The OBD is short for On-Board Diagnosis, a diagnostic protocol that keeps track of vehicle operation. When the car is running, its control modules monitor how each system performs. They do this using a range of sensors, and when their values are out of predetermined range, the vehicle warns a driver with a corresponding warning light. In addition, a trouble code is stored within the control module. All cars from 1996 onwards have the OBD2 system integrated into their structure. However, accessing these trouble codes is only possible with a scan tool, which hooks up to the OBD2 port.
Over the years, we have been using almost every OBD2 scanner brand that exists to diagnose vehicle problems. Everything from the cheap ELM327 adapter, FIXD sensor, Autel, SnapOn, TopDon, and even dealer-level scanners such as MB Star. We quickly realized that choosing the best OBD2 scan tool can be confusing even for auto mechanics and vehicle owners looking for a good DIY scanner.
After testing too many OBD2 scanners, we were frustrated with at least one of these issues:
- Limited Control Unit Coverage – The scanner can only diagnose engine, airbag, transmission, or ABS but not other systems.
- Only One Vehicle Brand – Supports all system diagnostics for one make and model. If you need to diagnose other vehicle brands, you must pay more.
- No Bidirectional Support – The scanner does not allow you to test components or sensors. For example, if the vehicle is equipped with air suspension, you can not activate the compressor with the scanner to perform testing.
- Yearly Update Fees – The scanner requires a yearly subscription, or you must pay to update.
- Speed – The scanner is too slow to scan vehicles and read and clear codes.
- No Support – No tutorials on how to use the scanner. Lack of slow response from the support team.
- Price – Because many users are unfamiliar with scanners and what they can do, we found that scanners with limited functionality were often overpriced.
Vehicles today need a lot of attention and good OBD2 scanners that can diagnose various control units. The check engine light codes are stored in the Engine Control Unit (ECU), which is only one of over twenty control you are found on your vehicle. This is why an excellent diagnostic tool needs to do more than just read and clear codes that trigger the warning light. Therefore, we decided to focus this article on diagnostic scan tools that can diagnose all the systems in your vehicle and others that offer the best value for the money.
Best OBD-II scanner – our picks
1. YOUCANIC Full System Scanner
The YOUCANIC scanner allows car owners and automotive technicians to read diagnostic trouble codes for any control unit found on the vehicle. In addition, it will enable the vehicle owner to take vehicle maintenance and troubleshooting into their own hands. Not only can you read and clear codes from any control unit on any vehicle make, but you can also view live data. This scanner provides bidirectional support that other scanners provide on diagnostic scanner models when you spend over $1000. Bidirectional support allows you to use activate solenoids or pumps to diagnose a problem, just like a dealer tech can.
The YOUCANIC scanner plugs in directly to the diagnostic OBD2 port under the driver’s dashboard. The scanner is hard-wired instead of using a Bluetooth dongle. A rugged handheld scanner that fits the needs of professional mechanics while still being affordable enough for DIYers.
2. Autel MaxiCOM MK808
Next, we come to Autel, which is one of the most famous names in the business. Their devices are praised for their performance and versatility. The latest model in the MaxiCom range, codenamed MK808TS, doesn’t fall short. It offers almost any feature a professional or DIY mechanic may need. This includes access to all control modules, live-data monitoring, and bidirectional testing. Additionally, there are also things like service reset and sensor programming.
With a 7-inch touchscreen display, this scanner is smaller than other similar devices from Autel’s range. But this doesn’t have to be a drawback, as it makes it less bulky to use. The pop-up stand at the back adds to the practicality, allowing the device to be mounted on the dashboard. The manufacturer is particularly proud of the scanner’s TPMS feature, which is the same as in their popular TS601 TMPS tool.
There are some drawbacks, such as the image quality, which may be a bit low for some. In addition, the IMMO function, which resets the Anti-Theft system or relearns the keys, doesn’t work well with some European cars. And over $700 is a bit more expensive than a YOUCANIC scanner.
3. LAUNCH X431 V Pro
Like Autel, Launch is a big name in diagnostic equipment. We have included their X431 V Pro in this selection, as many experts favor it. This is the largest device on the list, with a 10-inch touch-sensitive display that shows an image in high-definition. It also has a pair of cameras, back and front, just like most tablets do. Predictably, this scan tool gives you access to all vehicle modules and is bidirectional, like the other two.
But here’s the X431 V Pro’s party piece – this scan tool can calibrate ADAS on most makes and models. This can be helpful, as these semi-self-driving systems are becoming more frequent in modern cars.
The downside of this diagnostic device is its price, which is approximately $900. This makes it almost twice as expensive as the Youcanic scanner. For the extra money, all you get is ADAS support and a crisp display.
Types of OBD2 scan tools for home mechanics
There is a wide range of automotive diagnostic tools on the market, each offering different capabilities, and features. But also, there might be a noticeable price difference between seemingly similar devices. This may create confusion when car owners try to decide which scan tool is best suited to their needs. So, to help out with this, we will go over three main types of car scanners.
