In order to read your cars error codes, you will need to connect an OBD2 Scanner to diagnose and attempt to clear the codes. OBD2 ports have been standardized in the majority of cars since 1998 and is usually located below the steering column.
The best OBD2 Scanner for your car is the Autel Maxisys Pro MS908P which has advanced diagnostics and ECU programming. However, it is fairly expensive and has impressive features that the average car owner will not use. In terms of value for money, the Bluetooth BlueDriver OBD2 automotive scan tool is the best buy.
The complexity of the majority of modern cars has extended to multiple computers controlling various aspects of the vehicle. A car error code reader is an essential piece of equipment for those trying to diagnose any problem with the vehicle.
Best OBD2 Scanner
|OBD2 Scanner||Pricing||Our Rating|
|Autel Maxisys Pro MS908||Premium||4.9|
|Launch X431 PROS||Premium||4.8|
|BlueDriver Bluetooth||Mid Range||4.9|
|Innova 3160g||Mid Range||4.8|
|Autel MaxiDiag MD808||Mid Range||4.8|
|Actron CP9690||Mid Range||4.8|
|Autel AL519 AutoLink||Budget||4.7|
|Launch Creader 6001||Budget||4.6|
Classic cars from 1980 to 1998 will most probably have an OBD1 port for owners to diagnose their cars. They are usually much simpler and do not provide as much data back but still very useful information. There are many OBD1 scanners integrated into OBD2 tools to make the best of both worlds such as the Actron CP9690.
As technology has improved, so have professional automotive scanners in terms of their compatibility and features. You are now able to connect the OBD2 connection via a laptop, smartphone and the scanner tool. Features such as reading error codes and stored faults are a standard but many high end units include ECU and key programming, unlocking hidden features and so much more.
Car diagnostic scanners are essential in order to read and clear error codes that your vehicle has. Below is a list of the best OBD2 scanners for car diagnostics that will help troubleshoot issues with your car or change certain settings.
Autel Maxisys Pro MS908 OBD2 Scanner
Autel are a large car diagnostic company that produce affordable easy to use scanners such as the AL519. However, the Autel Maxisys Pro is not for your average car owner and is more suited to car enthusiasts, mechanics and technicians.
The Autel Maxisys Pro MS908 has the ability to diagnose cars of manufacturers from America, Europe and India, which is a large majority of the cars available. For the different connectors, the MS908 comes with a range of adapters and wires to cater for the differences.
In terms of the technical specification, Autel have gone all out with the processing power. It has A9 Quad Core 1.40GHz processor and uses an Android operating system so that it is familiar and easy to use.
Other technical features include built in WiFi, 5MP camera, flashlight, 8 hour battery life, 32GB SSD hard drive and a 9.7 inch LED touch screen, which is highly responsive and hardened to withstand knocks and bangs.
In terms of the functions that you can carry out on vehicles using this diagnostic tool, they include:
- Read and Clear Error Codes
- Live Data Streaming and Actuation Tests
- Adaptation and ECU Coding
- Configure Display Options and Set Triggers
- Record and Playback of Problematic Sensor Outputs
- Reset All Service Lights
- Print Out Reports and Graphs
- Freeze Frame Data
- Update Car Firmware to Latest Version
- Flash Programming
- and much more that is too much to list
As this OBD2 scanner will be used mainly in garages and workshops, the unit has padding all round to protect it from any impacts. Everything about this error code reader is high quality and well thought out.
The Autel Maxisys Pro MS908 is the ultimate diagnostic scanner tool and can be made even better with add-on features such as oscilloscope, J2534 reprogramming module and more. There are 4 versions of the Autel Maxisys Pro, which include the DS808, MS906, MS908 and MS908P but the Autel Maxisys Pro MS908 is the best buy.
Overall, the MS908 by Autel is the best OBD2 professional diagnostic tool you can buy and it literally does everything you could ever want. There is no other competitor that comes close to the amount of technology and features of this diagnostic reader.Check it Out
Launch X431 PROS Automotive Diagnostic Tool
The Launch X431 is a direct competitor of the Autel Maxisys Pro MS908, which are both targeting the premium OBD2 scanner buyers. The Launch X431 is by far the best looking error code reader within this article with its design based on a tablet device.
