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Best OBD2 Scanner – Simple Code Reading and Car Diagnostics for All

Modern cars can self-diagnose a large number of their malfunctions. Unfortunately, cars don’t speak human languages. They speak in error codes and a little warning light on the dash.

An OBD2 scanner can help with this, they can be thought of as a translator from Car to Human, taking error codes and displaying them on screen for people like you and I to read and understand.

Man in a car looking at the screen of an OBD2 scanenr

Knowing why a check-engine light has lit up your dash can lower your stress and save you money by potentially avoiding the need to visit a mechanic.

The problem might be something you can fix yourself, but if it’s not, knowing what those error codes mean helps you shorten your mechanic’s diagnostic time.

Read on for a discussion of what an OBD2 scanner is, what it can do, and how to choose the best OBD2 scanner for you and your current car.

At a Glance: Our Top Recommendations for Best OBD2 Scanner

Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon.

What is an OBD2 Scanner?

“OBD” stands for “onboard diagnostics.” It’s what it sounds like: an in-car system for diagnosing problems with the car’s various controls such as engine management and transmission, emissions controls, much of the electrical system, and even parts of the safety system such as the airbags and anti-lock brakes.

Early OBD systems were in use on some cars as early as 1991, but universal standards and Federal requirements for onboard diagnostics weren’t fully standardized until 1996.

Now called OBD2 or OBD-II, all cars sold in the US since 1996 are required to have this standardized protocol for onboard diagnostics. Modern vehicles have a 16-pin port to which you can attach a scanner to interpret what your car’s computer and sensors have found wrong.

Why Would You Want an OBD2 Scanner?

Some faults indicated by a check-engine light can be serious items that need immediate attention, such as errors in engine timing or a cylinder misfire. But other items, such as a faulty O2 sensor, can wait a few days. The light on your dash doesn’t discriminate, though. It lights up for everything.

Having an OBD2 scanner in your toolkit (and knowing how to use it) means peace of mind and smarter car ownership.

Having a code reader or scanner is also helpful when shopping for a used car. A quick run of a scanner on a car for sale will reveal if the seller’s assertion that it “only needs a sensor” is true or if you’re in for several hundred dollars of repairs to pass local inspection.

And of course, having an OBD2 scanner means you can help a friend figure out if she needs to take her car into the shop or if she just needs to check that her gas cap is properly tight ( which is a common reason for a check engine light to light up) .

How Does an OBD2 Scanner Work?

An OBDii scanner is an interface, either with a cable or with Bluetooth connectivity to an app on your phone or tablet, that displays numerical codes logged by your car’s various computer control units. (These have lots of acronyms: PCM, ECU, PCU, and so on. Think of them collectively as your car’s computer-brain.)

The very simplest (and least expensive) code readers simply display a string of codes, each starting with a letter and followed by four numbers.

A full-featured scanner can pull the codes off your car, make suggestions for repairs, and store information about the car’s condition (speed, engine timing, whether the engine was running lean or rich) at the moment the fault was triggered.

Bluetooth-enabled OBD2 scanners can act as real-time monitors of everything going on inside your car’s engine and other systems. You can check out guide for the best Bluetooth OBD2 scanners if you’d like more info on this type of product.

What Problems Can a Scanner Find With Your Car?

OBD2 diagnostic codes are divided into several categories designated by a letter:

  • B = Body
  • C = Chassis
  • P = Powertrain
  • U = Undefined/Other

These letters are followed by four digits which correspond to specific faults. Codes which are a letter followed by a 0 are generic trouble codes common to all manufacturers and codes which are a letter followed by a 1 are codes specific to a particular manufacturer. The third character in the sequence indicates the subsystem the fault is in, as follows:

  • 1 = Emission Management
  • 2 = Injector Circuit
  • 3 = Misfire or Ignition
  • 4 = Emission Control
  • 5 = Idle Control & Vehicle Speed
  • 6 = Output Circuit & Computer
  • 7 = Transmission
  • 8 = Transmission
  • 9 = (Reserved)
  • 0 = (Reserved)

As you can see, there are a vast number of car systems covered by onboard diagnostics. OBD2 does not, however, cover everything that can fail on a car, so the absence of a check-engine light should never substitute for routine car maintenance and safety checks.

