The check engine light doesn't have to be a mystery. To find out why the check engine light is on, use a check engine code reader to retrieve the fault codes from the ECU.

Best check engine light code reader

The YOUCANIC team has had the opportunity to test and review many check engine code readers, some of which you will find at Walmart, Advance Auto Parts, Harbour Freight, Amazon, and other online retailers.

Let's take a look at what our experts found to be the best check engine code reader. 

Editor's Top Rated Check Engine Code Readers

 

Editor's Pick Scanner Rating
Best Overall Foxwell NT301 Scanner 4.9
Advanced Code Reader Launch Creader VII+ 4.9
Code Reader for iPhone / Android ELM 327 OBD-II Adapter 4.8
Budget Code Reader TopDon ArtiLink 201 4.7

1. Foxwell Check Engine Code Reader

Foxwell Best Check Engine Code Reader

The Foxwell NT301 check engine code reader is easy to use, can read, and clear check engine light codes, plus it allows you to check emission readiness quickly. Foxwell NT301 is an excellent option if you are looking for a good check engine code reader. 

It is easy to use and works on most makes and models 1996 and newer. In addition to being well built, it has a nice feature that allows you to check emission readiness status quickly. 

It is also an excellent choice for auto mechanics that are looking for a reliable scanner to keep as a backup. 

Features

  • Read / Clear Codes from Engine Control Module
  • View live sensor data
  • Display emission readiness status
  • Displays code definitions

2. Launch Check Engine Code Reader

If you are looking for a more advanced check engine code reader, Launch Creader VII+ is one of our favorite scanners. Not only can it diagnose the check engine light, but it can also be used to read and clear fault codes from the transmission, airbag, and anti-lock brake system. Watch our video review to learn more about this scanner. 

Features

  • Read/Clear codes from Engine Control Module
  • Read / Clear Codes from Transmission Module
  • Read / Clear Codes from ABS Module
  • Read / Clear Codes from Airbag / SRS module
  • View live sensor data from ECU, ABS, Airbag, Transmission
  • View emission readiness status

3. Bluetooth Check Engine Code Reader

Any ELM327 OBD-II Bluetooth Scanner Adapter can be used to check engine code but they need to be paired with an iPhone or Android smartphone.

Once you pair it with your smartphone, you will be able to read and clear the check engine light codes directly from your phone. Simply pair it with your smartphone like you normally would any Bluetooth device. Next, install any free OBD-II app from the app store. DashCommand for iPhone and Torque Lite App for Android are popular apps that have free versions. 

Not only will it be able to read the check engine codes, but it will allow you to display live sensor data such as engine temperature, air temperature, RPMs, and even fuel consumption, acceleration, etc.

Features

  • Read / Clear Codes from Engine Control Module 
  • View live sensor data from ECU
  • Display fuel consumption data
  • View emission readiness status

4. Innova Check Engine Code Reader

Inova 6100 check engine code redaer

Innova makes many scanners, including the popular Innova 3040 Code Reader, which allows you to diagnose the check engine light and the ABS in addition to displaying live sensor data and being able to reset service lights. You will often find this version for sale at Advance Auto Parts and Autozone. 

Our favorite though is the Innova 6100p scanner, which allows you to diagnose more systems including engine, transmission, airbag, and ABS. It is a little more expensive than the Innova 3000 series models but worth the investment when you consider that it pays for itself the first time you use it. 

Featured Innova 6100p

  • Read / Clear Codes from Engine Control Unit
  • Read / Clear Codes from ABS module
  • Read / Clear Codes from Airbag / SRS module
  • Reset / Clear Codes from Transmission Module 
  • View live sensor data
  • Check emission readiness status

5. TopDon Check Engine Code Reader

Topdon artilink 201

If you are on a budget and are looking for a cheap check engine code reader, TopDon ArtiLink 201 is a great choice. TopDon is a new brand in the automotive industry, and their scanners are priced relatively low, but that doesn't mean they lack in functionality. 

The TopDon ArtiLink 201 will allow you to read and erase codes from the Engine Control Module. This inexpensive code reader not only can reset the check engine light, but it can help you determine if your vehicle is ready to pass the emissions test. It can also display live sensor data and freeze frame. 

Scan tools offering the same options are listed for over $70 at Advance Auto Parts and Autozone. 

Features

  • Read / Clear Fault Codes from the Engine Control Unit
  • Show Emissions Readiness Status
  • View live data from ECU sensors

Conclusion

One of the best check engine code readers we have reviewed is the Foxwell NT301 OBD-II Scanner. If you are on a budget, the TopDon ArtiLink is another excellent choice. 

For those who are looking for a more robust and powerful scanner, the Launch Creader VII+ and Innova 6100p are better choices because they will allow you to diagnose the engine, transmission, airbag (SRS light) and brake system (ABS, traction lights). In contrast, the previous choices will only allow you to diagnose the check engine light. 

How do you use an engine code reader

Using a check engine code reader is very simple. You plug the scanner under the diagnostic port under the dashboard, right above the brake pedal. Turn on the ignition but do not start the car. Allow for the scanner to turn on and press Read Codes. For more help, follow our guide on how to diagnose the check engine light.

FAQ

What is the best budget check engine code, reader?

Our top choice would be an ELM327 Bluetooth adapter and your smartphone. The cheapest code reader and most powerful among all basic code readers. Keep in mind you will only be able to access the engine control unit. Honestly, if you are just looking to read and clear check engine light, any code read will work.

Will these code readers work in my car?

All these scanners work on 1996 and newer vehicles. Always check model compatibility before purchase.

Where can I get the check engine read?

You can get your check engine light read for free at Advance Auto Parts, Autozone, PepBoys. 

Can you read codes without the check engine light on?

Yes, you can read pending codes even if the check engine light is not on. 

Does Autozone let you use their code reader?

Yes, except certain states. 

Is it worth buying an OBD2 scanner?

Definitely. An OBD-II scanner can be purchased for as little as $20. Even if you don't plan on fixing your own car, having an OBD-II scanner can be very helpful. Even if it is just so that you can educate yourself. 

How can I reset the check engine light without a scanner

By disconnecting the battery for at least 15 minutes. We do not recommend clearing the check engine light with this method or without fixing the problem. Fault codes can be used to diagnose problems so erasing it this way will leave your mechanic with no codes to look at. 

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