It has the ability to read the majority of the cars in the world with car specific connectors and adapters for both OBD1 and OBD2. The bundle includes 14 different OBD2 connectors and other diagnostic standards for cars in the EU and Asia. There is also a deep vehicle system covered for all electronic devices included.
You are able to connect via WiFi and Bluetooth in order to work wirelessly with all the features, which include:
- Reading and Clearing Error Codes
- Component Activation
- Oil Reset Service
- Steering Angle Calibration
- Electronic Car Brake Reset
- Battery Maintenance
- ABS Bleeding
- Electronic Throttle Position
- DPF Regeneration
- Immobilizer Matching
- Fuel Injector Coding
- And so much more
The HD 6.98 inch high resolution screen is highly responsive and provides excellent feedback for live streaming graphs and more. The diagnostic tool runs from the Android operating system that is known to be easy to use and it can also be used as a tablet because it can connect to the internet, play music, take photos and more.
Overall the Launch X431 Pro Mini is the one of the best OBD2 scanners if you cannot afford the MS908. It covers a large array of car brands and does every function that you would need as a mechanic. It is great value for money when you consider the amount of features you get.Check it Out
BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDII Scan Tool
The BlueDriver is an OBD2 diagnostic tool that is designed to be easy to use for the average car owner via Bluetooth on your smartphone. It is compatible with both Android and iOS iPhone’s with an application that is free to download of both the Play Store and App Store.
It is very simple to use and we have been using it ourselves to diagnose faults with our car. You simply plugin it in to your OBD2 port, wait for a blue light and then make the connection through the application on your smartphone. You can view and clear error codes, view live data and so much more.
The stored error codes that you diagnose using the BlueDriver are checked against a database of 6 million verified fixes. This means codes you find may even come with a suggested fix to eliminates hours of research or a visit to the mechanic.
Lemur are the North American company that developed the BlueDriver and they confirm that this device will work any car that has an OBD2. Some interesting features include:
- Live Data Analysis
- Smog Check
- Freeze Frame Data
- Misfire Counts (Mode 6)
- View and Clear Codes
- Save and Export Code/Reports
- Vehicle Information
The user interface of the BlueDriver application is intuitive and easy to navigate with graphics to read data clearly. There are no wires whatsoever and it can be easily stored in the car out of sight as the unit itself is very compact.
The BlueDriver is the best Bluetooth OBD2 scanner for the average car owner to use. It can also be very useful for a mobile mechanics to keep with them all the time for emergency call outs or quick error code scanning.Check it Out
Innova 3160g Error Code Reader
The Innova 3160g is a mid range OBD2 diagnostic tool that can be used with all cars, trucks, SUV and hybrids from 1996. Innova themselves are at the forefront of the top automotive multimeters and vehicle electrical troubleshooting devices. Their error code reader is highly rated with a 3.5 inch color display and Bluetooth capability.
An average car owner will be able to use this diagnostic tool but there are more enhanced features for the tech savvy mechanic. Some of the features include:
- Engine Management Light Diagnostic and Removal
- Erase Error Codes (including ABS & SRS)
- Reset Oil Lights and Battery Maintenance
- Stream and Record Live Data
- Charging System Testing
- Bluetooth via Smartphone Application
The Innova 3160 series has gone through many variations and is tested by professional mechanics. The 3160g is the most popular Innova diagnostic tool and a contender for the best diagnostic tool for the money. If you are loyal to the Innova brand, this is the one to go for out of all of the 3160 variations.Check it Out
Autel MaxiDiag MD808 Diagnostic Scanner Tool
Autel have an error code reader to suit every car owners budget and the MD808 is their mid range and latest diagnostic tool. It has been given a more modern design compared with the budget Autel AL519, which looks much better.
