Complete Buying Guide For The Best OBD2 Scanner

For most people, their vehicle is more than just a transportation device. Do you know that with an OBD2 scanner, you can get to know your car better than ever?

While they may not be living, breathing objects, you may find often enough that you still form a bond with your car. 

Some people may give it a name, some might find a form of solitude or peace in the driver seat, others may release tension in traffic by bursting out in song.

Whatever you may or may not do in your personal vehicle is unique, but universally we hope every time we turn over the ignition, we get to where we are going safely and securely.

One way you can get to know your car on a more personal level is with a car scan tool or nowadays it an OBD2 diagnostic scanner.

Best OBD2 scanner
OBD2 scanners diagnose your car.
Credit: OBDstation.com

What is an OBD Scanner?

Since 1988, the technology beyond the dashboard has been programmed to maintain the most important vehicle systems with the introduction of On-Board Diagnostics, otherwise known as OBD2.

Now, this is a standardized system on all cars and trucks.

The design of the  OBD2 system assists your vehicle by performing periodic tests of key vehicle components and emission monitoring.

Essentially, it’s a vehicles’ self-diagnosing tool that regulates and monitors the health of your vehicle.

In order to get behind the brain of the computer on wheels, technicians use an OBD2 car scan tool to read and analyze the data that your car gathers every day.

What Is OBD, OBD1, OBD2?

OBD2 connector
OBD connector shape.
Credit: OBDstation.com

First of all, how to tell OBD vs OBD1 and OBD2? The best summary can be explained as followed:

OBD, shortened for onboard diagnostics, is a diagnostic system designed specifically for cars. It monitors your car’s engine with the help of sensors.

These sensors can detect abnormalities including issues with spark plugs, catalytic converter, etc.

An OBD system can also communicate with you to update you on your car’s condition.

While the first OBD system has been a massive success, there is now a better version in the form of OBD1, which was introduced in 1991.

Launched first by California to curb vehicle emission, this system can report codes and also detect problems with the engine.

Despite OBD1 being reliable, it did have some issues mainly due to a lack of standardization across manufacturers. This is why OBD2 was introduced in 1996.

Thus, OBD2 scanners standardized the system and can be used with a number of vehicles without any issues. However, they are both in use today.

OBD2 scanners do not only provide more reliable codes and fixes but can also cover more problems as well. Plus, they can provide a real-time diagnosis for quick fixes.

This is why they are so heavily in demand. This OBD scanner buying guide will mainly cover OBD2 scanners since they are the most in demand these days.

OBD scanner Operation: How does it work?

In a nutshell, an OBD Scan Tool can link up to the computer database inside your vehicle to diagnosis all systems.

With an effective scan tool, you will have access to Reading and Erasing Engine Codes, Checking I/M Readiness, which includes emissions.

You also will have access to more advanced features such as online programming, key coding and other useful functions with an advanced automotive scan tool.

I would suggest doing research on what scan tool is perfect for you and your vehicle, or check out a comparison chart of the top 10 best car scanners.

First, check out how to correctly use an OBD2 scan tool.

Each car scan tool is unique, however, the thing that remains consistent in all of them is the ability to help the user detect the diagnostic trouble codes stored within the vehicles On-Board Diagnostic system.

These codes, better known as DTCs – Diagnostic Trouble Codes, identify the problem area and provide an inside look at where the problem may be occurring.

Diagnostic Trouble Codes
Example of Diagnostic Trouble Codes. Credit: OBDstation.com

Today, our vehicles are smarter and more advanced and often can self-correct an issue, however, some problems need extra assistance.

If the check engine light or Malfunction indicator light turns on, that means the Power Control Module (PCM) cannot decode the error.

Within your vehicle, a series of codes create a language to tell you what is occurring beyond the dashboard.

This is when a car scan tool comes in handy.

Using a car diagnostic tool, you can decode and discover the source of the problem.

Bonus: Best Car Code Reader: Top 10 Picks For Money Review and Comparison 2019

What can an OBDii Scanner do for your car? – Functionality

If your check engine light has come on, there are various reasons that could be causing it, with a multi-functional scan tool you can gain access to a series of functions to help make the diagnosis easy.

A typical code reader can only help read and clear codes.

But, a car scan tool grants access to live and stored data as well as enabling the user to perform many other functions.

Transmission Diagnostics:

Some of the most common error codes come from the transmission. Whether that may be an overheating problem, transmission control malfunction or low transmission fluid, with an auto scanner that gives direct access to transmission codes, the diagnosis will be a piece of cake.

ABS/SRS/Airbag Monitoring:

The ABS system stores information about wheel speed, brake fluid, and antilock detection, which controls the most important thing about your vehicle: how to stop. The SRS system, or airbags, monitors wheel speed, brake pressure, and seat occupancy to ensure all passengers are secure in the event of an accident. These systems are key components that an OBD2 scanner can detect are running smoothly.

Tire Pressure Monitoring System:

Or TPMS is a system that’s primary job is to inform the driver about the state of the tire pressure within the wheels. With normal conditions, the OBD system will alert the driver when the PSI of a tire falls below 25%. Before changing the tires on a vehicle, its always recommended checking the TPMS with a scan tool.

Oil Reset:

After you have checked the oil levels on your vehicle, and finished the proper maintenance, whether that be replacing the pump or sensor, sometimes the pesky oil light remains on. In this case, an OBD2 scanner is the best tool to reset the light and inform the OBD system that everything is working properly.

Battery Testing:

Testing the battery is an important part of vehicle maintenance, in order to check battery health and to avoid the problem of the car not starting. Using an OBD2 auto scanner or battery tester, you will have a clear reading of when or if it is time to replace the battery.

Other Advanced functions:

Not all scan tools are built the same, if you purchase a more advanced scanner or a bi-directional scan tool, you may have additional features that are not common in ALL products.

