Best OBD2 Scanners for 2023
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Get the read with some of the best OBD-II code readers on the market. Many of these scanners have been tested by the Gear Team.
Since the mandate of the OBD-II port in 1996, mechanics have gained access to vital information about your vehicle's health through its onboard computer. Today, consumers can harness this information. Rather than relying on a mechanic, you can view and sometimes clear codes and reset warning lights with the right OBD-II scanner.
With scanners ranging from under $20 to thousands of dollars, choosing the right one matters. In order to give our readers a bit more insight, we've put together a list of various OBD-II scanners across price ranges, including a few that have been tested hands-on by the Hearst Autos Gear Team. We've focused on consumer scanners, excluding exorbitantly priced options for professionals. These devices are meant for the garage enthusiasts among us, seeking error code insights and guidance.
Ensure that the OBD-II scanner is compatible with your vehicle's make, model, and model year. Some scanners might have limited compatibility with specific vehicle brands, years, or regions.
Determine the level of diagnostics you need. Some scanners offer basic code reading and clearing, while others provide advanced diagnostic functions like live data streaming, freeze-frame data, and component testing.
Consider the scanner's user interface. Look for an easy-to-navigate menu, clear display, and intuitive controls. User-friendliness is crucial, especially for those less familiar with vehicle diagnostics.
Some scanners offer additional features like emissions testing, battery-voltage reading, and performance analysis. Consider whether these features align with your requirements.
A comprehensive code database with clear definitions can help you understand the issues affecting your vehicle. Some scanners offer access to extensive code libraries and explanations.
Ready to shop for an OBD-II scanner? Here are some of the best on the market.
The MX+ from OBDLink is one of the most popular Bluetooth scanners available. It supports several operating systems including Android, iOS, and Windows, and can be used either with its own app or one of many third-party apps.
Of course, it can read codes for a variety of makes and models, and it can access some systems that other scanners cannot, like ABS, SRS, TPMS, and more.
The feature that stands out most is its over-voltage and battery-drain protection, which means it won't kill your battery or itself in the event of an electrical surge.
The 1350 offers up all of the features you'd expect from a renowned leader in automotive technology. It can read and clear codes, livestream data, and graph data, plus it can do advanced diagnostics and software updates.
With its color screen and multidirectional buttons, it's designed to be user-friendly. It can also perform a few special tests for certain Ford and GM models.
With its user-friendly app and insightful diagnostic guidance, the BlueDriver Bluetooth Pro earned the Gear Team's nod as the Best Overall Bluetooth OBD-II scanner.
While the initial setup of the BlueDriver took a bit longer, the resulting experience was invaluable. The tile-style interface proved highly intuitive, facilitating easy access to codes, tests, and data.
The app offers model-specific features, TSBs, battery reset procedures, and more, alongside standard DTCs (diagnostic trouble codes). The Bluetooth scanner also benefits from consistent updates, ensuring up-to-date information.
For broader diagnostic capabilities, the Innova 5610 stands out with impressive testing features, bi-directional control, and added diagnostic suggestions. The 5610 comes with a substantial price tag, which Gear Team testers felt was justified by an array of functions.
Five system tests, actuator tests, hybrid/EV battery testing, and ABS bleeding procedures are among its features. Despite the cost, it's a valuable investment for those extensively involved in car maintenance.
Gear Team testers found the Motopower MP69033 to be one of the most straightforward scanners they tested. It quickly displays codes and includes a graphing feature that displays Car Speed, Coolant Temp, Load Value, and Engine RPM, all at an affordable price.
It features distinct up and down buttons that set it apart from other budget scanners. While the screen may be pixelated, it serves its intended function well.
The MP69033 outperformed hardwired scanners, reading codes in just over 17 seconds.
The NT604 stands out from the pack thanks to its relatively large color-coded LCD display, which offers clear and easy-to-read information, allowing users to navigate through diagnostic functions easily.
Its user-friendly interface guides users step-by-step through diagnostic procedures. This is especially helpful for individuals who may not be automotive experts but still want to perform basic diagnostics on their vehicles.
With its balanced blend of corded and Bluetooth capabilities and an excellent app interface, the Ancel BD310 garnered the Gear Team's tag for Best Display.
The BD310 offers both corded and Bluetooth options, granting access to extensive data, diagnostics, and performance testing through the app. Connecting swiftly and displaying codes effectively, it delivers advanced features at an affordable price.
