There are many OBD II (On-Board Diagnostic Level Two) scanning tools on the market today. With so many of them promising to deliver the best user experience, we decided to see whether the most popular models on the market actually live up to the expectations that the manufacturers set out for them. Below is a review of four of the top rated car diagnostics tools that you can buy right now, with a short commentary of how they compare to each other.
Car Diagnostic Tool Types, Importance, and FAQs
Diagnosing car problems used to be a guessing game. Mechanics had to interpret the descriptions of the problem provided by car owners, then poke around in the engine to figure out what's wrong with the automobile. That's no longer necessary. Today there are a wide range of diagnostic tools car owners and auto mechanics can use to get accurate information on the problems in any automobile. These diagnostic tools have made it possible for almost anyone to find out exactly what's wrong with their automobile.
Popular Car Diagnostics Tools
Some common automotive diagnostic tools include Code Readers, OBD Scanners and Readers, Circuit Testers and Multimeters and Battery Testers. By just plugging in these diagnostic tools, car owners and auto mechanics can monitor an automobile's systems and quickly and easily identify problems and potential problems. In the past many of these high-tech tools were only available to professionals at auto dealerships and garages. Today any car owner can purchase and use them.
Many new diagnostic tools are easy to understand and use. This enables the average car owner to find out what's wrong with their vehicles, make some minor repairs themselves and save money. They can also use the information to be able to tell their mechanics exactly what's wrong with their vehicle. This gives car owners confidence auto mechanics won't charge them for unnecessary repairs. The owners can also use the diagnostic tools to verify the problem has been handled properly and their vehicle is in good working order.
Quality Tools Used Properly
It's important to get high-quality, accurate, reliable, diagnostic tools and make sure you use them properly. This helps ensure you'll get results you can trust. Good diagnostic tools can quickly detect major and minor problems and provide the data necessary to get them repaired. Some advanced diagnostic tools like Circuit Testers and Multimeters are designed to measure electrical values related to a car's circuitry and may require advanced knowledge and training to operate properly. These should only be used by skilled professionals.
Importance of Car Diagnostic Tools
Modern automobile have sensitive, complex electronic components that must work in harmony for the vehicle to deliver safe, optimal, performance. Without diagnostic tools it would be difficult and time consuming to detect problems and identify their origins. Diagnostic tools save time, eliminate guesswork while troubleshooting and helps ensure the vehicle's problem is properly addressed. Diagnostic tools can also identify parts and systems that are failing before they become a more expensive and catastrophic problem.
Many important systems in modern automobiles are computer controlled. Without high-tech diagnostic tools it's near impossible to tell if the vehicle's problem is caused by a failing system or a bad computer. Within seconds, the diagnostic tools read and interpret the codes and signals sent out by the computer and the vehicle's systems and give clear, accurate information about where the problem lies. Without these tools, accurately diagnosing malfunctions would take much more time and be very costly.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Does the brand matter when buying diagnostic tools?
Yes. It's important to buy a trusted brand to ensure you will get reliable results.
2. What type of data do diagnostic tools collect?
Diagnostic tools can check and collet data from a wide range of parts and systems in an automobile. They can detect which parts and systems aren't working properly and identify those in danger of failing soon.
3. Do I need special training to use a automobile diagnostic tool?
It depends on the tool. Many diagnostic tools provide clear, simple instructions on how they are to be used and the average person can follow them. Other more high-tech tools are designed to be used by trained professionals.
4. What's the most important role of the diagnostic tools?
They can let you know whether or not it is safe to drive your vehicle or if you should have it towed to a shop immediately.
Top Rated Car Diagnostic Tools Review On The Market
Car Scanner and Car Diagnostic Software Reviews
The BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDII Scan Tool is definitely part of the Best Car Diagnostic Tools list. It has a wide variety of useful features including the ability to read and clear error codes, prepare repair reports, and a smog check that checks your vehicle’s emissions so you can make sure that it is ready for its smog test. All of this can be viewed via a live feed that is sent directly to your Bluetooth device.
The diagnostic capabilities of this car scanner seem nothing but endless. It is very good at deciphering error codes such as your check engine light, and providing you with viable solutions to the problem. For instance, the BlueDriver was used on a 2012 Nissan Pathfinder that had the check engine light on. The BlueDriver found that the problem was a fuel canister leak. What was great about this car diagnostic software is that it came with five different probable causes and an incredible thirteen common fixes to the problem.
Once the error codes have been read, they can be cleared at the touch of a button.
This is great for those who maintain their own cars, because it allows them to see what the problem is and how to fix it a lot quicker than with other devices. It also allows you to figure out which problems are persistent and which ones are one off, which allows you to decide which problems should be given the highest priority.
The BlueDriver Bluetooth Scan Tool can also read vital vehicle information such as the vehicle’s VIN number, assembly location, engine data, and fuel consumption in MPG, just to name a few. If you really want to go into detail, this machine will even give you your car’s engine coolant temperature. However, probably one of the best features is the Smog Check. This check runs through all the different tests that your car will be subjected to during an emissions test, and let you know if it will pass or not. Should your car have issues that need to be addressed before you go for the test, the BlueDriver will give you all the common solutions to whatever problems your car may have.