For example, with a more advanced scan tool, you may have access to:

  1. Online Programming- If this is the case, you may be able to program and update your device through wireless or internet connectivity. This will keep your device up-to-date and give more accurate vehicle readings.
  2. ABS, Misfires, Battery Information- You can ensure your vehicle is in good health with a clear reading about the diagnostics of your vehicles ABS system, battery system and all engine misfires happening with live data streaming.
  3. Anti-Lock Brake System and Key-Coding- The most important systems on your vehicle can detect how fast your car is moving and how much pressure to give to your brakes in order to stop your vehicle from propelling forward. You can receive real-time accurate data about your vehicles brake speed with advanced functions from a scan tool. If you get really advanced, some newer scan tools allow you to program new keys for your car, which will help you avoid high costs form mechanics.

Additional Scan Functions:

  • CEL, RPM, Fuel, Speed, Pressure, Coolant Temp, Live Map: Many different parameters are measured when there is a misfire in the engine of a vehicle. With Freeze Frame technology, a scan tool is able to take a snapshot of important information such as RPM, Fuel, Speed, Coolant Temperatures and Live Map of the exact location a problem may be occurring.
  • Air Fuel Ratio and O2 Sensors.- determining the condition of the oxygen sensor in your vehicle is vital to make sure everything is operating smoothly. If the Oxygen Sensor is malfunctioning, this may cause the engine to read problems slower or inaccurately. A scan-tool can read emissions of your vehicle and understand if all ratios are proper.
  • Battery Performance, Engine Performance, Oil Temp:  Most effective scan tools allow you to test the voltage, current, and continuity of the battery life on your vehicle. This will ensure your vehicle is running properly and you will ensure high engine performance. You may not be able to read the oil temperature with all scan tools, but if the error code arrives, you can quickly read the definition of oil temperature.

Why Get An OBD2 Scanner?

An OBD2 scanner will let you read check engine light codes and even provide a fix. That’s not all, they will also perform advanced functionalities like check battery performance, do smog tests, EPB, key coding etc.

Hence, you’d be saving a lot of money by fixing small problems yourself and saving a trip to the garage.

We prepared this review after testing several OBD2 scanners to find the best OBD2 scanner.

Some were extremely good, some were extremely bad. We made sure to only include the best OBD2 scanners after comparing them on features, prices and other such factors.

OBD scanners can help you save money, but you must pick one carefully.

This OBD scanner buying guide is designed to help you in this regard.

Buying Guide for the best OBD Scanner

It will answer all your questions related to scanners while making it easy for you to pick the right scanner.

What Types of OBD Scanner Do I Need?

This largely depends on your vehicle and requirements. Ideally, you should go for OBD2 scanners since they are more powerful. However, OBD2 scanners do not support old cars (usually older than 1996 models), so that can be a problem.

Pick a scanner that is compliant with your vehicle.

The next step is to consider different types. They are explained below with the help of comparison charts.

OBD1 Scanners vs OBD2 Scanner: A Comparison

Have a look at this table to understand the difference so that you can pick the right scanner for your car:

CriteriaOBD1 ScannersOBD2 Scanners
Innova 3145BlueDriver
Vehicles CompatibilityCars manufactured before 1996. Some trucks may also be supportedCars manufactured in 1996 and beyond. Some scanners support selected big trucks and electric cars as well
Use of UseEasy to use but limited functionalitiesEasy to use with more functionalities
DiagnosisSemi-automaticFully automatic
Main FunctionsCan check actuator and sensor for high resistance, shorts and opens. All values that are out of range are sent back to the ECM.Can do all that OBD1 scanners do with additional functions including smog tests, graphs, customization, record and playback data, etc.
SolutionGive result after considering fuel and energy consumed by the vehicle while comparing it to the outputImproved messaging formats and signaling protocols that take into account different factors and calculations
ReliabilityLowVery High
InterfaceManufacturer (each scanner is specific to one manufacturer)Universal (one scanner supports multiple cars)
Messaging ExampleCEL (Check Engine Light)C2132 (alphabet followed by four digits)
ConnectionTypically connected to the consoleMost of them work remotely via Bluetooth or Wifi

Code Readers vs DIY Scanners vs Professional Diagnostic Tools Comparision Chart

Basic Code ReadersDIY ScannersProfessional Diagnostic Tools
Autel AutoLink AL319 OBD2 Scanner

BlueDriverAutel MK808
Very affordableAffordableExpensive
Can read and clear DTC’sMeant for basic tasks but can perform some advanced functions as wellCan perform both basic and advanced tasks
Give access to few PIDs and can also clear set engine light, but don’t offer troubleshooting, live data, graphs, and other such detailed featuresDo all that basic code readers do with access to all major PIDs. Plus, offer code definitions and information on basic troubleshooting. Can also handle bidirectional communicationDo all that DIY scanners do with added features as some come with additional testing tools like multimeters and scopes. Plus, some may give access to additional PIDs.
Good for DIYers and people trying to know their cars better and solve small problemsPerfect for car lovers who wish to upgrade their vehicles and saving trips to the mechanicMeant for professionals and mechanics. Not suitable for people with little knowledge about cars

The right type of those troubleshooting scan tools depends on your needs. DIY scanners seem to be most popular since they offer a balance between basic and advanced tasks.

If you are a car enthusiast or DIYer then you should go for DIY scanners. They are easy to use and are also compact in size. Plus, they also often come with guides and tutorials.

However, if you are a professional or need very advanced features then opt for professional scanners. They are large in size but offer almost everything that a mechanic needs.

You should pick the scanner that supports your vehicle which depends on the year it was manufactured in. There are some 2in1 scanners as well that support both newer and older car models.

They can be a good option if you have two or more cars from different eras. Just make sure to pick a scanner that offers all the functionalities that you need.

What Vehicles Are They Compatible With?

best obd ii scanner
Car diagnostic tool is a handy and useful tool for car owner.

OBD1 Scanners:

Support most cars manufactured between 1991-1996. Plus, few newer and older models might also be supported You may, however, need to purchase cables separately.

Moreover, since they are not standardized, a scanner made for Ford will not work for Toyota. You will get different diagnostics even if both cars have similar issues.

