The 7 Best Automotive Diagnostic Scanners

best automotive diagnostic scannerFinding the best automotive diagnostic scanner can be tricky if you don’t know what you’re looking for.  They can be expensive, and some are complicated to use.

We’ve reviewed the top seven performers, and we’ve summarized all of their key features below to help you decide which one is right for you.


How To Choose The Best Automotive Diagnostic Scanner

All of the car diagnostic tools below are highly regarded – they’ve each received hundreds of positive reviews from independent users, in some cases thousands – so we are confident that they deserve their place this list.

We reviewed many more scanners than we’ve listed, settling on these as a reflection of the best that the market has to offer based upon ease of use, price, popularity and performance.

That being the case you won’t need to look any further to find the best diagnostic scanner for you.


BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDII Scan Tool for iPhone, iPad and Android

***Our Number 1 Pick***

best obd2 scannerThis OBD2 diagnostic tool from BlueDriver has been thoughtfully designed for easy use by laymen and professional mechanics alike.

It was created by North American Professional Engineers and officially certified and licensed for use with both Android and Apple devices via Bluetooth technology.

Description

To use it, simply download the free BlueDriver app from either the Play Store (Android devices) or the App Store (Apple devices), connect it to your OBD2 port, wait for the blue light to illuminate, and then connect via the application on your smart device.

The BlueDriver App and the BlueDriver Sensor are designed to work seamlessly with one another to ensure the highest quality readings.

The BlueDriver diagnostic scanner is outfitted with advanced capabilities, including the Identific database that is used by professional mechanics.

Highlights

Once you’re connected, this diagnostic tool will match the make, model, year, and trouble code of your particular vehicle to the correct issue and fix from a database that contains more than 30 million different fixes. It will issue a Repair Report featuring fixes that are verified by Certified Professional Mechanics.

With this tool, you don’t have to worry about guessing which fix your vehicle needs, and wasting your valuable time and money.

Summary

This is definitely the best bluetooth OBD2 scanner on the market right now, and arguably the best all round car code scanner too.

At the time of review it averaged an impressive 4.4 stars out of 5 from 3,166 independent reviews and was on offer with FREE SHIPPING.

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Foxwell NT301 Professional Enhanced Diagnostic OBD2 Scanner Code Reader

***Best Manual Option***

Foxwell NT301For vehicle owners looking for an easy to use, easy to read, and reliable scanner code reader, the Foxwell NT301 Professional Enhanced OBDII Diagnostic Scanner is a great option.

Description

This tool is outfitted with a 2.8 inch wide color screen that clearly reads and erases error codes from a large database. It also has the ability to retrieve a substantial amount of information from the Engine Control Unit of your vehicle (the part that makes the check engine light illuminate when there is an issue).

The NT301 is both an OBDII and EOBD scanner that covers the most commonly used protocols. In other words, it works with practically any OBD2-equipped vehicle.

With this Foxwell diagnostic tool, you will be able to clear codes, turn off the check engine light, and reset the monitors on your vehicle.

Highlights

It supports several different code requests, including codes that are specific to manufacturers, generic codes, and pending codes. It also reads live O2 censor test information, and it reads, records, graphs, and plays back data from live sensors. These are just a few of the features that this diagnostic tool offers.

This car scanner from Foxwell is designed so that the average vehicle owner can locate issues with their vehicles and potentially correct them.

Summary

With this tool, you can either eliminate the need to visit a mechanic, or ensure that you know exactly what needs to be fixed before going to one.

If you don’t want to use bluetooth technology this is the best obd2 scanner for you – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

When we reviewed it the Foxwell averaged 4.3 stars out of 5 from 734 independent reviews and was REDUCED in price by $30.

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SEEKONE SK860 Professional Car Scanner Auto Diagnostic Fault Code Reader

***One To Watch***

Seekone SK860Not only can the SK860 OBD2 Scanner read and erase engine fault codes on a wide variety of cars (see the info graphic above!), but it also has the ability to retrieve tons of information from the Engine Control Unit (EUC) of your vehicle.

