Basic OBD2 scanners (often used at Autozone, Advance etc) only read mandated engine OBD-II fault codes such as when the service engine light is on. A BMW specific scanner can read all codes whether they are active (stored) or not (pending). For this reason, we will focus on scanners that can read BMW specific fault codes from control units such as EGS, DME, ABS, EPB, SRS/Airbag, iDrive, Body, Chassis, etc. This article has hands-on videos that show how these scanners work on BMWs.
NOTE: Our goal was to find easy-to-use, reasonably priced scanners that allows BMW owners to perform similar diagnostics carried out at BMW dealerships. Note that older BMW cars have a 20 pin DLC connector under the hood. You will need to use a 20 pin to 16 pin BMW adapter to troubleshoot your BMW. Otherwise, you will only be able to read and clear fault codes from the ECU (DME/DDE) such as the
Foxwell NT510 is a scanner that provides comprehensive diagnostics for BMW cars. The scanner can be loaded with the software for one specific make and the BMW software is impressive. First, it works on most 1999 to present BMW models. It can read and erase codes from the engine, transmission abs, traction control, SRS/airbag, reset oil reminder. It works both on gasoline and diesel BMWs.
It is one of the few BMW scan tools under $200 that provides advanced features such as module coding, battery registration, and component actuation. Such functions are usually only available from BMW dealer level scanners or much more expensive professional scanners. Saving the money by doing the battery registration yourself, almost pays for this scanner.
A key advantage of the Foxwell NT510 is the fact that this is a handheld unit and doesn't require a laptop. In our opinion, this is BMW scanner is the perfect alternative to the complicated K+DCAN/INAP setup. In the long run, Foxwell NT510 will save you money and headaches.
Turn off any warning light (once the problem is fixed)
Show live sensor data
Display live graphs
Reset oil service
Electronic parking brake functions
Software update free for 18 months only
It costs ($60-$100) to add full support for other makes.
The NT510 code reader is shipped with one free software to cover the car make of your choice. It can cover up to five vehicle makes at additional cost $90 per make.
Software for the following car makes is available for the NT510.
Honda / Acura
VAG Audi / VW / Seat / Skoda
BMW / Mini
Toyota / Lexus
Hyundai / Kia
Fiat / Alfa Romeo / Abarth / Lancia / Maserati
Land Rover / Jaguar
The perfect scanner for BMW owners. This scanner is priced in under $200 but it's worth every penny. Why pay a BMW technical $125+ to connect a scanner to the OBD2 port and tell you a code when you can do the same troubleshooting yourself. It allows you to read, clear codes from almost all BMW systems. Can program, code and even activate sensors. Covers 1999 and newer BMW models. When you buy the Foxwell NT510 make sure it is loaded with the BMW-specific software. Even though this scan tool is locked to BMW, it can be used on as many BMW cars as you like. On all other makes it can function as a generic OBD2 scanner allowing you to read and clear the check engine light on. In our opinion Foxwell NT510 is on of the best BMW scanners for DIYers.
Autel MaxiDAS is a professional level diagnostic scanner. It has a wide vehicle coverage for BMW but also other European, Asian and American cars. You normally would see independent repair shops use the Autel MaxiDAS scanner. This is an alternative to the popular but the more expensive Snap ON Solus. This is truly a dealer level professional scanner. It can read and clear fault codes from most systems. It can perform coding and programming which is not possible with most scanners in this list. It can Reset EPB, SAS, DPF, BMS, ABS, SRS, TPMS etc. It can perform new battery registration and reset service reminder intervals.
There are several models in the Autetel MaxiDAS line such as DS708 and DS808. The DS708 is a stand-alone handheld while the DS808 is a tablet-based scanner with similar functionality as the DS708.
Great tool for independent BMW repair shops, home mechanics, and enthusiasts. It delivers OE-Level diagnosis on all the electronic systems including Engine, ABS, SRS, Transmission, Body, Chassis, 4X4 and much more! If it wasn't for the price it would be our #1 choice.
Car Access System
Rain Light Sensor
Tire Pressure TPMS
Mini R50 - R57
All M models
Multi vehicle coverage
Out of budget for many BMW owners
Price Range: $900-$1300
It does cover not only basic functions such as read and clear codes and live data but also is capable of advanced functions such as actuation, adaptation, and programming. It lets you access the most common essential service features such as oil service light reset, EPB, SAS throttle body adjustment, DPF regeneration and much more.
