From a user’s point of view, all cars are great as long as they don’t have problems. From a mechanic’s point of view, a broken car is a way of making money. However, not every time a problem can be solved or even found by simply looking at a car.
So, in both cases, a diagnostic tool that can tell you why the car is not working and to help you get at the core of the problem is a dream come true.
Luckily, we live in a very technological era that permitted the inventions of tools for automobile issues diagnosis, and now they even come at a price that offers more value for the money paid for them than ever before.
These diagnostic tools will tell you almost everything you want to know about your car, such as ignition timing problems, engine rpm, fuel injector performance, and so on.
This all sounds great, but how can you pick the best professional car scanner diagnostic tool? This is where I come to the rescue. I have tested many models and finally managed to reduce the number to 10 all of which are affordable.
So, all you need to do is to read all the reviews, find out what makes the recommended diagnostic machines better or worse than their competitors, and, in the end, focus on the buyer’s guide.
I bet my money that you won’t finish the day without making a purchase. So, I recommend you to focus on the problem of choosing an analysis system, which we have made really easy for you to do, so you won’t have to focus on the car’s problems.
- 1 Best Professional Car Diagnostic Tools – Comparison Chart
- 2 Top 10 Best Professional Car Diagnostic Tools – The Reviews
- 3 Everything You Need to Know about Diagnosis Scanner Tools for Cars
- 4 How to Pick the Best Professional Car Diagnostic Tool
- 5 Frequently Asked Questions
- 6 In Conclusion To
Best Professional Car Diagnostic Tools – Comparison Chart
If you don’t know much about cars, and you are looking for a diagnostic scan tool for home use, you will most likely find the terms in this article a little overwhelming. So why not start with a comparison chart with terms that everybody can understand.
It doesn’t matter if you are a professional in the market for a professional automotive diagnostic tool or a DIY fan looking for a home car diagnostic tool, this chart will help you see the differences between products before moving on to the actual reviews. So, take your time going through this auto diagnostic tool comparison chart and move to the reviews thereafter.
Top 10 Best Professional Car Diagnostic Tools – The Reviews
I hope that you have a comfy place because the review of these diagnostic tools (for home mechanics and professional ones) is not a short one. I didn’t want to let anything behind, so for each tool, you will need a few minutes to read and comprehend their features. So, let’s start.
The first product that I want to present to you is a middle-range price tool produced by Innova.
This diagnostic scanner has the capacity to display, record, and also playback OBD2 real data graphing.
It has a feature called Freeze Frame Data that will illustrate a multiple P.I.D. screenshot of the condition of the vehicle recorded when the code was introduced.
What is absolutely great about it is the fact that it is capable of showing generic data such as P0 – 2,3 and also U0, but also manufacturer specific such as P1- P3 and U1. But this is not all. It has the capacity to present global, unfinished, and permanent codes and also the code that generated the freeze frame data.
This mechanics diagnostic scanner from Innova offers access to a feature called Repair Solutions. This has the ability to give trouble code descriptions, a full diagnostic summary, probable events, recall information, TSB’s, but also most likely fixes to DTC’s.
It comes with a memory and a battery backup that will permit you to make off-car reviews and further analysis.
This product is created to recover enhanced and transmission diagnostic ciphers in all OBD2. This represents models starting with 1996. However, it can be used for most popular OBD1 vehicles from 1981 to 1995.
The next product that I want to talk about is the Autel diagnostic scanner. First of all, you need to understand that you can purchase this product at different prices. This variation comes from the size of the display. Just to be clear, I am talking today about the 9-inch version, but there is also a smaller one of 7 inches and a bigger one of 13 inches.
Neither of these 3 versions comes cheap, but the bigger the display, the bigger the price. But let’s see what you get for this amount of money.
So, this engine scan tool has so many special services functions that I won’t even be able to talk about all of them.
You just need to know there are 23 and I will just name a few such as Oil Reset, Airbag Rest, Tran Adaption, SAS Calibration, DPF Regeneration, EPB Reset, TPMS Relearn, Battery Registration, adjusting injectors, ABS brake bleeding, Key Fob Programming, and so on.
It also allows you to make multiple tests, both active and bidirectional. For example, it lets you do a bi-directional command regarding the ECM, ABS, SRS in such a way that the diagnostic tool can forward control expertise to manage the vehicle’s systems. This function is most useful in concluding if the ECM responds to command in the right way.