Best OBD1 Scanners Comparison Chart
Actron CP9690FOXWELL NT510

INNOVA 3120
Customer Rating
4.24.2 / 5
4.24.2 / 5
4.14.1 / 5
PriceActronCP9690 priceFOXWELL NT510 priceInnova price
Item Weight3.8 pounds1.35 pounds5 pounds
Product Dimensions10.2 x 13.6 x 5.4 inches7.9 x 1.5 x 3.9 inches10 x 7.2 x 3.8 inches
OBD1 and OBD2 functionsYesYesYes
Support ABS functionsYesYesYes
Support SRS functionsYesYesNo
Support transmission and engineYesYesYes
Read and clear check engine lightYesYesYes



Bonus: Best OBD1 Scanners Review and Comparison 2019

OBD2 Scanners:

They support almost all models released after 1996. However, they might not work with hybrid and electric vehicles.

Bonus: Best OBD2 Scanners Review and Comparison 2019

OBD2 Basic VS Advanced Functions

OBD2 scanners can perform a mix of basic and advanced functionalities. However, what they can do largely depends on the manufacturer and app they support.

Some basic functions that OBD2 scanners cover include:

  • CEL, RPM, Speed, Fuel, Pressure, Check Engine Light Reset,
  • Coolant Temp, Air Fuel Ratio, Live Map, Freeze Frame Data,
  • Live Readings, Oil Temp, Coolant Temp,
  • Fuel Pressure, DPF Temp, Smog Testing, O2 Sensors and Fuel Trim.

Other than this, most OBD2 scanners offer Graphs, Digital Display, Data Export, and Dashboard Customization as well. Plus, they can all suggest repairs but some may come with more reliable solutions than others.

Some advanced features that OBD2 scanners cover include:

  • ABS, Misfire Counts, Oil Change, SRS, Weather Check,
  • BMC Coding, Mileage, Battery Information and Initialization,
  • Video Overlay, Oil Reset, Supplemental restraint system,
  • Anti-brake lock system and Airbag Problems,
  • Key Coding, ECU coding, ECU programming, Online Programming, etc.

Do I Need an OBD2 Scanner with Advanced Functions?

Only you can answer this question. If you are not a tech geek or have no knowledge of codes and vehicle maintenance, then there is no point in going for a scanner with advanced features.

You will not be able to understand most of the codes and will anyway have to take your vehicle to a mechanic.

However, if you are a tech enthusiast or professional then you should go for advanced features.

A scanner with advanced features will help you understand your car better. Plus, the right OBD2 scanner can even allow you to customize your vehicle and get more out of it.

Corded vs Bluetooth Vs WiFi OBD2 Scanner

Best obd2 scanner
Corded OBD2 scanner.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org.
Corded scanners make use of a wire to connect with the vehicle. Most come with a wire that’s supported but you may have to buy separately in some cases and connect it with the port.

This is the biggest drawback of corded scanners, yet many people still use them. Some also find them to be easier to use because there is no need to worry about Bluetooth or WiFi signals and devices being supported.

However, wireless scanners seem to be more popular. They both do the same job: provide you with diagnostics but using different technologies.

Bluetooth and WiFi scanners can connect with your Windows, Android or iOS device to transfer data. We prefer Bluetooth over WiFi since it consumes less power and is typically faster as well.

However, you will not face much difference in terms of speed since OBD2 scanners only transfer small data.

Apple’s MFi program prevents certain Bluetooth devices from working on iOS devices. This is why some Bluetooth scanners do not support iOS devices.

In addition to this, WiFi adapters can be a pain when connecting to the internet, especially when used with Android devices.

Since they do not serve as modems, you will have to disconnect the internet every time you have to search for a code. This can be avoided by using Bluetooth scanners.

All in all, we would say it is a personal preference. Some people like wires and some do not. Overall, the features provided by a scanner depend more on the brand and less on it being wireless.

Bonus: Best Bluetooth OBD2 Scanners Review and Comparison 2019

10 Best OBD2 Scanners Review And Comparison 2019

Want to get the best OBD2 scanner and reduce trips to the mechanic? Then you’ve landed on the right page.

OBD2 Scanners can diagnose and fix problems in your car’s engine. They display check engine light codes when there’s something wrong with the engine and some also suggest fixes.

Some advanced OBD2 scanners also let you do much more than just fix CEL (check engine light) codes. They can handle ECU programming, IMMO, DPF, etc. You will need to get the best OBD2 scanner and you are good to go.

Types of OBD2 Scanner

There are three kinds of OBD2 scanners:

Basic OBD2 Code Readers:

These are the cheapest OBD2 scanners and offer many basic functions such as checking engine light codes, reading and clearing DTCs, etc.

You won’t find any advanced features on them and a very few of them can connect to a smartphone or third party app. So, wireless connectivity can be an issue here.

DIY OBD2 Scanners:

These scanners mostly come with dedicated mobile apps to connect wirelessly. Most DIY scanners can make a connection with a smartphone.

In terms of functionality, they are better than basic OBD2 scanners but are not suitable or professional use since they only offer a few advanced functions.

Professional Diagnostic Tools:

These scanners offer solutions to complex car problems. You will find many advanced features in professional OBD2 scanners such as ECU coding, key programming, DPF, EPB etc. This is the best OBD2 scanner among all three.

Editor’s Top 3 Picks: Best OBD2 car diagnostic tools

Best Code ReaderBest DIY ScannerBest Professional Diagnostic Tool
Autel AutoLink AL319 OBD2 Scanner

BlueDriverAutel MK808
Customer Rating
4.44.4 / 5
4.44.4 / 5
4.54.5 / 5
Priceautel-al319BlueDriverMK808
Weight6.2 ounces1.6 ounces5.65 pounds
Dimensions63 x 17.7 x 92.5 inches2.2 x 1.9 x 1 inches9.4 x 1.4 x 5.9 inches
Type

Basic OBD2 Code Readers

DIY OBD2 Scanners

Professional OBD2 Diagnostic Tools

CELYesYesYes
VINYesYesYes
ABS/SRSN/AYesYes
Oil resetN/AN/AYes
ProgrammingN/AN/AKey programming
Compatibility

OBD2 and CAN

Android And Windows.

