Are you looking for an amazing OBD2 scanner for your car?
You've come to the right place!
In this ProperMechanic.com guide, you will learn the following:
- The best OBD2 scanners for engine diagnostics
- Best value and
- Tips on how to diagnose engine problems like a pro
And much more!
Below is a quick list of all our top products. Keep scrolling to learn more about how to choose and use the best OBD2 scanners on the market!
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Bluedriver Bluetooth Professional
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Our Overall #1 Rated Pick
Autel is our number one rated pick because it is easy to use, performs reliably and is the most reasonably priced full-duty car diagnostic scan tool that can perform functions like clear codes, give you vehicle data in real-time, and it even has a touch screen with an interface that allows you to surf the web on applications like Google Chrome.
Autel(and other scanner brands) has three different level options that help diagnose vehicle issues.
The first being a simple code reader at a super affordable price.
The second is a slightly larger scanner module that allows the user to perform tasks like resetting the check engine light.
And the highest quality level option that is a touchscreen tablet allowing for advanced communication with the vehicle and ALL of its systems.
So, before you pick out a scanner, let our easy to read guide help you choose the perfect one.
Ready to explore the world of engine diagnostics? Want to communicate with your vehicle on a whole new level?
You're going to need to purchase an OBD2 scanner...
Where should you purchase one? We recommend Amazon because it has the best prices and the most options.
Do you own a luxury car? You might need a scan tool to deactivate the brakes when servicing the pads and rotors.
But which car scanner should you purchase for your DIY garage? This is a legit question because the options are plentiful.
That's why we wrote this article to show you the best OBD2 scanners on the market.
Note: This onboard diagnostic system(OBD2) is mandatory in all vehicles manufactured after 1996 in the United States.
Top 5 Best OBD2 Scanners For Cars
What Are OBD2 Scanners For Vehicles?
OBD2 (onboard diagnostic) scanners are a diagnostic tool/computer that plugs into the vehicle's diagnostic port that communicates with the vehicle's ECU and shows the user error codes that are stored in the system.
And just to clarify, OBD2 scanners are in basically every vehicle since 1996. If the vehicle is older than 1996, it could be equipped with an OBD1 diagnostics port if it was made after 1991.
Even off-brand Asian vehicles have this system installed after a certain year. So yes, OBD2 scanners are universal, and you will need one at some point or another if you are fixing a vehicle or looking to become a technician in the automotive field.
Read More >> What Does The Error Code P0302 Mean?
What Are The Different Types of OBD2 Scanners For Vehicles?
Simple Code Readers
Code readers do exactly what they sound like they do; read the fault codes that are stored in the engine's computer. This is the most basic and also cheapest option when looking to purchase an OBD2 scanner.
More complex Scan Tools
Auto scanners do more than code readers. They allow the user to reset codes and read live data stream from the screen.
An advanced scan tool allows the technician to see all functions of the vehicle, and gives them a
How Do OBD2 Scanners For The Modern Vehicle Work?
Connecting a scanner is easy to do.
Just locate the OBD-II port that is most commonly located somewhere underneath the steering wheel panel on the driver's side.
After the scanner is plugged in, turn the key to its second position without starting the vehicle. This gives the computer access to all of the vehicle modules.
The first normal move when operating a code reader or scanner is to run the vehicle for fault codes.
Some scanners even have a database where previously-stored codes can be saved for future service references.
Virtually any vehicle manufactured after the year 1996 has an onboard diagnostic port. It's important to keep in mind that the scanner doesn't fix the vehicle for you.
What it does do, however, is provide you with the information sufficient enough to repair yourself. A commodity that could save you hundreds of dollars spent at a mechanic's shop.
Here are the main functions that OBD2 scanners perform
Reset Check Engine Light
Most OBD scanners can reset the check engine light after the repair has been made. And if it doesn't, don't worry; you can always unplug the negative battery terminal and let the vehicle sit for about 15 minutes.
Reset Airbag/SRS (Secondary Restraint System) Light
Newer vehicles have electrically monitored airbag systems that throw a DTC if problems are found with the airbag or its wiring and sensors. An OBD-II scanner gives the technician sufficient enough information to repair the problem, and also the power to reset the light to verify that the repair was performed correctly.
What Is I/M Readiness?
I/m readiness is a test that can be run on an OBD2 scanner that monitor's the vehicle's emission control system.
Inefficient engines or over-polluting vehicles that can't pass all of the required government-regulated emissions can be repaired back to legality bypassing this I/M readiness test.
Read More >> What Does The Engine Code P0420 Mean?
What To Look For In The Best OBD2 Scanner For Your Garage?
Some OBDII scanners transmit the engine codes to mobile devices like Apple iPhone through a Bluetooth connection.
This eliminates the need for a screen and also reduces the size of the scanner. You can even leave some Bluetooth scanners connected to see your vehicle's live vehicle stats at all times.