Another feature worth mentioning is the “Programming Key Fobs.” This should probably go without saying, but I will mention it nevertheless. IMMO is essentially used to incapacitate lost keys and to program a new key fob to replace them.
Moreso, it includes a full set of connecting tools for DS808, including completed OBDII adapters.
Another plus is given by its automatic system and software that sends real-time push notifications using a Wi-Fi connection
Another really great auto diagnosis machine is this computer car scanner produced by VIDENT. Their iLink400 supports many car models, and it works as both an OBDI and OBDII scanner. Even more, it can be used for vehicles manufactured in 2017 and for some 2019 ones.
Also, if you are not sure if the car you need to scan is compatible or not with your vehicle scanner tool, all you have to do is contact them, and someone from VIDENT will offer all the answers you might need.
What makes this item to stand out is the fact that it is a full-function scan tool, which means that it can conduct a full diagnosis including the automatic transmission, engine, airbag, ABS, instrument cluster, body control module, parking brake, power steering, immobilizer, smart key, fuel pump control module, air conditioning control, all-wheel-drive control, fuel injection control module, electronic selector module, VG transfer case module, standard radio, digital radio, HVAC, driver’s door module, theft deterrent, seat memory module, amplifier, and more.
This car scanning machine is capable of making full OBD2 and also offers 17 special functions. This means that this device will support every possible OBD2 function such as freeze frame data, read/erase codes or MIL fault indicator light, but it will also provide 17 exceptional functions such as SAS, Oil service light reset, ABS bleeding, battery matching, TPS, EPB, Immobilizer, DPF, Injector coding, and more.
However, you should keep in mind that these functions can differ from a car to another, so you should check before anything else.
If you want to add more car models to the iLINK400, you can do it without problems. However, each extra car model costs something around $60. In the end, you can add a maximum of 5 vehicles in one tool.
This scanner covers more than 51 car manufacturers, such as BMW, Mercedes, VW, GM, Mazda, Ford, Honda, Toyota, Jaguar, Land Rover, Porsche, Volvo, Ferrari, Chrysler, Citroen, Subaru, Renault, Ssangyong, Peugeot, and others.
The last thing I want to mention is the fact that this scanner permits multi-language. You can select a language from the 14 ones available.
This scanner from Autel is probably the most premium and, therefore, the most expensive one I had the chance to work with.
This model, the MK908P, has been created to deliver some of the most complex diagnostics and reprogramming of the engines found in BMW and Mercedes Benz.
It has a jbox/J2534 VCI and also a BMW Ethernet Cable that you can use and edit the car’s performance data. This includes adjusting RPM or fuel injection.
It is a professional car diagnostics scanner that will save you time and effort when you need to handle repairs. Also, it will improve the cars’ lifespan.
It offers complete features. This means that it doesn’t just do coding and ECU programming, but the scanner supports the reprogramming of keys, active test, Bi-directional control, complete capabilities for codes, ABS bleeding, actuation tests, live data, prints out reported data with WiFi and also makes adaptations.
However, Benz-14 and Chang’an-3 Adapters are available only for the UK version and not also for the US one.
If we look at the interface, it is very user-friendly. This means that the Live Data Stream presents the real-time PID info from ECU, but also the presented data involved in analog inputs and outputs, system status information broadcast and digital inputs and outputs. The graphic display is improved. Therefore the readability and also understandability of the above parameters have grown, making this tool great not only for specialized people but also for enthusiasts that want to know how their car is working.
The device can be compared to the best quality android tablet available on the market, and therefore, it can offer you a whole diagnostic scheme quickly and accurately.
This model from Autel is connected to a cloud-based database, therefore can access a large volume of data regarding diagnosis and also repair advice. This means that everybody can find what the problem with a car is and therefore solve it.
If you want a scanner that is a little less expensive than everything that I presented so far, then you should look at the next INNOVA one. It definitely is not as premium as the previous ones, but it does offer a good value for money, so let’s see what it has to give.
First of all, it can check on the engine light. This means that it can read and do a clear check on the codes (DTC) of the engine lights (CEL). This is possible on vehicles from 1996 and newer (OBD II), including cars, trucks, SUVs, and hybrids.