It’s important to note that simply having the error code in hand may not provide you with an immediate fix. Faults can have multiple causes. Modern cars are devilishly complex, and it takes some experience and knowledge to decipher the cause of a particular code.

Here’s the benefit of choosing a scanner over a simple code reader: a scanner will have onboard hints and troubleshooting help to help you chase down the possible causes of your error codes, but a code reader will simply give you the codes as they come off the car’s OBD system.

Types of Diagnostic OBD2 Scanners

There are many code readers and scanners available to the home mechanic, at almost every price point imaginable. To help narrow down your choices, let’s look at the different types.

Code Readers

At the most affordable end of the spectrum are simple code readers. These only deliver the codes from your car’s OBDii system to you via a little screen.

When you’re done pulling the code, you’ll either need to have the experience to know what repair to attempt first or be ready to research what the code means and what the possible fixes are for the issue.

Diy Scanners

Next up in complexity and price are scanners designed for use by home mechanics. They’ll have additional features over and above what a code reader can provide. At a minimum, they’ll tell you what a code means.

A code reader may simply tell you, “P0455,” but a scanner will say, “P0455: System gross leak evaporative system malfunction” and may even be able to tell you to try checking that your gas cap is sealing properly before you head to a shop for a more expensive repair attempt.

Scanners can also reset codes from the OBD2 system, although not all scanners can reset warning lights outside of the check-engine light, such as the SRS and ABS lights.

Professional Scanners

Full-featured professional scanners allow you access to all aspects of OBD2 reporting made available by a car’s manufacturer.

Some will allow diagnosing of commercial vehicles, have the ability to save data to external media, and can be used for real-time observation of car performance. They also provide system testing, in some cases, and allow you to reset additional warning lights, such as ABS system errors and SRS (airbag) faults.

With large, full-color screens, they can display data in graphical format, too. They’ll also allow you to run diagnostic tests from the scanner and calibrate various car systems like steering angle and throttle response.

Bluetooth Scanners

Bluetooth scanners are a special subset of code readers and scanners. They connect to a tablet or smartphone via a Bluetooth connection and feed data into a third-party app installed on your device.

The amount of data and features available is largely dependent on the app which you choose and what your car has made available to be read. A Bluetooth scanner is simply a small plug called a dongle which pushes your car’s OBD2 data to your app.

What to Look for When Buying the Right OBD2 Scanner for You

We’ve put together a list of questions to consider as you shop for an OBDii scanner. By the end of our discussion, you should have a clear idea of what you need, and with that, you can get on to shopping for the best OBD2 scanner for your needs.

Is the Scanner Compatible With Your Car?

It’s important to read the manufacturer specifications carefully to be sure your make (car manufacturer) is included.

Most mass-market scanners will cover most common makes, but it’s important to double check this, and it’s especially important if you own something slightly unusual, like, say, a fifteen-year-old Lamborghini.

Do You Want Diagnostic Help or Just to Be Able to Clear Codes Off Your Dash?

If you don’t anticipate doing the repairs yourself, you may not need a scanner that offers diagnostic help. A code reader or scanner can reset your vehicles check engine light from your dash, which is handy even if you don’t want to take on a repair yourself. But keep in mind that the light will come back on when the car’s diagnostic systems notice the problem again.

A note here about emissions testing or inspections, since this may be the primary reason you may wish to clear the codes off of your dash. OBD2 systems self-test themselves, and some states’ emissions control testing equipment checks to see if these “readiness monitors” built into the system have been set. If the readiness monitors are not set, but are detected as set by the testing equipment, you may fail your inspection even if there’s no check engine light on the dash.