Throw the USB cable in the garbage and
View freeze frame data
Professional mechanics use higher-end scanners that allow visual data of what is happening in the vehicle in live mode.
This allows the user to read sensor data and make advanced repairs concerning problems that happen intermittently.
The highest-end scanners have a touchscreen menu that allows the user to have advanced control over the engine's modules.
Prepare to pay hundreds(or even thousands) of dollars for a scanner of this caliber.
That is unless you are using a scanner with Bluetooth connection capability. Then, your iPhone/iPad or Android device will be the touchscreen.
These Bluetooth products are still relatively new to the market, and they aren't as capable as a professional technician's OBD scanner.
The most basic scanners usually have a digital screen with analog arrow buttons that allow the user to navigate the screen menus.
Most of the old scanners look like this. In the present day, we are seeing a transition from the brick-looking scanner to a Bluetooth device that utilizes the user's iPhone to
The more basic OBD scanners are just black and white screens that display letters, whereas the higher end scan tools are basically like a tablet device with internet-browsing capabilities.
Want an OBD2 reader that also has access to the internet? Look for Wifi capability in the product description.
Read More >> How Do You Fix A Service Engine Soon Light?
Does The Scanner/Code Reader Fix The Problem?
The OBD2 scanner's job is to inform the person of the error codes that are stored in the engine's computer.
For example, if the vehicle has a coolant leak, the driver is warned with an overheat warning lamp on the dash, and an overheat code will be stored in the system when you run the codes.
But a coolant leak is a mechanical repair that must be fixed physically by a professional technician or experienced automotive DIYer.
No, the world's current technology doesn't actually fix the car for you...yet!
We'll see what the future has in store for the engine diagnostics category, but for now, OBD2 is the standard.
Which Scanner Should You Buy?
It depends on what you need it for.
Any person who owns a car produced after '96 would be smart to have an OBD-II code reader in the vehicle at all times to be educated about error codes that get stored over time.
Besides, that's why the OBD-II sensor exists; cars are made up of thousands of different little parts, and plenty of them have electricity running through them that communicate with the OBDII scan tool.
Professional mechanics will benefit from having the highest quality OBD scanner possible, so they have access to thee functions on any vehicle they come across.
For example, some vehicles need a quality OBD II Scanner onhand for simple repairs like brake replacement.
Chancing the oil is a good skill, but if you don't know how to successfully reset the vehicle's oil service light then the customer is left wondering if it even got done in the first place.
Diagnosing a vehicle with an advanced scanner is so much easier. Whichever scanner you choose will help keep you one step ahead of your vehicle repair.
OBD Scanner Not Powered/Functioning? Check The Fuse Box.
The OBD port has its fuse that will inhibit its function if blown. Be sure to check it and all other fuses when servicing your vehicle to get the right diagnostic results.
Should Car Owners Own An OBD-II Scan Tool?
When the OBD-II system first came out, it was only professional technicians that owned a scan tool for vehicle diagnostics.
In the present day, however, it's practical for all vehicle owners to own a scanning device for referral when diagnosing personal vehicle problems.
Think about it; if your vehicle were to break down on the side of the highway(which commonly happens), would you want at least an idea of what happened if it wasn't already completely obvious?
What about if you are on a road trip far from home, and the check engine light illuminates? How serious is the problem? You're not going to know unless you have a scan tool run the malfunction codes.
Only time will tell what will come in the next decade, but with the easy purchase of scan tools at a reasonable price it is easily predictable that a higher percentage of vehicle owners will own a scan tool than ever before.
Read More >> How Can You Fix Engine Code P0011?
Car Problems? Purchase A Scanner/Tools Instead of A Service
Professional automotive shops are notorious for charging insane amounts of cash for an automotive repair.
And throwing down hundreds of dollars for a service that you could have potentially solved yourself is a frustrating thing.
Here's a permanent solution for you if you plan on always traveling in a vehicle: maintenance it yourself. The amount of money you are spending on a vehicle service could have been spent on purchasing more tools for your garage--now think about that one!
Here's a hypothetical situation to put this into perspective why you should own an OBD scanner:
Your ignition system throws a check engine light on the dash of your vehicle.
How do you know what the problem is? You don't unless you own a scanner.
You'll have to take the problem to a business or another person who owns a scanner. And some automobile shops will charge you one service hour just for a check engine light diagnosis.
So, you find out the p0303 error code was stored in your vehicle's diagnostic system. This just saved you one service hour from a professional auto shop.
And for this particular problem, most times the necessary repair is to change out the spark plugs or replace an ignition coil, which is a completely amateur repair.
