In 1996, Onboard Diagnostics 2 or OBDII (the successor to OBDI) was made mandatory and is still a standard in all vehicles. This system allows a mechanic or even you to troubleshoot by scanning for DTCs or Diagnostic Trouble Codes.
If you've never used an OBD2 scanner, you still might have noticed the Malfunction Indicator Light or MIL pop up on your dashboard. This tells you as the driver that you need to visit a mechanic. The mechanic will then troubleshoot with an OBD2 scanner in order to determine the exact issue with your vehicle.
Most likely if you're here, then you're sick of going to a mechanic and want to determine the true problem on your own. Luckily, OBD2 scanners aren't overly expensive and are easy enough to understand.
The Best OBD2 Scanners
1. SEEKONE OBD2 Scanner
The first option you might want to consider is Seekone SK860. Overall, this scanner has quite a bit to offer, especially function-wise. The Seekone can read and erase engine fault codes, reset monitors with ease, turn off celts, and check the engine light in your vehicle. Furthermore, the scanner can live stream numbers, graphs, and texts.
It even has several language settings available, including English, French, German, Dutch, and Italian.
The triple LED indication system for alerts and diagnostics is one of the main features that sets the Seekone apart from other OBD2 scanners in this price range. What makes this the best option is the fact that it is easy to use thanks to the one-click button system and the 2.8-inch display.
2. NEXPEAK OBD2 Scanner
When it comes to precision, you can’t go wrong with the Nexpeak OBD2 scanner.
Overall, the NX501 scanner is pretty basic, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It has a 2.8-inch LCD screen that is perfect for viewing the data. Furthermore, you won’t have to worry about translating the codes since the code definitions appear on the screen. You can even check the codes without getting in your car, as the scanner is equipped with a 5-foot diagnostic cable.
The Nexpeak OBD2 NX501 scanner offers four-graphics data, which helps you determine if there are any emission-related or fuel efficiency errors. Also, if you’re on the road a lot, you’ll appreciate the battery voltage check feature. It prevents you from getting stuck with a dead battery when you need your scanner the most.
Unfortunately, one thing you need to be wary of is the fact that this scanner works only on engine systems and doesn’t have codes for airbags and transmissions.
3. Autel MaxiCOM OBD2 Scanner
Unlike the previous scanners, the Autel MaxiCOM MK808 is a tablet scanner.
Right off the bat, you’re sure to appreciate the 7-inch LCD touch screen. Let’s face it — no one likes squinting at their scanner. Also, one of the best features of the MK808 scanner is that it diagnoses not only the engine but also other vehicle systems, such as the ABS and SRS. Of course, you can also use it to read and erase error codes.
As a downside, the price may be a bit higher than what you hoped for, but that’s purely because of the quality. If you consider all the features it has to offer, the price is actually pretty realistic.
Other features include EPB/BMS/SAS/DPF and oil reset, which are useful for system maintenance. This scanner even has built-in batteries, so you won't need to add them on your own.
Another thing you’re going to appreciate is the ease of use. Once you connect the device, accessing the key functions will be a breeze.
4. BlueDriver Bluetooth Pro OBDII Scan Tool
The BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional scanner is truly a professional diagnostics tool. It allows for graphing of engine parameters and even real-time data logging. One function that especially stands out is that the scanner provides you with a list of possible causes of the issues that are specific to your car. You even get a list of ways you can fix the trouble code.
Ultimately, this feature could end up saving you a lot of money since you won’t have to take your car to the shop for every tiny problem.
The BlueDriver Bluetooth Pro is also compatible with any Android or Apple smartphone. However, it doesn’t support Windows, so keep that in mind before purchasing it.
5. OxGord OBD2 Scanner Code Reader
Last but not least, the OxGord scanner is one of the smallest gadgets on the market. However, that doesn’t mean it lacks any important functions. The OxGord reads diagnostic codes, clears trouble codes, and it can practically fit in the palm of your hand.