After clearing a check-engine code, a car needs to be driven for a certain amount of time, in mixed conditions, to give the OBD2 system a chance to self-test and set the readiness monitors. The check engine light you’re trying to clear may come back on if you haven’t repaired whatever is causing a code in the first place.

Do You Want Mobile Phone Compatibility? is Your Phone Apple- Or Android-Based?

If you want to be able to access the features of a scanner via your phone, you’ll need a Bluetooth OBD2 scanner which works with your platform.

Check to see which apps are available on your platform and that the Bluetooth dongle you’re considering is compatible with that app. Some dongles for Apple/iOS only work via a WiFi connection rather than a Bluetooth one, so read specifications carefully.

What Features MUST a Good Model Have?

A good model of OBD2 scanner:

  • Is easy to use and can be powered from the car’s own OBD2 port or is rechargeable. No reason to be messing around with batteries.
  • Must be compatible with your current car, and also with a range of commonly-sold cars, so that you can use the scanner with future cars as well as assist family and friends if they should have a check engine light.
  • Can pre-test your car for emissions testing. If you live in an area with smog inspections or emissions testing, you’ll want your scanner to be able to tell you in advance if your car will pass. Many scanners have a one-step emissions test readiness test sequence.

Do You Want or Need Extra Features?

Do you need to be able to read ABS (anti-lock braking system), SRS (supplemental restraint system, i.e., airbags), and DTC (dynamic traction control) codes as well? Professional level scanners offer access to these features.

Some scanners have a freeze-frame feature, which can save data about the car’s engine management at the moment a trouble code occurs. Pro-level scanners offer programming and ECU-flashing features not available on consumer level models.

How Often Will You Use it?

If you anticipate using a scanner only a few times a year, or only when you’re shopping for a used car, you may not need a professional-level scanner. A simple scanner which simply spits out the codes alone may be all you need.

However, if you’ve got multiple cars in a household and you do all your own repair work, or need to get deep into a car’s computer systems, investing in a quality professional-level tool may be a smart choice.

Price

The range of prices in scanners is astonishing, so carefully consider your actual needs and do not overspend. Unless you’re a fairly advanced amateur mechanic, the advanced engine-tuning features of a professional-level scanner may go unused in your garage. The most expensive option may be a waste of money if you won’t use all the features it offers!

But if you’re advancing your skills and getting into more complicated repairs and troubleshooting, make sure you pick a scanner that has the features to match your growing skill level.

Best OBD2 Scanner – Our Top Recommended Models for 2019

Now that you’ve considered all the factors which can affect your choice of scanner, here are our top picks.

Best Overall OBD2 Scanner – Autel Autolink OBD2 Scanner

The bright red bumper-protected AutoLink by Autel is our pick for best overall OBD2 scanner, likely to meet the needs of nearly every home mechanic.

Autel AutoLink AL319 OBD2 Scanner Automotive Engine Fault Code Reader CAN Scan Tool

First Impressions and What’s in the Box?

With indents for a good grip and a clear, bright color screen, the AutoLink’s intuitive user interface inspires confidence even for inexperienced users.

Specifications

  • Screen: color
  • Freeze-frame feature: yes
  • Connection: corded
  • Updateable: yes, via a Windows computer but not with Mac.
  • Emissions readiness test: Yes
  • Cars Included: All domestic and imported cars sold in the US since 1996.

This Model is for You if

If you need basic definitions along with your the trouble codes, this is the scanner for you.

Another Model is for You if

If you have no idea what to do with something like, “Output Speed Sensor Circuit Malfunction,” you may want to choose a scanner with more explanatory onboard coaching and repair help.

What We Like

  • The AutoLink is simple, sturdy, and cost-effective.
  • Good customer support.

What We Don’t Like

  • Some users report that Autel’s online update feature isn’t the easiest to use
  • It does need to be updated before it can be used with your car.

