Best Diagnostic Scanner – Diagnose your car for less

The mere thought of your car’s Engine Management Light (EML) going off is enough for your stomach to drop.

There you are, merrily driving your vehicle towards the destination when, suddenly, the light goes off. If you are a new driver, you won’t initially know what it means. Experienced drivers, however, would have an instant headache as they know how much it costs trying to locate the problem.

Want to save yourself from that horror?

Then you need to get the best diagnostic scanner. Designed for personal use, it immediately locates the source of the problem. All you have to do, then, is to get the issue fixed.

Best Diagnostic Scanner – Comparison Table


Autex MaxiCOM MK808

LAUNCH CRP123

BlueDriver Bluetooth
Professional
Weight1.85 pounds1 pound1.6 ounces
Airbag/SRSYES YES YES
Live DataYES YES YES
Warranty1-year1-year1-year
Check Price Check Price Check Price

Best Diagnostic Scanner – Top 8 Reviews

Autex MaxiCOM MK808 – Best OBD2 Scanner

Image of Autel-MaxiCOM-MK808-OBD2-Scanner

From your laptop to your smartphone – and all the way down to your passenger vehicle – this Scan Tool can support all devices.

Apart from checking and resetting the battery management system, Engine Management Light (EML) problem and O2 sensor, this model can look into advanced features like the IMMO (anti-theft) sensor as well. Also, it also checks your brake lights and headlights without you asking.

Moving on, you can rely on this system to have a full system diagnosis.

The systems which this tool will check include the brake system, transmission, fuel system, wiper system, and even emissions. And once it is done with checking, it will generate reports telling you the solutions of any problems it may have found during checking.

Impressively, among all the tools in this review, the 7’’ touchscreen of this model is the biggest. Fit with a quad-core processor, the screen displays live data in not only text but also in graphical and analog forms. The screen also has a multi-lingual menu and lets you read/clear codes of all systems.

Lastly, while this tool is Wi-Fi compatible as well, its manufacturer recommends switching over to the wire for faster diagnosis. You also get a 12-months warranty, a 32 GB storage space, and free updates during the entire warranty period.

Pros
  •       7’’ touchscreen display
  •       Offers full system diagnosis
  •       Wi-Fi compatible and 32GB space
  •       12-months warranty
Cons
• It is not as strong as other competitor repellent sprays.
• Compatibility issues with exotic models

User Critique

If you drive an exotic car, you might need to look elsewhere as this model supports only Mercedes and BMW models.

Image of LAUNCH-CRP123-Code-Creader-OBD2-ScannerLAUNCH CRP123 – Best Scan Tool for Mechanics

For those of you who repair cars for a living – and want a tool which can make their job easy – you might not get a better scanner than the Launch CRP123.

Why? For starters, this tool has a broad compatibility, which means it won’t miss any features when it comes to scanning. Apart from reading and clearing OBD2 trouble codes – like most scanners out there – it provides live stream data, Transmission codes, and information about SRS and ABS system.

On top of that, you get support for manufacturer specific data for domestic, European and Asian made cars. Try doing that with your average scanner.

Once you attach this scanner to your vehicle’s OBD2 port, it will start fetching and presenting live diagnostic data. Add to this its Freeze Data mode – which jams the frame to let you pinpoint the exact issue troubling your car – and it lets you fix the car in no time.

Another impressive aspect of this tool is its enhanced display.

Apart from displaying the code, the display also describes it in simple (layman) terms. So as long as you don’t want a thorough meaning of the problem, you won’t have to consult the manual.  And when any problem is found, the scanner beeps and turns on its illumination light to beware you of the same.

Lastly, in contrast to some advanced scanners out there, installing the CRP123 is a cinch. Once you connect it to the port, it diagnoses the vehicle engine and guides you throughout the installation process. However, if you’re having problems, just raise a ticket on the manufacturer’s website.

Pros
  •       Displays information in multiple languages
  •       Reads at 10 OBD 2 test modes, including enhanced SRS and ABS
  •       Supports manufacturer specific data
Cons
• It is not as strong as other competitor repellent sprays.
• Requires regular software updates

User Critique

If you don’t exactly like regularly updating your smartphone, you may not find it amusing to note that this tool requires regular software updates.

