For all intents and purposes, cars are a special breed of machines that enables you to go places, cut your traveling time, and even have a race every now and then, if you’re feeling like it! If you treat them well, they can have a long life of merry motoring. However, not even the most fool-proof four-wheelers are immune to a bit of a breakdown every now and then.
Sometimes, these mishaps can be innocent enough, and amount to your cigarette lighter failing on you, or your windscreen wipers getting stuck. Now, while these occurrences can be quite annoying, indeed, they’re nothing compared to your engine failing or the fuel system getting clogged thanks to an impure kind of fuel, or God forbid- sugar!
That’s where OBD systems come into play!
Developed by someone who has no doubt had enough of various car failures which can take ages to identify, these plucky devices will pinpoint the exact error in the system in real time. What’s more, they’ll also get you a detailed report of it, as well, so that you can take your ailing four-wheeled companion to a mechanic in a timely fashion.
Now, before we delve any deeper into this elaborate automotive topic, let’s see what these diagnostic contraptions are all about.
Editor’s Recommendation: Top 5 OBD2 Car Diagnostic Scanners
There are the two main subtypes of OBD II devices currently available on the market:
OBD 2 Scan Tools – When it comes to car diagnostics, it doesn’t really get much better than an OBD 2 scan tool. These can not only read the error codes, but also pinpoint manufacturer-specific data they’re reading, and then offer elaborate troubleshooting solutions for a specific type of problem. Compared to code readers, OBD 2 scan tools are considerably more expensive and come with more advanced features and properties you can play with.
OBD 2 Code Readers – As they name itself suggests, OBD 2 code readers are apparatuses used for simply reading the codes at hand. Since various errors and maladies that can pester a car tend to be all neatly coded nowadays, you can use a code reader to decipher them, so that you know what kind of issue you’re dealing with. These are typically relatively inexpensive, but then again, they don’t provide as much information as the aforementioned scan tools.
The Mighty OBD II Devices– A bit of a History and a Brief Buyer’s Guide
Nowadays, most mechanics and, generally, folks who know a thing or two about their cars can’t imagine their garages without one of these magnificent diagnostic tools on their side, so to speak.
However, OBD II systems have not been around for a long time, and it’s safe to say that they’re a relatively new addition to the roster of car-repairing contraptions! So, here are a couple of things you might want to know before you venture to buy one of them:
The Post 1996-Era of Car-Repairing – In the olden days (that is, before the glorious year of 1996), determining what on Earth is wrong with your car was fairly difficult, and it was not before the failure itself happened, that you can tell what it was.
However, in 1996, car manufacturers worldwide agreed to build in an OBD port in their new vehicles, in order to conveniently pinpoint the potential error using a specialized OBD tool. This would prove to be an excellent decision, as now people are able to fix their cars more easily and spend less money doing it.
The Progress of Diagnostic Tools over the Years – Initially, cars were equipped with simple systems that would just state the error at hand after it had happened. While this wasn’t exactly useless, it still meant that you had to pay a hefty buck for repairs, and it didn’t really help with preventing the problem. Later on, as OBD tools became more and more advanced, they would offer complex reports on the potential problems in your car’s system, and sometimes even repair them!
What kind of OBD Tool to Go for then? – From the paragraphs above, you’ve noticed that there are two main types of OBD tools of second generations available to mechanics and common folks alike. If you just want to be able to tell what’s wrong with your car, we would advise getting a code reader.
These devices are relatively inexpensive and simple to use, so even a complete rookie will be able to handle them just fine. If you’re a more experienced motorist, on the other hand, a scan tool may be a better solution, as these advanced contraptions offer more detailed reports and can even help you fix the problem yourself!
Mind the Country of Origin of your Car! – One of the most important things to pay attention to when buying an OBD II device would be to check if it fits with the car model you have. Typically, there are different kinds of OBD II devices depending on the car’s country of the origin.
For example, one diagnostic tool may work fine for a car of European build, but be useless for a Japanese car. Of course, there are also models which can be used for multiple car models, but those are, unsurprisingly, on more of an expensive end of the price scale. (if you’re a professional mechanic, this could be an excellent option for you, as you’ll be able ‘to kill multiple birds with one electronic stone!’)