OBD2 compliant 1996 and newer US-based models.

OBD2 supported 1996 US and newer models.
OBD2 supported 2000 EU based models

Connection

Corded

Bluetooth

Android KitKat.

Let’s see Why it is Recommended!

Want to read more about the whole 10 Scan Tools in the list?

Let’s dive into the details now and learn why these are the best OBD2 Scan Tools.

First, let’s look at the detailed review of the scanners in groups of OBD2 Code Readers, OBD2 DIY Scanners, Professional Automotive Diagnostic Tools:

Best OBD2 Code Readers

1. Autel AutoLink AL319 Engine Fault CAN / OBD2 Code Reader

autel al319
Autel AutoLink AL319 Engine Fault CAN / OBD2 Code Reader
4.44.4 / 5
Autel al319 OBD2 code scanner is ‘Plug and play’ and very easy to use even for beginners,works on all 1996 and newer vehicles (OBD II & CAN)-domestic and import,Supports English, French, German,Spanish etc

If you have a 1996 model or newer car then Autolink AL319 being a plug and play OBD2 code reader can be a good option.

AL319 diagnoses and fixes problems quickly and is a good fit for beginners even if they don’t know anything about engine problems.

Basic Functions:

AL319 will check engine light codes and clear them. It shows live PCM data so that you can know which parameter is wrong.

Autel Autolink al319 best obd2 car code reader
Basic functions of Autel AutoLink AL319.
Credit: Amazon.com

Freeze frame data tells you the reason for your car’s breakdown.

Other common functions it offers include I/M Readiness Status(emissions), Live Sensor Data, VIN, CIN, CVN, and DTC Lookup.

Print Data:

With AL319, you can print the code along with the definition. This is a good option as you can show it to any professional and ask for tips – even a Google search can be of help.

Corded:

Autolink AL319 doesn’t support Bluetooth or WiFi as it is not phone supported.

Free Updates:

AL319 OBD2 code reader lets you download free updates.

The only bad thing about the product is that it doesn’t support phone connectivity and the cord isn’t too long either.

Compatibility

Supports OBD2 1996 and newer models, CAN support vehicles, EOBD vehicles as well.

No phone support.

Pros and Cons of Autel Autolink AL319

Pros

  • 1-year warranty.
  • Lifetime free updates.
  • It has P0, P2, P3, U0 and U3 within the DTC library.
  • Lets you reset ABS and SRS lights.
  • Gives real-time information.

Cons

  • Short cord – won’t allow the device to come to the lap.
  • Doesn’t display VIN information on some models.
  • It doesn’t read Volvo XC90 codes.

Best car coder reader review
Autolink AL319 for corded connection.
Credit: Amazon.com
Who Is It Built For?

DIYers and car owners who want to save money by taking their car to a mechanic.

Car owners who can deal with a corded yet useful scanner.

Not suitable for professionals due to a lack of advanced functionalities.

2. Launch Creader 4001 OBD2 Car Code Reader

Launch Creader 4001
launch creder 4001
Launch Creader 4001 OBD2 Car Code Reader
55 / 5
Launch Creader 4001 is one of the best obd2 code readers you can find in this price range. It offers basic functions, supports obd2/Can/European/Asian models manufactured in and after 1996.
Basic Functions:

Launch Creader 4001 can read and erase DTCs, Display I/M Readiness Status, Live Data Stream, Freeze Frame Data, etc. Moreover, it can fix a Malfunction Indicator Light (MIL).

DTC Lookup Library:

The DTC lookup library lets you view the definition of the code displayed.

best obd2 scanner for the money
Launch Creader 4001 is one of the best obd2 code readers you can find in this price range.
Credit: Amazon.com
Ergonomic Design:

Launch Creader 4001 shows a well presented graphical data on the 2.4-inch color display and has a good ergonomic design.

The downside of this OBD II scanner is that it is not phone supported and doesn’t support JOBD protocol (Japanese models, even if they’re OBD2 compliant).

Compatibility

Launch Creader 4001 is compatible with all 1996 and newer models that are OBD2 compatible.

Pros and Cons of Launch Creader 4001

Pros

  • 1-year warranty.
  • Also works on 12v diesel vehicles.
  • Supports multiple languages.
  • Self-charging when plugged in.

Cons

  • No phone support or updates available.
  • No O2 sensor test.
  • Not available for cars that have a JOBD protocol.

Who Is It Built For?

Creader 4001 is a simple OBD2 code reader which is built for car owners who want to fix small car problems.

3. FOXWELL NT301 Professional Enhanced OBDII Code Reader

FOXWELL NT301
FOXWEL NT301
FOXWELL NT301 Professional Enhanced OBDII Code Reader
4.34.3 / 5
NT301 car scan tool is open to global customers. It is an upgraded version from the basic car obdii diagnostic scanner with distinctive features. No battery required, it is charged directly from the OBDII car scanner interface in your vehicle.

FOXWELL NT301 provides some amazing functions which is why it is one of the best OBD2 code readers we have on the list. It shows the code’s definition on the TFT screen which is graphically superior and also erases DTC (engine fault codes).

Other than that, Foxwell NT301 performs most of the common functions such as CEL(check engine light), MIL(malfunction indicator lamp), VIN etc.
Basic Functions:

Supports multiple code requests including manufacturer specific, generic and pending codes.

Performs engine diagnostics such as Fuel Trim, Engine Coolant Temp, I/M Readiness, Freeze Frame, Fuel Pressure, RPM ECT and reads live O2 Sensor as well.

NT301 doesn’t have any advanced functions such as DPF, Programming, and Key Coding.