This is a basic device that only gives access to drivetrain codes. With it, you can see what diagnostic code has triggered the check engine warning light and erase it. In addition, many of them will allow you to monitor the live data. But anything else, like the ABS or Airbag systems, is beyond their reach.
Vehicle-specific OBD2 readers
These are more powerful versions of the previously mentioned devices. Their main upside is the ability to access all vehicle modules and read check diagnostic codes. Carly OBD2 Bluetooth or BlueDriver Bluetooth adapters are an excellent example here. On the downside, these scanners usually work with one particular brand only.
This type of equipment gives a professional level of insight into the car’s infrastructure at a level of authorized repair shops. Apart from having access to all modules and stored codes, they can also start various diagnostic procedures. This bidirectional support allows you to test components and pumps to narrow down the problem and avoid misdiagnoses. Professional diagnostic tools will work with most makes and models, but some exemptions may exist.
OBD2 scanners are an absolute must-have for any car enthusiast nowadays. Not only will they give a quick insight into what triggered a warning light, but they will also help solve it. However, there are all sorts of devices on the market, ranging from those with limited options to very capable but expensive ones. But with YOUCANIC full system scanner, you’ll get dealer-lever diagnostic support at an affordable price. This makes it the best scan tool all around.
Best OBD2 scanner for a home mechanic in 2022?
YOUCANIC Full System Scanner is the best scanner you can get for the money. It is designed to give the power back to the vehicle owner and avoid expensive dealership visits.
What OBD2 scanner does Autozone use?
Autozone uses various brands of basic code readers. The scanners used at AutoZone will only be able to read and clear engine or transmission-related OBD2 codes.
Is it worth buying car scan tools for home car repairs?
Yes, without a doubt. A good OBD2 scanner will allow you to read, clear, and diagnose any warning light. On the other hand, basic OBD2 scanners that hook up to your car via Bluetooth may not be worth the investment. In most cases, these can only read and diagnose engine codes.
What kind of OBD2 scan tool do I need?
The YOUCANIC Full System Scanner is all you need to diagnose any vehicle, just like any dealer can. In addition, it is practical and easy to use.
How to choose the best car scanner to buy?
The YOUCANIC Full System Scanner is much less expensive than other full system scanners while giving the same level of insight into a vehicle’s live data and other running parameters.
What are the best OBD-II scanners on the market?
YOUCANIC UCAN-II Full System Scanner, which we designed after testing a lot of different scanners. Many scanners can only work on certain makes, while the YOUCANIC scanner works on all makes. Many other scanners can only diagnose a few systems, such as engine, airbag, or abs, while YOUCANIC Full System Scanner can diagnose all vehicle systems.
Do OBD2 scanners work on all cars?
All OBD2 scanners work on 1996 and newer vehicles to read and clear the check engine light. Only good scanners such as the YOUCANIC full system scanner works on all cars and can diagnose any warning light, including traction, airbag, transmission, climate control, lights, and any other system. A Basic OBD2 scanner may not show any codes when there is a problem, and there are trouble codes in a control unit.
Are Bluetooth scanners any good?
Most Bluetooth OBD2 scanners have very basic functionality. They can only diagnose the check engine light and only read codes from the Engine Control Unit, which is only one out of 20+ control units found on modern vehicles.
Are Car Diagnostic Scanners Universal?
Not all car diagnostic scanners are universal. Many cheap car scanners can only diagnose the check engine light or may only diagnose all systems on one car make or model. The YOUCANIC full system scanner is truly universal and can diagnose all problems on all cars.
Are cheap OBD2 car scanners any good?
They are good for diagnosing the check engine light and clearing check engine warning lights. Also, they are good for retrieving the fault code that triggered the check engine light. If you have other warning lights on, a cheap OBD2 scanner is not good and won’t show any fault codes.
What’s the best OBD2 scanner to use at home?
The best OBD2 scanner to use at home is YOUCANIC Full System Scanner. It was designed specifically to give car owners a powerful functionality similar to what the dealers use.
Can You Use a Scan Tool While Driving?
You can use a scan tool while driving to stream live sensor data. However, do not use the scanner to reset control units or active sensors while driving.
Can an OBD2 scanner damage your car?
Not likely. We have been working on cars for over 30 years and have not had a single issue case where an OBD2 scanner damaged the car.
Do Automotive Scan Tools Work on ALL Cars?
Only good scan tools work on call cars and can scan all control units. YOUCANIC Full System Scanner is designed to work on all cars and connect to all control modules or control units.
Do I Need a Code Reader or a Scan Tool?
Code reader and scan tool are interchangeable words. You need a good diagnostic tool that can read and clear codes from your vehicle’s systems, not just the engine control unit or powertrain module.