Now, without any further ado, let’s dive right into our top 10 picks for the best OBD II scanner:
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Featuring a simplified user interface with only a couple of buttons and an LCD display, the ANCEL’s AD310 OBD II diagnostic scan tool can be a perfect solution for beginners looking to get their ‘feet wet’ with the scanning type of OBD II devices!
Its simple design isn’t its only perk, though, as this little bugger packs a powerful diagnostic punch, and also works with the majority of cars made in the USA, EU, and Asia, no less. This would make it a great option for a person who owns multiple vehicles, or a mechanic, for that matter.
As international as the ANCEL’s AD3410 gets when it comes to the car models it can diagnose, the whole story gets even rosier if you take a look at the number of languages it supports. Namely, with one of these, you can read in English, Russian, Dutch, Spanish, Finnish, German and Portuguese!
The LCD display we mentioned before is backlit, meaning that you can easily read the data off it even in conditions of reduced visibility. There’s also a contrast adjustment feature, for good measure.
An interesting thing about this device is that it does not come with a power source like a battery, but it’s directly rendered ‘alive’ as soon as you’ve attached it to the error-diagnosing port in your car. The cable itself is 2.5-feet long and it’s fairly flexible.
On the question of functionality, the AD3410 is about as easy to use as it gets. There are only four buttons grand total, the two enables you to go up and down through the menus, and then two big ENTER and EXIT buttons to the sides- serving a rather obvious purpose themselves.
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- Interface available in 8 different languages
- Comes with a sizeable LCD display
- Does not require a battery or a charger
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- It mainly focuses on the engine system
- The LCD screen could have been a bit larger
As far as diagnostic scanners go, this model from ANCEL would be the basic version of the device. While it does give you some proper feedback, it still doesn’t cover a fair number of important systems, so this can be a great beginner’s model. Also, it’s price is quite reasonable, as well.
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Assuming the appearance of an oversized Tamagotchi with a notably undersized display, the OxGord’s OBD 2 Code Reader is a simple enough device that merely tells you the error code of whatever it is that has gone ‘breasts up’ in your car.
The range of vehicles this contraption would be compatible with would include American cars produced from the year of 1996 and onwards. Despite its diminutive size, this code reader can actually fix some less serious errors itself, though its main purpose is to simply identify the type of problem at hand.
With only two buttons used for controlling this device, the OBD 2 Code Reader from OxGord is a simple-to-use contraption that can be easily used by pro’s and rookies alike. (Although the pros might be better off with a different kind of device)
Once you’ve turned this device on, you’ll be reading the relevant data off of its backlit LCD screen. Truth to be told, it’s quite small and it only shows the bare minimum- the code of the part of your car that’s broken.
That being said, the database for various error codes is quite sizeable and contains some 3,000 entries! So, even though this model isn’t necessarily the most detailed one when it comes to descriptions, it surely does have a lot of variation to it when it comes to the number of car failures it can identify.
In order to hook up the OxGord OBD 2 Code Reader, you don’t need any additional cables or batteries. The power is supplied directly to the device through its inbuilt 16-pin connector, which you plug into your car’s port!
- Features a simple, two-button interface
- Its database includes over 3,000 error codes
- Works for most US-made vehicles built from 1996 onwards
- Fairly small LCD screen, so reading the codes might be a bit difficult
- Enables you to fix some of the minor problems yourself
Thanks to its budget-friendly price and a rather simple interface, this particular model from the OxGord folks can be a great solution for a casual user. It reads the error codes and is a breeze to use. What’s not to love?
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Autel is a well-known company manufacturing diagnostic tools for cars that have been responsible for the production of a great number of impressive devices over the years. The AutoLink AL319 is one of their most recent solutions, and it surely doesn’t lag behind in quality when compared to some of their earlier models.
It’s got a sizeable TFT display in color, from where you can pick and choose various options and settings to pinpoint the fault in your car in no time. Similarly to the model we’ve mentioned above, this Autel’s OBD 2 scanner also supports several languages including English, German and French to name a few.
What makes this model different from most of the OBD 2 scanners in a lower price range is the fact that it has inbuilt speakers. This means you’ll have both audio and visual signals telling you what’s wrong with your car, which is bound to make it easier to use.