Best obd2 scanner
Foxwell NT301 features with most basic OBD2 functions.
Credit: Amazon.com
An EOBD and OBD II Scanner:

FOXWELL NT301 supports 1996 and after US-based OBD2 supported models. Moreover, it can also support 2001 and newer petrol supported European cars with OBD diagnostics

Compatibility

NT301 supports five major OBDII protocols.

No phone connectivity. This OBD II scan tool is connected to the CPU of the vehicle using a diagnostics cable.

Pros and Cons of FOXWELL NT301

Pros

  • Charges when the ignition is on.
  • 1-year money back guarantee and lifetime free updates.
  • On-screen DTC definitions that point the exact problem.
  • Can be updated through the internet.
  • Saves data log that can also be printed.

Cons

  • Only updates on Windows.
  • The scanner doesn’t support BMW.
  • The appearance of white dots in place of text after some time.

Who Is It Built For?

Only for car owners and DIYers because it doesn’t offer advanced options.

4. BAFX Products Bluetooth Diagnostic OBDII Code Reader

BAFX
bafx products
BAFX Products Bluetooth Diagnostic OBDII Code Reader
4.44.4 / 5
Many similar OBD2 tools CLAIM to work on all vehicles but have problems with the J1850 & CAN protocols however….. the BAFX Products OBD reader actually DOES work on all vehicles & ALL OBD2 protocols!

BAFX is an OBD2 scanner that performs diagnostics on your vehicle’s engine and provides with instant results. Moreover, it is the among the most selling code readers on the market.

Displays Real-time Results:

Running a diagnostic while the vehicle is in motion can help driven can detect problems in real-time. These include engines issues, overheating issues, sensor problems etc.

BAFX shows results in a graphical form which is easy to read.

obd2 scanner bluetooth
BAFX wireless OBD2 scanner.
Credit: Amazon.com
Smog Check:

BAFX also lets you perform smog test to check for excess emissions in the car.

Basic Functions:

This can check Coolant Temp, Oil Temp, CEL Fault Codes, Air Fuel Ratio, Fuel Pressure, DPF Temp, O2 Sensors, Fuel Trim, Emission Test, etc.

The downside of BAFX is that it loses connectivity on some models.

Moreover, it doesn’t have an app of its own. You will need to download a third party app to use it.

Compatibility

This OBD2 scan tool can be operated via a smartphone. It supports Android and Windows phones only and is compatible with 1996 and newer models including hybrid cars.

Additionally, it is also compatible with some vehicles outside of the US. These include:

  • Mexico – All vehicles, 2006 & Newer
  • Australia – All vehicles, 2006 & Newer
  • India – All vehicles, 2013 & Newer
  • EU (Petrol) – All vehicles, 2001 & Newer
  • EU (Diesel) – All vehicles, 2004 & Newer
  • Israel – All vehicles, 2003 & Newer
  • Brazil – All vehicles, 2008 & Newer
  • Canada – All vehicles, 1998 & Newer
  • Japan – All vehicles, 2010 & Newer

It supports all OBDII protocols including CAN & J1850 protocols.

Pros and Cons of BAFX Products

Pros

  • 2-year warranty
  • Quick sensor fresh.
  • Real-time data reading.
  • Works great in 20ft range.

Cons

  • Doesn’t stay engaged for long
  • Doesn’t last very long
  • Can’t work on Apple devices

Who Is It Built For?

For DIYers and car owners for performing simple diagnostics.

Best DIY OBD2 Scanners

The above four were the best four OBD2 code readers. Now, let’s have a look at some of the best DIY OBD scanners.

5. BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDII ScanTool for iPhone, iPad & Android

BlueDriver
BlueDriver
BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDII Scan Tool for iPhone, iPad & Android
4.44.4 / 5
BlueDriver is an expert problem-solving Scanner, authorized for Apple and Android devices. In this device features of a sophisticated scanner are coupled with the marvelous technology in your smartphone, giving you a unique tool to count on.
Bluedriver is the best OBD2 scanner for many reasons. The biggest one being it supports Bluetooth. It performs almost all the basic and some above-average functions as well.
Extensive Repair Solution:

Bluedriver scanner has around 30 million fixes in the database that provides you with an accurate and complete repair solution.

Advanced Tests:

Bluedriver can conduct a variety of advanced tests such as Fuel System Test, Comprehensive Components Test, Airbag, ABS, Misfire Counts, etc.

best obd2 scanner bluetooth
Credit: Amazon.com
Dashboard Customization:

Bluedriver scanner offers great customization options. You can customize the type of data you want to see such as RPMs, speed, fuel pressure, etc.

Shows Accurate Results:

Bluedriver scanner shows accurate information regarding your vehicle’s maintenance schedules, TSBs (technical service bulletins) and specifications.

Smog Check:

Smog tests let you know if your car is producing excessive emission.

best obdii bluetooth
BlueDriver is easy to use as a code reader with all the capabilities of an expensive handheld scan tool.
Credit: Amazon.com
Export Data:

A log file can be made and exported to a computer as well.

The downside of Bluedriver is that it doesn’t support camshaft timing. Also, you can’t reprogram a FOB and read transmission temperature.

Compatibility

Bluedriver scanner supports all Volkswagen, Chrysler, GM, BMW, Honda, Ford, and Nissan models sold in North America. The software runs on both iOS and Android devices and is also free to download.

Bluedriver also supports major OBDII protocols.

Pros and Cons of BlueDriver

Pros

  • Real-time accurate data (engine oil temp, pressure, fuel usage, etc.)
  • Takes a snapshot when a code is stored (Freeze Frame).
  • Offers all basic and a few advanced diagnostic features.
  • Reads and clears CEL codes.
  • 6 million verified fixes from the scanner.

Cons

  • The app doesn’t work well with laptops (it is meant for phones only).
  • It doesn’t show cam and crank sensor details.
  • It cannot activate relays and switches.

Who Is It Built For?

Vehicle owners who want to perform engine tests using their phone can turn to this best OBD2 scanner. It is smartphone operable and works on Bluetooth technology.

