Our modern vehicles are equipped with intricate computer systems, feed by an array of onboard sensors. Without any output to the drivers, a vast number of vital functions are being measured, analyzed, recorded and sometimes flagged.
A growing number of vehicle owners are discovering affordable ways to access the diagnostic power that already lies within their vehicles. By using a device that reads OBDII data enables operators to analyze and diagnose problems themselves, often down to component level.
Initially, OBDII scanners were only an option for vehicle manufacturers and large garages due to high equipment costs. Those who wished to use their facility and tools would be forced to pay prices in excess of $100!
Since a new market for cost-effective and convenient OBD2 scanners has emerged, mechanics, car enthusiasts, and even families are readily adopting them. In fact, they are invaluable to any individual looking to save time and money on vehicle repairs and maintenance.
What is Onboard Diagnostics (OBD)?
Almost 40 years ago, automotive manufacturers identified the potential of the rising electronics systems for their vehicles. They began developing internal systems to track and signal specific events to diagnose mechanical issues.
At first, their attempts were crude, such as a single bulb indicating a number of problems. Yet it was not long before electronic technology progressed, and with it, so did onboard diagnostics.
By 1996, OBD standards were significantly revised and updated to OBD II. This standardization has since been upheld by industry and US law, with Asian and EU countries soon following suit.
Now, if your vehicle was manufactured since 1996, you can unlock a greatly enhanced diagnostic ability by using an OBD2 scanner.
Modern OBDII Scanning Devices
Modern vehicles are constantly recording essential running data in a “black box” or OBD2 unit. The amount of parameter measured depends on the sophistication of your vehicle’s systems, however, here are the most common examples:
– Fuel/fluid levels
– Engine related temperatures
– Exhaust gas emissions
– Engine fuel/air mixture
– Component fault indications
With an OBDII scanner in your hand, you will gain a valuable insight into your vehicle’s overall health. By connecting and downloading these logs along with Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs), you can self-diagnose problems before they cause a complete failure.
Types of OBD2 Scanner
As industry standard and law upholds OBDII regulations, almost all compliant scanners work with a wide variety of vehicles/models. However, choosing the best OBD2 scanner will depend largely upon your requirements.
Some OBDII scanners only provide basic information, such as DTC codes, without any further diagnosis. In this case, you will have to research the code to fully diagnose problems. The more advanced models will evaluate these codes automatically, providing you with a comprehensive diagnosis on the spot.
Many OBD2 scanners allow users to upload all data to a computer. With additional software, a much deeper analysis can then be performed.
Another advantageous function to look out for is real-time data monitoring. This allows users to closely monitor current running data, accurately monitoring the results of tuning in real time!
Some scanners use a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth obd2 adapter to wirelessly transmit and display on existing mobile devices.
Benefits of Buying an OBD2 Scanner
Even with our incredible systems of onboard sensors and error processing, the output is often restricted to few specific fault lights. By plugging an OBDII scanner into your system you stand to gain a unique perspective on vehicle health.
For instance, if you notice a “check engine” warning light, connecting an OBD2 scanner could identify a specific DTC, allowing you to accurately diagnose the root cause. If you are using an obd2 Bluetooth adapter, you could view all this information right on your smartphone!
Ultimately, time is money, whether you’re own or someone else’s. Accurate self-diagnosis can save both, especially if it indicates a simple fix! For example, a blocked filter could be easily repaired at home, avoiding costly hours in the garage or time without your vehicle.
Considering the $100+ fee for using an OBD2 tool at a service station, it usually makes financial sense to invest in your own. You can save hundreds (even thousands) of dollars in future repairs or maintenance costs.
The ability to quickly check up on your vehicle’s health using a Bluetooth obd2 will allow you to catch and fix problems before they worsen. It could literally be a vehicle-saver!
In the hands of a mechanic, an OBDII scanner soon becomes their most vital diagnostic tool. By using it before working on a vehicle, they will gain a significant head start for fault finding. Diagnosing, fixing and checking problems with greater ease will save countless labor hours!
One final benefit could be to check overall vehicle health before making a used car purchase. If the seller is confident enough, they may be willing to let you plug into the OBD2 system, exposing any potential hidden problems!
Which is the Best OBD2 Scanner?
The best OBD2 scanner is not universal since the needs of one vehicle owner’s will vary. For example, you may favor OBDII Bluetooth without advanced features whereas mechanics could benefit from more in-depth analysis.
To help you find the best OBD2 scanner, consider these four main as you search:
– Power Source. The majority of ODB2 scanners draw their power from the vehicle’s system. However, battery assisted OBD II scanners can also be used away from the vehicle.
– Diagnostic Functions. All OBDII scanners will download a basic set of data such as DTC. More advanced units display further data and live-report so vehicle adjustments to be made and observed in real time.
