car diagnostic tool OBD2 Scanner Guide

We’re an automobile review company with one sole mission: to help you simplify you’re buying decisions.

The Best OBD2 Car Scanner Diagnostic Tool

How do you choose between nearly identical OBD 2 car scanners?

Best OBD2 Car Diagnostic Tool

Diagnostic Scan Tool with All System Diagnosis and Service Functions Including
Autel MaxiCOM MK808
Diagnostic Scan Tool with All System Diagnosis and Service Functions Including

Best mid-range OBD2 Diagnostic Tool

obd 2 scanner Innova 3100j
Innova 3100j
Diagnostic Tool & ABS Color Screen W/SRS & Oil Light Reset

Best Bluetooth OBD2 Scan Tool

OBDII Scan Tool for iPhone, iPad & Android
BlueDriver Bluetooth
Officially certified for Apple and Android devices

Best affordable OBD2 scanner

Car Health Monitor & Professional Scan Tool
FIXD OBD-II
ASE Certified by Mechanics in the United States

How We Found the Best OBD2 Diagnostic Scanner

40 brands
considered

120 hours of
research

4 top picks

The Best OBD2 Scanner

There’s a lot of choices out there when it comes to finding an excellent OBD2 scanner. It makes it difficult to choose the right one for you. Don’t worry though, as we’ve put together a guide on how to choose the best one to have on hand if things go wrong.

How We Chose the Best OBD2 Scanners

Variety of styles

We’ll start by taking a look at the history of the OBD2, or On-Board Diagnostics II.

The state of California in the United States ruled in the 1960s that cars had to be fitted with emission control systems in order to tackle the developing smog problem.

It didn’t take long for the US federal government to extend the emission control system program worldwide:

If you’re not sure where to start, check out our refrigerator buying guide below. We’ll walk you through each type of refrigerator — and why you might or might not want a french door or a top freezer — then help you figure out the right questions to ask in your search.

Congress passed the Clean Air Act in 1970

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was formally established
Vehicle manufacturers met the standards set out by the Act with the help of electronically-controlled fuel feed and ignition systems. These systems made use of sensors to calculate how an engine performed and regulated the emission control systems in order to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) introduced in 1988 a set of standards for onboard diagnostics (OBD). Several years later, on January 1, 1997, those standards were expanded upon and implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board (CARB). These standards are what is now referred to as OBD2.

The 4 Best OBD Scanners Tools

Best OBD2 Scanner in the Market

Diagnostic Scan Tool with All System Diagnosis and Service Functions Including

Autel MaxiCOM MK808

Full system diagnoses and wide vehicle coverage 

$40.00 extra savings coupon applied at checkout.

 

Pros
  • Offered in several connectivity options including wifi and Bluetooth
  • Big screen vivid touch
  • Gives clear display
  • It is portable and includes a carrying case
  • Processor is fast
  • Large memory space
Cons
  • Charging the tablet is mandatory
  • Its size is significant as compared to Blue driver.
Why we chose it
Offers several connectivity options including wifi and Bluetooth

Autel Maxidas is a huge mind relieve for car owners. An device which is user-friendly run diagnostics and finds the problem. This app  just doesn’t tell you the cause of a problem. It is capable of providing you with a solution as well. 

Each year in America several people get themselves fooled by their car mechanics. It is not only common in America but the entire world. Whenever some problem occurs in a car, mechanics give the list of broken things to the owner that has to be changed. In reality, only one minor thing is malfunctioned or broken. Who to trust? Don’t worry there is an app which can do diagnostics of your car instead of those expensive mechanics. This app can run diagnostics and tell you about the problem.

Autel Maxidas DS808 Automotive Diagnostic Tool OBD2 Scanner
The Autel Maxidas is an efficient vehicle diagnostic and scanning tool. It has the ability to check more than 50 European, Asian and domestic makes. It is a great scan tool for professional mechanics and for individuals who own more than one car brand.

Best mid-range OBD2 Diagnostic Tool

obd 2 scanner Innova 3100j

Innova 3100j

ABS Color Screen W/SRS & Oil Light Reset

This code reader works on all 1996 and newer cars, pickup trucks, SUV’s, minivans, and hybrids.

Pros

Fashionable and feature-heavy
Dual cooling
Space-efficient

Cons
Less energy-efficient
Why we chose it
Innova 3100j code reader works on all 1996 newer cars, SUV's, light trucks, hybrids, and as well as minivans.

If you’ve never seen a car scanner before, they attempt to read any engine issues incompatible vehicles. Unfortunately, with many scanners, they only work with certain car manufacturers or models, and this is a common problem. With the Innova 3100J, it works with most vehicles.