In Conclusion

If you’re short on time for research and simply need the best all-around scanner for the money, check out the current price on an Autel Autolink below.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Best High-End OBD2 Scanner for Pro Technicians – Autel Maxisys Pro Automotive Diagnostic Scanner

When nothing but the very best will do, the Autel Maxisys Pro is our pick. This is a full-featured professional scanner, with additional data storage, shop information management tools, and full Wi-Fi capabilities for accessing the web right from the device.

Autel Maxisys Pro MK908P(MS908P/MS908SP) OBD2 Diagnostic Scanner For ECU coding, Active Test, J2534 Reprogramming (Same as Maxisys Elite, Upgraded Version of Maxisys Pro) With Free Car Battery Tester

First Impressions and What’s in the Box?

The Maxisys comes in a hard plastic carrying case, along with multiple adapters and connectors for many make-specific plugs, sometimes necessary for accessing advanced systems on a car.

Specifications

  • Screen: color, touchscreen
  • Freeze-frame feature: yes
  • Connection: corded
  • Updateable: Yes, via Wi-Fi or ethernet.
  • Emissions readiness test: Yes
  • Cars Included: Over 80 US-sold domestic, Asian, and European cars, trucks, and some commercial vehicles.

This Model is for You if

If you need to work with other techs, store data for multiple cars or clients, need on-going and current updates for new cars, or want to be able to program your ECU yourself, the Maxisys is your scanner.

Another Model is for You if

If you’re a good amateur mechanic, but you’re likely to leave complicated repair jobs for the professionals, the Maxisys Pro by Autel is way more tech than you need.

What We Like

  • Includes access to MaxiFix, which allows users to network with a cloud-based database of procedures and repairs and to interact with fellow techs.
  • The device lets you know when updates are available, via push notifications.
  • Rechargeable, stout battery, with a reported 8-hour battery life.

What We Don’t Like

  • High cost
  • As a full-featured tool designed for professionals, the Maxisys Pro may not be the easiest for a home mechanic to use.

In Conclusion

A pro-level tool is an investment, but one which can pay for itself in a surprisingly short amount of time. Check out current prices on the Maxisys Pro below.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Best Bluetooth OBD2 Scanner – Bafx Products Bluetooth Diagnostic OBD2 Reader/Scanner

To really customize the way your car’s trouble codes and engine management data is displayed, choose a Bluetooth OBD2 scanner. Then shop for a third-party app, which will be much more customizable than the static interfaces of a corded OBDii scanner.

Bafx Products - Wireless Bluetooth OBD2 / OBDII Diagnostic Car Scanner & Reader Tool for Android Devices - Read/Clear Your Check Engine Light & Much More

First Impressions and What’s in the Box?

Small and compact, and with a sedate black exterior, the BAFX Bluetooth scanner will blend with your car’s interior while providing you with critical information about your car’s operation, such as coolant temp, oil temp, fuel pressure, and more.

Specifications

  • Screen: No screen; reports data to smartphone app
  • Freeze-frame feature: app-dependent
  • Connection: Bluetooth
  • Updateable: No. Car-specific info is contained in a 3rd party app.
  • Emissions readiness test: Yes, if the app chosen provides for it.
  • Cars Included: All US-sold domestic, Asian, and European cars.
  • Special Note: There are two different versions of the device, one for Android phones and a WiFi-only version for Apple and iOS devices.

This Model is for You if

If you’d like to replace gauges in your car, add additional information while driving (such as coolant temperature), or need on-the-fly engine management data, mounting a phone on the dash and linking it to the BAFX Bluetooth scanner will work beautifully.

Another Model is for You if

If you’re mostly looking to clear codes or do a quick check for any pending codes before you take your car in for emissions testing, choose a simpler scanner set up.

Remember that you’ll need to install a third party app to use this Bluetooth scanner, and you’ll need a smartphone or tablet for that. If you don’t want to tie up phone resources while you’re driving you’ll need a dedicated tablet or phone just to use with your Bluetooth scanner.

What We Like

  • Guaranteed compatibility with all US-sold cars and light trucks.
  • Two-year manufacturer’s warranty.
  • Users report excellent customer support.