Picture of BlueDriver-Bluetooth-Professional-OBDII-ScannerBlueDriver Bluetooth Professional

Officially certified and licensed for use with Apple and Android devices, the BlueDriver’s database of over 6.6million fixes makes it useful for every model of modern vehicles.

In terms of functions, the BlueDriver lets you read and clear generic OBD2 codes, go through enhanced Airbag & ABS transmission codes and also tells the readiness of your vehicle for a smog test check. You can also use this tool to freeze frame data and get live data analysis.

The most impressive feature offered by this tool is the repair reports. Drawn from its huge database, these reports not only define the error code but also provide possible causes for the error with solutions to fix the problem on your own.

What’s more, if you’re looking at a used vehicle for purchasing purposes, the BlueDriver will act as a testing device.

Not only will it save codes, but it will also let you export them to the mechanic, so as to get an expert opinion. Also, it will provide the entire vehicle information – with misfire counts – to let you know whether or not the vehicle has something wrong with it.

Equally impressive as its functions is the user-interface of this tool. Easy to navigate and user-intuitive, the backlit display provides data in graphics form to let you read it easily. And since the unit comes with no wires whatsoever, you can easily store it in your car out of sight.

Pros
  •       Huge database of 6.6 million fixes
  •       Checks smog, freezes frame and provides vehicle specs
  •       Compatible with both Android and Apple smartphones
Cons
• It is not as strong as other competitor repellent sprays.
• Pricey

User Critique

The only complaint which some of its users have voiced about the BlueDriver relates to its price, for it is anything but cheap.

NEXPEAK NX501 OBD2 Scanner ImageNEXPEAK NX501 OBD2 Scanner

In comparison with the tools reviewed above, the NX501 is a bit cheaper, and that generally does have a reason.

Provided you turn to this model, it can check all the engine related fault codes – be they generic or manufacturer-specific. Also, apart from showing the codes, it can erase them to turn off that annoying Engine Management light.

More importantly, as the engine is turned on, the NX501 displays live sensor data, hence allowing you to pinpoint where exactly the problem arises.

To let the mechanic optimize engine fuel economy, the NX501 provides information about the O2 sensor and EVAP system. What’s more, it also monitors the health of the battery of your vehicle, before telling you in advance when the battery is aging or getting overcharged.

In case you’re wondering, this diagnostic scanner provides all this data on its 2.8’’ color-screen. Compatible with any car made in 1996 and later, you can also connect the NX501 to your PC (Windows only) to access its report software.

Lastly, if you want to connect it to your phone, due to its meager price tag, this model doesn’t offer Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. So the only option that you have is plug-n-play.

Pros
  •       Small and portable
  •       Huge vehicle coverage
  •       Lifetime free updates
  •       Print function and emission status
Cons
• It is not as strong as other competitor repellent sprays.
•     Won’t read enhanced trouble codes

User Critique

In contrast to some of its expensive counterparts, the NX501 won’t read advanced trouble codes like ABS control unit and Airbag.

picture of LAUNCH X431 PROS Mini Diagnostic ToolLaunch X431 PROS

Designed like a gaming controller with a colored and back-lit LED screen, the Launch X431 is an easy-to-use though expensive diagnostic scanner.

Compatible with American, European and Asian cars, this tool reads and displays codes from four different systems, including ENG, ABS, SRS, and SAS. And it doesn’t stop there; for it provides real-time data-graphic stream and also stores data for future reference.

You can rely on this model to keep you informed about the current status of your battery and condition of the fuel injector. Also, if you want to recalibrate the steering angle, reset the electronic car brake and regenerate DPF, you can do that as well.

 

Once you’re done the checking, this tool will give you the option to generate personalized customer reports in PDF form. You can also print the reports by wirelessly connecting the tool to a compatible printer.

Moving on, it also offers Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity so that you could access all of its features wirelessly. Still, if you want to have a more hands-on experience, the 6.98’’ HD screen will come to your help which lets you choose from five different languages.

