Onboard Diagnostics II (OBD-II) is a system that can be used to diagnose and report operational issues on a vehicle. United States federal law made the system mandatory for vehicles manufactured in or imported to the US since 1996. Nowadays, every vehicle contains an OBD-II diagnostic link connector (DLC) to connect an OBD-II device that provides data regarding the car or truck.

OBD-II devices are useful in terms of preventing accidents from sudden system malfunctions in a vehicle. It gives you an idea of how your vehicle is operating, without manually checking every part of your vehicle. Mechanics and consumers use OBD-II devices to diagnose underlying issues on their vehicles.

OBD-II scanners come in different shapes and sizes, and some of them have more features than other scanners. There are scanners that need to be plugged into your vehicle, while some simply require a Bluetooth connection. Despite the variations, they more often than not work the same way. Consider the two types of OBD-II readers.

Two types

Code readers

Code readers are pretty basic and low-cost. What they do is basically show you the codes and then erase them. Code readers come with a manual or booklet where the codes and their descriptions are located. They’re very simple to use, and anyone can easily understand its use with a click of a button.

Scan tools

Scan tools, on the other hand, are much more expensive and advanced because they have more features and a wider range of compatibility. It can also store the codes on your computer and provide on-screen definitions, unlike a code reader, that simply displays codes.

Things to consider in a good ODB-II scanner

Compatibility

The most important thing to consider when getting an OBD-II scanner is compatibility. You can’t use your scanner if it doesn’t work on your vehicle. Although most scanners are manufactured within the standard ODB protocols, there are still some cases where scanners can’t fully give a proper diagnosis of certain vehicles.

It’s also important to ask yourself how you would want to read the codes. Some scanners can connect to a laptop through a USB. You can view your codes there and have it printed. On the other hand, there are scanners that seamlesslywork through Bluetooth; this makes it easier for people who want to read the information on their smartphones or tablets. With information on your laptop or smartphone, you can easily send it through email, or upload it to media sharing sites. Don’t forget to also check on your smartphone or laptop’s operating system. Some devices have their own applications and some are only available for Android and Windows Phone, so check those features too.

Available updates

In order to get the latest information on your device, it’s best to constantly check whether or not the device can receive software updates. Technology today is constantly changing and developing in order to create more solutions to problems. When you think about it, you don’t want to constantly change your device just because it isn’t compatible with the latest car. That’s where updates come in handy. So be sure to check whether the device can be updated or not.

Price

Of course, you’re going to check the price tag of a product before purchasing it. Some products can cost more because of their reputable manufacturer compared to some devices with the same specs but coming from an unfamiliar manufacturer. It’s would also be troublesome to buy something initially affordable, but its in-app purchases could cost you so much more. It’s best if you invest in a functioning device with a moderate price tag, instead of something too expensive or uncertain.

Customer support

One thing that can help you when you find yourself confused while using the device is getting reliable customer support from the manufacturer. A good customer support service can direct you to a designated technician, and can assist you anytimewith troubleshooting.

5 of the Best OBD-II Scanners On the Market

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Product

Price

Rating

  Innova 3100i Diagnostic Code Reader with ABS for OBD2 Vehicles $$  4.4/5
  Autel AL519 AutoLink Enhanced OBD ll Scan Tool with Mode 6 $  4.5/5
  BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDII Scan Tool for iPhone, iPad & Android $$  4.5/5
  ScanTool 426101 OBDLink MX Bluetooth: Professional OBD-II Scan Tool for Android & Windows $$  4.3/5
  PLX Devices Kiwi 3 Bluetooth OBD2 OBDII Diagnostic Scan Tool for Android, Apple, & Windows Mobile $$  4.2/5
  OBD2 Scanner Foseal Mini WiFi OBD OBDII Scan Tool $  4.2/5
  PowerLead Cadt PL-OM580 OBD MATE OM580 OBDII OBD2 EOBD Trouble Code Reader CAN Diagnostic Scan Tool Car Scanner Tool $$$  4.5/5
   Big Banana BB600 OBD II CAN Diagnostic Auto Scanner Code Reader  $  4.3/5
  MAOZUA VS600 Vgate Scan Tool Advanced OBDII/EOBD Scanner Live Data Code Reader  $  4.1/5
  LAND ROVER / JAGUAR iCarsoft i930 OBD2 Engine Vehicle Diagnostic Tool Code Fault Multi-System OBD-II Scanner  $$$  4.3/5

Innova 3100i CanOBD2 Diagnostic Tool & ABS Color Screen

Features

  • Patented all-in-one screen
  • Easy to use hotkeys
  • Shows engine conditions such as fuel trim, engine coolant temperature, etc.
  • Diagnose and erase anti-lock braking system (ABS) codes on most 1996 and newer GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, and Honda vehicles
  • Red, yellow and green LEDs indicate emissions monitor status
  • Runs on 2 AA batteries
  • Includes an easy-to-understand booklet about the OBD-II
  • Customer support available in both English and Spanish

Advantages

One of the reasons the Innova 3100i is beloved by consumers is its ease of use. You don’t have to know everything about cars and automobiles with this useful entry-level tool. It’s self-powered and automatically links itself to your vehicle without trouble.