If the Check Engine light has come on in your vehicle, the Innova 3100J is a brilliant tool as a code reader/scan device. In addition to the basics, it also offers SRS and ABS scanning. Whether you have a car, SUV, light truck, or even a hybrid, the tool is likely to work as long as it’s no older than 1996 (this includes both domestic and foreign cars).

Features of the Innova 1300J

OBD2 Protocol – Before going any further, we should note that this scanner only supports the protocol OBD2. However, this isn’t exactly a negative because the majority of vehicles around the world now feature this protocol.

Interface – In our opinion, tools such as this should be simple to use and therefore usable for all audiences. The Innova 3100J is extremely easy to use, and the screen is easy to follow. Alongside important data, users will have access to various graphical views after reading from the vehicle.

Function – After interface, we reach potentially the most important feature in functionality. Ultimately, the 3100J does exactly what you would expect – it highlights the reason why the Check Engine light has come on. Bells and whistles are all well and good, but a car scanner needs to do the basics, and the 3100J does.

Design – Let’s face it, a car scanner the size of a window would be no good. Therefore, we’re happy to report that the 1300J is compact and this makes the whole experience easier. Considering it weighs around one pound, it’s easy to carry around and also won’t cause any problems for storage.

Also, most OBD2 vehicles will also allow diagnosis with SRS airbag and ABS issues too. If you need to assess your car’s charging system, this won’t be a problem thanks to the feature for Battery and Alternator tests. Elsewhere, you can even check smaller issues such as the engine coolant temperature and fuel trim.

While we can’t go back in time to where the relevant warning light was off, the 1300J will allow users to see certain metrics at the time the warning was first sent, and this can be incredibly useful.

Finally, our ‘complete’ guide wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the ability to store readings for three scanned vehicles. Whenever a new scan is taken, one of the stored vehicles can be removed from the record. Also, step-by-step instructions are provided with the oil and battery reset feature, and these instructions will be applicable on all vehicles built from 1996.

Best Bluetooth OBD2 Scan Tool

OBDII Scan Tool for iPhone, iPad & Android

BlueDriver Bluetooth

Bluetooth OBDII Scan Tool for iPhone, iPad & Android

These trendy fridges boast high-tech features, but they’re typically less energy-efficient.
Pros
  • North American engineers made this product
  • Highly recommended by mechanics
  • Compatible with phones and tablets
  • Durable and reliable product
  • Small size makes it easy to carry
  • User-friendly
Cons
  • A few users complained about the slow connection of Wifi or Bluetooth
  • Not compatible for windows phone
Why we chose it
Blue driver Scanners can tell you about different problems right on your fingertips. It is capable to run diagnostics. It can even tell the causes and the solution about the problem.

Whenever we look somewhere, the first thing we see is computer-based technology. People are carrying cell phones or laptops, even in the cars we drive for our daily routine work. If a problem occurs in our car, we immediately take it to a mechanic. Just for a five-minute checkup mechanics give a huge amount of bill without telling us the problem. Now there is an app which can tell what could be the problem with your car. Thanks to Blue-driver app that can do diagnostic of your car by connecting to onboard diagnostic (OBD) port. The app can be installed on IOS or Android.

1) Blue driver Bluetooth Professional OBD2 Scan Tool:
The Professional scanning tool made by engineers of North America. Highly trusted by mechanics. Run diagnostics and tell about the parts that have to repair. Scan and clear check engines, ABS, Airbags and Transmission codes.

Best affordable bluetooth OBD2 scanner

Car Health Monitor & Professional Scan Tool

FIXD OBD-II

ASE Certified Mechanics in the USA 

 FIXD OBD2 is simple and easy to installed 

Pros
  • Clear and comprehensive checkup of your car’s engine
  • Deciphers enhanced codes such as ABS, Transmission or TPMS for a variety of cars. 
  • Gives two liner definitions for more detail
  • Keeps a logbook where it gets access to the mileage
  • Small size makes it easy to carry
  • User-friendly
Cons
  • Not compatible for windows phone
  • A few users complained of bad Customer Support
Why we chose it
Cost-effective

FIXD produces an OBD2 which is one of the easiest way through which you can maintain and check your vehicle’s maintenance. It gets easier when the language is very straightforward. The device explains the consequences and the intensity of your cars’ problem so that you figure out the ways when and how it has to be fixed. Your cars’ calendar will manage when you have this OBD2. It sends out notifications if your car is scheduled for any maintenance checkup, such as change of your engine oil.

