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Best OBD2 Scanners: 2023 Buying Guide

If you're looking to diagnose and troubleshoot issues with your vehicle, having a reliable OBD2 scanner is essential. An OBD2 scanner is a handheld device or an app that connects to your vehicle's OBD II (on-board diagnostics) system to read and interpret trouble codes. With the right scan tool, you can quickly identify any issues the vehicle may have and save yourself time and money on repairs.

There is no shortage of OBD2 scanners in the market, making it hard to determine which one is the best. Prices can start at under $30 or thousands of dollars, varying greatly on the quality and capabilities. In this blog post, we will be highlighting the best OBD2 scanners that can help you monitor your vehicle, identify potential issues before they become severe, and save you money on repairs.

Types of OBD2 Scanners

When shopping for an OBD2 scanner, you may come across different types with varying features and functionalities. Here are some of the most common types of OBD2 scanners:

  • Bluetooth OBD2 Scanner – These scanners connect to your smartphone, tablet or computer via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and allow you to read and clear codes in real time. Once connected, the data is transmitted wirelessly to a pre-installed mobile app or computer software.
  • Handheld OBD2 Scanner – This device lets you read and clear codes with the tool itself. It is simple to use and does not require a wireless connection. The advantage of a handheld scanner is that you do not need additional hardware to use the device, just plug and play.
  • Professional-Grade Scanner – These scan tools can access more systems including body control, ABS, and airbag systems, as well as perform diagnostics rather than just reading and clearing codes.
  • Integrated App OBD2 Scanner – This scanner is dealer software-based. This type of scanner is expensive and may even be available for consumer purchase, depending on the carmaker, but more reliable and offers various granular functions.

How to Choose the Best OBD2 Scanner

It’s crucial to determine the right type of OBD2 scanner that will fit your needs, skill level, and vehicle system. Of course, your budget will factor into the equation too. Here are some factors to consider when deciding on an OBD2 scanner:

  • Compatibility – Ensure the OBD2 scanner you choose is compatible with your vehicle. Not all scanners are suitable for all vehicle models or makes, so it’s important to research which scanner works for your car.
  • Live data readouts – Look for an OBD2 scanner that can display live data parameters such as fuel system status, engine RPM, and coolant temperature. These parameters can help you diagnose more complex issues.
  • Code database – Choose an OBD2 scanner with an extensive code database. This database will enable you to access manufacturer-specific codes, making it easier to diagnose specific problems.
  • User-friendly interface – Select a scanner with a straightforward and intuitive interface. The device should be easy to navigate and understand without requiring a lot of effort or technical knowledge. 
  • Price – OBD2 scanners vary in price, and you need to ensure the one you select is within your budget. Some scanners may be too advanced for your needs and come with a higher price tag.

Best OBD2 Scanners Reviews

Which is the best OBD2 scanner for your needs? That varies based on the individual. Here are four options that could work including some prominent features, and pros and cons for each.

Innova ScanTool with ABS

Prominent features of the Innova 3040RS ScanTool with ABS include its ability to read and clear Check Engine lights, live data to monitor different vehicle systems in real-time, and smog check readiness. The device can also reset maintenance and oil lights, making it useful for basic maintenance.

It’s an excellent value for an entry-level OBD2 scanner, and it has a relatively easy to use interface. However, if you have a newer vehicle with complex electrical systems, it might fall short in its capabilities.

Autel AL329 OBD2 Code Reader

The Autel AL329 OBD2 Code Reader is a reliable and cost-effective device that offers various features to diagnose and troubleshoot vehicle issues. What sets this device apart from other code readers is its unique One-Click functionality, which allows users to quickly read and clear diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) with just one click. It’s also capable of retrieving freeze-frame data.

Its simplicity is its most attractive features, especially for quick concerns like a loose gas cap. But it’s also the scanner’s pitfall, since it doesn’t give any guidance for diagnostics, plus it has gaps in DTC-reading capabilities.

THINKCAR ThinkDiag OBD2 Bluetooth Full System Diagnostic Scan Tool

One of the unique features of the THINKCAR ThinkDiag Bluetooth Diagnostic Scan Tool is its ability to perform full-system diagnostic scans, allowing users to address issues in all of their vehicle’s systems. It also offers advanced coding and programming capabilities, which is useful for professionals who need a tool to program electronic components. Since it’s a Bluetooth-enabled scanner, you can read codes wirelessly directly to your mobile device.

The mobile app is a huge plus for the THINKCAR ThinkDiag scanner, as well as its massive scope of abilities. It’s a little pricier, plus it still isn’t quite professional grade.

Innova 3020 CanOBD2 Diagnostic Tool

The Innova 3020 CanOBD2 Diagnostic Tool is an excellent entry-level diagnostic scanner that offers a range of features at an affordable price. It allows users to diagnose and troubleshoot a variety of vehicle issues, including reading and clearing the check engine light, battery and charging system tests, and live data streaming. The scanner is compact and user-friendly, making it an ideal tool for DIYers, car enthusiasts, and professional mechanics alike.

Owning an OBD2 scanner is a wise investment that can help you diagnose and troubleshoot issues with your vehicle quickly, saving you time and money on repairs. You can pick up an OBD2 scanner at your local AutoZone. If the job is too big for you, seek out one of our Preferred Shops to help you do the job.

FAQ/People Also Ask

Is there an OBD2 scanner that scans everything?

There are OBS2 scan tools that are extremely capable, but there may always be gaps in proprietary information from the carmaker.

What is the best budget OBD2 reader?

It depends on the functionality you want. However, the Autel AL329 code reader provides excellent value for most car owners.

Which OBD2 is better, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth?

There are often compatibility issues between Bluetooth and mobile devices. Wi-Fis scan tools tend to be more versatile.

Do all OBD2 scanners work the same?

No. There are varying levels of capability, and normally, you get what you pay for.

What is the difference between an OBD2 reader and an OBD2 scanner?

OBD2 readers can read and clear codes, where an OBD2 scanner has some diagnostic capabilities along with reading codes.

Can OBD2 scanner damage ECU?

It’s extremely unlikely for an OBD2 scanner to cause damage to an ECU without another pre-existing condition like damaged wiring or a bad connector.

Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on AutoZone.com and AutoZone Advice & How-To’s are presented as helpful resources for general maintenance and automotive repairs from a general perspective only and should be used at your own risk. Information is accurate and true to the best of AutoZone’s knowledge, however, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes.

Be sure to consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, an AutoZoner at a store near you, or a licensed, professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. Refer to the service manual for specific diagnostic, repair and tool information for your particular vehicle. Always chock your wheels prior to lifting a vehicle. Always disconnect the negative battery cable before servicing an electrical application on the vehicle to protect its electrical circuits in the event that a wire is accidentally pierced or grounded. Use caution when working with automotive batteries. Sulfuric acid is caustic and can burn clothing and skin or cause blindness. Always wear gloves and safety glasses and other personal protection equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area. Should electrolyte get on your body or clothing, neutralize it immediately with a solution of baking soda and water. Do not wear ties or loose clothing when working on your vehicle.

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