Pros
  •       Real-time data stream
  •       Generates personalized customer reports
  •       Comes with 14 different OBD2 connectors
  •       Full system diagnosis
Cons
• It is not as strong as other competitor repellent sprays.
•    Printing isn’t convenient

User Critique

To get prints, it doesn’t offer plug-n-play compatibility with your printer, which means you might have to install drivers.

ScanTool 427201 Bluetooth

ScanTool OBDLink LX Bluetooth Image

Want to get your hands on a future-proof scanner? Looking for one that could turn your Android smartphone into a diagnostic tool? The ScanTool 427201 offers both these features.

Despite its meager price tag, the ScanTool offers wireless connectivity via Bluetooth, which means you won’t have to deal with wires. Also, thanks to its Battery Save technology, this model goes to sleep when not in use, hence saving you with the trouble of incessantly charging it.

For your and the tool’s safety, the ScanTool is equipped with a voltage check mechanism. This safety net ensures that the tool doesn’t have to experience any power surge, thereby increasing its shelf life.

Moreover, apart from providing live feed data transmission – in both graphical and gauge form – its backlit screen has a to-do list which indicates the working condition of all parts under observation in plain English. The screen also lets you access, log and export real-time engine data over the internet.

Furthermore, if you want more gauges, it lets you create a custom live dashboard directly on your tablet or Android phone. The entire system is protected by a password, receives regular firmware updates and comes with a 3-year warranty.

Pros
  •       Battery Save Technology
  •       Voltage Check Mechanism
  •       Lifetime firmware updates
  •       3-year warranty
Cons
• It is not as strong as other competitor repellent sprays.
•    Incompatible with Apple devices

User Critique

As some of you might have noted, this tool isn’t compatible with any Apple devices.

Image of BAFX-Products-Bluetooth-Diagnostic-OBDII-ScannerBAFX Products 34t5 Bluetooth

Designed to be used with post-1996 vehicles, this Bluetooth diagnostic tool is compatible with Windows-based computers and Android smartphones.

Turning our attention to its performance, and you can use this tool to retrieve and clear DTCs, check and turn-off Engine Management Light, and gauge the emission readiness of your model. It also provides real-time info about O2 readings, RPM speed, temperature and much more.

Also, to let you know whether your vehicle can pass the smog test or not, it lets you check the emission system. What’s more, you can also rely on this device to provide real-time data, with it reporting instantly your drag times between 1/8 and 1 mile.

Provided you connect it to your smartphone via Bluetooth, the BAFX won’t only give you personalized reports but also suggests how you can rectify them. It can also generate manufacturer-specific error codes, a rarity for OBD2 scanners of this price range.

Pros
  •       2-year warranty
  •       Provides real-time data
  •       Displays more than 3,000 error codes
  •       Connects to your smartphone wirelessly
Cons
• It is not as strong as other competitor repellent sprays.
•    Separate software required for emissions’ check

User Critique

Should you want to gauge the emission readiness of your vehicle with this tool, it requires installation of a separate software.

Innova 3160g Bluetooth

Image of Innova-3160g-Code-Reader-Tool

Being a mid-range OBD2 diagnostic tool, the Innova 3160g can be used with all cars, SUVs, hybrids and even trucks from 1996.

In terms of features, the Innova 3160g not only diagnoses but also removes Engine Management Light. It also erases error codes including SRS and ABS and resets battery maintenance and Oil Lights. You can also use it to stream and/or record live data.

Furthermore, if you want to test the charging system of your vehicle’s battery, this tool gives you that opportunity as well. Also, if you want to pinpoint the exact problem, it lets you freeze the frame to do that as well.

Next comes the RepairSolutions feature which takes the guesswork out of your vehicle’s repair. Instead, it provides verified, step-by-step videos to get the job done on your own. However, if you want to take your vehicle to the mechanic, this feature will also tell repair costs.

Lastly, in contrast to some cheap scanners out there, the Innova 3160g won’t stop sending updates after a few months. Instead, it offers lifetime updates without charging anything extra. Also on offer is a 1-year warranty on the model.