It’s a good fit for DIYers.

6. Autel MaxiLink ML619 CAN OBD2 Scanner

Autel MaxiLink ML619
autel ml619
Autel MaxiLink ML619 CAN OBD2 Scanner
4.44.4 / 5
Quickly diagnose problems with a vehicle with the Autel MaxiLink ML619 Vehicle Diagnostic Scanner Reader. This handheld tool is ideal for detecting faults on anti-lock brakes ABS, supplemental restraint systems and air bag systems SRS, and performing OBDII diagnostics

Autel Maxilink ML619 is an OBD2 scan tool that can detect faults on anti-lock brakes ABS, SRS, airbag systems, etc.

It can also read generic and manufacturer specific codes.

The scanner comes with a USB cable, 16GB micro SD card, and a nylon cover.

Advanced Functions:

Autel Maxilink ML619 offers some useful advanced functions including ABS Warning Lights, SRS Warning Lights.

Common Functions:

With Autel Maxilink ML619, you read and clear codes that are pending, check and clear CEL codes, and shows drive cycle readiness as well.

best obdii scanner
With Autel Maxilink ML619, you read and clear codes that are pending, check and clear CEL codes, and shows drive cycle readiness as well.
Credit: Amazon.com
Code And Cause:

You won’t be only seeing a trouble code on the screen but a full explanation. For example, if something’s wrong in the intake valve, it will show P1135 = ‘Intake Valve Timing Control Bank 2’.

Autel Maxilink ML619 does tell you about the problems in the ABS and SRS systems but doesn’t stream live ABS sensor signals.
Compatibility

Autel Maxilink ML619 supports a wide range of vehicles including:

Ford, GM, Honda, Holden, Mitsubishi, Rover, Acura, FIAT, Audi, Nissan and all the cars that are 1996 and newer (OBD2 and CAN) models.

Autel Maxilink ML619 is one of the best obd2 reader which is a corded device.

Pros and Cons of Autel MaxiLink ML619

Pros

  • Live graph data.
  • Updates are free.
  • Print data logs on PC.
  • Can be used on multiple vehicles.
  • No battery needed as it is powered using the vehicle’s DLC.

Cons

  • Need to register on the website to update.
  • Only for USA/Canada vehicles (gives range error in other models).
  • 46 feet cord can be too short for some people.

Who Is It Built For?

Since it can cover many basic functions and also show and clear ABS and SRS light issues, Autel Maxilink ML619 is an excellent option for DIYers if not the best OBD2 scanner and people who want to avoid garage trips.

7. Innova 3100j ABS SRS EVAP OBD2 Scanner with Freeze Frame Function

Innova 3100j
Innova 3100j
Innova 3100j ABS SRS EVAP OBD2 Scanner with Freeze Frame Function
4.44.4 / 5
The all-new 3100j is the perfect entry-level tool designed to empower any consumer or technician when it comes to vehicle maintenance and repair. This code reader works on all 1996 and newer OBD2 cars, light trucks, SUV’s, hybrids, and minivans.

Innova 3100J is an OBD scanner that can display CEL messages along with their fixes. It will help you keep the car’s battery’s performance in check by doing battery tests.

It also performs the oil reset test and provides step-by-step instructions on how to do it.

Common Functions:
Innova 3100j can read and erase CEL codes by providing with accurate information on which part of the engine has a problem.
Advanced Functions:

Innova 3100j analyses and provides information on the anti-locking braking system on the car, SRS system and airbag system.

Oil Reset:

Innova provides you with detailed information when you get an oil reset light powered on. This will help you fix it.

Also, you can perform an EVAP test to check for leaks.

The downside of the Innova 3100j is that it does not work remotely.

Compatibility

Works with all 1996 and newer OBD2 cars. Moreover, Innova 3100J also supports some light trucks, SUVs and hybrid models.

what is the best obd2 scanner
Innova 3100j analyses and provides information on ABS, SRS system and airbag system.
Credit: Amazon.com
Pros and Cons of Innova 3100j

Pros

  • ABS and SRS warning codes.
  • Comes with a USB cable to connect to a PC and download updates.
  • Multiple language selection options including French, English and Spanish.
  • Free internet updates.

Cons

  • Freezes sometimes.
  • Sometimes, the light won’t go off even after fixing oil, SRS and ABS issue.
  • Updating the software requires you to connect the device to a computer.

Who Is It Built For?

DIYers who want to take care of small fixes such as CEL light warnings can opt for this OBD scanner. It’s not for professionals. Also, don’t buy it if you’re fond of operating OBD scanner with a phone as this one doesn’t offer phone connectivity.

Best Professional Diagnostic Tools

8. Autel MaxiCOM MK808 Diagnostic Scan Tool

Autel MaxiCOM MK808
autel maxicom mk808
Autel MaxiCOM MK808 Diagnostic Scan Tool
4.54.5 / 5
This diagnostic tool will give your car a full detection since it can read/clear DTCs and view data stream for ALL systems (ABS, SRS, Engine, Transmission,…) 

MK808 is one of the best OBD2 scanners on the market for vehicle geeks who know their way around with cars and can repair complex malfunctions, too.

It’s a diagnostic tablet with a 7-inch LCD that makes the scanning process a lot of fun. It works on polymer battery which comes included.

You can easily use it for 4.5 hours straight.

Advanced Features:

Apart from offering conventional OBD2 functions, it has many advanced features in store for you to use. These include EPB, SAS, DPF, Oil reset, BMS, ABS, TPMS, and Key Programming.

Only a Professional OBD2 scanner can offer these features.

Data Manager:

MK808 lets you save, manage and print diagnostic results. It has a memory of 32GB which is enough to save the information.

best professional obdii scan tool
MK808 lets you save, manage and print diagnostic results. Credit: Amazon.com
Common Features:

MK808 lets you perform emission tests, ABS light test, SRS test, fuel system diagnosis, wiper system, light systems and all common OBD2 scanner functions.

The downside is that you have to purchase for software updates after the first year.