Description

The sleek design is easy to use and the large color screen is easy to read. It displays DTC definitions and features a built-in DTC library that contains dozens of fixes so that you can easily determine the reason why your check engine light is illuminated. With this tool, you can also turn off the check engine light and reset the monitors.

This diagnostic scanner from SEEKONE features a one-click I/M readiness status, which means that you can use it as soon as you take it out of the package; there’s no need to calibrate or go through extensive programming.

Highlights

The bright red, yellow, and green LED indicator lights and build-in speakers highlight the emission status of your vehicle so that you can determine if it meets State Emissions Monitor Statuses so you can pass Smog Checks.

Thanks to the 5-foot long diagnostic cable, you can easily perform diagnostic testing on your vehicle. And, since the OBDII scanner in your vehicle charges the devices, there’s no need for batteries.

Backed by a warranty and offering free software updates for the life of the device, your diagnostic testing will always be accurate with the KW860 OBDII diagnostic scanner from SEEKONE.

Summary

The Seekone got the highest score on review, averaging a whopping 4.6 stars out of 5 from 186 reviews.  The only reason it didn’t come in first was because the two tools above have been around a lot longer.  This could, in time, be our number 1 pick.

Currently available with FREE SHIPPING and $20 OFF.

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BAFX Products BlueTooth Diagnostic OBDII Reader/Scanner for Android Devices

***Best Budget Option***

best bluetooth obd2 scannerFor those with Android devices (smartphones and tablets), the BACX Products BlueTooth Diagnostic OBDII Reader/Scanner is a great choice.

Description

With this tool, you don’t need any cables to perform diagnostics on your vehicle; instead, just download a third-party diagnostic app that is compatible with the scanner onto your Android device (Torque Pro, for example) and you’ll be ready to start performing diagnostic testing on your vehicle.

The BAFX OBDII Diagnostic Scanner works with all vehicles that were purchased in the United States from the current year all the way back to 1996.

Highlights

With this scanner, you will be able to:

  • Find out the OBDII codes for the check engine light on your vehicle;
  • Turn off the check engine light on your vehicle;
  • Receive numerous readings, including O2, speed, fuel trim, engine oil temperature, exhaust gas temperature, balance rates, throttle, and more; and
  • Find out critical information about your engine, such as RPM.

This OBDII reader from BAFX also offers real-time monitoring of your engine while it’s running so you can determine exactly what is going on with your vehicle.

You can also setup data logging and graphing so that you can the information later and determine how frequently an issue is occurring, and the severity of the issue.

Summary

This is without doubt the best obd2 scanner for the money.  At just $22.41 when we reviewed it, and averaging a strong 4.4 stars out of 5 from 10,498 reviews, the only reason that it didn’t come in higher on our list is because the scanners above are a little easier to use.

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KONNWEI KW850 Professional OBD2 Scanner Auto Code Reader Car Diagnostic Tool

***Great Value For Money***

Konnwei KW850The KW850 OBD2 Scanner from Konnwei was designed so that the average person could diagnose issues with their vehicle with ease.

It’s a professional OBD2 diagnostic scan tool that allows you to get the detailed engine fault codes (DTC) for your vehicle, as well as erase those codes.

Description

You can find out exactly what is going on with your vehicle and why the check engine light is going on, thanks to the library of more than 8,000 generic code definitions.

The Konnwei KW850 scanner is an enhanced code reader that supports full OBD2 diagnostic modes for faults that are related to check engine lights and emissions. It works on most vehicles sold in the United States from 1996 to date.

Highlights

This scanner boasts a variety of features, including:

  • Real Time Vehicle Battery Voltage Monitoring;
  • Pertinent vehicle information retrieval, including VIB, CID, and CVN;
  • A 2.8 include LCD color screen;
  • One-click I/M Readiness Monitoring that displays the status of your vehicle’s emissions system;
  • Memory backup for off-vehicle data reviews and analysis; and
  • Displays live data sensors for your vehicle in text format, as well as multiple graph format.