Works well with a vehicle which is fueled by gas and manufactured after 1996. The data retrieved by the device is also stored for later use. The device works with an app which is very easy to install. The process is also uncomplicated; you have to connect the device with the app with Bluetooth.

The best part is that you can also add in the information of more cars, so you are updated with yours, and your family’s cars’ health in the same go they don’t need separate checking. The software is also updated on a regular basis, so you have full control hold of your cars health.

A basic OBD2 scanner delivered at a solid price

Scanner Professional Enhanced OBDII Diagnostic Code Reader

Foxwell NT301 OBD2 Scanner

Good insights, real time data, easy to connect

19% extra savings coupon applied at checkout.

 

Pros
  • Supports multiple code requests
  • Save data in the data log for later use
  • DTC lookup library or dictionary is convenient
  • Reads, records, graphs & playbacks
  • Powered by vehicle no charging required
Cons
  • Complicated to read device for average consumer

Why we chose it
Cost-effective

The Foxwell NT301 is capable of retrieving a bunch of information about the health of the car from the engine control unit. If you’re looking for a well-equipped OBD2 device which is well manufactured, easy to use and has the most vehicle coverage, then this one is the right fit. It can give an enhanced data analysis and turns off when all checkups are done. It also resets itself and clears all codes. The data which comes out as a report can also be printed, that can be sent to your mechanic as help or reference.

Adding to this it also has a well updated DTC lookup library which will help you to understand what has gone wrong with your vehicle. The data presented in the graph and text form is always accurate. Comes with a free software update; 1-year money bank warranty. Plus, the OBD2 does not require any battery as it charges itself when connected to the interface of your vehicle. The device also has multilingual options which help customers throughout the globe. The device is also straightforward to use, nothing bulky and big; 2.8-inch color screen which is small and functional.

How to Find the Right OBD2 car scanner for You

What Is OBD2 Scanner?

OBD2 – which stands for Onboard Diagnostics II – is a standardized system for onboard computers built into cars and trucks that allows for self-diagnostics and reporting. The system came from regulations set forth by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The specifications for the OBD2 were put together by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).

Unlike the previous OEM-specific OBD-I systems, the OBD-II uses identical code designations, communication protocols, and connectors between different manufacturers. This means that one OBD-II scanner can access all of the information open to these scanners no matter the make or model of vehicle, provided it was produced after 1996, the first model year where OBD-II was required for every vehicle.

OBD2 was implemented in 1996 and has been mandated for every car manufactured since then. When compared to the earlier OBD1 system, OBD2 provides more improvements when it comes to standards and capability. The system is used extensively by auto-mechanics and individual consumers to detect problems with cars that could cause more serious issues such as low performance, poor fuel economy, and high emissions.

Why Do Car Owners Need an OBD2 Scanner?

The standards put forth by the government mean that all modern cars have computerized components that allow for consumers and professional mechanics similar to better spot potential problems.

The dashboard on a car generally contains warning lights for drivers that alert them to possible problems including the engine light and brake light.

Rather than taking a vehicle to a mechanic as soon as a light goes on, they can use a diagnostic scan tool that has access to information from the engine control unit (ECU). These scanners can provide drivers with information about how to troubleshoot the problems with their vehicle. This includes instructions, making it easy to do the job at home.

Here are just a few reasons car owners need OBD2 scanners:

Scan the Entire Electronic System in a Vehicle 
Just about every modern vehicle is fitted with computers for controlling systems such as the ignition system, automatic transmission, fuel injection, and the like. Cars are filled with sensors that automatically collect information about these systems and send it to the computer modules in the car. This allows the control systems to detect problems and bring them to the attention of the driver.

Detect Problem Codes that Could Lead to Malfunctions 
Car diagnostic tools provide access to information from the engine control unit (ECU) and use the information to detect problem codes with the car. People that are new to using scanners may check the manual or CD that came with their scanner to learn more about these codes and what to do. They can also check online to find out more about trouble codes and solving the issue they are related to.

Help to Pass Emissions Inspections 
A car can’t pass an emissions test if the check engine light is active. The good news is that most scan tools come with a feature known as Inspection and Maintenance (I/M) readiness built in. This feature helps users determine if problems have been fixed so that a car can pass inspection.

Simple to Use 
Scan tool manufacturers have made scanners straightforward and straightforward to use. Outside of the manual and CD software, it’s also possible to find an online database of problems and solutions. Users can also find information about using auto scanners online.

Get Peace of Mind 
Auto scanners can quickly check the control systems in a car to assess problem codes. Car owners would like to know if the problem is something that they can fix themselves easily, or if they should take their vehicle to a garage for professional help.