However, it is not all smooth sailing for this device. There are still a few bugs that need to be ironed out, especially with the Bluetooth connectivity, which is shaky at best. It is very undecided at whether it wants to work or not, and after a while it can feel like you are playing the lottery with the app. This is disappointing as one of the device’s main selling points is that it has Bluetooth connectivity.
Video: BlueDriver OBD2 Diagnostic Scan Tool Review (reads ABS, Airbag, Tranny Codes)
The fact that this car diagnostic reader is not compatible with Windows phones is somewhat discouraging. This is a product that feels like it should be compatible with all major mobile devices, and excluding Windows phones excludes a chunk of the market that could benefit from using it.
Another problem is that the manufacturer claims that the tool will work on all vehicles equipped with OBDII, which in the US means cars that were produced after 1996. Well, this is also not entirely true, as some of the diagnostic tools are not compatible with some vehicles that are on the road today.
For instance, by the manufacturers own admission (well, their tech support staff anyway), the BlueDriver does not work well with BMWs, as enhanced features such as live data do not work on these cars. The same goes for the VW Golf (at least from the Golf V onwards), Volvos, and Hyundais, while the Ford Excursion 7.3 liter Diesel engine is not supported AT ALL, even though it is OBDII compatible.
All in all, this is a beautiful device to have if your car is compatible with it, and with a price tag of only $99.95* it should not set you too far back financially.
The Innova 3040e is relatively new to the market, having been out for less than a year. However, it is a handy little tool that is capable of reading and erasing a whole bunch of codes, from check engine light to ABS codes. It is also able to relay different readings including RPM, Oxygen and Temperature readings.
The 3040e comes with numerous other car diagnostic tools, and can help you diagnose battery or alternator problems, especially in no-start situations. It can also read and relay information involving the engine coolant temperature and the fuel trim at the time of a malfunction.
These readings are displayed on a handy, 2.8” color screen that is capable of displaying more than 20 pieces of information at a time. This is a beautiful thing to have as it means that unlike some other scan tools out there, you do not have to worry about compatibility of the product with a mobile device. Updates to the Innova 3040e are done via USB connected to either your PC or Apple computer, and are so easy to carry out that you could do them in your sleep.
If you are a home mechanic, this is an awesome product to have; however, it does have its fare share of problems that you need to consider before you buy it. For starters, it is not compatible with Volkswagen vehicles. This is because VWs have communication issues with many aftermarket products such as scanners and alarms, and unfortunately, Innova products fall into this category.
This car scanner will also not work with some vehicles that are outside the US or Canada. This means that if you own a car that was not manufactured in the US or Canada then the likelihood of the scanner working on your vehicle is very low. Also, as much as the scanner will store the readings for as many as three cars, there is no way of to delete a stored vehicle from the device other than to register another vehicle to override the previous one.
Overall, this is a good product to have as it does what it says it is supposed to do, and with a price tag of only $78.95* , this product is definitely a good investment and part of our Best Car Diagnostic Tools list.
The BAFX Products 34t5 Bluetooth OBDII Scan Tool is by far the most affordable product on this list. At only $22.41* on Amazon, this is a scan tool that is more than reasonably priced. It is compatible with almost all the third party OBDII apps in the Play store which is a dream come true for people who have gotten used to one program or another. Because of this we also believe it makes it in the Best Car Diagnostic Tools list.
This device will allow you to scan for a wide range of issues including OBDII engine light codes and other sensor codes and readings, as well as prepare for emissions tests and reset the check engine light.
It is a brilliant little device and works well with third party applications such as Torque, and the statistics that it provides can keep you occupied for hours, especially if you are a car geek.
It will provide you with readings for things such as RPM, horsepower, acceleration and braking info, and will even give you ¼ mile stats and create a speed plotting graph for you.
The reader comes with a CD that you can use to install the manufacturers program onto your PC. However, if you have Torque or any one of the other compatible third-party devices, this is not really necessary.
This is one of the only devices that really does what it says it is supposed to do in the product description on Amazon, it reads codes and sensor readings. However, that is all it does, and that is where the positivity ends. Though it is a brilliant device, it is not compatible with Apple devices, which is surprising considering the popularity of Apple devices at the moment.
It also has a few compatibility issues, and does not connect with many vehicles that use the J1850-PWM protocol. There have also been reports of a reliability issue, with some people saying that it stops working after a while, usually a month, or that it breaks should you remove it and plug it in one too many times.
Another downside (though not particularly a problem) is that all it does is read stats. As much as that is what is advertised on the Amazon page and on the box, it is slightly disappointing that you cannot tweak different elements of your car’s performance with this device.
It also reads information from the OBDII system only, which means that should you lights from sensors that are not directly connected to the OBDII system start flashing (such as ABS, SRS, Stability and Maintenance lights) then you will have to use another car diagnostic tool to find out what the problem is.
