An OBD-II scanner allows you to read and clear Diagnostic Trouble Codes (also known as fault codes, DTCs) on vehicles 1996 and newer. Your dealer and mechanic use OBD-II scanners to diagnose most problems with today’s vehicles. While the scanners used at the dealership are the most advanced and expensive, aftermarket scanners are readily available for DIYers who want to troubleshoot their vehicles.
Tips for buying a good OBD-II scanner:
When choosing an OBD-II diagnostic scanner, it’s important to consider the following factors:
- Compatibility: Make sure the scanner is compatible with your specific make and model of vehicle. Some scanners are only compatible with certain years and models of vehicles, so check the manufacturer’s specifications before purchasing.
- Features: Consider the features you need in a scanner. Some basic scanners only read and clear codes, while more advanced scanners can display live data, freeze frame data, and even perform bi-directional controls.
- Ease of Use: Look for a scanner that is easy to use, with a clear and intuitive interface. Many scanners have a user manual or online tutorials to help you get started.
- Brand: Choose a reputable brand with a good record of producing reliable scanners. Read customer reviews to get an idea of the quality and performance of different scanners.
- Price: Compare prices between different scanners, but don’t compromise on quality for a lower price. Some scanners are more expensive but will offer more features and better quality.
- Support: Consider the warranty and customer support available for the scanner. Ensure you can easily contact the manufacturer if you have any problems with the scanner.
By considering these factors and doing some research, you can choose a good OBD-II scanner that will meet your needs and help you diagnose and troubleshoot problems with your vehicle.
Access Factory Repair Manuals
The YOUCANIC Pro Manuals offer OEM Factory Repair Manuals with detailed steps and illustrations, comprehensive wiring diagrams, torque specifications, and access to technical service bulletins and OEM service information, mirroring dealership manuals.
Entry-level OBD-II (OBD-2) scanners start at about $20 but can only diagnose the check engine light. The professional scanners can go over $1000 and read, clear, and program any module in any car.
We divide scanners into three categories to help you choose the best OBD-2 scanner.
- Level 1 – Basic Code Readers, the Least Expensive, Can only read and clear codes from the Engine Control Unit (ECU).
- Level 2 – Multi-system OBD-2 Scanner, which Can read and clear codes from Engine, Transmission, ABS, and Airbag. Depending on the scanner, it may be able to read and clear codes from other modules such as climate control, suspension, charging system, etc.
- Level 3 – Professional OBD-2 Scanners, Professional Level: These scanners offer similar functionality to what the dealer uses. They can read, clear, program, view live data, and activate all systems in your car.
We hope that after reading this article, you will have a better understanding of OBD-2 scanners. Regarding OBD-2 scanners, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. A key component is how much you are trying to spend on a scanner and whether you want it to work on only one make or many vehicle models.
When buying an OBD-2 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 (for example, BMW) or multiple makes?
YOUCANIC UCAN-II Full System Scanner
Here are some cons of other OBD-II scanners compared to the YOUCANIC Full System Scanner
- Many scanner manufacturers make scanners that require a yearly subscription.
- It can diagnose one make but doesn’t work on all car makes. You will have to pay more to cover other vehicle makes.
- I can’t diagnose all vehicle systems. May only diagnose the engine, airbag, transmission, and ABS problems. That’s only four systems. Modern cars can have up to 40+ systems.
- Don’t support bi-directional support for sensor testing and activation.
If you want a scanner that can do all these, you must 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 the model.
If that is not enough, remember that the YOUCANIC scanner does not require a yearly subscription like other professional-level scanners. 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 economically fix your vehicle. 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 many how-to videos showing you how to troubleshoot car problems. Once you get the codes, the YOUCANIC technicians can help.
You can retrieve Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTC) (also called fault codes) that trigger the Check Engine Light and Service Engine Soon. Level 1 scanners don’t access other modules besides the 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 the common problems with your make.
Here is a list of what you can do with these scanners:
- Read Fault Codes from the Engine Control Unit
- Determine why the Check Engine Light is on.
- Erase Check Engine Codes
- View Freeze Frame Data
- Display live sensor data from ECU
- It can not access other modules.
- Can not read codes from ABS, SRS, transmission, etc.
- Can not troubleshoot TPMS
- No programming or coding
Most Level 1 scanner sells for under $100. Typically, we can only diagnose 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 OBD-2 scanners in the glove box.
OBD-II Code Reader
|ANCEL AD310 Classic Enhanced Universal OBD II Scanner Car Engine Fault Code Reader CAN Diagnostic Scan Tool – Black
|TT TOPDON TD300 OBD-2 Scanner Code Reader with Engine Light Turn-Off
|BAFX OBD2 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
Multi-System OBD-2 Scanner
Level 2 scanners (also called multi-system OBD2 scanners) 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 multiple system OBD-2 scanners. These scanners can reset the check engine light and read and clear codes from various modules, including Anti-Lock Brakes, Airbag systems, Transmission, Tire Pressure Monitoring systems, etc.
Several multi-system scanners only read clear codes from the engine, transmission, ABS, and airbag modules, while a full-system OBD-2 scanner can read, clear, and reset fault codes from almost all modules on the vehicle. A full-system OBD-2 scanner is a 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 whole system OBD-2 scanner before, don’t worry. They are very easy to use and function like basic OBD-2 code readers. The main difference is that they can access another system in your car, not just the ECU.
One popular scanner in this category is the Launch Creader Multi-System Scanner.
- Read/Erase Check Engine Codes
- Read/Erase ABS Fault Codes
- Read/Erase Airbag / SRS Codes
- Troubleshoot transmission problems
- View Sensor Live Data
- No Coding
- No Programming
- One-directional communication
Professional Diagnostic Scanners
Professional diagnostic scanners provide similar functionality to the scanners used at your car dealerships. These are meant for mechanics who 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 scanners are expensive, with most of the scanners ranging between $1000 and $3000. Level 3 scanners 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 systems in your car. These are professional scanners and are more expensive. These professional OBD-2 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 OBD-2 scanners offer a bi-directional function, which means you can activate and test various sensors on the car. Many car manufacturers require that the dealer can only code certain modules. Professional scanners cannot code the replacement of certain modules if the dealer can only complete the coding.
Popular Level 3 Scanners
- YOUCANIC FULL SYSTEM SCANNER
- Autel MaxiDAS All System Scanner
- Snap-On Solus
- Launch All System Scanner All Makes
We hope you find the Understanding OBD-II Scanners guide helpful. Check these troubleshooting and repair guides for more help on your vehicle.