It works on 1996 and newer OBD-II cars, SUVs, light trucks, and so many more different kinds of automobiles. It can tell you current and pending codes with code descriptions for easy deciphering. You can trust the Innova 3100i to work fast as it quicklyreveals check engine light warnings. If you want to have your codes printed out, you can always connect this device with your computer. Once you’ve read the codes, you can easily have them interpreted with its useful manual.

Its bright screen and well-designed buttons won’t give you a hard time navigating the system. With its freeze-frame feature, it can also show you engine conditions such as engine coolant temperature and fuel trim.

Lastly, their friendly customer support is available in both English and Spanish.

Disadvantages

Some consumers did not find the Innova 3100i compatible with all cars, so, it’s best to check if your vehicle is compatible or not, otherwise, this might not be for you. It’s also advisable to note that the device works best as a code reader and not as a scan tool.

Verdict

The Innova 3100i is equipped with functional and efficient features that can help any mechanic or consumer have a proper diagnosis of their vehicle. It has an easy-to-understand manual and a great customer service that can help you find out what you can do about your vehicle. It doesn’t have the features that most scan tools have, but it works as one of the most sought-after code readers because of its unmatched efficiency.

Autel AL519 AutoLink Enhanced OBD ll Scan Tool with Mode 6

Features

  • Works on all 1996 and newer vehicles (OBD-II and CAN)
  • Supports all 10 modes of OBD-II
  • Retrieves generic and manufacturer specific codes, and pending codes
  • Features the patented One-Click Readiness key
  • Can read, store, and playback live sensor data
  • Can clear codes and reset monitors
  • Displays DTC definition on the TFT color screen
  • Fast and quick to determine the cause of the check engine light (MIL)
  • Views freeze frame data
  • Easy to update on the Internet to ensure compatibility with newer vehicles
  • Shipping weight of 2.1 pounds

Advantages

Autel has been known as one of the leading manufacturers of high-quality tools at an affordable price. It’s been around for more than a decade, so quality and excellence is assured.

The AL519 boasts its compatibility with all 1996 and newer vehicles (OBD-II and CAN) both domestic and imported. Whether your vehicle is a Ford or a Honda, it can diagnose with ease. It can read, store, and playback live sensor data for safekeeping. You can keep track of issues your car has faced with this nifty device. It has a lot of features like its One-Click Readiness key and TFT color display with built-in speaker.

Users have praised its nice color display and menu system that provides easy navigation. They didn’t have any issues looking for the diagnostic trouble code with the Autel AL519. Combine it with its affordability and high-performance features, the device is a great investment for mechanics and DIY users.

In order to get the latest systems, you should update the AL519 via Internet.

Disadvantages

Despite being a great device, some users wished they didn’t need to connect it to the car for it to work. It also has a few compatibility issues with Windows XP, so it’s best to have the latest software for your computer and make sure to check the manual if they’re compatible or not. Otherwise, you’ll be missing out on this fantastic ODB-II scanner.

Verdict

The Autel AL519 is a trusted choice for anyone who wants to get a proper diagnosis of his or her vehicle. It has a number of features that can help you understand what’s going on with your car. It’s small and lightweight, and most importantly, easy to operate. It also works on all vehicles so you don’t have to worry about which car you’ll be checking, it can check all.

BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDII Scan Tool for iPhone, iPad & Android

Features

  • Officially licensed and certified for Apple and Android devices
  • Free vehicle-specific repair reports (code definition, possible causes, reported fixes)
  • Freeze frame ability
  • Smog check
  • Live data—graph multiple PIDs or export log to a file
  • Includes the free BlueDrive app
  • Works with all vehicles manufactured in 1996 or newer (domestic and import)
  • Supports al OBD-II protocols (including CAN)
  • Supports the BlueDriver Sensor and free BlueDriver app, designed to work exclusively as a single tool
  • Viewable on smartphone or tablet with the application
  • 24/7 tech support

Advantages

Perhaps one of the best things about the BlueDriver ODB-II scan tool is its compatibility with iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. You don’t have to worry about choosing which operating system you need because the BlueDriver supports both the leading mobile operating systems. All you have to do is download the BlueDriver application that comes when purchasing the device. This makes it a good choice for anyone who wants to see codes on their smartphone or tablet, even in realtime. Users have loved being able to send their information to the Internet and to other users with just the click of their phone.

It has this useful feature, Repair Report, which not only shows you the code, but also includes possible solutions on how to fix the issue. It’s also made by professional engineers in North America, and trusted by numerous mechanics. It also includes high-performance features like smog check, freeze-frame data, and vehicle information.

You also won’t have any trouble contacting their customer support because it’s available 24/7.