The Konnwei OBD2 KW850 scanner also offers free online updates so that you can correct the latest bugs, as well as add in new parameters, making it fully compatible vehicles that you might own in the future. It’s also backed by a 36 month warranty.

Summary

This car diagnostic scanner is very well priced, representing great value for money from a strong brand.  It averages 4.3 stars out of 5 from 118 reviews and comes with FREE SHIPPING.

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KOBRA Products OBD2 Scanner Professional Diagnostic Car Scanner Tool and Car Code Reader

***Cheapest Option***

diagnostic code reader for carsThe Kobra Code Reader is designed to be used on all OBD2 and EBOD compliant vehicles, including American, European, and Asian makes and models that were made in the current year, and all years dating back to 1996.

Description

This device also supports CAN, VPW, PWM, ISO, and KWP 2000 protocols. It features a Plug-and-Play displays that you can use to quickly and accurately diagnose the reason why your check engine light is on.   You can also reset your check engine light and turn it off with a single click.

Simply plug in the scanner and it will read the codes from your Engine Control Unit (EUC) via the OBD2 port. Use the handy and user-friendly booklet to interpret the codes.

Highlights

Thanks to the compact size of this OBD2 scanner it fits in the palm of your hand and can easily be stashed in your glove box so that you can troubleshoot problems anytime, anyplace.

The readings are reliable and easy to discern.

To use this OBD2 scanner from Kobra Products, simply plug the unit in, turn the key to the first notch in your ignition, let the scanner read your engine control unit (EUC), and then check the codes that is displays in the easy-to-read manual.

Summary

This is the cheapest diagnostic code reader for cars on our list but it’s definitely good enough for most jobs.  It isn’t the best diagnostic scanner in the world but it still scores quite well, averaging 3.8 stars out of 5 from 416 reviews.

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FOXWELL NT624 PRO Professional Automotive OBD2 Scanner

***Best Professional Automotive Diagnostic Scanner***

best professional automotive diagnostic scannerThe Foxwell NT624 Scanner is compatible with just about every OBD2 vehicle, including SUVs, sedans, minivans, and light-duty trucks that are sold in the US and internationally. It works with various American, European, and Asian vehicles that were made in 1996 or later.

Description

This device fully supports all OBD2 protocols, as well as all 10 test modes, including:

  • Fault codes
  • Clear codes
  • Live data
  • O2 monitor tests
  • On-board monitor test vehicle information
  • Enhanced OBD2 Mode 6

The scanner will quickly and correctly identify the vehicle that is being tested based on its VIN number. The single button auto scan reads the following codes:

  • Engine
  • Transmission
  • ABS
  • Electronic parking brake
  • EPS
  • Heating and air conditioning control
  • And much more

Highlights

It displays data from live vehicle sensors in both text and graphic format. The backlit color display is easy to read so that you can accurately determine what’s wrong with your vehicle.

It also offers fee updates for the lifetime of the device via the Internet, so that you will always have access to the latest bug fixes on new vehicles and newly added parameters.

Quickly and accurately find out what’s wrong with your vehicle so that you can have it corrected properly.

Summary

This is the most expensive option on our list.  It definitely ranks as  the best professional automotive diagnostic scanner.  If you’re looking for a top of the range car diagnostic tool this should be right up your street.  If however you’re looking for a reliable performer without breaking the bank the Foxwell NT301 (reviewed above) is probably a better choice.

At the time of review the NT624 averaged 3.8 stars out of 5 from 151 independent reviews and came with FREE SHIPPING.

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So, What’s The Best Automotive Diagnostic Scanner?

If you’re looking for a way to save money, ensure your vehicle is running smoothly, and that it meets all requirements, any of the OBD2 scanners listed above will do the trick.

Each of these scanners is thoughtfully designed and offers the same detailed information that professional mechanics receive when they scan your vehicle.

With any of the scanners on this list, you can keep your car running smoothly, save time, and save money.

SEach device is easy to use, easy to read, and offers detailed information with highly precise accuracy so that you can determine exactly what is going on with your vehicle.

