Best OBD2 Scanner for 2018 – Reviews & Helpful Guide
Are you searching for reviews of the best OBD2 scanners? We reveal the top models, their features and benefits.
There are a million and one ways you can customize and accessorize your car, but if there’s one tool you need to have, it’s the best OBS2 scanner. An OBS2 or on board diagnostics scanner gives you access to your car’s subsystem, providing information on how to fix different problems.
We don’t need to emphasize how important this scanner is. Even if you’re not a technician it’s essential you have one of these as you’ll never know when a repair job is necessary. Of course you must have the highest quality diagnostics scanner to ensure your vehicle is covered.
Best OBD2 Scanner - Our Top Picks
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Reviews of the Best OBD2 Scanners
Actron CP9580A Enhanced AutoScanner Plus
Actron has manufactured a lot of good OBS2 scanners and this is one of them. The CP9580A offers a wide range of codes so it’s easier to find solutions to problems, and it includes ABS codes, something you don’t always find in other code readers. Its Code Connect library in fact, provides more than 4.3 million proven fixes.
The CP9580A works with CAN and OBD2 vehicles from 1996 onwards. The scanner also offers custom live data, print support, drive cycle mode state OBD check, trilingual support as well as generic and manufacture specific codes.
Autel DS708 Automotive Scanner Diagnostic and Analysis System
The DS708 provides comprehensive vehicle coverage for European, Asian and American vehicles, and live data is recorded so it’s easier to find problems with components and sensors. With its Wi-Fi printing feature you can print information anywhere.
The DS708 has an 800 x 480, 7 inch TFT color display so it’s easy to see the graphs, data and results. The scanner also provides support for the 10 test modes and all the OBS2 protocols. The scanner is also equipped with OE connectors for vehicles 1996 and above as well as those for the newer Mercedes, BMW and Nissan models.
Launch Tech (301050118) CRP129 Pro-Code OBDII Scan Diagnostic Tool
The CRP129 reads codes on SRS Airbag, Transmission (A/T) and Engine systems, and it also records vital data for more efficient diagnosis. The information is also graphed for comprehensive playback. Vehicle coverage is also extensive and includes European, Asian and American models.
The CRP29 also comes with Protocol ID, auto module search, auto vehicle ID, and data transmission has also been enhanced. Data is updated regularly and it does what it’s supposed to do, provide fixes for numerous car problems. Response time is fast and can really help drivers with systems checks.
OTC (3111PRO) Trilingual Scan Tool
The OTC 3111PRO retrieves data from Airbag and ABS codes, and this model has more than three hundred possible PIDs. Its Auto ID identifies the vehicle automatically so there is no need for you to perform a scan. It records and plays live data and offers detailed code definitions.
The 3111PRO is capable of dual graphing, custom data lists and an acronym library. Its Code Connect comes with more than 4.3 million fixes, and the bundled software checks the MIL status. It also has a code lookup library, freeze frame data, DTCs and I/M monitors. Lastly the scan works with all cars and light trucks from 1996 onwards.
Autel MD802 Scanner MaxiDiag Elite
The Autel MD802 reads and clears every module for all US, Asian and European vehicles from 1996 up so compatibility isn’t an issue. It can also provide solutions for airbag, ABS, transmission and engine warning lights for most of these vehicles. There’s live ECU data graphing and you can erase the codes with one button.
Its AutoScans scans every module and displays them conveniently, and its Control Unit Function shows all the modules available. If there’s a problem just go to the diagnostics menu and go over the freeze frame data, view live, read / erase codes to find the fix.
INNOVA 3100 Diagnostic Scan Tool/Code Reader
With the 3100 you don’t have to guess what the Check Engine light signifies as it’s going to provide the info you’re looking for. The system works with domestic and foreign cars, hybrids, light trucks and SUVs from 1996 to the present. You also get LED lights (green, red and yellow) which indicate your vehicle’s emission status.
The 3100 freeze frame data reveals the engine’s cooling status such as the coolant temp, fuel trim etc. There are also alternator / battery tests so you can determine if there’s a problem. For all its features the scanner is easy to use so it’s useful for DIY enthusiasts.
Actron CP9575 AutoScanner
The Actron CP9575 is more than just a simple code reader as it comes with state OBD check, OBD-II drive cycle, I/M monitors, freeze frame and live engine data. The scanner also contains more than 15,000 manufacturer and generic code definitions and works with every CAN and OBD2 vehicle 1996-present.
The CP975 allows for one handed operation and the backlit display makes reading easy even at night. There is trilingual support and data is updated via the Internet. With its one touch read and erase, you can also evaluate the parameters. Fully CAN compliant, the CP975 is compatible with various diagnostics systems.
Types of OBD2 Scanners
These have basic features and are ideal if you just want a simple scanner. They’re simple to use and make it easy to read and erase codes. These are best used for performing simple repairs and to provide information for mechanics. If you’ve got a common vehicle with basic needs, this will do fine.