What We Don’t Like

  • The BAFX is a little large as far as Bluetooth dongles go. Depending on where the OBD2 port is located on your particular car, it may interfere with clutch pedal use or be at risk of getting hit with a knee while entering and exiting the car. Double check your OBD2 port location before purchase.

In Conclusion

For best portability and flexibility of display, you can’t beat a Bluetooth OBD2 scanner. Add the BAFX Bluetooth scanner to your cart at the link below.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Other Notable Models of OBD2 Scanners

Beyond our top three products, above, here are some other notable choices.

Two are additional Bluetooth scanner options, one is an entry-level professional scanner, and the final one is an advanced DIY-level scanner.

Panlong Bluetooth OBD2 Car Diagnostic Scanner

With a wide range of vehicles covered and a low cost, the Panlong Bluetooth scanner is a good choice for someone who wants to try out a Bluetooth scanner but not spend a lot.

Panlong Bluetooth OBD2 OBDII Car Diagnostic Scanner Check Engine Light for Android - Compatible with Torque Pro

First Impressions and What’s in the Box?

The compact design and bright blue plastic housing of the Panlong Bluetooth scanner dongle means it will fit in a pocket or toolkit easily.

Specifications

  • Screen: No screen; reports data to smartphone app
  • Freeze-frame feature: app-dependent
  • Connection: Bluetooth
  • Updateable: No. Car-specific info is contained in a 3rd party app.
  • Emissions readiness test: Yes, if app chosen provides for it.
  • Cars Included: Most US-sold domestic, Asian, and European cars. Hybrid vehicles and diesels are excluded.
  • Special Note: There are two different versions of the device, one for Android phones and a WiFi-only version for Apple and iOS devices.

This Model is for You if

If you’d like to be able to transport a dongle from car to car, the Panlong might be a great fit, as its small size but bright color makes it both transportable and hard to lose.

Another Model is for You if

Another model of Bluetooth scanner might be a better fit for you if you’re looking for real-time data, with the dongle continuously installed, as users report occasional glitches with pairing the Panlong to a smartphone upon starting their cars.

What We Like

  • Very compact; may fit in difficult OBD2 port locations.
  • One year warranty and good customer care; users report occasional faulty devices were replaced
  • Budget-friendly.

What We Don’t Like

  • Some users report needing to do a unplug it/plug it back in sequence to get the device to re-pair with their phones when starting their car.
  • Does not power down when left installed full time.
  • Only works with Android operating systems; a WiFi version is available for iOS at a slightly higher cost.
  • Will not work for hybrid vehicles and diesel trucks.

In Conclusion

When budget is a concern, but you don’t want to sacrifice features, the Panlong Bluetooth scanner is the right choice. Get yours below.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Autel Maxidas Ds808

With access to pro-only features such as steering angle calibration, ABS and SRS functions, and tire pressure monitoring system programming, the Maxidas offers good value to the serious amateur mechanic and tuner.

Autel Maxidas DS808 Automotive Diagnostic Tool OBD2 Scanner Key Bi-Directional Control Injector Coding (Same Function as MS906 and MP808)

First Impressions and What’s in the Box?

A full-color touch screen and shop-friendly rubber bumper protection promise years of reliable service in the garage. The Maxidas scanner comes with a USB cable for updates and a sturdy plastic storage tote.

Specifications

  • Screen: color, touchscreen
  • Freeze-frame feature: yes
  • Connection: corded
  • Updateable: Yes, via Wi-Fi or ethernet.
  • Emissions readiness test: Yes
  • Cars Included: Over 80 US-sold domestic, Asian, and European cars, trucks, and some commercial vehicles.

This Model is for You if

If you need the full access to all systems beyond OBD2 diagnostics, including SAS, SRS, and ABS systems, but aren’t in a professional environment where you’ll need the absolutely newest device, the Maxidas scanner is right for you.

Another Model is for You if

If you simply need to know what a code is, would just like to be able to clear codes on a regular basis, or anticipate getting professional help for repairs, the Maxidas scanner is probably more than you need.