View and record live vehicle sensors data in text and graph format to focus on any suspicious or symptom-specific data parameters. The powerful graphing capability gives you the real picture of what's going on in the vehicle.
The ArtiDiag 100 is a great choice if you are looking for an OBD2 scanner that will work on BMWs and almost any popular car out there. ArtiDiag is capable is accessing all systems on the models it supports. It can read and clear fault codes plus perform reset of oil life, brake pads, steering angle sensor and battery. 20 pin cable can be purchased if you need to use it with older models.
A very powerful BMW diagnostic and programming software. Not the best options for BMW owners who are just starting with DIY auto repair and are looking for a quick way to diagnose their BMW without worrying if they are going to cause more problems. Worth the time if you are a BMW auto repair shop. There are several INAP alternatives out there that can diagnose all systems on BMW cars, yet they are a lot easier to use.
While K+DCAN is very powerful BMW tool, it is important to point out that it has a learning curve. The busy BMW owner is not going to spend hours (or days) trying to setup K+DCAN & INPA software. Also keep in mind that while the K+DCAN interface is very powerful, it is also easy to cause problems and misconfiguration by a beginner.
Supported BMW Models:
F - series:
BMW 1 Series E87
E60, E61 after 3 / 2007
BMW 1 Series F20
BMW 3 Series E46 E83 E90
E83 after 9 / 2006
BMW 5 Series F07 F10 F11 F18
BMW 5 Series E39 E60 E61
E81, E87 after 3 / 2007
BMW 6 Series F12 F13
BMW 6 Series E63 E64
E90, E91, E92, E93 after 3 / 2007
BMW 7 Series F01 F02 F04
BMW 7 Series E38 E65 E66
BMW X Series F25
BMW X Series E53
E70 (New X5)
BMW Z Series E85 E52
R56 (New Mini)
Very powerfully BMW Diagnostic scanner
Read and Erase all Diagnostic Trouble Codes
BMW Coding and Programing
Double K-Line Support
Input Output Control
Supports BMW cars from 1993-2016
BMW INAP Software that is downloaded online may contain viruses.
Some BMW specific codes are hard to understand.
Descriptions may be only in German.
K+DCAN is a USB interface that requires a BMW specific software (INPA) and a laptop to work. It provides advanced diagnostic and coding for BMWs. This is a powerful BMW scan tool but somewhat difficult to setup and is a text-based diagnostic tool for BMW. It supports all BMW models 1993-2017. This is the software that was used at BMW factories for programming. It allows you to diagnose all systems and perform any coding that you like.
It is our understanding that the INPA is a pirated software which was never meant to be distributed to the public. The software and instructions on how to set it up have been available on the web for years. For example, this thread on Making sense of INPA, EDIABAS, NCSExpert, NCS Dummies, DIS/GT1, EasyDIS, & Progman explains how to install and provides files for you to download. Be cautious downloading pirated software and zip files from the web as they may contain viruses.
Carly Pro provides a limited number of bi-directional functions.
Carly Lite provides only one full system scan.
If you add the price of the adapter, Carly Pro and add-ons will cost you nearly $200 USD. Considering it BMW diagnostic and coding capabilities plus frequent enhancement we think you will love Carly for BMW. It's one of the best OBD2 scanners in the market for bimmers.
Car Access System
Rain Light Sensor
Tire Pressure TPMS
Mini R50 - R57
All M models
Easy to use
Safe way to code your BMW
Read codes and clear from many systems
Frequent app updates
Code your BMW with ease
New battery registration
Requires purchase of Carly Pro version to
take full advantage of the software.
Too many in-app purchases even when you buy Carly Pro.
When you buy Carly Pro. Example the Battery Registration requires in-app
purchase. Also, heck and regenerating the diesel filter,
NOx Regeneration, DVD/TV in motion, service reset.
It allows you to perform a multi-component check on your BMW.
The downside of the Carly for BMW is that you will need the Carly adapter but also purchase the Carly pro app which currently is listed for $59.
The Carly Lite version which is free provides one free diagnostics and not many coding features. There are too many in-app purchases. For example, if you want to program the IDRIVE for DVD/TV in motion you have a buy a $20 addon.
If you are looking to easily diagnose your BMW and also code it, then Carly is the best choice. It is easy to use, and you can't mess things up very easily. Carly for BMW provides some troubleshooting functionality, and more system coverage is frequently added. Worth adding to your BMW toolbox if: 1. money is not an issue 2. you are into coding 3. you love gadgets.