Another great thing to look forward to (if you decide to go for this model) would be the free updates you’ll be getting from the manufacturers themselves! Whenever there’s a new code added to the bunch or some other important piece of information, you’ll be the first to get it, thanks to Autel’s excellent customer support services.
This model also comes with a patented Readiness Key which can be turned on with just one click. Using this, you can verify the drive cycle as well as the State Emissions readiness check. Also, let’s just mention that all of this can work without any batteries or cables, as this device gets all of its electricity from the car’s inbuilt OBD port.
Last but not least, the AutoLink AL319 comes with a 1-year warranty, which is a neat addition to the overall deal!
- Features a sizeable TFT display
- You get lifetime updates from the manufacturers
- Comes with a patented readiness key
- At times difficult to connect with some car models
- Updating it can get a bit complicated
Since this Autel’s model comes with some pretty advanced features, at least in comparison to some other devices within the same price range, this device may be a great solution for a professional user. (who possibly also happens to be a mechanic, as well!)
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Rectangular in shape and sporting a large display in the middle, this OBD 2 scanner from Launch looks like an outdated Nintendo gaming device. Unlike a Nintendo device, though, this clever contraption comes with a host of useful features that can help you determine what on Earth is wrong with your car in a jiffy!
To appeal to a broader, international audience, the folks at Launch have equipped their CRP123 model with an interface with multiple languages available. The default language of the device is English, but you can easily switch it to German, French or some other language if you want to.
Possibly the biggest selling point of this particular model would be its ability to organize your car’s OBD II system to a great extent. The inbuilt diagnostic arsenal of this mighty contraption enables you to perform a wide array of troubleshooting tasks, and therefore fix your car more quickly and with less money!
The aforementioned procedures would include reading and erasing codes, checking the I/M readiness, handling data streams, as well as a couple of system tests such as the O2 system test, and the On-board monitor test for good measure!
As for the kinds of cars supported by this model, they would include a variety of four-wheelers hailing from three continents! For example, you can count in Asian cars such as Mitsubishi, Hyundai, Honda, Nissan, then European cars such as Renault, BMW, Land Rover, and last but not least- American brands including GM, Ford, and Chrysler!
The button configuration for the CRP123 counts only 7 buttons. They’re all located on the right-hand side of the display, so you’ll be operating it with your right hand. (tough luck lefties) The whole interface is intuitive and easy to use, so you don’t have to worry about getting lost in menus or pressing the wrong button at the wrong time.
- Covers a wide range of different car models
- Enables you to perform a number of diagnostic tasks
- Comes with a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty
- Sometimes the speed of processing data can slow down a bit
- Upgrading it can be a bit of a hassle
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This wireless product from KOBRA is a cheeky-looking little device that doesn’t come with a display or a host of buttons you’d see on a typical OBD II scanner. However, what it does come with instead, is a convenient application enabling you to connect it to your Smartphone or a similar device!
That’s right, the folks at KOBRA figured that an OBD II scanner needn’t really be that complex, so they switched the buttons and the screen with a simple Wi-Fi module. The result is a minute OBD II scanner that will give you all the necessary information presented on a large display of your cell phone or a tablet.
Despite its size, this tiny wireless scanner packs a hefty diagnostic punch and can read a whole bunch of tricky codes. From generic streams of information to highly model-specific ones issued by the manufacturing brands that produced the car in the first place, no error, no matter how seemingly irrelevant, will be left unrecognized and unattended.
The great thing about being able to set up an ‘off-shore’ platform to diagnose the potential fault in your car is that you can choose the application you’d like to use for this purpose. The KOBRA’s wireless scanner supports a number of both free and paid apps. For example, OBD Fusion, OBD Car Doctor, and Dash Command are just some of the option you might go for, and there are plenty more out there as well.
As far as compatibility is concerned, you don’t really have to worry about the country of origin of your car, or its manufacturing brand. As long as it’s been made in or after 1996, chances are- this small but plucky diagnostic tool from KOBRA will be able to pinpoint its every flaw!
- Contains over 3,000 code definitions
- Can be easily connected to a number of devices
- A number of upgrades available
- Doesn’t come with a display or buttons
- Some of the apps require you to pay for download
If you consider convenience and easy handling the most important aspects of an OBD2 scanner, getting one of these KOBRA models that look like USB sticks might be the perfect solution for you. You can pick and choose the app yourself, and the display will be as your device of choice!
