able to view the permanent fault codes that it created. Another issue some users had involved code clearing. We found that you’ll need to wait about a week for the code to finally clear for an accurate and up to date to live data reading. While the scanner may say the code is erased after restarting it immediately after clearing, the manufacturer states that permanent codes need a drive cycle before the code is cleared, which can be a hassle if you need to take your vehicle in for a smog test ASAP. We felt that the device lacks a way for the user to acknowledge a code and bypass it in the event that a previously cleared permanent code continues to pop up, so the scanner can be used for other diagnostics on the vehicle.
5. BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDI2 Scan Tool Review-Most User-Friendly
This scanner has a reputation for a user-friendly setup, easy pairing, scan accuracy and a number of features that make it easy for newbies and pros to determine the cause behind that check engine light.
The BlueDriver OBD2 scan tool transmits data to your mobile device, via Bluetooth. Users will need to download the BlueDriver app to read in-depth information regarding scan findings. The app also contains the user’s manual which consists of short videos.
The front face of the scanner comes equipped with a LED status light that turns blue when connected and red when it’s not connected or paired. In order to pair this scanner with an iOS or Android device, you must turn on Bluetooth settings and choose the new device. Next, you’ll need to launch the BlueDriver app.
The app’s home screen will list the scanner’s main functions. Many of these sections will require the vehicle to be running, with the exception of the flashlight, vehicle info, and repair reports. When you tap on repair reports you’ll be able to view all past codes, in addition to their possible fixes and causes.
In the read codes section, users can clear any codes by tapping on the clear code function found at the top right portion of the screen. When you’re clearing codes, you’ll receive a warning message that informs you that clearing the codes doesn’t solve the problem.
Found on the home screen, the freeze frame section allows users to view information at the time codes were stored.
Also on the home screen is the smog check section, which will allow users to check to see if their vehicle is ready for an emissions or smog test.
Mode six will allow the user to view any advanced test results.
The MIL status displays general information regarding the check engine light status, run time, and time since trouble codes were cleared.
Users can also select live monitoring from the home screen, to choose and view live information. Live data isn’t stored on the app or on the scanner, so once the vehicle has been switched off, the data is gone unless the user exports the info from within the app. Exporting detailed live data can be done by tapping the share button.
The fact that the scanner is compatible with both iOS and Android devices is a huge selling point for consumers.
Some consumers had complaints that Bluetooth connectivity was not always reliable.
This is a highly recommended model that’s perfect for both newbies and pro mechanics. Overall, we felt that the type of features found in this scanner was comparable to features found in higher priced models, which makes the BlueDriver scanner a steal for the price.
OBD2 Scanner Buying Guide
In this day and age, SUVs, trucks, and cars have computers that dictate what goes on. These computers are in control of determining what function does what, when a component has malfunctioned and what each component is doing. When things go bad, vehicle functionality is misbalanced, which, in turn, causes problems that can turn fatal.
Not long ago, the best OBD2 scanner was a tool that was only accessible to shops because of their high cost.
The OBD2 scanner is a standardized system that onboard computers in trucks and cars use for reporting and self-diagnostics. This type of system stems from the California Air Resources Board regulations and it was implemented with specifications that were created by the SAE.
Unlike those higher priced earlier versions, the two systems use the same code designations, connectors, and communication protocols from one manufacturer to the next.
This means just one scanner will provide you with access to the data that all systems are able to provide across all models of vehicles that have been produced since the late 90s.
Every year, car, truck and SUV manufacturers produce new models, revising existing models. Scan tools must be updated yearly in order to support these new models.
A high-quality scan tool should be updateable, although these types of scanners are usually higher in price than models that can’t be updated. Make sure you take a look at this option before you decide on a specific model.
We have put together an Infographic Buying Guide for you ! (Click + to Open it)
Infographic OBD2 Buying Guide
There are a couple of basic categories of the OBD2 scanner that you will come across when shopping around online.