Save Money 
That users can find fixes to common problems online means that troubleshooting vehicle problems are more exciting and enjoyable. It means that drivers can gain knowledge about how their cars work and how to fix problems. When owners can fix their cars, it saves money on taking them to repair shops.

What do OBD-II Scanners Do?

What an OBD-II scanner is capable of doing depends on which kind of scanner it is between the basic “code reader” and advanced “scan tool.” The basic code reader, as the name implies, is only capable of reading and clearing codes. The more advanced scanners are able to view both live and logged data, delivering users with an extensive knowledge base, offer entree to bi-directional controls and tests, as well as other more advanced functions.

Every OBD-2 scanner is able to provide basic functionality, including being able to read and clear codes. An OBD-2 scanner may also have other functions, including the ability to check soft/pending codes that haven’t yet activated the check engine light. They may also offer access to lots of information. An OBD scanner can pull data from just about any sensor offering input to onboard computers. Some scanners are even able to create custom notes of parameter IDs (PIDs) and offer access to information including readiness monitors.

What to Look for When Choosing an OBD2 Scanner 

When choosing the right OBD2 scan tool for you, there are some important things to consider, which we’ll get into below;

Do you Need a Basic Code Reader or Something More Advanced?
Keep in mind that basic readers have limited functionality. They are only able to alert users to trouble codes and car problems that have to be then diagnosed. That said, this is often enough for people who want a simple and affordable device. The downside of basic code readers is that they are designed to work with just the most common models of car.

Every OBD-2 scanner is able to provide basic functionality, including being able to read and clear codes. An OBD-2 scanner may also have other functions, including the ability to check soft/pending codes that haven’t yet activated the check engine light. They may also offer access to lots of information. An OBD scanner can pull data from just about any sensor offering input to onboard computers. Some scanners are even able to create custom notes of parameter IDs (PIDs) and offer access to information including readiness monitors.

OBD-II Scanner Variations

There are two main kinds of OBD-II scanners you can find: 
• Code Readers 
The code reader is generally an inexpensive and basic device that is able to read and clear codes from vehicles equipped with an OBD-2 system. They tend to have some inherent limitations as they generally don’t have any information regarding manufacturer-specific codes and they also provide limited – if not no – access to any other essential data.

• Scan Tools 
Scan tools for OBD-2 are generally more expensive, but they do have a wider range of features. Scan tools are able to get more information about the manufacturer-specific codes and offer extensive access to recorded and live data, as well as in-depth troubleshooting information in the event something goes wrong.

How Does an OBD-2 Scanner Work?

Given that OBD-II systems come as standard, the scanners are simple enough to use. Each scanner runs on the same kind of connector, defined by SAE J1962. The basic scanners work by just connecting a universal plug to the diagnostic connector within the vehicle. The more advanced scanners may also come with modules or keys that add extra functionality to the universal connector, so they are able to gain access to OEM-specific controls and information.

Choosing the Right OBD-II Scanner

If you have a car built after 1996 and you do some work on it, whether it’s to save some extra money or because you love working on your car and doing things yourself, an OBD-II scanner makes for a great addition to the toolbox. This isn’t to say that every single backyard mechanic needs to shell out the $20,000 it would cost to get a top-of-the-line scanner from Mac or Snap-On.

There are many inexpensive options available for backyard mechanics. Be sure to take a look at what is on offer before making that final purchasing decision. There are lots of parts stores that are willing to check codes for free, and the internet is packed full of diagnostic information if you know what to look for. There will be some situations where this is everything you need.

To get some extra flexibility though, there are several inexpensive scan tools to look out for. One potential option is a dedicated code reader that has access to PIDs. It’s possible to find a good scan tool like this for less than $100. Another good option for those with Android smartphones is the ELM 327 Bluetooth scanner. These scanners offer the same functionality at a fraction of the cost.

Conclusion

Having the right scan tool for your vehicle helps to save money as it reduces repair fees. Rather than having scans done in the shop, you can do the diagnostics yourself at home with your scanner, and allow professional technicians to address the problems the scanner detects.

Choosing the right OBD-II scanner for you can prove to be a bit tedious though. Luckily, it is possible to simplify the process by doing some research through reliable resources. As well as basic word-of-mouth recommendations, there’s plenty of information to be found online that can point you in the direction of the best scanner for your vehicle.

The most important thing for a car owner to understand what they require from a scanner and how it helps them to maintain their car.

OBD2 Diagnostic Scanner Tool FAQ