As with the majority of Autel products, you receive a 1 year limited warranty and free updates for life. The screen is a full color 800×480 display and you use the buttons below the screen to navigate around the operating system.
If you are servicing your car and want a diagnostic tool to clear service lights, the MD808 includes this feature and more, such as:
- Read and Remove Car Fault Codes
- Oil Light Reset
- EPB and SAS Calibration
- DPF Regeneration
- Battery Management System
- ABS and SRS
- Live Data Graphing
The Autel MD808 is a top OBD2 diagnostic scanner for the money and the technical specification is just as good with a 6 second startup time of the device.Check it Out
Actron CP9690 Trilingual Autoscanner
The Actron brand have a large array of diagnostic tools available from budget to mid range with the CP9690 being the latter. The unique selling point of this scanner is that it covers OBD 1 vehicles with a range of connectors and cables within the package.
The Actron CP9690 benefits from having an above average sized LCD screen that is great for viewing graphical items from reports. Standout features of this error code reader include:
- Powertrain and ABS Coverage
- Vehicle Identification
- Battery System Monitor
- Battery and Oil Light Reset
- ABS and Airbag Light Rest
- OBD 1/CAN Support
- Live Data Streaming
The Actron is very similar to the Innova 3160g and Autel MD808 in the compact design to which they are all competing with each other. However, the Actron may be lacking slightly in features but the capability to diagnose OBD 1 cars makes it more appealing for owners of both classic and modern cars.Check it Out
Autel AL519 AutoLink Error Code Scanner
The Autel AL519 is a budget OBD2 scanner tool that offers a lot of features at a very little cost. It uses one lead to connect from the OBD2 port to the diagnostic tool and you are up and running. Using this cheap diagnostic tool, you can do the following:
- Read and Clear Stored Faults
- Turn Off Engine Management Light
- Display Freeze Frame Data
- Show Vehicle Data and VIN
- Help Guides For Errors
- Graphs and Live Data Feedback
- Print Data
Considering the Autel AL519 is a cheap OBD2 diagnostic tool, the features are surplus requirements if you are looking for just error code analysis. Unlike many of the other cheap alternatives, this device has a color display and a 1 year warranty.
Autel state that this error code reader will work on all domestic cars with OBD2 and will retrieve both generic and manufacturer specific error codes. The majority of people will be using this device to remove Check Engine Lights (EML), which Autel claim this device will easily accomplish.
This is the cheapest OBD2 scanner that performs all of the basics and more without any hassle. The average car owner will easily be able to use this error code reader with its intuitive button layout and clear instruction on the color display.Check it Out
FOXWELL NT301 Car OBD2 Code Scanner
The Foxwell NT301 OBD2 is slightly more than the Autel AL519 but still falls within the budget category. For average car owners wanting a simple to use error code reader to remove error codes, this is perfect.
The color screen is 2.8 inches wide and the device itself comes with 1 years warranty for peace of mind. Features that are included from this OBD2 diagnostic tool include:
- Read and Remove Error Codes
- Live Vehicle Sensor Data
- Turn Off Engine Management Light
- Freeze Frame Data
As with the majority of budget OBD2 scan tools, there main objective is to read and clear error codes. For more functionality, you would need to move into the mid range to premium devices.
Overall the Foxwell NT301 OBD2 is a compact OBD2 tool that runs fast on a windows operating system and comes with a years warranty. For reading and removing error codes, this fault code scanner will do exactly that.Check it Out
Launch Creader 6001 OBD2 Scanner
Like Autel, Launch produce OBD2 scanner tools for every budget and the Creader 6001 is their cheapest diagnostic they produce. It has 7 buttons and 2.8 inch TFT LCD screen and is very simple to use in order to carry out simple functions.
The functionality of the Launch Creader 6001 include:
- View and Remove Car Fault Codes
- Freeze Frame Data
- O2 Sensor
- I/M Readiness Checks
Personally, the Autel and Foxwell devices are slightly better in terms of value for money and features. Launch are known for their high-end OBD2 scanners but in terms of budget, they are pricey for very little features.Check it Out
ANCEL AD310 Universal OBD II Scanner
The Ancel AD310 is the cheapest OBD2 scanner that reads and clears error codes properly. There are many other cheaper diagnostic scan tools without any brand reputation like ANCEL, which would personally worry myself.