Compatibility

MK808 supports a variety of vehicles that are 1996 US-based and 2000 EU based OBD2 compliant such as Acura, Audi, AUFord, Bentley, Benz, BMW, Bugatti, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Efurd, Ford, GM, Holden, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, Isuzu, Jaguar, KIA, etc.

It covers all major PIDs and works and has a built-in Android system 4.4.4.

Pros and Cons of MK808

Pros

  • A9 processor processes queries really quickly.
  • Technology support from Autel tech team.
  • Works on Android.
  • Comes with a charger.
  • 1-year warranty

Cons

  • Doesn’t support ECU programming.
  • Updates have to be bought after the first 12 months.
  • IMMO function doesn’t work on Benz.

Who Is It Built For?

MK808 OBD2 scan tool is built for professionals who want to perform advanced functions like ABS, SRS, DPF, IMMO, TPMS, etc.

9. Launch CRP129 Code Reader Diagnostic Tool OBD2 Scanner

Launch CRP129
launch cr129
Launch CRP129 Code Reader Diagnostic Tool OBD2 Scanner
4.24.2 / 5
The Launch CRP 129 is a multifunctional OBD2 scanner for the most important car systems, including ENG/AT/ABS/SRS/ 4 basic systems and reset functions for EPB/SAS/Oil Service Light

Professional seeking the best professional diagnostic scanner that can perform advanced diagnostic functions should turn to CRP129. It diagnoses and shows results in an instant.

The device has an interactive 3.5-inch display and is also internet enabled.

With CRP129, you can diagnose four different systems including ABS, airbag, engine and transmission.
Advanced Functions:

CRP129 is an OBD II scanner that can perform extensive diagnostic functions such as SRS, SAS, Transmission Test, Oil Reset, EPB Reset, and ABS Bleeding as well.

Common Functions:

CRP129 also performs basic functions such as CEL Codes, Read and Erase DTC codes, Oxygen Sensor Test, Carbon Canister Test, Read Live Data, etc.

best obd2 gauge
Provided with a manufacturer’s full one year warranty and access to all the latest online updates.
Credit: Amazon.com
Steering Angle Sensor Test:

If the sensors of the steering are replaced, CRP129 deletes the memories of previous sensors and replaces them with new.

Compatibility

CRP129 supports over 40 1996 and newer US-based vehicles and 2000 and newer EU based vehicles that are OBD2 compliant.

Pros and Cons of Launch CR129

Pros

  • Graphical data stream.
  • Very fast processing.
  • 1-year warranty.
  • Easy to update.

Cons

  • Doesn’t support BENZ and BMW (versions older than 2002).
  • A bit complex for beginners.

Who Is It Built For?

Professionals looking for the best automotive scanner that can perform advanced car diagnostics should go for this device. It is also a good fit for mechanics.

10. Autel Maxisys MS906BT Bluetooth Diagnostic Tool OBD2 Scanner

Autel Maxisys MS906BT
autel ms906bt
Autel Maxisys MS906BT Bluetooth Diagnostic Tool OBD2 Scanner
3.93.9 / 5
MS906BT supports oscilloscope and digital inspection camera add-ons and supports ultra long distance Bluetooth transmission

Autel MaxiSYS MS906BT is a wireless scanner and operates on an Android system.

MS906BT operates with a 6-core processor that processes tests quickly and shows results in a matter of seconds.

best obd ii bluetooth scanner
Comparision chart of MaxiSys MS906 and MaxiSys MS906 BT.
Credit: Amazon.com
Powerful Battery:

Tablet scanners have low batteries. However, this one has a power packed battery of 10,000 mAh which can last for 14 hours.

AutoVIN Technology:

With this feature, you can easily identify your vehicles among many.

Advanced Functions:

MS906BT can perform a variety of professional diagnostics such as SRS, ECU coding, TPMS, and EPB.

There are HDMI and audio ports at the back where you can connect many accessories.

obd2 scanner bluetooth
Best obdii bluetooth scanner.
Credit: Amazon.com
Common Functions:

MS906BT performs all the basic functions that an OBD2 scanner does including CEL, MIL, O2 sensor, etc.

Pros and Cons of Autel Maxisys MS906BT

Pros

  • 8-inch screen for good data view.
  • 8mp camera (Rear).
  • LED light to operate in the dark.
  • Samsung Hexa Core processor.
  • 32 GB memory.

Cons

  • Very expensive.
  • Heavy at 23 pounds and might feel uncomfortable when using it while driving.

Compatibility

MS906BT supports more than 80 US, Asian and European models.

Connects wirelessly, supports Bluetooth transmission too.

Who Is It Built For

MS906BT is a professional diagnostic tool which is built for professionals who want to get a wireless scanner that is easy to use and can perform advanced functions, too.

Bonus: 7 Best OBD2 Bluetooth Scanners / Adapters Review 2019

Best OBD2 Scanner Buying Guide Checklist

We have reached the end of this OBD2 scanner buying guide. Let’s now have a look at what to consider when buying an OBD scanner.

Compatibility

Pick a scanner that is compatible with your vehicle (model, make, fuel type, etc., should be considered).

Most scanners support cars but some may support light and heavy-duty trucks as well.

Also, check for protocols. Most OBD2 scanners cover five OBD2 protocols but some may have support for additional protocols as well.

Also, remember that OBD2 scanners only work with 1996 and beyond models. You will need an OBD1 scanner for older cars.

Functions

Pick a scanner keeping your car and requirements in mind. If you are a DIYer and only want to save a little bit of money, you should go for a scanner that offers basic features.

Conversely, if you a machinist or a professional, you should opt for a scanner with advanced features. This will help you save more money and give your vehicle a boost.

Connectivity

Corded scanners have their benefits but Bluetooth scanners are preferred by more people these days.

Bluetooth adapters work better with Android devices and WiFi adapters work better with iOS devices. However, some can support both devices.

Moreover, many adapters also support Windows devices and Bluetooth-enabled laptops.