The first is the code reader which is typically an inexpensive, no-frills type of device that can clear and read codes from any type of vehicle that’s equipped with an OBD2. These devices usually have some inherent limitations in that they often lack any information regarding codes that are manufacturer specific. They also offer limited access to other data.
Scan tools are a little more expensive and they can offer a wide variety of features. A scan tool can provide more access to important information regarding codes that are manufacturer specific. These devices can also provide customizable, extensive access to recorded and live data while offering advanced troubleshooting info as well.
The functionality of a scanner will depend on whether it’s a more advanced scan tool or a basic code reader. A basic model will only be able to read and clear the codes while the advanced models can also provide extensive knowledge bases and will allow you to view recorded and live data. They’ll also provide access to bi-directional tests and controls and offer other advanced functionality.
All types of scanners offer some basic functionality, which will include the ability to clear or read codes. Scanners can also offer the ability to check soft, or pending codes that haven’t yet activated the check engine light. You’ll get a look at the data provided from pretty much every sensor that provides input to the vehicle’s onboard computer. Some scanners can also set up a custom list of parameter IDs, while others can also provide access to other information such as readiness monitors.
All scanners are relatively easy to use because the systems are standardized and use the same connector. Basic scan tools work by simply inserting the plug into the diagnostic connector in the vehicle. Some advanced models also feature modules or keys that augment the connector in order to allow the user to interact or access the OEM specific controls or information.
If you own a vehicle that was built after 1996 and you work on it, either because you enjoy working on cars or to save money, then a scanner can be a valuable addition to your garage.
However, that doesn’t mean that every car owner should run out and spend a ton of cash on a higher end model.
The do-it-yourself mechanic has a lot of less expensive options to choose from, so you’ll want to do your homework before you decide on a model to buy. For example, plenty of parts stores will check your codes free of charge, and you can find out plenty of information for free online. For some car owners, that might be all you need.
But if you want more flexibility, there are plenty of affordable scanners to choose from. Dedicated coder readers that will give you access to PIDs is another option to look at, and you can usually find a pretty decent one for under a hundred dollars.
Why you should buy an OBD2 Scanner
When you buy a used vehicle, these hand-held devices can be quickly used to accurately check for any mechanical issues before you hand over your hard earned cash. After your buy a car, the scanner can tell you if or when trouble arises while you drive around. Knowing what’s going on under the hood will be the key to fixing your vehicle and saving you some serious cash.
Every car, SUV, and truck manufactured after ’96 will have a sixteen pin connector. This is the same port that mechanics use to plug their scanners into in order to determine what’s wrong with your vehicle. These ports are often located near the steering wheel, which allows users to run a diagnostic scan from the comfort of the driver’s seat.
In the beginning of a scan, the device will signify whether it’s safe to continue driving the vehicle, whether it needs to be towed to a shop immediately, and whether the vehicle poses potential problems. The device can then be plugged into a PC so you can view more data regarding other existing problems. Some diagnostic programs also offer information on average estimates for repair costs at local shops. Read this article, to know why you should purchase one!
As we have mentioned, vehicles now come equipped with a variety of computer chips that manage internal systems, such as the brakes, transmission, and engine. When there’s a problem with one of these systems, a warning light will begin to flash on the dashboard, such as the all dreaded check engine light. This light can be triggered by many internal issues. It can start to flash for something as simple as a loose gas cap, or it can start going off due to a major problem, such as a failing catalytic converter. The onboard diagnostic system will log the diagnostic trouble code depending on the problem. The codes are then read by the scanner and interpreted into terms that are easily understood by the diagnostic software program.
Problems the Diagnostic Scanner can detect
This type of scanner is able to detect a wide variety of internal problems. Each set of these malfunctions will trigger its own code. They are known as fault codes!
P0100-P0199: This first set of codes involve the vehicle’s carburetor, exhaust, and the engine’s intake sensors. If an issue arises with the oil temperature, oxygen sensor, fuel pressure sensor or the mass airflow sensor, it will set off this type of code.
P0200-P0299: These codes signify an issue with the combustion cylinders in the engine. This can be caused by a malfunction of the throttle position sensors, injection pump, turbocharger, combustion cylinders, or the fuel injector sensors.