Being at the price it is, you shouldn’t expect features similar to the Autel MS908 or Launch X431 Pro, but features included are:
- Read and Erase Codes
- Live Data
- Freeze Frame Data
- Vehicle Identification
To the average car owner wanting to simply view the codes to tell their mechanic or fix themselves, this device is ideal. The AD310 is very simple to use with just 4 buttons and a large LCD screen to view the information. It is the cheapest diagnostic tool that actually performs consistently and definitely worth the small amount of money.Check it Out
OBD2 Scanner Buying Guide
The number of different car error code scan tools that you can buy is increasing every month. The market is fairly saturated with many OBD2 scanners under $100 being the most popular for the average car owner.
For those wanting to do a bit more than just read error codes, its highly recommended that you go for a mid to premium priced diagnostic tool so that you can have more fun and do more interesting functions.
At ProCarReviews, we have used over 50 different OBD2’s on a range of cars and we know exactly what to look out for. Use the information below to increase your knowledge of the diagnostic tool world.
Car Specific Diagnostic OBD2 Readers
The diagnostic scanners in this review are diagnostic readers that can be used with many different car manufacturers, which will appeal to a wider audience. However, there are certain manufacturers that have their own specific code readers.
For example, the VAG Group (Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda, Seat and more) can use the Super VAG K+CAN Plus 2.0 as a diagnostic tool. There are even additional features that can be programmed into your VAG car using this tool. However, often you will be paying a premium for a diagnostic tool that it specific for your car such as the Mercedes Star Machine.
The MB Star C3 is often referred to as the Mercedes Star Machine that can perform a serious amount of functionality. However, it is not the most friendly of devices and there are many wires connecting back and forth.
However, car specific diagnostic tools all have the same issue. Unless you are extremely loyal to the same car brand, you will only be able to use it on that car. With the best OBD2 scanners mentioned above, they can be used on hundreds of different cars.
In terms of investing into a diagnostic scanner, it makes much more sense getting a scanner that will work on a range of manufacturers and not just one.
Types of Diagnostic Scan Tools
OBD2 Scanners come in a range of types from laptops with loads of cables to a tablet form, which looks similar to an iPad. The simplest forms that are the cheapest are usually the smallest as they do not need room to store processors or hard drives.
If you are a mechanic, you really should own a mid-range to premium diagnostic tool. These include service light and engine management light removal, which the majority of your customers will expect after having a service.
The main difference that decides on which type of scan tool you will buy is the port type. The majority of modern cars will have an OBD2 port and you will be able to use the device listed above. However, cars pre-1998 may have an older style that is often referred to as an OBD1.
The term OBD means On Board Diagnostics and the #2 refers to the second generation, which is a huge improvement upon the first generation. The OBD1 scan tools are not universal and are usually specific to each car and provide completely different codes.
OBD2 cars can connect to a range of devices and provide standardized error codes, which makes researching the issue much easier. OBD2 is a huge improvement and the amount of information you can get from a from a scanner tool is much higher than OBD1 tools.
If you are a car mechanic yourself, you really should own both OBD1 and OBD2 scanners because you could have a classic car customer one day and a modern car another. The OBD2 port is the same and there are no different variations of the port.
For this reason alone, if you are going to be using the tool everyday as part of your job, it makes sense to buy the best diagnostic scanner you can buy. The Launch X431 and Autel MS908 are two of the top rated scanners that are used by professionals to perform any task that requires changes to the cars computer system.
Compatibility of Error Code Readers
The OBD2 port is standardized and when a car states that it has an OBD2, your scanners connector will fit. You will not be able to plug an OBD1 connector into an OBD2 port and vice versa. However, there are many scanner tools that are capable of working for both ports with connectors for each included within the package.