These scanners have more advanced features and offer programming options for advanced users. Compared to a basic handheld they have a lot of features so you can solve problems in-depth. Professional quality scanners also have wider compatibility, essential if you’ve driving a rare car. While they have a lot of information they’re also easier to use.
These devices often come with a mobile app, and they retrieve data from diagnostics on your car. With the companion app you’ll be able to view the data. Most of these apps are downloadable to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
This is just a general classification of the common types of OBS2 scanners: new devices are always being developed and the difference between handheld, professional and mobile gets blurred all the time.
The Advantages of an OBD2 Scanner
If you don’t have one of these scanners yet it’s about time you did because they provide a lot of advantages.
- Comprehensive Scanning: onboard diagnostic scanners provide information on fixes for all the major components of your car including the ignition system, auto transmission, fuel injection and more.
- Confidence: with the best OBS2 scanner you can feel confident that if there is a problem you’ll know where to find the fix. If the engine makes a pinging sound or the engine check light goes on, you just turn to the scanner and find out what’s wrong.
- The information you get from the scanner helps if you’re the DIY type or just want to give the mechanic as much information about the car problem as possible. You can also use the codes to verify what the mechanic is saying.
- Easy to Install and Use: these scanners don’t require any technical knowledge, and they often have specific and generic codes included.
- To install you just need to plug the scanner into your car’s OBS2 port using the supplied cord. Provide any information required and you’re done. If there is a problem you just look up the codes and learn what is wrong with your car.
- Efficient Emission: these devices can verify the status of your car so you’ll be able to pass any emission test.
Tips for Buying an OBD2 Scanner
If you’ve never purchased one of these devices before, consider the following to help you make the best purchase.
This is the first thing you should look at, because if the scanner isn’t compatible with your car then there’s no point at all. Fortunately this won’t be a major issue because modern OBS2 scanners are compatible with a wide array of vehicles. If you’ve got a rare make and model, contact the manufacturer first.
Unlike OBD1, OBD2 has wider compatibility so you can scan vehicles without any issues. However there are some diagnostic scans which work only with specific models so you have to consider that as well.
There should be Wi-Fi or Internet connectivity to make software updating easier. Basic OBS2 scanners may not have this feature but a growing number do, and it’s something you should really consider.
ABS Scan Tool
An ABS scan tool provides detailed information about the codes and allows you to view data in real time, read and print.
Full Protocol Support
A good OBS2 scanner should support the 5 protocols so you don’t have to worry about compatibility. Read the scanner’s description first and make sure there is support for all five so even if you get a new car support is guaranteed.
It’s easier to view the data if the scanner comes with a backlit LCD screen. The more data the scanner provides, the larger and clearer the screen has to be.
Just as you wouldn’t settle for a cheap oil filter or car wax, the same rule applies to diagnostic scanners. A little bit of research will give you an idea which brands are preferred by buyers. This doesn’t mean new names are untrustworthy. However with known quantities you’ll be assured of good customer service and warranty.
Rough driving conditions, the weather and extended use can take its toll on scanners. This is another reason to go with known brands because their scanners are made from durable materials.
A code translation manual helps, though in most cases it is probably included already. A hard disk provides you with extra storage, and other useful accessories include a voltage regulator, adapter and mini printer. Not all of these are necessary so just pick the ones you really need.
How to Install an OBD2 Scanner
The information below is a general guideline, but you should refer to the manual for more detailed instructions.
Start by looking for the connector port in your car’s compartment and connect the OBS2 code reader. Turn the key on but don’t start the engine yet. The scan tool should prompt you for information about your vehicle, i.e. the engine type, make, model and vehicle VIN number.
Additional instructions may appear onscreen, so just provide the information being requested. Again the process may vary from scanner to scanner; with others you just plug it in and the device automatically senses the vehicle’s make and model.
How to Use an OBD2 Scanner
Once the device is installed you can access the codes. The scanner will provide a description, but you can also refer to your vehicle manual for information. With quality OBS2 scan tools this won’t be necessary as it will display the code, what it means and the repair.
Difference between OBD1 and OBD2 Scanners
The biggest difference is OBS2 is more efficient. Some scanners have OBD1 and OBS2 compatibility, but if it only supports OBS2 it’s not going to be an issue.
Installation: OBD1 scanners are installed under the dash so it’s hard to get to the port. OBD2 devices are set in the driver’s compartment so it’s easier to set up. OBD2 is also more reliable, has better definitions and uses more advanced technology. OBD1 was developed to just read the codes and nothing more, whereas OBD2 is capable of fixing more problems.
OBD2 is especially good when it comes to detecting engine problem. OIBD1 can read some engine issues but only to an extent, while OBS2 has more to offer in terms of solutions. The computer chip on OBS2 devices are also updated regularly while those on OBD1 had to be replaced.
Just like with any automotive product, you have to go through all your options to find the best OBS2 scanner. Even if your car is in good condition, it pays to invest in one of these as it could save you a lot of trouble later on.