P0300-P0399: This next set of codes will display an alert for the engine’s ignition and output systems. This can involve issues with the timing chain, ignition coils, camshaft, or the crankshaft.
P0400-P0499: These set of codes will alert you to problems with the emissions and exhaust, such as water vapor in the catalytic converter, exhaust gasses spilling from the engine, evaporation failure of the emissions control system, excess pressure found in the exhaust system, or overheating.
P0500-P0599: This last set of codes involve issues with the electrical system, such as a problem with the electrical wiring, cruise control, power steering, or the idle control system.
OBD2 Scanner Options
The biggest difference between the two different types of diagnostic scanners is the different types of codes you’ll be able to read. Lower end scanners will only clear codes and read codes for basic functionality. These are the scanners that generally cost less. Usually, all you will get with this type of device is engine or PCM data. An upgraded reader will offer definitions of generic codes, permanent and pending codes, and is even able to freeze frame info. These are the more expensive devices and they come with enough bells and whistles that even the amateur mechanic will be able to comprehend the code meanings and determine the underlying issues. Often, higher end scanners will be able to diagnose issues in a wider variety of systems. When you purchase a scanner, you should also be aware of whether they’re able to provide coverage for European, Asian or domestic manufacturers. Some high-end models even have built-in Wi-Fi technology instead of the basic USB connection, which makes it easier to display information on another screen such as a tablet or smartphone.
Expensive, top selling models will offer a more powerful setup for diagnosing almost every make and model. This is crucial because the adapters and connectors can vary by model year and make. Some scanners will come with a hand-held PDA reader that connects to the scanning tool via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
You can purchase a scan tool from an automotive parts store, or online. Online you’ll find a wider variety of diagnostic scanners, in addition to consumer feedback which can help you to determine if the scanner offers the functions and features you’re looking for.
In order to find the right type of scanner for you and your vehicle online, it’s important that you know how complex the scanner you’re interested in may be. The more complex the model, the more systems it will be able to analyze and the more tracking feedback it can provide.
One valuable aspect of shopping for a diagnostic scanner online is the seller evaluation and feedback system. This will give you some insight into the type of functionality and versatility each model offers.
How to use your new OBD2 scan tool
Learning how to use one of these devices is an important part of ensuring that there’s always a smooth fault repair process. Basic know how can prevent misinterpretation of trouble codes and scanning mishaps. While the entire usage process is often found in the user manual, many of these manuals are not exactly written for the novice mechanic, making them difficult to understand.
If you’re using a newer model, one that features Bluetooth or Wi-Fi use, then it’s important that you have a relevant software pairing device in the form of an Android, or iOS device, or even a Windows PC. These devices are made ready for pairing by simply downloading the OBD software designed for the model in question.
Read this post to find how to properly install your scanner!
Each time you connect the device to your vehicle’s port after the diagnostics have been run, the scanner will display the trouble codes, giving you the option whether or not to investigate each of the codes further. The detection process itself can take some time. Because these new generations of scanners are known for their level of sophistication. Using them with a paired device will be more self-explanatory. Even if you don’t intend to work on your vehicle yourself, using one of these devices will come in handy because it will tell you exactly what’s wrong with your vehicle, allowing you to call around and find the best deal at one of the local auto repair shops. If you’re basically clueless about car repair, choose a model that has a reputation for user-friendliness and a more intuitive setup.
OBD2 scanners are valuable tools that are essential for assessing the many problems that can arise in a vehicle. While more feature packed models tend to be quite expensive, they can ultimately help save you some serious cash if you’re able to work on your vehicle yourself, or they can help you to get a better deal at a repair shop and can also help to prevent untrustworthy mechanics for charging you for repairs that aren’t even needed.
We hope this extensive buying guide has given you a clear picture regarding what features to look for and which type of OBD2 scanner will work best for you and your vehicle. While there are several options on the market to choose from, we’re confident that one of these top five models we reviewed will have the features and functionality you’re looking for, at a price you can afford.