Car specific error code tools that were discussed above (MB Star and VAG Super K+) are OBD2 connectors but they will not be able to be used in other brands. For example, plugging the Mercedes Star Machine into a Honda Civic.
Many OBD2 Scanner manufacturers will provide enhanced diagnostics and functions for certain car brands. It is always worth paying a little extra for a tool that provides enhanced functions if you own the car in question.
Devices such as the BlueDriver use Bluetooth to connect with your smartphone. Of course, if you do not own a smartphone that can download applications, this BlueDriver OBD2 will not work and you are better going for an alternative.
Easy To Use Automotive Diagnostic Tools
Is the interface compatible with what you need and is it easy to read or to understand the information that is being displayed. This will determine what type of information will be able to be seen and observed on the unit. Ensure that the diagnostic tool you buy has lots of documentation online from webpages to YouTube videos.
Not all of the car diagnostic systems are the same, and choosing the best one can be difficult if you don’t know what to look for.
The last thing that you want to happen is that you spend a lot of money and then it turns out you do not know how to use it. All of the above are fairly simple to use but the premium diagnostics may require a few hours of research to become an expert with all the functions.
You should also avoid error code readers that do not provide novice users with additional information. For example, there may be stored codes that are serious or harmless and it should provide this sort of information. It is the same with the graphs and different outputs, if it goes below a certain level, this should be stated with different colors.
Most Common Error Codes From Scan Tools
Here is a list of codes that you may see while working with an OBD2 scanner.
- J1850 PWM. Mostly used in 1996 vehicle models that are Lexus, Scion, Toyota, and Isuzu. These codes also include information for 1996 and 1993 GM modeled cars. This connector has 2-4-5-10-16 pins.
- J1850 VPW. Used for 1996 to 2001 models of Ford and Mazda. The connector for this make is 2-4-5-16, but excluding a pin #10.
- ISO 9141-2. A protocol that is used for Audi, BMW, and Bentley vehicles that were manufactured in 1996 to 2002. It also includes codes for Chrysler, Honda/Acura, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Nissan/Infiniti, Volvo, Porsche, Rolls Royce, and Hyundai. The pin connectors are 4-5-7-16.
- ISO 14230-4 (KWP 2000). The connector pins for these codes must have 4-5-6-14-16. Examples of models and makes that use these protocols are Audi and VW cars from 2003 to 2007. Other vehicles include: 2002 to 2005 BMW 7-Series, 2004 to 2007 GM cars as well as 1993 to 2002 Cadillac models.
- CAN-BUS J1939 and ISO15765-4. A common protocol that is found on more modern cars like 2006 to 2008 Land Rover, Audi, VW, Chrysler, Ford, Honda/Acura, Rolls Royce, Subaru, Lexus, Volvo, Suzuki, and GM. The connector associated with these protocols are 4-5-6-14-1, especially for CAN-BUS.
When exploring the list of codes to see which one you should choose, always review the service manual, or do a visual inspection by looking under the hood of the car. Most often, automobile manufacturers will use a combination or variation of the codes depending on the vehicle.
After the protocols have been identified, then you can purchase the correct scanner to diagnose and repair the car. The best thing about viewing the data from the scanner, is that today, these scanners can do it from a wireless connection.
This allows the mechanic to view the information with the use of WiFi and Bluetooth technology. By using the Bluetooth connection, you can use your smartphone as a vehicle scanner. A laptop can also be used to see the data. Using different methods of visualizing the information allows for expanded capability.
Traditional scanners that use a wire to connect to the car are usually professional grade and offer a wide range of choices to diagnosis a car accurately. These professional devices allow for special features such as advance vehicle diagnosis.
This unit comes prepared for USB compatibility, allowing you to access the scanner and to update the software and to print the results of the scanner from a computer. This feature gives high performance for those who are attempting to tune a vehicle, racing, vehicle upgrade monitoring as well as other professional-level diagnostic issues.
Being able to update the information on the scanner is an asset as most manufacturers will upgrade the CPU of the vehicle with each newly released version.