That said, if you really pushed us we’d have to say that the BlueDriver is the best bluetooth obd2 scanner and the best all round option (which is a view shared by over 3,000 independent reviewers).  Our top pick for a non-bluetooth model is the Foxwell NT301, closely followed by the Seekone (which is definitely one to watch).

The best budget option, and a solid choice in any event, is the BAFX.  The best professional automotive diagnostic scanner is the Foxwell NT624, but that is quite expensive so consider whether any of the others would be more suitable before forking out for it!


OBD2 Scanner Guide – FAQ’s

A car code scanner, or obd2 scanner, is a fantastic tool that reads your car’s error codes so that you can fix them before they turn into bigger problems.  But this can be a complicated area – although it doesn’t need to be.  To help we’ve put together a short guide to answer many of the most frequently asked questions in this area.

Q – What Does “OBD” Stand For?

A – It stands for On Board Diagnostics.  The majority of vehicles built since around 1996 have been manufactured with a built-in standard computer system.  This system monitors your car’s performance and alerts the driver, via a series of electrical scanners linked to the dashboard, when a problem is found.  This computer system allows the driver to diagnose the problem “on board” by connecting an automotive diagnostic scanner.

Q – What Is An OBD2 Scanner?

A – We’ve put together a more comprehensive post on this here, however in short, an obd2 scanner, also known as an automotive diagnostic scanner or car diagnostic tool, is a piece of equipment that connects to the OBD port on your car or truck to diagnose a problem that has been brought to the driver’s attention via the dash.

These tools have large memory banks full of pre-populated “error codes”.  When the scanner is connected to the OBD port it runs a check of the vehicle’s computer system to identify any problems. When it finds a problem it cross refers it with all of the error codes stored in its memory bank.  When the right error code is found it informs the driver of what that the problem is (via a code) so that you know what to do in order to fix it, and in some cases, it will fix the problem re-set the dash lights for you.

Q – How To Use An OBD2 Scanner?

A – Check out this handy clip from Car & Driver:

Q – So What Is A Car Code Reader Then?

A – It’s a similar thing but a little more basic than a scanner.  An auto code reader, or obd2 code reader, is more limited in terms of its functionality than the more advanced scanners.  As a result they’re less expensive.

A car code reader, as oppose to a car code scanner, simply reads and clears the codes that it finds when plugged into your car’s OBD port.  At the most basic level it may simply run through a long list of generic codes to provide the bare bones information required to clear the error.  For some that might be OK but many people, in our opinion, would be better off buying an obd2 scanner with live data (see our top picks above) which are far more user friendly.

An OBD2 Scanner that provides live data during the diagnostic phase will also provide suggestions and instructions to help the user solve the problem in hand.

Q – What Is A Check Engine Light?

A – Your check engine light is essentially a notification on the dash that is received from your vehicle’s on board computer system telling you that something isn’t quite right.  The most common reason for the check engine light to come on is that irregular data has been received by the computer from your transmission, engine or exhaust.

When this happens it is a good idea to use a diagnostic scanner or an auto code reader to find out from the computer system what the problem is so that you can either fix it yourself, or have a professional take care of it before it turns into something more serious.

Q – Do I Need A Professional Automotive Diagnostic Scanner?

A – In short you are far better off with one than without.  Most people don’t need the best obd2 scanner in the world.  But if you want the ability to check your vehicle’s computer to ascertain what is wrong with it when the check engine light (or any other warning) comes on before the problem escalates, having a decent one is a no-brainer.  Save for the last entry on our list, all of the car diagnostic tools reviewed are available at an affordable price, the cost of which could be eclipsed if you allow an error to go unchecked.

Whether you choose a basic engine code reader, or a state of the art car diagnostic scanner will depend upon the regularity with which you are likely to use it.  If you have or service a large pool of vehicles then a high grade car diagnostic tool might be right for you.  If not a simple obd2 code reader could be just the ticket.  You can read an interesting debate on this topic here.

In any event you’ll find the best automotive diagnostic scanner or obd2 code reader for you in the list above.

Q – What Error Codes Am I Likely To Find?