As brands covered, I want to remember a few such as Ford, Chevy, Honda, Chrysler, Toyota, Lexus, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Kia, Hyundai, but also other models available in both US and Canada.
It offers a multi-language option, permitting to choose from English, French, or Spanish.
It can connect to your phone or tablet with the help of Bluetooth technology. This means that you can get very fast any specific fixes advise by using the Repair Solutions app. These fixes cover expected repair costs, tutorial videos, articles, and also part information.
Another feature worth mentioning is the one related to the ABS and SRS. This means that it will be able to read and resolve ABS and SRS airbag lights on almost every vehicle from 1996 and newer. These are OBD2 models of domestic and imported Asian/European vehicles.
You can do a reset on the oil light after the oil was changed or after solving some oil pressure issues.
Last, but not least, it can reset the battery maintenance lights and also it can perform a battery initialization to guarantee that your battery is at its maximum performance.
Let’s take a look at another product. This one is manufactured by EDIAG, goes by the name of YA-101, and it is actually an upgraded version of elementary ODBII scanners that has complete feature support for all 10 modes that ODBII has to offer. This includes reading and deleting of current codes, On-Board Monitor Test, O2 Sensor, I/M Readiness, EVAP System Test, Vehicle Info, and more.
It can be purchased at a ridiculously low price for what it can do. Therefore it is recommended for both people who want to solve their own cars and for professional mechanics.
It offers a great DTCs library. This means that you can view Freeze Frame/Live Data, Misfire, Live O2 monitoring, view real-time PID info from ECM, Engine Coolant Temperature, and also Engine RPM Data, built-in DTC library with descriptions.
You can use it on most 12V gasoline vehicles that were sold in the US ever since 1996. This means it supports all OBDII protocols such as ISO9141, KWP2000, J1850 VPW, CAN, and J1850 PWM
This is a multi-language scanner that works with 9 languages: English, German, Spanish, Italian, French, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Japanese, and Russian.
Another thing you should know about this scanner is that it offers free lifetime updates to the software and this can be done with the help of a USB port. And this is not the only thing it is for life. You even get a lifetime warranty.
As you could have already guessed, Autel does some amazing scanners for car diagnosis, and this one is no different.
So, this device is capable of reading intensified codes in the powertrain system for GM, Ford, and also Chrysler. It even provides an AutoVIN for a Quick DTC definition.
A first feature that I want to mention is its system diagnosis for the ABS and SRS. With a 2.8’’ LCD and a built-in DTC lookup library, the ML609P model offers even a swift code reading function.
As you can imagine, this scanner is capable of doing any OBDII diagnosis, but it can do so much more. For example, this model can furthermore read and erase codes related to ABS and SRS. This is valid for more than 50 vehicles manufactured in the US, Asia, and Europe.
It can retrieve general (P0, P2, P3, and U0), manufacturer particular (P1, P3, and U1) codes and even pending codes. Also, it can retrieve vehicle information (VIN, CALID, and even CVN).
For any questions and problems, you can always contact the customer support offered by Autel. Even more, they offer a warranty available for 1 year and a lifetime free software upgrade.
The last model from Autel that I want to talk about today is their AL619. This is another amazing scanner that can be purchased at a more than fair price. So, let’s see what it can do.
First of all, you need to know that it has an ABS and SRS diagnostic function that is used to recover and clear codes that are coming from the vehicle’s ABS/SRS. Also, it defines each code to correct diagnose problem zones inside the systems that may generate the MIL (Malfunction Indicator Light) to turn on.
This feature can be used on almost any vehicle produced starting with 1996. However, this is not the only feature available for OBDII diagnostics. Therefore, this function is a fast-access alternative that allows you to make a quick test on the OBDII vehicles’ engine system such as dead codes, Live Data, Erase Codes, Retrieving I/M Readiness Status, Freeze Frame, On-Board Monitor Test, O2 Monitor Test, Viewing Vehicle Information, Component Test, DTC Lookup, and Modules Present.
The ABS/SRS diagnostic system can be done in 4 very easy steps as you can see below:
- Turn on the ignition without starting the engine.
- Take ahold of the scan tool and turn it on. Wait until the Main Screen appears.
- Select the AbsSrs icon from the Main Screen.