– Information Detail. If all you receive is DTC, you still need to look up the meanings independently. If you wish to save time, consider advanced scanners that provide an on-board diagnosis.
– Connectivity. Some OBD II scanners can connect to computers providing an improved visual representation of data. This could be beneficial for complicated diagnosis and identification of problems. Also, consider if having a Bluetooth obd2 adapter for use with your mobile device would be useful.
Our Top Picks: Best OBD2 Scanners For the Money
Veepeak Mini WiFi OBD2 Scanner Scan Tool Adapter
We were literally blown away by this humble Wifi/Bluetooth OBD2 scanner. Whilst the Veepeak Mini is simple in appearance and highly affordable, it’s packed with a bunch of useful features.
The main attraction is the wireless compatibility with both Android and iOS devices. The Wi-Fi or Bluetooth obd2 adapter quickly transforms your mobile device into an incredible vehicle diagnosis tool.
– Easy to get set up and running
– Highly affordable at under $20
– Compatible with a number of popular Bluetooth OBD2 applications
– Ability to transmit and display real-time data
You must consider the additional cost for an application (between $0-$60)
The Veepeak Mini is the best OBD2 scanner for mobile device users on a tight budget. It’s an ideal choice for curious vehicle owners, car enthusiasts and possibly even mechanics.
Your choice of application will directly influence your functionality, check out our best OBD2 application reviews for advice.
Autel AL519 AutoLink Enhanced OBD ll Scan Tool
Autel offers a more ruggedized handheld OBDII scanner as a preferred choice for mechanics. It’s well suited to tougher working environments with simplified controls a robust display. Also, advanced onboard diagnostics saves users from having to research codes elsewhere.
The Autel AL519 is capable of reading and displaying a vast number of live parameters including throttle, speeds, boost, O2 readings, EGT, EOT, balance rates, DPF temps and more!
– Powerful diagnostics available onboard
– Sturdy construction is suited for harder use
– Simple navigation and operation
– No OBD2 Bluetooth adapter functionality
– Price point is at the top of entry level scan tools
The Autel AL519 is the best OBD2 scanner for those in need a tougher device that offers professional features. At under $80 it offers suburb value for money, even rivaling other OBD2 scanners over $100.
If you are still hungry for a more powerful device, check out our best ODB2 scanner for mechanics.
Best OBD2 Scanner Conclusion
Both vehicle owners and mechanics stand to gain a great advantage by using an OBD2 scanner. The ability to automatically identify vehicle problems will save hours of manual fault finding. After all, the answer could simply be lying there in wait!
To give you a head start in finding the best OBDII scanner, we have identified, tested and reviewed our favorites.
For connectivity and outstanding we recommend the Veepeak Mini
For a demanding work environment, we preferred the Autel AL519
Whether you’re curious about your vehicle’s health or need to investigate a mysterious warning light, an OBDII scanner is an effective and affordable solution.
So you happen to be driving a vehicle down the highway and then out of the blue a light flashes up on the dashboard warning you to check your engine. For anybody who is like the majority of vehicle owners, you might have no idea with regards to exactly what that light is attempting to inform you and also the best way you must respond.
When the “check engine” light flashes, it does not mean you must slow down and pull your vehicle onto the side of the highway then phone a tow truck. It really does mean you need to get the vehicle looked at as quickly as possible.Think of it as probably the most misunderstood warning on the dashboard, a “check engine” warning can indicate a variety of problems, from something basic as an unfastened fuel cap to something serious as a misfiring engine.
But pay no attention to the flashing light on the dashboard for too long may mean you’ll end up damaging costly parts. Additionally, it is usually a indicator that the vehicle might be getting terrible fuel economy as well as giving off greater amounts of pollution as well as other performance related issues.
To avoid the headache and the costs involved in taking your vehicle to a garage to get a diagnoses, or a simple repair that you could do yourself, you can identify the problem(s) with a OBD2 hand-held scanner & then have the issues resolved. You just hook it up (see my experience on locating a point), and get the code(s). You then look up the diagnostic code (also see how to look up codes), in order to identify the exact problem by yourself.
You can purchase a good diagnostic scan tool at many auto parts stores, or order them online and have it delivered right to your home or workplace. Costs range between $25 – $700, dependant upon the unit as well as the capabilities. The equipment include directions regarding how to connect them up as well as understanding the codes.
A great tip that someone once mentioned is that someone thinking of purchasing a used vehicle, the OBDII scanner can identify possible issues that the seller has failed to mention, thus saving yourself trouble later.
I will be reviewing three OBD2 scanner model. One is a very cheap entry level unit ideal for the casual DIY’er, or may only use it a few times, another is one up from the basic that includes extra features, and the final model is a professional scanner for the budding/professional mechanic. I’m going to highlight both the pros and cons of all the units used – no bars hold!