Price Range

WiFi adapters are typically more expensive than Bluetooth adapters, but the price usually depends on factors such as warranty, features etc.

You should ideally pick one that is within your budget. Check out our guide on Best OBD1 Scanners in 2018 for some good OBD1 scanners under your budget.

Note: Buying apps can add to the cost to try to get one that comes with a free app.

Update

Go for a scanner that comes with regular updates to cover more problems. Many scanners offer lifetime software support.

This can be a good option especially because new vehicles come with new problems and only updates can keep you safe.

Some scanners can update online and some need to be connected to a computer. While they both work fine, getting a computer can often be a problem for some users.

Warranty

Pick a scanner that comes with a warranty so that you do not have to worry about anything in case the scanner doesn’t work or support your vehicle.

Most scanners come with 1-2 year warranty that is typically not extendable.

Apps

OBD2 scanners work on apps. Some come with their own app and some supports third-party apps.

You should ideally pick a scanner that has its own app but also supports for third-party apps so that you can decide if you wish to pay for an app or not.

Plus, the features you get also depend on the app that you use, which is why third-party apps can be beneficial.

The Bottom Line

This is it. We are done with our OBD2 and OBD1 scanner buying guide.

To sum it up, OBD2 scanners should be your first choice (Bluetooth or WiFi) if you have a 1996+ car model. However, for old car owners, OBD1 scanners can do the job.

OBD2 Diagnostic Tool User Guide

Let’s get down to the basics, now you know how a normal automotive scan tool works, but now you need to know how to use it.

Heres a step by step explanation to turning on and using the scan tool:

How to use an OBD2 Diagnostic Tool: A Step-by-Step Guide

#1. OBD2 Set-Up for your Car Scanner

  1. Turn the ignition of your vehicle OFF, this is very important before connecting any equipment.
  2. Locate the 16-pin Data-Link Connector (DLC) port on your vehicle, normally tucked under and behind the steering wheel.
  3. Plug in the OBD connector from your OBD2 scan tool into your vehicles port.
  4. Turn the ignition ON, note that the engine does not have to be running.
  5. Use the buttons on the OBD2 scan interface to scroll and select components from the Main Screen.
  6. Press the ENTER/EXIT button to select options from the menu, wait for vehicle information to load.
  7. View the summary of different systems from the Diagnostic Menu, such as MIL status, DTC counts, and Monitor status.

#2. How to Read Codes:

  1. Use the Scroll button to READ CODES from the Diagnostic Menu, these can be stored codes, pending codes or permanent codes.
  2. You will be able to read the codes and their definition on the screen.

#3. How to Erase Codes:

  1. To ERASE CODES, use the scrolling feature and select ERASE codes, from there you will be prompted to confirm that you want to erase the code.
  2. Select Yes or Confirm that you want to Erase the Code from the vehicle information system.

#4. Retrieve Live Data:

  1. To view Live Data, use the scroll feature and the enter/exit button to select the Live Data function.
  2. Wait a moment while the OBD2 scan tool accesses the stream from your vehicle’s engine.
  3. If you wish to view a complete data set, select Complete Data Set and press Enter.

#5. Freeze Frame:

  1. To view Freeze Frame Data, select it from the Diagnostic Menu.
  2. Wait for the device to detect your vehicle information.
  3. Use the scroll feature to read the messages from the Freeze Frame data of your vehicle.
    1. If there is no freeze frame data, you should see a message appear that reads ¨no freeze frame data stored¨

#6. I/M Readiness:

  1. To retrieve the I/M Readiness of your vehicle, select I/M Readiness from the Diagnostic Menu.
  2. If your device allows for viewing of two different cycles, you will have a choice between DTCs Cleared and This Drive Cycle.
  3. The display screen will show a list of codes to monitor many variables such as Engine Misfire (MIS), Fuel System Monitor (FUEL), O2S (Oxygen System Monitor) and more for both spark ignition and compression ignition engines.
  4. Press Enter/Exit to return to the Diagnostic Menu.

#7. Get your Vehicle Information:

  1. To retrieve Vehicle information, select vehicle info from the Display Menu.
  2. An advisory message may appear to remind you to turn the engine OFF.
  3. Wait a moment and then review vehicle information on the screen.
  4. Here you will be able to read VIN number, ID number, Calibration Data and more.

#8. Exit OBD2 Test:

  1. To Exit an OBD2 Test, select the Previous Menu button and press the Enter/Exit button.
  2. If a warning message appears, confirm that you want to Exit.

What to do when your car scan tool does not work?

If you are having trouble using your car scan tool, I hope to help review some common troubleshooting problems and possible solutions.

Error linking Car Scanner to Vehicle

The first and most common problem may be an Error when linking to your vehicle.

If the scan tool does not respond when you plug it into your vehicle, a communication error may have occurred.

In order to fix this problem, here are some steps you can take:

  1. Double-check that the key in the ignition in your vehicle is turned to the ON position.
  2. Look at the OBD2 connector of your scan tool and make sure it is firmly connected in your vehicles DLC port.
  3. Verify that your vehicle is compatible with OBD2 technology.
  4. Turn your vehicle off, wait up to 10 seconds then turn it on and try again.
  5. Make sure the device you have purchased is not broken or tampered with.

Error during Scan Tool Operation

Maybe your vehicle is connecting to your device, but you are experiencing an Error during Operation.

If this is your case, maybe your device is freezing or experiencing slow running and reading times.

To combat this problem, try these steps:

  1. Reset your scan tool.
  2. Turn off your ignition, wait for about ten seconds, and try again.

On the other hand, you may have a more serious problem if your Scan Tool Doesn’t Turn On.

In the event that this is happening, follow these steps:

  1. Double-Check that the connector is secure in your vehicles DLC port.
  2. Look inside the DLC port in your vehicle, there may be some pins that are not straight or are missing.
  3. Check the vehicle battery and make sure it is charged with at least 8.0 volts.

Bonus: Top Rated Car Diagnostic Tools Review 2019

Leave a Comment