Disadvantages

When it comes to the BlueDriver tool, it seems like a matter of preference for users. Some users had a hard time getting used to the layout of the BlueDrive application. They wanted buttons to be placed on certain sides, but with time, anyone can get used to its layout.

It’s also important to know that the BlueDriver tool only works with BlueDriver systems;you cannot merge another application with the BlueDriver.

Verdict

If you’re looking for an OBD-II scan tool that works for both Android and iOS devices, then look no further. The BlueDriver scan tool is one of the best on the market. It has a variety of features that can help perform a better diagnosis. It’s also affordable and its customer support is available any time of the week. You won’t go wrong with this device because it can diagnose any vehicle manufactured since 1996. Sure, the layout could be a matter of preference, but the BlueDriver does its job and so much more.

ScanTool 426101 OBDLink MX Bluetooth: Professional OBD-II Scan Tool for Android & Windows

Features

  • World’s fastest Bluetooth OBD adapter
  • Supports Windows PC, laptops, and tablets
  • Supports Android phones and tablets
  • Supports Single-Wire CAN (GMLAN)
  • Supports Ford Medium-Speed CAN (MS-CAN)
  • Maximum vehicle coverage
  • Works on all 1996+ cars and light trucks sold in the USA
  • Automatic sleep and wake-up
  • Free Android app and Windows diagnostic software
  • Free firmware updates
  • Hackerproof
  • Unique BatterySaver feature
  • Works with various third parties applications like Torque and DashCommand
  • No monthly subscription fees or data plans
  • 3-year manufacturer warranty

Advantages

The OBDLink MX Bluetooth is a small and lightweight scan tool that can easily provide you a clear and efficient understanding of what is currently going on with your vehicle. The adapter includes features that can easily access, graph, log, and export real-time engine data straight to your Android or Windows Phone. With the information on your phone, you can even transfer the data straight to your Dropbox account.

Another reason that makes users love it is its affordability. There aren’t any in-app purchases or monthly subscription fees that add extra costs. You’ll never have to worry about advertisements on applications because the ODBLink MX doesn’t need any. It can even work with third-party applications like Torque and DashCommand. Depending on the application, you can use it to control door locks and windows.

Its fast performance, the array of features, and ease of use make it a favorite among users.

Disadvantages

There’s a lot the ODBLink MX has but there’s also something that users wished it did have; it could be made truly the best if it was compatible with Apple iOS phones. Of course, it’s all a matter of preference but some users were distraught at the thought of not being able to sync it with their Apple device. It’s also advised to have a bit of background regarding OBD-II tools before using this.

Verdict

The ODBLink MX is a perfect choice for Android and Windows Phone users. You can diagnose your errors and transfer the information to your phone, tablet, or computer without hassle. It also supports a number of third-party applications so you don’t have to think about it being too exclusive onlyto one application. It just doesn’t work on Apple products, so take note of that.

PLX Devices Kiwi 3 Bluetooth OBD2 OBDII Diagnostic Scan Tool

Features

  • Cross-platform compatible—Works with Android, iOS and Windows Mobile
  • Professional-grade automotive diagnostic OBD-II scan tool for smart devices
  • High-speed performance
  • Low power consumption
  • Compatible with all cars and consumer trucks built and sold in the United States after January 1, 1996
  • Supports applications like Torque, Harry’s Lap Timer, DashCommand, OBD Car Doctor, OBD Auto Doctor
  • Small and lightweight
  • Sleek design
  • Easy install

Advantages

This little device is a blessing to most users. The Kiwi 3 is a plug-and-play OBD-II tool that offers a number of useful features. It can easily connect to the OBD-II port and gather information from your vehicle. It can transfer the information straight to your smartphone. It doesn’t matter if you’re using an Android, Apple, or Windows Phone, it can sync information to all of them. Aside from that, it can also be used on tablets, computers, and smart watches.

This small adaptor sits just 0.68 inches thin, which makes it easy for you to place it anywhere on your vehicle. Even with a tiny frame, its performance is up to four times faster than the nearest competitor without using maximum power. You can easily plug it in your vehicle without worrying about battery issues because this tiny adapter won’t drain your juice.

Its compatibility with all standard ODB-II protocols assures you that you can use it on any vehicle manufactured after 1996. It also supports a lot of third-party applications like Torque, Harry’s Lap Timer, DashCommand, and so much more.

Disadvantages

There were some features on the Kiwi 3 that needed additional purchasing. A user was disappointed after realizing there were some features that needed to be bought in order to work on their vehicle. Fortunately, this only happened with a vehicle that needed additional extended parameter codes, so it was a rare case. Be sure to look for your vehicle’s manual and the Kiwi 3’s compatibility before buying.

Verdict

The Kiwi 3 is a small but powerful diagnostic scan tool. It’s easy to understand and even easier to operate. It works for Android, Windows, and iOS phones and has a lot of third-party applications to choose from. With its reasonable price and helpful features, you can have an easier time diagnosing anyoperational issues with your vehicle.