Pros
  •       Gives generic and enhanced trouble codes
  •       Real-time information
  •       Portable and lightweight
  •       Multi-language
Cons
• It is not as strong as other competitor repellent sprays.
•    Limited compatibility with European cars

User Critique

The compatibility of this model is limited when it comes to European cars.

What is OBD2 Tool?

Onboard Diagnostics 2 is a passenger vehicle’s reporting and self-diagnostic tool. Provided your car was manufactured after a certain date, it would have OBD2 as well.

Below mentioned are the major benefits of an OBD-2 tool.

  • In the context of this article, an OBD2 tool detects malfunctions in various parts of your vehicle. Once it detects that some part isn’t working as intended, the “Check Engine” light goes off, hence warning you that something is wrong with your vehicle.
  • Regardless of the type of vehicle you own, its OBD always stores a Diagnostic Trouble Code – which pinpoints the exact area where the failure occurred. However, since this code is a jumble of figures, you won’t know what it means.
  • Want to know what that code means? That’s where an OBD2 tool will come into play. It translates those codes for you so that you know the exact nature of the problem.

Types of OBD2 Scanners

Generally speaking, there are two types of OBD2 scanners which you might come across in the market. Let’s take a brief look at both.

Code Readers

Available in most auto parts store or even home improvement stores, code readers are low-cost scanners.

When you plug them into the diagnostic port, they display the Diagnostic Trouble Code on their small screen. Once you have the code, you can use code readers to even clear the code and take that annoying Engine Management Light off your dashboard.

Pros
  •       Inexpensive
  •       Available almost everywhere
  •       Can both display and clean codes
Cons
• It is not as strong as other competitor repellent sprays.
• Can’t offer much info on manufacturer-specific codes

Scanner Diagnostic Tools

Unlike the code readers – which come in the one-size-fits-all category, scanner diagnostic tools are generally available in two types: OBD and OBD2.

OBD Vs OBD2

In contrast to OBD2 tools – which are connected to the console of your vehicle, OBD tools are remotely connected. Also, while OBD tools are manufacturer specific, OBD2 tools have a universal interface.

Both of them differ in their applications, too. For, OBD tools only showed total fuel and energy consumption and fuel output of your vehicleOBD2 tools, on the contrary, perform real-time analysis of the performance of the engine to let you achieve better fuel economy.

Uses of Scanner Diagnostic Tools

Scanner Diagnostic tools offer advanced features, including sophisticated software, ECU adaptations, and ECU programming. Also, apart from showing live data, they also save it – so that you can access it further down the line. They even give you troubleshooting tips to help overcome the problem.

What’s more, if you own a smartphone, you can even get scanner diagnostic tools with Bluetooth functionality. They show all the information on your phone, which you can send to a mechanic to get an expert opinion.

Pros
  •       Powerful and versatile
  •       Provide everything you need in a scanner
  •       Come with great warranties
  •       Some scanner diagnostic tools can be used to diagnose heavy-duty commercial vehicles
Cons
• It is not as strong as other competitor repellent sprays.
• Expensive

How to Use/Connect Diagnostic Scanner?

Image of Buyers Guide

Follow the following steps to correctly use your diagnostic scanner …

Step # 1: Unbox your Scanner

Before you know how to connect your diagnostic scanner, you need to know its type. For, Bluetooth scanners require a compatible app to show codes and other information on. Install the corresponding application if your scanner is Bluetooth compatible. Otherwise, just roll down to the second step.

Step # 2: Connect the scanner

Move your driver seat back, and bend under the steering. There you might see a removable panel or a removable cap. Once you remove this cap/panel, you’ll see a port. Connect your scanner to this port after matching up the connectors. Push it right in and make sure that the scanner isn’t loose.

Note: If you cannot find the port underneath the steering, check the area around the steering. If the port isn’t here as well, it should be under the dash.

Step # 3: Enable the OBD2

You would now have all the data as well as trouble codes. Translate them using the OBD2 manual and locate the exact point where the problem exists.

Buyers Guide – Choosing the Right Scanner

Following are the things you need to keep in mind while choosing a scanner for your car.