Take your vehicle into the shop you will pay:
- $30-100 to diagnose the vehicle(you could have done it yourself with a scanner)
- another ~$50-200 for repairing (which is easily done with a spark plug socket and simple tools)
Sure, even good DIY technicians end up taking their vehicle to someone who has more skill; However,
- You could purchase an eOBD-II scanner/code reader for ~$30-100
- Purchase a ratchet set, spark plug socket, basic box-end wrenches, etc for easily under $50
You do the math. The point we are making here is that if you have a potentially expensive automotive fix, analyze the damage. Go to youtube, and watch another technician make the repair. Think you could perform the same repair yourself?
Save the money that you would have spent on paying a different set of hands, purchase the tools yourself off Amazon/another retailer, and perform the repair confidently yourself.
Just remember to pick up a copy of the service manual that is specific to your vehicle and follow the instructions by the book to avoid making a costly mistake.
You'll thank us later!
What Other Computers Are Used For Engine Diagnosis?
The oscilloscope is a high precision tool that gives the user data like voltage on a timeline allowing them to diagnose problems that are happening intermittently.
Sure, scan tools will help nail down 95 percent of car problems, but they may not have the power to nail down problems exactly as they occur(they'll just recognize the error code).
Check out the PICO scope if you are trying to take your technician skills to the optimum level.
These advanced problems are where an advanced engine technician steps in.
Ultimately, most car problems can be solved simply by using a voltmeter to check for amperage, voltage, and resistance.
Our Reviews Of The Best OBD2 Scanners For Any Vehicle Made After 1996
Pick #1: Autel
The Autel machine that is linked in the hyperlink above is a multifunction scan tool that does system diagnosis and full detection for all systems inside a vehicle.
Keep in mind that Autel also makes a couple of different far less expensive scanner tool options that you may also want to check out like the Autel Autolink al319 obd2.
The Autel diagnostic scan tool we have linked to here is reasonably priced for its function.
It gives you access to all o the basic diagnostic and service functions including TPMS, oil light reset, SAS, DPF, BMS, and EPB so that your vehicle functions at its max potential.
For a price that is much lower than other brands(like Snapon for example), this Autel OBD computing device will end up making you money in the long run - and it's touchscreen makes it super easy to use.
Plus you can use it Autel's operating system to search the internet for code definitions.
Pick #2: Bafx Products
The Bafx scanner is the best value for the job, and there is a reason why Bafx offers a two-year warranty for this device.
The only downside to the Bafx Products scanner is that it is not compatible with iOS Apple devices, but for probably that reason alone it costs significantly less.
Bafx Products are a good solution to solving vehicle issues when they happen because it connects the driver with the vehicle for a low price.
It's also super small, so it doesn't take up space, and can be stored without the stress of someone stealing it in places like the glove box.
Pick #3: Bluedriver Bluetooth Professional
The Bluedriver is our favorite choice because it is easily connectable to any smartphone, and it gives the user a lot of features in such a small package.
This is a unit drivers can keep in the glove box(or always installed in the OBD-II port to quickly read and navigate the vehicle's onboard computer when needed.
Operation is easy, just plug the Bluedriver into the diagnostic port, download the Bluedriver App, and scan the codes with the ignition turned on.
Pick up the Bluedriver Bluetooth professional to eliminate all doubts of a vehicle's operating condition.
Pick #4: Foxwell NT301
Easily diagnose all of your vehicle's problems with this compactly designed Foxwell scanning device.
Here is a slick scanner device that comes in a compact package that performs all of the essential OBD-II functions and more, including o2 sensor/readiness codes, reset check engine light, live data.
This LCD screen car code reader an essential for any vehicle owner looking for a reasonable solution to diagnostic issues.
Pick #5: Innova
Here's another scanner you may want to consider putting in your toolbox, or you may even want to keep it inside the glove box at all times to stay on top of your vehicle's services.
The Innova scanner allows for basic reading and erasing of check engine light warnings and also has the capability to test the performance of the battery and alternator, and it also checks the ABS system for proper function.
Our Top Pick: Autel
Autel wins our top spot because there are plenty of different options to choose from, and their highest-end model is reasonably priced compared to other super-expensive machines that have the same function.
So, whether you are or on a budget, or want to go all out as a professional technician; Autel's technology gives you the right window of options.
Final Thoughts On The Best O2BD Scanners For Your Vehicle
Now you should have a better idea of how to choose the best OBD scanner for your specific codes/purposes.
Feel free to check out other brands of scanners, like Ancel AD310, Actron, Snapon, Launch Creader, and more.
Explore all of your options. What do you have to lose?
Whether you drive a Ford, Nissan, BMW, Toyota, or Honda, SUV, sports car--you name it-- any of these scanners will do the trick.
Plus, it's an excellent value for the money! Check the low price now on Amazon.
Do You Have Any Questions?
Feel free to contact us via our Proper Mechanic website and we'll get back to you with all the answers you need.