What We Like

  • Includes access to MaxiFix, which allows users to network with a cloud-based database of procedures and repairs and to interact with fellow techs.
  • Automatic updates, with one year of updates included with purchase.
  • Rechargeable, stout battery.

What We Don’t Like

  • As a full-featured tool designed for professionals, the Maxidas may not be the easiest for a home mechanic to use. You’ll need to be a fairly knowledgeable mechanic to make full use of all the features on offer in the Maxidas scanner.

In Conclusion

You’re gaining skills with every car repair you take on and it’s time to step up to a pro-level scanner. Check current prices on the Maxidas scanner below.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Bluedriver Bluetooth Professional OBD2 Scan Tool for iPhone, Ipad, And Android.

High quality and a full range of features meet in this pro-level Bluetooth dongle. Marry it to the free BlueDriver app built by the same company for the most comprehensive set of functions available through a Bluetooth scanner.

BlueDriver LSB2 Bluetooth Pro OBDII Scan Tool for iPhone & Android

First Impressions and What’s in the Box?

BlueDriver’s small black dongle fits nearly every car and toolbox easily.

Specifications

  • Screen: No screen; reports data to smartphone app
  • Freeze-frame feature: app-dependent
  • Connection: Bluetooth
  • Updateable: The accompanying BlueDriver app (installed separately) ensures your scanner info is always up to date.
  • Emissions readiness test:
  • Cars Included: Most US-sold domestic, Asian, and European cars. Hybrid vehicles and diesels are excluded.
  • Special Note: Unlike many Bluetooth dongles, this one works with both Android and iOS/Apple phones.

This Model is for You if

BlueDriver has excellent customer support, and their app is reported to be better than competitors for troubleshooting. And it’s free, too! This makes it a good fit for someone who needs the extra help figuring out what to try replacing and wants that information immediately to hand, without endless searching online.

Another Model is for You if

Although the BlueDriver dongle and matching app offer many of the features of a pro-level tool, BlueDriver is not bi-directional like a true pro-level tool is. You can diagnose problems and clear error codes, but you won’t be able to reprogram an ECU. For that, choose the Maxisys Pro, above.

What We Like

  • Great customer support
  • The BlueDriver app will match your vehicle’s information and trouble code to a database of 30 million known fixes.
  • Offers enhanced diagnostics for many car manufacturers.

What We Don’t Like

  • It seems like a small thing, but the blue light on the BlueDriver dongle is quite bright and may interfere with night driving, depending on where your OBD2 port is located.
  • At the time of this writing, a few makes are not fully supported. Check BlueDriver’s website before purchase to be sure you’re covered.

In Conclusion

Pro-level features in a consumer-product priced device? Can’t ask for more! Check out the BlueDriver Bluetooth OBD2 scanner below.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Innova 3100i Diagnostic Code Reader / Scan Tool With ABS for OBD2 Vehicles

With the ability to read and reset ABS & SRS, the Innova 3100 gives you a few of the most desired features from a pro-level scanner, at a fraction of the price of a professional scan tool.

Innova 3100i Diagnostic Code Reader / Scan Tool with ABS for OBD2 Vehicles

First Impressions and What’s in the Box?

The Innova 3100i has a six-foot cord and a generous full-color screen. In addition to code explanations, this scanner can perform battery and alternator tests.

Specifications

  • Screen: full color
  • Freeze-frame feature: yes
  • Connection: corded
  • Updateable: Yes, available on Innova’s website.
  • Emissions readiness test: Yes
  • Cars Included: All cars, light trucks, and hybrids since 1996

This Model is for You if

If you own one of the most commonly sold cars in the US, i.e. GM, Ford, Chrysler, Honda, and Toyota, the Innova brings with it the ability to reset ABS and SRS codes.

Another Model is for You if

If you really must have real-time data reporting, the Innova 3100i will be a disappointment. And if you’re shopping for a scanner in order to reset ABS or SRS warning lights, check on Innova’s website to be sure your car is supported, as this feature is available for many, but not all, cars.