- Now, select a particular vehicle manufacturer’s local coverage. From the screen of the vehicle make, pick a specific vehicle assembling, and press the OK button.
The good part is that this scanner has the ability to support more than 50 vehicles from the US, Asian, and European markets, such as:
- Mercedes Benz;
- EU Ford;
- Land Rover;
As for warranty, Autel offers 1 year warranty for any defective materials. Also, you will get free software updates for life.
Another low budget, but yet very good auto diagnostic tool, is the Nexpeak NX501 model. This is an improved OBDII professional auto scanner that lets you check all engine associated fault codes, turn off the MIL (Malfunction Indicator Lamp), troubleshoot control engine light signals, and also to locate bad O2 sensors.
This is not all. This device allows you to proactively observe your car’s battery health status, informing you when it is time to replace it. As you can imagine, it can be a perfect personal tool that will help you fix and maintain your car and, therefore, save time and money.
However, this is not only for home use. It can be just as easily used by professional mechanics.
It offers a big area of compatibility. It can correctly read and delete error codes related to all OBDII protocol vehicles that have a 16 PIN interface (KWP2000, J1850 PWM, J1850 VPW, ISO9141, and CAN).
The Nexpeak OBDII engine scanner is compatible with almost all US vehicles that were manufactured starting with the year 1996. This includes sedan cars, SUVs, light trucks, and also 12V diesel models. This device is easy to use plug-and-play reader for both generic and also manufacturer-specific codes. You won’t need any extra batteries or apps for it.
This scanner is capable of reading and also erasing any fault codes, present unique graphical real sensor info, recover I/M predisposition and freeze support data, O2 Sensor and also EVAP Test (Mode 8), acquire Auto VIN, monitor battery voltage and Advanced Onboard Monitoring (Mode 6).
Actually, this reader provides you with the all-around achievement needed for any kind of needed car maintenance.
It is considered one of the best models that can be purchased in the price range, and it is a faster DTC reader than other OBDII scanners.
It has a patented design regarding its LED indicators. Each one will help you work better and faster.
The last vehicle diagnostic machine that I want to talk about today is manufactured by the guys from Launch and is their CRP129 model.
The first thing you need to understand is that this is an extremely comprehensive scan tool that features functions for reading but also clearing codes. Even more, it allows you to view live data for not less than four major systems.
It can handle any engine, ABS, SRS, or transmission diagnosis. Furthermore, it offers some special reset functions such as EPB, SAS reset, and oil reset.
Because it has so many great features, it is very loved my mechanics all over the country. Another aspect that makes this scanner to be very appreciated is the fact that it can work with more than 40 OBDII compliant vehicles and also with some diesel models of 12 Voltage.
You can find all the information about the accepted models in its manual, but if you have questions, you can always contact their customer support for more information.
This scanner is great to have even at home because it is very easy to use, and it will save you time and money spent at a mechanic. It can even give you information about your emissions.
Since it is also suitable for home use, it has a very user-friendly design. With a 7.4 X 4.4 inch size, it can be easily used and stored. All the data is displayed on a TFT LCD screen.
You receive also one year warranty and also a free lifetime software update.
Notable mentions you should also check out include Ancel FX6000 and Zurich ZR Pro code reader.
Everything You Need to Know about Diagnosis Scanner Tools for Cars
Some years ago, access to a car diagnostic scan tool was prohibitive from a budget point of view. Before 1996 a simple vehicle diagnostic tool thousands of dollars and was compatible with just one vehicle manufacturer.
The year 1996 represented the creation of OBDII automobile diagnostic machines. Just so you know, OBDII is an acronym for onboard diagnostics II. However, even after its implementation, these tools continued to be very expensive.
Years have passed, and things have changed, so today, some of these automotive testing tools come really cheap and can be purchased and used by anyone.
Also, now you can find most of the coded needed for interpreting the errors online, so everybody can understand what is causing the car’s issue.
The Differences Between OBDI and OBDII
Before going into more detailed aspects, it is very important that you understand the differences between OBDI and OBDII.
First of all, we have the OBDI category. Here you are going to find all the vehicles that were manufactured after the appearance of electronic controls but before the year 1996.
The systems in these cars don’t have a lot of things in common between various manufacturers, so it is essential to purchase a car computer diagnostic machine that was explicitly created for that producer, model, and also the year when the vehicle was produced.