Cost – DIY vs. Professional

Provided you’re on a budget, DIY scanners – due to their relatively low price tag – might suit you well. While they can’t lay a glove on manufacturer specific codes, these scanners will still check universal diagnostic codes. Moreover, with internet also offering tons of diagnostic information, DIY scanners might be all you need.

However, provided you want more flexibility, better features, and information about manufacturer-specific codes, only the Professional scanners might suit you. Granted, they won’t come cheap; but they are built to last with long warranty periods. Once you buy them, they won’t go anywhere for ages.

Scanner vs Reader

Another decision you might have to make is to choose between a scanner and a reader. Despite their low price tag, readers can display and clean codes on their own. That said, they stop short of providing manufacturer-specific data.

Scanners, meanwhile, justify their lofty price tag by offering a host of features. Not only do they provide manufacturer-specific codes’ data, but they also store and show live data. Plus, you even get troubleshooting information from them as well.

Compatibility

Starting with the OBD2 vehicles, every vehicle sold in North America after 1996 is compatible with these scanners. For vehicles sold in Europe, the deadline for compatibility is 2001 for petrol and 2004 for diesel vehicles. Residents of Australia and New Zealand, meanwhile, have their cut-off date at 2006.

Having said that, the compatibility of your OBD2 tool might vary. Therefore, to check whether the OBD2 tool you’re looking at is compatible with your vehicle’s model or not, check its manual. Vehicles with OBD2 Compliance clearly mention the same in their user manual.

Top 5 OBD Error Codes

Has that cursed Engine Management Light of your vehicle gone off? Don’t know what the code visible on your OBD2 tool means?
Here are the top 5 most common check engine error codes:

#1: PO171-P0175 – Oxygen Sensor

At the cost of sounding technical, your car’s oxygen sensor takes into account the percentage of oxygen in the exhaust – which it then uses to calibrate the engine computer to optimize fuel economy and decrease emissions. Consequently, when the sensor isn’t working, either your car will consume more fuel or it will randomly stall.

#2: P0300-P0305 – Engine Misfire

Is your car vibrating or shaking when idle? Is it consuming more fuel than previous times? In that case, its engine might be misfiring. An OBD2 tool tracks this problem by observing the speed of the vehicle’s crankshaft when the engine is running.

#3: P0401– Exhaust Gas Recirculation

This system is responsible for controlling the Nitrogen-oxides’ (NOx) emission of your engine. It does that by recirculating part of the gases from the engine’s exhaust towards the engine cylinders. This system calibrates your car’s computer system to open and close valves to facilitate recirculation.

However, if you haven’t changed your car’s engine oil in a while – or the car hasn’t been allowed to warm up on several short trips, the P0401 code may appear. It indicates that there is carbon buildup in the engine’s cylinders.

#4: P0411, P0440, P0442, P0446, P0455– Evaporative System

When your car burns fuel, vapors are produced which, if left unremoved, might be harmful. An Evaporative System not only removes but also contains those vapors. A minor mistake like letting the gas cup loose might be the source of this problem, before setting off the trouble code on the scanner.

Apart from the gas cap, the EVAP system includes a charcoal canister, a purge valve, vent hoses, and a vacuum or pressure sensor.

#5: P0420, P0430 – Catalytic Converter

As Wikipedia tells us, a catalytic converter saves the environment by converting toxic pollutants and gases into their less-toxic counterparts.

It does the same by catalyzing (speeding up) the reaction which causes the conversion. If your engine is leaking coolant or burning oil, the converter might become dirty and increase harmful emissions.

Conclusion

There you have it; 8 of the best diagnostic scanners money can buy. Whether you’re a DIYer looking to quickly fix his car – or a professional who earns their living out of this work – this article has something to offer to both of you.

If you’re a professional car mechanic, we recommend you the Launch CRP123 Diagnostic Scanner. Apart from providing live stream data and information about ABS and SRS systems, the wide range of vehicles this model is compatible with makes it a worthy choice for mechanics.

However, if you need a tool for an OBD2 scanner for your personal car, check out the Autex MaxiCOM MK808. It offers full system diagnosis, comes with a 12-months warranty and also tells you the solutions of problems that it might have found during checking. What more can you ask for!

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