Why You Need A Diagnostic Scan Tool
Owning a scanner is very helpful when trying to diagnose a vehicle. All you have to do is connect the scanner into the port and you are on your way.
The device will automatically read and analyze the vehicle provided a detailed list about the car. With a wide range of possibilities to choose from, anyone will be able to perform various diagnostic tasks. The main advantages of owning a diagnostic scan tool are:
- Check to see if your car is safe to drive and wont cause any damage
- Save you money as you will not need to use a mechanics
- Most recent data and stored codes
- Scan vehicles before you buy them
- Add/Modify current features i.e. full window closure
What To Consider When Buying a Error Code Scanner
- Is it going to be able to work with my car? Is the scanner compatible with my vehicle?
- Can the scanner be updated? The device will be useless if it can’t be continuously used. The internal information needs to be updated in order to remain useful.
- Is it a full definition of codes to make the diagnosis easier? By using a scanner that has a full list of the codes, will save time and help to avoid complications.
- Will You be able to save the readings from the scanner? This allows the ability to review the data later after checking the car. This is a must for a scanner, and having the ability to check the data is a huge advantage.
- Does the scanner match your budget? Can you afford to buy this scanner? Do you really need all of the special features that is offered by that scanner?
- What is included with the device? Will you have to purchase extra items such as a data cable in order to use the scanner?
Choosing a scanner will involve research and a knowledge of the cars that you will be using it on. Not all scanners are the same, and don’t get them confused with code readers. Code readers are very limited compared to scanners. It is best to purchase a OBD2 scanner than a code reader when it comes to diagnosing your automobile.
There are several factors that will be attributed to the device, making it a number one choice for that person. The features associated with a scanner make it a universal tool that can be used to solve a great deal of problems when it comes determining the nature of an automobile.
Make sure to review all of the information in order to avoid making the wrong decision when purchasing. Check to see if the codes match the scanner for the vehicle as well as if it displays definitions that can make the job easier when trying to locate a solution.
In the end, the best ODB2 scanner will be able to help repair your vehicle without paying outrageous prices at a car shop.
What is the Best Diagnostic Tool?
The review of the best OBD2 scanners is to provide a range of scan tools for each purpose. They are split into premium, mid range and budget diagnostic tools. Premium and mid-range devices are aimed at car enthusiasts and mechanics that want the extra functionality and performance.
Budget error code readers are simply for the average car owner wanting to remove an error code such as the engine management light. However, if you are new to the diagnostic world, a budget device is a great starting place to get into the swing of things.
If you are a professional mechanic, you really should be going for the best automotive diagnostic scanners as opposed to the budget devices. Customers expect your business to own such high-end devices that cover a range of cars.
However, every car owner should own an error code reader of some sort if they want to save money. So many motorists see the engine management light and think their vehicle is about to die. This is simply not the case and it could be the case of a one off error. The average mechanic will charge a fee of 50$ and above for a diagnostic tool session, which is almost the price of the budget tools in the first place.
Owning a car diagnostic tool and finding the problematic fault code will give you the chance to fix it yourself. If you cannot fix it, you tell the mechanic the code and they can fix it. However, you save on labor costs because they do not need to find the fault themselves.
So what is the best buy in terms of diagnostic tools? All of the above offer extreme value for money and everything you need but there are two OBD2 scanners that standout the most for different scenarios.
The average car owner that is not interested in the enhanced features will want something simple and easy to use. The BlueDriver is the best Bluetooth diagnostic tool and take 30 seconds to setup and get scanning your vehicle for codes.
It works on both Android and Apple devices with the intuitive user interface helping novice users work the tool. Another benefit is that it provides over 6 million verified fixes that you could try yourself or pass onto your mechanic.
A mechanic or car dealership or collector would really benefit from owning a high-end diagnostic tool. Both the Autel and Launch devices are neck and neck in terms of features and build quiality. However, the Maxisys Pro MS908 is the best OBD2 scanner and will be able to perform everything in terms of servicing your car and ECU programming.
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