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Coming from a company with a rather cheeky name of ‘Lemur Vehicle Motors‘, the BlueDriver Bluetooth OBD II Scan Tool is a yet another ‘displayless’ diagnostic device that despite its design can be a mighty ally in fixing your car! (as well as preventing serious damage)
In an effort to make their device competitive and sell well on the market for car diagnostic tools, the engineers at Lemur Vehicle Monitors make sure to license and certify their products so that they can be easily used on Apple and Android devices.
The way this wireless design function is that there are two major systems working together. The first one is the Blue Driver App and the second one is the Blue Driver Sensor, and the trick is that the latter sends the signal to the app, so that it can be converted and presented to you on the display of your device of choice.
This model works great as a code reader, as all you need to do is simply plug it in and get all the relevant pieces of information directly to your Android device or a tablet. Once the data has been transported, the visuals provided by the app at hand will present them to you in a clear and understandable way. This will save you the time you’d have to spend deciphering the codes yourself or contacting someone else to help you out.
That being said, the BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBD II Scan Tool can also be used as, well, a scan tool! Depending on the kind of application you’ve decided to go for, you might be able to not only read and save the error codes but also take some action when it comes to actually fixing your car, as well!
- Comes with an official license for Apple and Android devices
- Free repair reports for specific vehicles available
- Can be paired up with a Smartphone or a tablet
- Some codes are not included in the database
- There may be some glitches during scanning sessions
Officially certified for Apple and Android devices, this Lemur Vehicle Monitors OBD II Scan Tool can be an excellent choice for a person in need of a simple-to-use wireless diagnostic tool for their car!
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The Innova’s Scan Tool model 3100j is a mighty diagnostic device that sort of looks like a controller you’d expect to see in a Sci-Fi film. Its size is similar to that of a chunky remote control device and comes with a simple interface that even a complete rookie can learn how to use rather quickly.
Functionality-wise, this device is capable of reading a number of different codes, as well as erasing ABS & SRS light trouble codes. For the record, this erasing property is available for a majority of car models with an OBD 2 system, but not necessarily all of them.
If you’re worried that your car’s alternator might be causing the problem, you can easily check if that’s the case using the battery and alternator tests that come as a part of this device’s system. This way, you can find the exact culprit to your problem within the charging system, and perhaps even fix it yourself, without the need for a mechanic!
Another smaller fix that you can diagnose using the Innova’s 3100j and then proceed to do all the work yourself, thus saving your hard-earned money, would be changing the oil. This simple maintenance task often gets overlooked by drivers, so they continue banging their head in an effort to understand what’s going on, while the solution is as simple as pouring some liquid into your car!
Unlike the majority of the models you’ve seen on this list, this OBD II scanner is actually ‘propelled’ by a couple of batteries. Three of them, to be exact. Fortunately, these three AA batteries are included in the offer by the manufacturer, so there’s no need to buy them separately.
- Capable of reading and erasing ABS and SRS-related codes
- Can be used by both individual users and professional technicians
- Excellent customer support in English and Spanish
- It’s not compatible with some cars, so make sure to check if your model is supported before buying
- A bit pricey
Considering it’s perfectly capable of reading the codes AND performing advanced scans, the Innova’s 3100j model can be used by both do-it-yourselfers and professional mechanics who just need to diagnose the problems in a car. The sizeable display and the neatly organized array of buttons are a handy touch, as well!
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If you happen to be on a lookout for a top-level scanning tool that can help you volumes when it comes to diagnosing any potential maladies in your car’s system, this solution from OBD Link can be a perfect choice!
This cheeky little device kind of looks like a sized-up bubble-gum and can doesn’t come with a display of its own. However, you can hook it up with a display that’s as large as you’d like it to be, as this particular contraption works with the help of Bluetooth signals, rather than with cables.
Although it’s unfortunately not compatible with Apple’s iOS devices, the Scan Tool’s, well, scan tool, still supports a tonne of different devices, so you can pick and choose between a phones, tablets, or laptops to your heart’s content!
Since many people tend to get confused by deciphering the codes and making the software work, the folks at Scan Tool have figured that making their device more energy efficient would be a neat addition to its ‘interior’ design, so to speak. What this means is that the car’s battery won’t die on you in the case leave this scan tool in its slot!