Overall, a very good product for those who would like to carry out basic analysis on their cars, and for the price tag, it is also the most affordable piece of tech that you will buy.
4. Autel MaxiSYS MS906 Wifi Automotive Diagnostic Scanner Update Online – Autel Auto Scanner
The Autel MaxiSYS MS906 is a state-of-the-art Automotive Diagnostic and Analysis System, and is the next generation version of the massively successful Autel DS708. This scanner allows you to scan for a wide range of problems on cars from over 80 manufacturers, both foreign and domestic, including Mercedes Benz, Audi, BMW, Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge.
The Autel auto scanner allows you to do a whole lot more than scan your car and diagnose problems. For instance, you can reprogram keys as long as you get the key code from the dealer. It also allows you to reset many systems, from your check engine light to your ABS. Should you want to reprogram certain ECU settings, you are able to do so; however, this feature is only available for certain models.
The MaxiSYS MS906 has a wonderful 8.0” LED touch screen display that has a 1024x768P resolution, which is very clear and leaves you no doubt about what you are reading.
Autel MaxiSYS MS906 Wifi Automotive Diagnostic Scanner Update Online – Autel Auto Scanner
It runs an Android operating system and can connect to the internet via WiFi to facilitate updates. It can also connect directly to your computer via USB, and comes with 32GB on board memory, meaning you are not going to have to worry about running out of space to save your diagnostic information.
The MaxiSYS comes with its own built in battery, so you do not have to worry about it draining your vehicle’s battery as you use it. This battery is not only used to power the device, but also the 8 mega pixel rear camera that comes with a flash light. This is ideal for taking pictures and uploading them to the web, where an online community of Autel MaxiSYS owners and Autel technicians will be able to help you fix any problem you may have with the system or indeed with your car.
Unlike the other products on this list, this is the most professional of them all. In fact, the Autel auto scanner is so close to the diagnostic tools used by mechanics at major manufacturers that they say it does 85-100% of the work that their machines do. The GUI is clear and concise and you will find it hard to get confused using the system. It comes with AutoVIN technology, which means that it will automatically read and store your vehicle’s VIN number. This is a very useful feature, as many of the scanners on the market today do not have this feature, and the VIN numbers must either be read via a barcode or manually entered so that the machine can record them. The fact that the MaxiSYS runs on an android operating system allows for multi-tasking, which allows you to carry out multiple tests at once, meaning you can save time on your diagnostics.
However, like all systems, it does have a few downsides. For instance, it can take a long time to backup, and though this may not sound like such a major problem, if you are on a deadline, or have urgent work to do, you do not want to be sitting around waiting for your scanner to update information.
It also has had a few problems reprogramming keys, especially for some of the European car manufacturers. Jaguar and Ford Europe have been singled out as some of the problem manufacturers. However, only a handful of complaints have been made about this issue, so it should not really be troubling.
All in all, this is the perfect tool for any car enthusiast that makes it into our Best Car Diagnostic Tools list. It is great for enthusiasts interested in knowing how their car is running. It is also the perfect tool for technicians and mechanics who want a light, handheld system that is not going to break their banks. Most professional systems that carry out almost exactly the same work cost about $10,000. However, this device comes in at a reasonable $1350.00* from Amazon, and for the functions that it can carry out, this is literally a steal.
ODB Car Diagnostic Tool Comparisons and Conclusion
The four ODB car diagnostic tools that we have looked at in this review are all brilliant, but to pick the best one, you would need to look at what you require from the scanner.
If you are a person who is just interested in finding out how your car is running, and how to fix your check engine light problem, then the BAFX products 34t5 is for you. It’s simple, it’s hassle free, it works with almost every model car sold in the US and to top it all off, it costs less than it would to take your wife or girlfriend out for dinner and a movie.
However, if you would like to have a bit more control over your vehicle, and be able to change certain settings and monitor more then you may have a bit of a conundrum. There are two fantastic devices to choose from, the BlueDriver OBDII Scan Tool or the Innova 3040c Scan Tool with Live Data. The BlueDriver is really good, and has some excellent features, on the other hand, it has some connectivity issues that may prove irritating after a while. The Innova can carry out basically the same tasks, without the hassle of connectivity, and at almost $30 less, it is way cheaper than the BlueDriver, only problem is it is not compatible with Windows 10.
The Innova 3040c OBDII Scan Tool with Live Data would be the obvious choice, as it is very affordable, and will give you the best value for your money. If you live outside North America though, the choice has already been made for you and the BlueDriver is your best bet.
However, for those who want to really work on cars, and really get the best professional equipmentthey can for the fairest price, then there is no other choice than the AUTEL MaxiSYS MS906. This fantastic diagnostic scanner will do everything that you want it to, and even the professionals have been left in awe at its performance. It may be somewhat pricey, but you will find that in the long run it is worth it. For around $300 less, you could buy its predecessor, the AUTEL DS708, but the upgrade is worth it, and you will not be disappointed.