The OxGord works with most 1990 vehicles, as well as newer, OBD2-compliant ones. It can read and clear generic and manufacturer error codes, not to mention retrieve the vehicle identification number on 2002 vehicles and some newer ones.
Furthermore, the device can display the meaning of more than 3000 error codes and turn off the check engine light. Plus, it plugs into the Data Link Connector located in your vehicle, which means you don’t have to worry about charging it.
Basically, if you’re looking for a straightforward device with a minimalist interface, the OxGord OBD2 scanner is just the thing for you.
What to Look for in an OBD2 Scanner
When picking an OBDII scanner, your options usually boil down to the type, budget, and functionality. There are also tertiary features like being cordless/bluetooth compatible.
Types of OBDII Scanners
The first thing to consider before buying a scanner is what type you need. There are two types available:
1. Basic code readers
2. DIY scanners
1. Basic Code Readers
These types of scanners read the diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) and are much cheaper than the other two types. However, they do not translate the codes for you.
2. DIY Scanners
DIY scanners have basic features and a few advanced ones, such as checking and clearing ABS, SRS, resetting oil service lights, etc.
However, DIY scanners are, in fact, more advanced than code readers since they provide you with the diagnostic trouble codes and even translate them. That means you can diagnose the problem and fix it on your own.
These scanners are far more convenient than basic code readers since you can connect the scanner to your PC in order to get a better overview of your data. Additionally, they tend to work much faster than basic code readers.
Every scanner needs compatible software in order to work properly. When you’re shopping for a scanner, check which model offers the right software compatibility, or else you’ll end up with a useless gadget that doesn’t work.
Keep in mind that some scanners need a computer in order to function, whereas others can connect to phones via Bluetooth.
OBD2 scanners need updates that ensure your device is working properly.
When choosing a scanner, you need to check whether there are any updates available for that model. Usually the better scanners will offer free updates.
Ultimately, if you only have a basic knowledge of cars, there’s probably no need for you to look for a scanner with advanced options. All you need is a basic code scanner.
However, if you know your way around cars, and you would rather try to fix the problem by yourself, you can always opt for a DIY scanner or even a car diagnostic tool. These scanners can diagnose ABS, SRS, and transmission. Furthermore, most of them have data logging and a battery backup.
All in all, when it comes to features, it depends on how much information you’re looking to get from the device.
Corded or Cordless
Basically, corded scanners are the more reliable choice. They don’t require phone connectivity since they have their own interface. However, most people seem to prefer cordless scanners.
To be fair, it’s quite understandable why that’s the case. First of all, you need to find a long cord in order for the device to function properly. Unfortunately, that means you have to deal with an annoying cord in the middle of your vehicle.
On the other hand, if you go for a cordless scanner, you run the risk of losing your Bluetooth connection.
Despite all this, the pricing is pretty much the same for both cordless and corded.
Unfortunately, budgetary matters are a bit more complicated. You may think that spending less money on an OBD2 scanner is more cost-effective. However, that’s not exactly true.
Though you may end up spending more money on a device than what you hoped for, you’ll probably save more on repairs. Obviously, even taking your car to the shop for a diagnosis costs money. If you have a scanner handy, you can see whether or not you can fix the problem on your own.
OBD1 or OBD2?
OBD1 was the first attempt at a regulated vehicle diagnostics system. The overarching goal was to be able to regulate emissions more efficiently. Manufacturers then started implementing OBD1 as a "universal" system.
However, manufacturers created tools that featured different fault codes as well as port location and module. These issues made it difficult to diagnose automotive problems. OBD1 was also usually restricted to general engine faults, emission issues, and fuel system issues.
Read More: The Differences Between OBD1 and OBD2
OBD2 was the first regulated onboard diagnostics system to be truly universal. OBD2 scanners were capable of being used across all brands.
There a number of different types of OBD2 scan tools; Many don't even require a physical connection to the vehicle. OBD2 can scan and diagnose engine misfires, fuel pressure issues, engine performance issues, battery problems, and other problems associated with the various sensors on the vehicle.