For those of you who are worried about whether or not this device will be compatible with your car, don’t be, because this little bugger will work with all cars made after 1996 (that are sold in the US)! If your car’s been produced earlier than 1996- tough luck, you’ll probably have to see a mechanic after all.
- Works with all cars and light trucks made after 1996
- Fast installation
- Comes with a hacker-proof wireless security
- You have to pay extra for advanced software
- Not compatible with Apple products
Compact and featuring a simple way of communicating with your device of choice via Bluetooth, this Scan Tool’s car diagnostics-related solution can be a mighty ally in fixing your car! (don’t buy if you’ve got a bunch of Apple products you’re planning to hook up)
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With an appearance of your average MP4 player and the diagnostic power of a high-tier OBD 2 device, the Launch’s Creader model 6001 has been a favorite among car aficionados ever since it was first introduced into the market.
It supports a number of different protocols and works like a charm with the majority of US cars from 1996 as well as with EU-based and Asian cars from 2001. Add to that the fact that its menu comes in several different languages including English, French, Spanish and a couple of others, and you’ve got yourself a pretty ‘international’ little model on your hands!
As for the number of issues you can solve using one of these plucky contraptions, you can rest assured that you’ll well-covered when it comes to the number of codes this Creader 6001 model is able to recognize.
Using this device, you can opt for an o2 sensor test, onboard monitor test, as well as read the data streams and freeze frames.
Hardware-wise, you’ll be navigating between these functions using a simple but effective array of buttons, together with 4 hotkeys for quick access to the most important parts of the system. As for the reading part of the user’s experience, so to speak, the TFT display is clearly visible and offers a simple presentation of the codes and messages. (in color, no less!)
If you decide to go for this model, you’ll enjoy free Internet updates for new codes and system tweaks, so you’ll always be at the forefront of car diagnostics! Also, this device comes with a 1-year warranty, as a neat addition to the entire offer.
- Equipped with 4 hotkeys for easier access to the most crucial functions
- Applicable to most car models produced in or after 1996
- Interface available in multiple languages
- It cannot read the transmission codes
- Updating it can be a bit of an issue at times
Easy to use and compatible with a wide array of different car models, the Creader 6001 from Launch is an OBD 2 Scanner that’s certainly worth having around. Its easy interface makes it a breeze to use, so this model can be an option for both rookies and professional mechanics.
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Last but not least, we’ve got yet another model from the Launch folks, and it represents an upgraded version of the C123 model occupying the 4th spot on our list. This one’s called C129, and it offers a more of a comprehensive diagnosis than its less elaborate cousin.
It’s capable of scanning a wide array of vehicles. When it comes to the US-based ones, basically all models from the year 1996 onwards would be eligible for a scan. As for the European cars, the year’s 2000. Also, this device can deal with models running the OBD2/EOBD protocols, as well.
Thanks to the sizeable display that this model comes with, you can easily read the values on the screen and make the necessary adjustments to your car’s system along the way. The functions that can be easily scanned with one of these include 4 major systems operating in your car.
These would be the ones marked with ENG/AT/SRS/ABS. (engine, automatic transmission, the airbag, the braking system) You can also reset the codes on various service lights if you want to.
- Offers a detailed comprehensive diagnosis
- Covers a vast array of vehicles
- Comes with a 1-year warranty
- A tad pricey (but worth it if you want an advanced scanning device)
- Its processor can be a bit slow at times
Even though the various additional features that this 129 model comes with will cost you some $40 more in comparison with the 123 version, this difference is certainly well-justified and based on solid value, so to speak. A warm recommendation on our part! We have tested this diagnostics machine on a Honda EP3 and it worked great!
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Best OBD 2 Scanner – Final Words
Having a problem with your beloved car’s system can be a major spanner in the works at times, and not to know what’s causing it can get a special kind of irritating! With an OBD 2 Scanner on your side, however, you can not only find out the exact issue on the spot but maybe even fix it yourself. So, whether you’re a professional mechanic who fixes cars for a living or just a do-it-yourself bloke or girl who wants to take care of their car, getting a plucky OBD 2 device can be a clever idea, indeed! We hope this exhaustive list helped you find your perfect model. Best of luck with your purchase and cheers!