On the other hand, vehicles assembled after 1996 use OBDII diagnostic scan tools, whether intended for use by a professional or otherwise. This is a patterned system that really simplifies car engine diagnosis.
This is possible because these vehicles all work with a standard diagnostic connector and also a collection of common trouble codes. Producers can decide to respect all these more or less. Therefore you will find some manufacturer explicit codes. Even so, you can use any OBDII code scanner/reader for autos built after the year 1996.
What Is the Check Engine Light?
There are many lights that imply that your car has an issue, but one of the most critical ones is the engine light, and it is vital to know what this means.
So, if you see that your check engine light is on, your car is attempting to reach out to you in the only method that it can. This means that your car tries to tell you that there is an issue going on inside it. The engine light can indicate that a sensor, around or inside your engine, exhaust, or even transmission, has produced an unexpected data and sends it to the computer.
This could symbolize an issue happening at the system for which the sensor is accountable for monitoring, such as a bad sensor, or a wiring problem.
In some situations, a check engine light can turn on and off by itself without any outside intervention. This doesn’t indicate that the problem has been resolved, you just need to see what produced it in the first place, and this can only be done with an auto computer diagnostic tool.
So this takes us to the next point of the discussion.
How to Use an Auto Diagnostic Tool
If you already know to use a car computer diagnostic tool, you should skip this section and go directly to the buyer’s guide. However, if you are a novice, you should read the following information very carefully so you will not make any mistakes.
Working with an auto electronic diagnostic tool is actually very simple as all that is required is that you plug in the car diagnostic tool into the car. You need to know where the correct port is, however, as well as have a knowledge of how the tool works.
So, the first thing you have to do is to discover your car’s OBDII port. Usually, you should find it near the steering wheel, more precisely below the dashboard. However, there are a few cars that have the port on either the passenger side or even somewhere in the center console. You can start to check the car’s user manual just to save some time and not search for all the cars for it.
When you do find the port, be sure that the car is turned off before you plug in the testing equipment into the OBDII port.
These tools are usually similar. Even though some present more advanced features, usually at this point, they are all the same. You just have to plug them, and they will perform an automatic scan of your car. However, if there is something special about your computer tester, it is most certainly stated in the instructions manual that you should read before doing any test.
Working with a Code Reader
The fundamental purpose of using a car problem diagnosis machine is to receive the diagnostic trouble codes that your vehicle automatically registers when it identifies an issue.
Yes, this is the same process a mechanic does when you take your car for a repair. So, if it is not something very complicated, you can probably do it yourself. Because of this, I suggest you continue reading.
Step 1 – Plug The Device into the OBDII Port
So, all computer scanners available for sale on the market and which are being used today download the data from a vehicle’s onboard diagnostic port. This common entrance port will provide you access to practically anything the car identifies as being an issue.
This being said, take the end connector of the vehicle code reader/analyzer and plug it into the car’s OBDII port. Double-check just to be sure that you made a good and secure fit. This way, the tool will be able to communicate with the car’s onboard computer.
Now, it is time to turn in your car. However, if the car stores codes in its memory, you don’t necessarily have to start the engine. You should find this information in the car’s manual, but if you are not 100% sure, you can just start the car.
Step 2 – Read the Car Codes
The most important part of the whole diagnostic process stands in the particular codes your car produces when it identifies an issue. The test tool/machine can download and then read these codes. This will give you some hint of what is not working properly.
My recommendation for you is not to try and read the code, because it will probably turn you into a depressing state because you won’t understand anything. So what should you do instead?
- Start your diagnostic tool. Your tool should have an easy to find the power button on the unit. However, if you have a Bluetooth car diagnostic tool such as a Bluetooth OBDII scanner, you should turn on the product from where it is plugged into the port.
- Enter the vehicle computer scanner. Usually, most of these car diagnostic computers will start automatically to read the car codes when they are powered on. However, there are also cases when you have to press a “Scan” button to start the process. Also, if you have a Bluetooth model, you will need to access an app. Another thing that you should be aware of is that you may have to add the car’s VIN number into the device if you are working for the first time on a new vehicle.