What We Like

  • The Innova 3100i can erase ABS & SRS light trouble codes on many GM, Ford, Chrysler, Honda, and Toyota vehicles.
  • Innova has an online-based software program, RepairSoultions (access purchased separately) to help you troubleshoot your codes and estimate your repair costs.

What We Don’t Like

  • The Innova unfortunately doesn’t allow live, real-time data. For that, chose one of the Bluetooth OBD2 scanner’s we’ve reviewed.
  • Two AA batteries are required (included); that’s a pain.

In Conclusion

The Innova 3100i has everything you need as an accomplished DIY mechanic. Get yours at our link.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

How to Use an OBD2 Scanner

  1. Locate your car’s OBD2 port. It will be somewhere within reach of the driver’s seat. Often it’s located in the lower dash, to the side of your steering wheel, but some cars have the port located in the center console or in a storage compartment.
  2. Gently but Firmly Plug the Connector Into the Port.
  3. Turn the car’s key to the accessories position (”on”) to power the scanner.
  4. If necessary, enter a VIN or model information. Many scanners will determine this on their own, but not all will.
  5. To check engine codes on your device, press the “scan” button on the code reader, or open your scanner app, and follow the directions on the screen.
  6. Follow any prompts on the screen to retrieve or read the codes. Jot down the codes if your device doesn’t save them for you.
  7. Now use the scan tool to clear any reported codes, and reset the check-engine light.

Understanding the Codes

Most commonly, the codes you’ll see are P0xxx codes. These are universal or generic codes common to all makes.

If your device doesn’t explain the code, you’ll want to grab your repair manual or head over to Google and look up the code. It can be smart to search on the model year, make, and model plus the particular code instead of the code itself. It’s likely other owners of your car have encountered the same issue!

Once you know what the code means, you’ll want to do some research on a fix. Keep in mind that just knowing what the code means doesn’t always suggest an immediate fix, as codes can have multiple causes. Some scanners do suggest fixes, but simple code readers will not.

When attempting a repair, for your sanity, start with the simplest and cheapest possible fix and then escalate to more complex possibilities!

Resources to Find the Codes and How to Interpret Them

There are several good sources for the home mechanic attempting to decipher OBD2 codes:

  • Many different sites offer code lookup, including, often, the manufacturer website of the code reader you’re using, but two that we’ve found that we like are https://www.obd-codes.com/trouble_codes/ and https://repairpal.com/obd-ii-code-chart
  • Another good resource is any make-specific online forums or Facebook groups which may exist for your car. You can often find these with a Google search such as, “Dodge Challenger owner forums.”
  • And finally, do check any repair manual or factory service manual you may have on hand for your car. Published in paper or online, repair manuals are meant to assist DIY mechanics in repairing their own cars. They are less comprehensive than factory service manuals, which are published by car makers for professionals, but often have suggested fixes for common trouble codes.

Summing up

We hope we’ve provided you with a thorough guide to the best OBD2 scanners available, what to look for, what to avoid, and the specs and features that will be most important to you. And if you’d like the lowdown on how to use your new device, check out our guide on how to use OBD2 scanners.

Now that you know more than you ever wanted to about these handy little OBD2 diagnostic tools, you’ll be well-prepared to keep your car on the road for many years. and keep it both safe and non-polluting too!

If you have any questions or feedback on the above, please do drop them it in the comments section below, we’ll be sure to get back to you right away!

 

Product image credits: © Amazon.com

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Jennifer Jordan

In the mix of a male dominated industry, Jennifer is our go-to gal for all your car related questions. Besides all the valuable work and insights she contributes to VehicleScene.com, Jennifer runs a website - and an active Facebook community - called 'Ask Jenny About Cars' where she helps many people with their car-buying and car ownership decisions – providing advice, reassurance and research help to friends, family, and clients on all topics concerning cars. She has a wealth of knowledge and you can rely on her to explain everything in simple language that even a novice can understand.

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