Best OBD2 Scanner Reviews – OBDII Scan Tool Buyer’s Guide
Best OBD2 Scanner – MaintainYourRide Recommends:
Innova 3100j Diagnostic OBD2 Scanner
Introduction – Best OBD2 Scanner Tools
OBD stands for On-Board Diagnostics which refers to a vehicle’s self-diagnostic and reporting system. OBDI is an older protocol that was developed for emissions monitoring purposes. In 1996 however, the protocol was updated to OBD2 which included significantly better connectors, signaling, formatting, etc.
The Engine Control Unit (ECU) is the computer behind all of the complex actions and adjustments that are performed to keep your car operating smoothly. Not only is it controlling the ratios of Air and Fuel within the engine or your automatically activated headlights, it is responsible for monitoring and reporting status of a large number of sensors and equipment.
When the ECU in your car or truck detects an abnormality with engine, a code is generated and stored in memory. This detection also triggers the “Check Engine Light” on your dash to illuminate. Just a few years ago, a Check Engine Light would mean a trip to the mechanic or local automotive parts store to use one of their industrial code readers. Advancements in modern technology have made this process easy AND cheap enough to do at home in your garage/driveway.
How to Use an OBD2 Scanner Tool
In order to check the status codes of the ECU, an OBD2 Scanner can be simply plugged in to the OBD-2 connector that is found on all modern cars. This connector is usually found just under the dashboard on the drivers side. It is typically directly below the steering wheel or slightly off to the right or left-hand side. OBD2 Scan Tools typically utilize the connector as a power source, and many should automatically turn on when connected.
Once the device has booted up, navigate the menu’s of the scanner until you find the appropriate option. When the scan is complete, a set of codes should be generated and displayed. Higher-end OBD2 Scanner Tools have databases within that can help interpret the cryptic codes that are returned. Cheaper scan tools may require some extra Googling in order to translate the code.
Be sure to clear out the codes at least once before panicking and calling your mechanic. Sometimes the ECU will detect an abnormality that is an isolated incident or will correct itself. Clearing the codes purges this data from memory and resets the Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL). If the MIL turns back on and the code matches, its time to call your mechanic.
The FOXWELL NT301 Scanner just looks like a quality piece of equipment. From the gigantic 2.8″ TFT Color Display, to the classic orange and black construction color scheme, it looks like a tool that belongs in an automotive shop. It also has a USB port that allows life-time free updates, printing reports, and log uploading to your computer.
This unit has many of the features of the other higher end scanners on this list including Maintenance and Check Engine code reading and light reset, read/record/graph/playback live sensor data, automatic VIN acquisition (quickly find manufacturer specific codes), multi-language support, and more.
It is one of the more expensive and has less consumer support than the other options on the list, however, it still comes in under seventy dollars, with just under four and a half stars. The lifetime update support adds a lot of value as the support team can address issues and improve the device regularly.
The ANCEL AD310 Classic is a great blend of features for a very reasonable price. It packs a larger backlit LCD Display (128×64 pixels), simple button interface, and built-in 2.5 foot cable. It includes a three year warranty and has the ability to view freeze frame data, intermittent and historical diagnostic data.
This scanner is a great option for users that are looking to get a good balance of features while maintaining a lower budget. At under thirty-five dollars, it is a step up from the basic scan tools in the sub-twenty dollar range without breaking the bank. It also has the backing of thousands of reviewers that have given it an average of over four and a half stars.
Autel is by far the largest automotive diagnostic and analysis tool company on the list. They carry consumer-grade scanners and diagnostics tools as well as commercial-grade. A lot of their commercial grade technology and research makes its way into their consumer-grade products, not to mention the quality control and reliability that comes from producing commercial products.
The Autel MaxiScan MS300 is the clear choice for the best OBD2 scanner from a pure value perspective. With a price under twenty dollars, it is competitive with the cheapest scan tools on the market without sacrificing durability or too many features. It has a memory containing over 7000 trouble codes and descriptions. You may miss out on the larger LCD screen, additional buttons, and higher-quality build materials; but if you’re just looking for a basic Scan Tool that has the essential features to help diagnose your check engine lights, this is a great budget option.
There are well over five thousand reviews averaging over 4/5 stars. It is definitely a proven device. Be cautious, however, that you are buying from an authorized seller. There have been reports of imitation devices being received and not functioning properly.
The Autel AL519 AutoLink Enhanced OBD2 Scan Tool is the MaxiScan MS300’s big brother. It features a large color TFT display, with additional features such as built-in speakers and buttons. It can view freeze-frame data, playback live sensor data, monitor real-time O2 Sensor Test Data, all while easily determining the cause of Check Engine Lights.
Even with all these additional features, The AL519 maintains an affordable price coming in under seventy dollars. It also comes backed by six hundred plus reviews and an average rating of four and a half stars. Not to mention that snazzy carrying case and DVD that are included.
Innova is one of the top brands in the Diagnostic Scan Tool field. They carry a large range of products from digital multimeters, to electrical testers, timing lights, OBD1 and OBD2 Diagnostic Tools. They also have an array of tiers of each of their products. Starting around $30 with the lower end Scanners and continuing all the way up to $450 for their top-of-the-line scanners.
The Innova 3100J Scan Tool falls in to the middle tier of the Innova lineup. It packs most of the functionality of the higher end units into a significantly more affordable package. This Scanner includes Check Engine Lights, Brake (ABS) Codes, Emissions, Multiple Languages, Battery/Alternator Test, Oil Light Reset, and Airbag (SRS) Codes. The three potentially useful features that you might miss are Live Data (Real-time diagnostics), OBD1 compatibility, and Battery Light Reset. This scanner also has a HUGE, bright LCD screen that provides the codes as well as a description of the code and tons of other valuable information.
For the price, the Innova 3100j Scan Tool is a great bargain. Most consumers have no real use for the features that this scanner lacks so there is no reason to pay significantly more for them. At just over eighty dollars and just under four and a half stars across thousands of reviews, it’s easy to recommend this scanner as the Best OBD2 Scanner Tool.
Be sure to check out our other articles for advice on other car maintenance tips and advice. Spark plugs commonly cause a Check Engine Light due to Cylinder Misfires. Be sure that you’re changing your Spark Plugs on a regular basis. We have a Guide on selecting the Best Spark Plugs for your car or truck.
MYR Recommended Best OBD2 Scanner – Overall – Innova 3100j Diagnostic OBD2 Scanner
MYR Recommended Best OBD2 Scanner – Performance – Innova 3100j Diagnostic OBD2 Scanner
MYR Recommended Best OBD2 Scanner – Value – Autel MaxiScan MS300 OBD2 Scan Tool
Choosing a good Auxiliary Cable for your ride can be tough with all the options available on the market. MaintainYourRide has your back!