If you are looking for a BMW scan tool for Android or iPhone, Carly for BMW is one of the best choices out there. Carly is rapidly evolving as a BMW scanner with new coding updates and features are added frequently. To truly take advantage of Carly for BMW you will need:
The Bavarian Tech is a great BMW scanner. Unfortunately, it is designed for the BMW technicians and repair shops, not BMW owners. It is pricey when you compare with other scanners in this list. The professional version offers similar capabilities to the factory BMW scanner. Overall this BMW scanner is too expensive for the DIYer. The typical price for the Professional version of Bavarian Technic ranges in the $700-$800.
Bavarian Tech scanners provide in-depth troubleshooting and coding of BMW systems including engine, airbag, ABS, automatic transmission, alarm, air condition and much more. It covers all BMW models from 1996 to present including 1, 3, 4,5, 6, seven series, X1, X3, X4, X5, X6, Z3, Z4, Z8 and Mini models. It can read and clear BMW specific fault codes. It will also show stored codes or in BMW terms, shadow fault codes. Stream actual sensor values. It can activate components which helps tremendosly if you are trying to troubleshoot BMW problems. It can reset condition based service reminders and code control units. It also provides access to the BMW DCAN systems for 2007 and newer models.
The iCarsoft BM II is another alternative. iCarsoft is a step above most of the generic OBD2 scanners. It allows you to read and clear fault codes from multiple BMW systems including chassis and body modules. It can read and clear trouble codes from transmission, engine, ABS, and airbag system. Within minutes you can read and clear BMW specific fault codes from most systems on your BMW. It ranges in the $100-$200 price range. Unfortunately, it cannot perform a new battery registration. It is locked to BMW but will work as generic OBD2 on most cars. If it allowed us to carry out programing we may have named iCarsoft the best BMW scanner.
• Read Data Stream
• Full ECU Diagnosis
• Diagnose Single-brand Models Equipped With OBDII-16 DLC
• Easy To Use With Metal Dome Keys
• Oil Light/Service Reset
I/M Readiness indicates whether or not the various emissions-related systems on the vehicle are operating properly and are ready for Inspection and Maintenance testing
Freeze Frame -- When an emission-related fault occurs, certain vehicle conditions are recorded by the onboard computer. This information is referred to as freeze frame data. Freeze Data is a snapshot of the operating conditions at the time of an emission-related fault
O2 Sensor Test -- This option allows retrieval and viewing of O2 sensor test results for most recently performed tests from the vehicle’s on-board computer
On-Board Monitoring -- This function can be utilized to read the results of on-board diagnostic monitoring tests of specific components/system
Evap System Test -- The EVAP test function lets you initiate a leak test for the vehicle’s EVAP system.
Vehicle Information -- The option displays the vehicle identification number (VIN), the calibration verification number (CVN), and other information of the test vehicle
Carsoft scanner is one of the best alternatives to the official BMW scanner. Just like the BMW K+DCAN/INPA setup, it requires a laptop, Carsoft software and hardware. Unlike the K+DCAN/INPA, it is much easier to setup and install. It allows you to diagnose multiple systems on BMW cars. Not only can it read and clear fault codes from multiple systems including transmission, ABS, SRS/Airbag, Instrument Cluster, iDrive, Immobilizer, Light Module, A/C, Convertible Top, Body Units such as ZKE, CAS or RLS but you can perform programming, coding, and unit adaptations.
$100-$120 for the Carsoft software / $200-$300 for Carsoft interface
While we didn't have the chance to use Carsoft for BMW, we have previously tested Carsoft for Mercedes. We found that the Carsoft software is a lot easier to use that most OE dealer scanners.
One of the features that we like on Carsoft scanners is that they allow you to perform a full system test. The scanner checks for fault codes on all of the systems and displays a report if there are any stored/shadow or current fault codes.
Carsoft will also provide a code explanation, provide a description of the location and even show you a picture in some cases. Provide wiring diagrams and electrical component locations.
Anyone who is looking for a cheap BMW OBD2 scanner. The Creator scanners allow you to read BMW specific fault codes and display live sensor data. It works on newer BMW cars. C110 applies to BMW made from 1997-2008. C310 covers models from 1997-2013. The Creator scanners can be updated online. Scanner language is in English by default but can also be switched to German.
