Best OBD2 Scanners for Car Owners & Mechanics
Choosing the best OBD2 scanner is a challenge for mechanics, let alone car owners. Troubleshooting a modern vehicle without an On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) Scanner is extremely difficult. To work on a 1996 and newer cars you will need an ODB-II scanner. II stands for second generation OBD and may be referred to as OBD2, OBD-2, OBD-II all meaning the same.
Tip: In this guide, we go over important criteria to keep in mind when you choose an OBD2 scanner. To help you with this proccess we have included hands-on videos of some of the most popular OBD2 scanners today.
With hundreds of OBD2 scanners for sale, it is often is overwhelming to decide what is the best OBD2 scanner. This guide will help you choose the right scanner we broke OBD2 scanners into three different categories.
1. OBD2 Scanner Categories
Level 1: OBD2 scanners under $100 typically can only diagonse the Check Engine Light or Service Engine light. Many of these scanners can display live sensor data that the Engine Control Unit controls. Level 1 OBD-2 scanners cost as little as $15. Every car owner must at a minimum have one of these cheap OBD2 scanners in the glove box.
Level 2: Multi System OBD2 Scanners diagnose check engine light but other systems as well such as Airbag/SRS, Transmission, Anti-Lock-Brakes, etc. We belive these scanners offer the best value for DIYers.
Level 3: These are professional scanners and are more expensive. These professional OBD2 scanners are often used by auto mechanics and offer full system diagnostics. We have included a few that are easy to use by mechanics and car owners who can afford one. Level 3 OBD2 scanner offer di-directional function which means that you can activate and test various sensors on the car.Back to top
2. Level 1: OBD2 Scanners Under $100
These basic OBD2 scanners, (also known as code readers or generic OBD2 scanners), retrieve data from the Engine Control Unit (ECU). You can retrieve Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTC) (also referred to as fault codes) that trigger the Check Engine Light and Service Engine Soon. Level 1 scanners don't access other modules besides Engine Control Unit (ECU) or provide any coding capabilities.
Simply plug into the OBD-2 port and read the code. They show you a fault code. A few scanners even tell you what the code means. Regardless of what description you get from the scanner, write down the code and do online research to understand what are common problems with your make.
Here is a list of what you can do with these scanners:
- Read Fault Codes from Engine Control Unit
- Determine why Check Engine Light is on.
- Erase Check Engine Codes
- View Freeze Frame Data
- Display live sensor data from ECU
- Can not access other modules.
- Can not read codes from ABS, SRS, transmission etc.
- Can not troubleshoot TPMS
- No programming or coding
Popular Level 1 OBD Scanners
Here are our top picks for this category.
1. Autel MaxiScan MS300
Check Price: Autel MaxiScan MS309
This is one of the most popular OBD2 scanners and also one of the best OBD2 scanners on the market. It is very easy to use even for someone who has never used a scanner before. MaxiScan works on 1996 and newer vehicles. It provides support for OBD II and CAN compliant cars. It is able to retrieve the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and determine the correct protocol.
It will read and clear check engine light or service engine soon. Keep in mind that you can not pass a vehicle emission test by clearing the code with a scanner. MaxiScan MS309 will display the fault code on the LCD and a short description of the code. It is recommended to write down the code and do your own research to determine what is wrong with your car. Do not rely on the fault code alone.
2. Bluetooth OBD-II Scanners
A Bluetooth OBD-II scanner can pair with your phone and allow you to read and clear fault codes using your smartphone. There are many variations of these Bluetooth adapters including dongles such as Fixd OBD-II Adapter and BAFX Products Bluetooth Scanner which are two of the best selling Bluetooth OBD2 scanners on the market today.
3. Autophix OM126 Scanner
Check Price: Autophix OM126 Scanner
If you are looking robust OBD2 scanner a good choice would be OM126. Not only is it an affordable OBD2 scanner that is easy to use but also offers several amazing features such as:
- Read and Clear Fault Codes including Check Engine Codes.
- Retrieves generic (P0, P2, P3 and U0), manufacturer specific (P1, P3 and U1) codes and pending codes.
- Views freeze frame data.
- Display monitor and I/M readiness status (emissions).
- Retrieves vehicle information such as VIN.
- Supports all 1996 and newer vehicles.
Noteworthy Level 1 OBD-II Scanners:
|ANCEL AD310 Classic Enhanced Universal OBD II Scanner Car Engine Fault Code Reader CAN Diagnostic Scan Tool - Black|
|TT TOPDON TD300 OBD2 Scanner Code Reader with Engine Light Turn-Off|
|BAFX Products Bluetooth Diagnostic OBDII Reader|
BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDII Scan Tool for iPhone, iPad & Android
Veepeak Mini WiFi OBD2 Scanner Compatible with iOS and Android, Car OBD II
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3. Level 2: Multi-System OBD2 Scanner (Best Value)
Level 2 scanners (also referred to as a multi-system OBD2 scanner) are slightly more expensive but their main advantage is that they allow you to read and clear fault codes from many modules.