A – According to Medium the five most common car error codes are as follows:

  • Po171 – P0175 – these relate to problems found by the oxygen sensors in a car’s exhaust
  • P0300 – P0305 – these relate to problems with your engine cylinders, leading to misfires
  • P0411 and similar – these relate to problems with your fuel evaporation system
  • P0401 – this relates to problems with an exhaust gas re-circulation system (EGR System)
  • P0420 & P0430 – these relate to problems with a vehicle’s catalytic converter

You can read the full article here.

Q – OBD2 Scanner Not Connecting To ECU – What Should I Do?

A – If your scanner is not communicating properly when connected to your vehicle’s ECU (Engine Control Unit) first remove it.  Then check to see if the check engine light comes on when you turn your key in the ignition, but do not start the car.  If it does, reconnect the scanner to the OBD port, then repeat the process.  This should work in most cases.  If the light did not come on then there may be an issue with your car’s ECU.  Check the assembly line diagnostic link and all relevant fuses for corrosion if you can and fix where possible.  If none is present it is unlikely that there is a problem with your automotive scan tool and you should seek professional assistance.

Q – What Is The Best OBD2 Scanner For A Diesel Car And Will It Work?

A – Generally, yes.  A scanner or OBD2 code reader will work on most diesel cars and trucks, especially newer models.  The problems that some diesel owners have faced when trying to use a car diagnostic scanner have centered around European brand cars built prior to 2004.  The reason for this is that diesel cars from European manufacturers were not made OBD2 compliant until that time.

So, if you have a European diesel car that pre-dates 2004 you may have problems.  Otherwise you should be fine.

Q – What Is An OBD2 Scanner Test?

A – This is a form of emissions test that replaced the standard tailpipe emissions test using a dynamometer used in many states quite some time ago.  When you consider that most of the reasons why you would fail a tailpipe emissions test (such as damaged injectors, a faulty oxygen sensor or problems with a catalytic converter) would be picked up by a car diagnostic tool, you start to realize the value of actually having one.  You could save yourself a fortune in testing and repair costs by investing in a good engine diagnostic tool.

Q – Where Is The OBD Port On My Car?

A – The port, or diagnostic connection socket, is usually found above the break, behind the dashboard.  It can be black or white in color and has sixteen pins.  Specific locations vary between makes and models, so consult your owners manual if you are really stuck.

Q – What Is The Difference Between OBD1 and OBD2?

A – OBD1 was a scheme first piloted on the West Coast to try to reduce vehicle emissions.  From 1991 all cars had to include a system that could report problems with the engine in the for of error codes.  The problem was that there was no single industry standard to adhere to resulting in each car manufacturer developing a different system.  There were no universal codes which meant that a Chevy and a Dodge could have the same problem but produce different error codes when tested.

OBD2 was introduced in 1996 setting a framework for all to adhere to.  It was a vast improvement on standardization and capacity from OBD1 with the standardization of diagnostic connection, messaging and vehicle parameters.  The result is that you can now use an obd2 scanner with live data to connect to, diagnose and fix the error code on almost any modern vehicle.

Q – Can You Get An OBD2 Scanner With ABS And SRS Readings?

A – Yes.  All of the leading scanners now come with the ability to test ABS and SRS.  All of the models listed in our review above can do this.

Q – What Is The Best OBD2 Scanner For The Money?

A – See the conclusion section of our obd2 scanner reviews above.   The best obd2 scanner for the money is probably the Foxwell NT301.  The BlueDriver is the best bluetooth obd2 scanner.  It’s probably all-round the best automotive diagnostic scanner period.  Although if you don’t want to use your phone you’ll want to go with the Foxwell.


Best Automotive Diagnostic Scanner – Final Thoughts

Well, hopefully the guide above together with all of the reviews has given you enough information to choose the best obd2 scanner for you.

Have you used any of the products on our list?  If so, what did you think of them?  Which car diagnostic tool would you recommend?  We’d love to hear from you, so please let us know below.

Why not check out our new post on how to read engine error codes here, or take a look at our detailed article about what you need to look for in the best professional car diagnostic tool here.

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