For BMW owners who have an older car 1997-2013 and don't want to spend too much money on a BMW scan tool are a good choice. The Creator scanners can read and clear BMW specific fault codes something that you can do with generic/universal OBD2 scanners or ELM327 Bluetooth adapters.
If you are on a tight budget, this is the most affordable BMW scanner you can get. It's even cheaper than Carly for BMW.
Engine, Auto Transmission, ABS, SRS(air bag),Body, EPS, BODY, IMMOBILIZER
Supports BMW between 1997 to 2013:
1 Series: 1'_E81/E81/E87/E88
3 Series: 3'/Z3_E36,3'_E46,3'_E90/E91/E92/E93
5 Series: 5'_E39,5'_E60/E61,5'_GT(F07),5'_F10/F11
6 Series: 6'_E63/E64,6'_F12/F13
7 Series: 7'_E38,7'_E65/E66,7'_F01/F02/F03/F04
X Series: X3_E83,X5_E53,X5_70,X6_E71,X1_84
Z Series: 3'/Z3_E36,Z4_E85/E86,Z4_E89
Cheap scanner for BMW
Easy to use
Live sensor data from speed sensors, steering angle sensor, etc.
BMW scanner under $100
Model support limited
Limited year coverage
Airbag resetting doesn't work on all models
Random communication errors
During our testing, the scanner performed well and read multiple fault codes. The only issue we had is that the scanner would freeze when we tried to display live data from the engine module. Based on our research updating Creator's software to the latest version may fix this issue.
Autophix ES910 is a good scanner for BMW owners. It is capable of reading and clearing fault codes from multiple systems and works on many BMW models. You can read our hands-on review here. It works on all 2003 and newer BMW models. It also works in a limited number of BMW made between 1998-2001. Check vehicle coverage before buying.
Autophix ES910 is another OBD II scanner that allows BMW owners to read and clear fault codes from multiple systems such as ABS, steering angle sensor, EPB electronic parking brake, DDE, DME, EGS, CAS, IHKA etc . It can also perform a new battery registration which we think is a must-have feature even though the registration failed on our 2006 BMW 5-Series.
One of the few scanners in this list that isn't just for BMW but for all makes. While it may not be able to read and clear fault codes from every possible BMW module, it covers the most problematic areas which are the engine, transmission, ABS, and airbag. It is easy to use and cheap when you consider its model coverage and functionality.
Launch Creader CRP123 support 31 car models
Launch Creader CRP129 support 40 car models. Perform Engine oil light reset, Reset brake, Correct steering angle sensor.
Coverage for Engine, Transmission, ABS, SRS on all cars
Easy to use
Great price on a multi-system, multi-make scanner.
Does not support all systems on BMW
No battery registration
Launch Creader scanner are definitely worth considering if you are looking for a multi-system scanner that will diagnose multiple cars not just BMW. You can read and clear codes from Engine, Transmission, ABS, and airbag on nearly every car including Audi, Mercedes, Honda, Toyota, Ford, Chevrolet and many other makes. Launch Creader scanner are advertised with multiple names including X431, CRP123 (CRP129 newer) and VII+.
Choosing the best OBD2 scanner for BMW is not easy. We hope that these hands-on videos helped you decide on which BMW OBD2 scanner is best for you. It is important to take functionality and price into account. Don't base your purchase on other user reviews or sites such as OBD Advisor that give recommendations based on Amazon reviews but with no real hands-on advice on BMW scanners.
The scanners on this list can all troubleshoot more systems on BMWs than generic OBD2 scanners. Some of the handheld units such as Carly for BMW can perform multiple system diagnoses but also perform coding of special functions. K+DCAN/INAP which was used at BMW factories are capable of accessing all systems and perform coding but are not as user-friendly and the chances of misconfiguring something are a legitimate concern. As a BMW owner, you want a scanner that's powerful, allows you to program/code a few features and tell you why what is wrong with your BMW. Always do your research and troubleshooting and depend on the fault codes only. Choosing the best BMW scanner should be based on your budget and level of expertise.
Hopefully, this article shed some light on how to use and choose the best BMW scanner. We do realize that there are even more BMW scanners out there such as INPA, DIS, GT1, BMW Scanner 1.4.0. While they provide in-depth troubleshooting capabilities, the majority of BMW owners find them confusing to set up, expensive or not very easy to use.