If you work on cars frequently or are trying to troubleshoot problems other than the check engine light, you need a multiple system OBD2 scanners. These scanners not only can reset the check engine light but they can read and clear codes from various modules including Anti-Lock Brakes, Airbag system, Transmission, and Tire Pressure Monitoring System, etc.
A number of multi-system scanners only read and clear codes from the engine, transmission, abs and airbag modules. While a full system OBD2 scanner will be able to read, clear and reset fault codes from almost all of the modules on the vehicle. A full system OBD2 scanner is the way to go if you work on cars frequently. One trip to the dealer could save you enough money to buy one of these scanners.
Even if you haven't used a full system OBD2 scanner before don't worry. They are very easy to use and function the same as the basic OBD2 code readers. The main difference is that they can access another system on your car, not just the ECU.
- Read/Erase Check Engine Codes
- Read/Erase ABS Fault Codes
- Read/Erase Airbag / SRS Codes
- Troubleshoot transmission problems
- View Sensor Live Data
If the scanner is made to work on many makes and models, it may not be able to access as many modules compared to a Level 2 scanner that is designed to work on one particular make.
- No Coding
- No Programming
- One-directional communication
Popular Level 2 Scanners
1. Launch Creader
Check Price: Launch Creader Scanner
It covers most vehicle makes. Works on European, Asian and domestic cars. Provides coverage for four vehicle systems:
- Engine / ECU
To learn more about Level 2 scanners read this article: Multi-system OBD2 scanners
2. Universal Foxwell NT624 / N510
Check Price: Foxwell NT624
Foxwell NT624 provides in-depth vehicle troubleshooting of all systems and works on most makes including American, Asian and European vehicles.
Foxwell N510 version provides full system coverage but comes with software for one particular make.
- Airbag / SRS
- Automatic Transmission
- Instrument Cluster
- Climate Control
- Power Steering
- Engine / ECU / Check Engine Light
Works on cars, SUVs, trucks, and minivans.
3. ArtiDiag 100 OBD2 Scanner
Check Price: TopDon ArtiDiag 100
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ArtiDiag 100 is a Level 2 Scanner that provides coverage for most makes and is able to read and clear codes from most modules on a vehicle. Watch the demonstration on a Mercedes-Benz S Class.
4. Level 3: Professional Diagnostic Scanners (Dealer Level)
Professional diagnostic scanners provide similar functionality to the scanners used at your car dealerships. These are meant for mechanics that operate auto repair shops. If you are a DIYer and can afford a professional diagnostic scanner, you may never need to go to the dealer or mechanic. Level 3 diagnostic scanner are expensive with the majority of the scanners ranging between $1000 and $3000.
Level 3 scanner offer bi-directional support and can diagnose all system and control units. A complete system expert scanner is not limited to one make but works on most car brands including Honda, Toyota, BMW, VW, Mercedes, Porsche, Ford, Chevrolet, etc. Bi-directional supports allow you to activate, program and test sensors and system in your car.
Can read and clear fault codes from systems such as:
- Anti-Lock Brakes
- Traction Control
- Climate Control
- Entertainment, Navigation
- Stability Control
- Engine / ECU
- Yearly upgrades cost money
Many car manufacturers require that certain modules can only be coded by the dealer. Professional scanners will not be able to code replacement of certain modules if the coding can only be completed by the dealer.
Popular Level 3 Scanners
|Autel Maxisys MS908 : Car Diagnostic Scanner, Full System WIFI Diagnostic System with ECU Coding|
|Launch X431 V+ : Android OBD2 Auto Car System Diagnostic Scanner Global Version with DBScarII Bluetooth Connector|
|TT TOPDON ArtiPad I 12-inch Touch Screen Full System Diagnostic Tool with ECU Coding and Programming for Benz BMW VW Audi and Free 2-Year Online Update|
|Autel DS808 Maxidas Bi-Directional Automotive OBD2 Scanner Diagnostic Tool Key Fob Programming, ECU Coding, Abs Bleeding Brake, Reset Functions|
5. What is the best OBD2 scanner?
To determine which OBD-II scanner is the best, you need to understand your needs and determine your budget.
The best OBD-2 scanner is the one that fits your needs and budget.
When buying an OBD2 scanner ask yourself these questions:
- What are you trying to diagnose?
- Check Engine Light,
- ABS Problems
- Airbag / SRS Light
- Transmission Problems
- Program Modules
- What is your budget?
- Do you need a scanner to work on one make (example BMW) or multiple makes?
We hope that after reading this article, you are able to choose the best OBD2 scanner based on your needs. When it comes to OBD-2 scanners, there is no one size fits all solution. A key component here is how much you are trying to spend on a scanner and whether you want it to work on only ONE make or MANY makes. As time goes on, we will be adding videos of other scanners to this guide.Back to top