- Register the data. After a few seconds, the scan should be completed, and when this happens, it will reveal any particular problem or the error codes that it reads. Note these codes down because you won’t get any further explanation. There are car analyzers that will save the codes for you, and then you can download them to a computer, but these are the more complex ones.
Step 3 – Translate the Data
If you are dealing with these codes for the first time, you most likely won’t understand anything out of them. Don’t worry because this is normal. To see what is actually wrong with your car, you will need a vehicle code reader that will interpret all your data. To do this, you actually have multiple options:
- Check the trouble code. The internet is an amazing place where you can find almost anything. So the easiest thing to do is to Google the code and see what information you receive.
- Work with specific software. There are some third-party programs that can download these codes from the diagnostic machine and read the data straight from a computer.
- Read the info directly from the automotive diagnostic tool. There are some very performant automotive scanner tools that will give you a code translation on display.
How to Pick the Best Professional Car Diagnostic Tool
So, you have passed all the other aspects you need to know in order to buy a car diagnostic device. Now, all it is left is to understand what you should look for when you purchase one, so you will get the best engine analyzer for you and your needs.
Because I know how important it is to buy a good scan tool, I will share with you a guideline that helped me a lot when I first bought a car diagnostic computer.
Before anything else, you need to establish a budget. These devices can be purchased at $50 or at even $3000, so it is really important to know in what price range you are. When this aspect is established, it will be very easy to move away from tools that are either too cheap for your taste or too expensive and, therefore, out of reach. You should know that very cheap car engine diagnostic tools are not the best option, as they usually do not provide value for the money paid for them.
If you are not at your first car diagnostic tool buying event, you might know a few things about the brands of this niche. So, if you have a favorite brand or somebody recommended you one, you should start from there and look into their portfolio to see if they have what you want.
The information presented on the screen.
This is a very important factor to take into consideration. Do you want to see the definition of your codes on the screen, or can you afford to spend time and search for their meaning?
Think hard about this aspect, because it usually doesn’t come cheap, but if you are a mechanic you should most probably prefer to finish the job faster and start a new one.
Live feed possibility
Sometimes, a live feed is an extremely significant kind of information, one that you cannot solve the problem without. This being said, you should think if you need to have this feature and, if so, choose a model that offers real-time data. Be sure to pick a good brand is you want this characteristic because in order for this to be helpful, it needs to be accurate, or it can cause greater problems.
Some models have the possibility of storing the read data, while others don’t.
So, this aspect is something like this. If you want the car tester machine for home use, you can buy one without a powerful data storage, but if you are a mechanic, you should not want to miss this feature.
Advanced features are great for a mechanic or for a person who knows a little more about cars than the next guy.
However, if you are at the very beginning, you might find that advanced features are too complicated for your comprehension, and therefore, you are not using them properly or at all.
Nonetheless, if you do know a few terms in this domain, a device that has advanced features will assist you in understanding your car completely.
Of course, more features usually mean more money. So again, think about how much you can spend.
Usually, is the scanner comes from a reputable brand, that scanner also has a provided app that can be utilized in connection with the scanner. By using such an app, you can observe more than one car at a time and receive the definitions of each code. The collection of characteristics depends on the producer.
Regardless of the great number of scanners, in the end, they can be put into 2 big categories: corded and wireless scanners.
So, this aspect should not only be looked at from a financial point of view, but also from a compatibility one because Bluetooth models tend to work better with Android devices, while WiFi ones are more compatible with iOS ones.
It doesn’t matter what kind of scanner you, but it will need to receive periodic online updates. Some companies offer free lifetime software updates, while others offer updates only for a few years.
My advice to you is to find a brand that will support you no matter what and will not take money periodically out of your pocket.
Bad things happen, and therefore, your auto diagnostic tool can have a glitch and present some malfunctions. This is why it is very important to have a warranty to come in help.
Usually, brands offer warranty for 1 or 2 years, but there are also exceptions.
Find the more advantageous one.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is OBD1 and why is it so hard to find a scanner for it?
Are these car diagnostic tools also for home use?
What is the best car diagnostic computer on the market?
In Conclusion To
I hope that you have understood everything that I’ve presented in this article and that I have managed to help you pick a good, if not even the best, computer car code reader for you. However, if you have any questions or need further information, I am just at a click’s distance. You can contact me at any time, and I will be happy to start a conversation with you.