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. Look at your vehicle’s top 5 best check engine light code readers.
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 look at what our experts found to be the best check engine code, reader.
|Best Overall||YOUCANIC 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. YOUCANIC FULL SYSTEM SCANNER
We tested a lot of scanners trying to find the best scanner to use in our garage. What we found is that:
- Many scanner manufacturers make scanners that require a yearly subscription.
- Can diagnose one make but doesn’t work on all different car makes. You will have to pay more to cover other vehicle makes.
- Can’t diagnose all vehicle systems. May only diagnose the engine, airbag, transmission, and ABS problems. That’s only 4 systems. Modern cars can have up to 40+ systems.
- Don’t support bi-direction support for sensor testing and activation.
If you wanted a scanner that can do all these, you have to spend thousands of dollars and most likely pay a yearly subscription.
So we decided to launch the YOUCANIC full system scanner that works on all makes and models.
The YOUCANIC full system scanner:
- Works on all makes.
- Can read and clear codes from all vehicle control units.
- View live data from any sensor.
- Bi-direction support to activate and test sensors and motors.
- Reset functions depending on model
If that is not enough, keep in mind that the YOUCANIC scanner does not require a yearly subscription as other professional-level tools do. We believe that the YOUCANIC scanner offers the best OBD2 for the money for auto mechanics and DIYers.
Don’t want to buy a scanner? We still want to help you fix your vehicle in an economical way. We created a scanner rental program that allows you to use the scanner for a few days on as many cars as you like.
We have a ton of how-to video showing you how to troubleshoot car problems. Once you get the codes, the YOUCANIC technicians can help you with any questions you may have.
2. Foxwell Check Engine Code Reader
The Foxwell NT301 check engine code reader is easy to use, can read and clear check engine light codes, and 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 looking for a reliable scanner to keep as a backup.
- Read / Clear Codes from Engine Control Module
- View live sensor data
- Display emission readiness status
- Displays code definitions
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 can read and clear the check engine light codes directly from your phone. Pair it with your smartphone like you normally would on 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. It will allow you to read the check engine codes and display live sensor data such as engine temperature, air temperature, RPMs, and even fuel consumption, acceleration, etc.
- 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
Innova makes many scanners, including the popular Innova 3040 Code Reader, which allows you to diagnose the check engine light and the ABS and display live sensor data and reset service lights. You will often find this version for sale at Advance Auto Parts and Autozone. Our favorite 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 considering 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 the 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
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 its scanners are priced relatively low, but that doesn’t mean they lack 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 frames. Scan tools offering the same options are listed for over $70 at Advance Auto Parts and Autozone.
- Read / Clear Fault Codes from the Engine Control Unit
- Show Emissions Readiness Status
- View live data from ECU sensors.
Launch Crader VII+ full system is a good choice if you are on a budget. For those looking for a more robust and powerful scanner, the YOUCANIC full system scanner will allow you to diagnose the engine, transmission, airbag (SRS light), and brake system (ABS, traction lights).
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, 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.
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 purchasing.
Where can I get the check engine read?
You can get your check engine light read for free at Advance Auto Parts, Autozone, and 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 in certain states.
Is it worth buying an OBD2 scanner?
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.
We hope you find the Top 5 Best Check Engine Code Readers guide helpful. Check these troubleshooting and repair guides for more help on your vehicle.