One of the higher-end scanners on our list, the FX2000 from Ancel is more geared toward experienced DIYers and mechanics. This doesn't however mean it is difficult to use thanks to its 4.0" TFT LCD screen, an intuitive multilingual interface, and multifunctional keys.
What makes it stand out is its ability to carry out diagnoses and display data for four systems for a wide variety of vehicles. It also offers free lifetime updates on Ancel's official website.
The Foxwell NT301 offers a clear, legible screen and is easy to navigate thanks to its Read/Erase and I/M (inspection and maintenance) readiness buttons. It can perform EVAP leak and O2 monitor tests and offers a neat print function via Micro-USB.
If you're simply looking to read and clear codes and not much else, this highly rated scanner is a solid choice.
The Fixd Bluetooth Scanner offers a solid foundation but restricts most features behind a subscription. Basic code reading and clearing are available, but advanced functions require a monthly fee. While paid features like I/M (inspection and maintenance) readiness monitors and repair tips are valuable, its most interesting feature is the ability to monitor multiple vehicles from a single account, making it ideal for fleet vehicles.
Acknowledging the diversity of OBD-II scanners, the Gear Team avoided direct comparisons. Instead, they matched each scanner to specific situations and evaluated them accordingly. The Gear Team utilized a 2005 Toyota Corolla, creating a Check Engine warning light (CEL) by disconnecting the mass-airflow sensor. After confirming the CEL, each OBD-II scanner was assessed based on established parameters.
Corded scanners were plug-and-play, while Bluetooth variants demanded additional setup time—app installation, phone connection, and account setup. Detailed notes captured testing outcomes, highlighting corded scanners' speed and Bluetooth scanners' post-setup accessibility and user-friendliness.
Testing parameters included:
Yes, OBD-II scanners work with hybrid and electric vehicles as they also have OBD-II systems. However, some specialized scanners might offer additional features specific to these vehicle types.
Most OBD-II scanners are designed to be user-friendly, with simple interfaces and clear instructions. However, some advanced features might require a basic understanding of vehicle diagnostics.
OBD-II scanners are diagnostic tools and not repair devices. They help identify problems by providing error codes and data that mechanics can use to diagnose and fix issues accurately.
OBD-II scanners are compatible with most vehicles manufactured after 1996 (in the United States) and 2001 (in Europe) that adhere to OBD-II standards. However, some specialized scanners may be required for specific vehicle makes and models.
Each DTC (diagnostic trouble code) is made up of five characters: A single letter followed by four numbers. The letter denotes which of the four main systems the fault has been detected in:
The second character is a number that specifies whether it's a generic OBD-II code or a manufacturer code. (Manufacturers reserve the right to generate their own codes if there isn't a generic code for a specific problem they'd like drivers/techs to be able to diagnose.)
0: Standardized (SAE) fault codes
1: Manufacturer-specific codes
The third character is either a letter or number that specifies which of the vehicle systems is throwing a fault:
0: Fuel and air metering and auxiliary emissions controls
1: Fuel and air metering
2: Fuel and air metering (specific injector circuit)3: Ignition systems or misfires
4: Auxiliary emission controls5: Vehicle speed control and idle control systems
7, 8, 9: Transmission and gearbox faults
A, B, C: Hybrid propulsion systems
The fourth and fifth numbers denote the specific fault being detected. It can be any number between zero and 99.
Nearly all modern OBD-II scanners will summarize what the error code is alongside the five-character alphanumeric code. For some of the more advanced models, there's even a code lookup function that will further explain what the fault code is referring to and what might be causing it.
In the case of Bluetooth OBD-II scanners, some of their apps will also include links to video explainers pulled from YouTube that will show you how to further diagnose and even repair the faulty components responsible for the code.
The original Gear Team OBD-II scanners test this article is based on was written by associate editor Collin Morgan, who leads the Hearst Autos Gear Team based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Road & Track and its sibling publications at Hearst Autos represent three of the most influential automotive publications in the world. We rely on decades of experience in the automotive and gear spaces to help readers make informed purchasing choices. Read more about our testing process here.
With the legacies of Autoweek, Car and Driver, and Road & Track behind us, the Hearst Autos Gear Team is more concerned with the trust our readers have in us than our bottom line. We won't tell you to buy something if we wouldn't buy it ourselves or recommend it to our friends, and we'll never claim to have used or tested something if we haven't.
We've evaluated dozens of products, from Cordless Impact Wrenches and Portable Air Compressorsto Garage Flooring. Our picks and recommendations of products and gear are based on testing and knowledge, not hype.
The Assistant Commerce Editor for Hearst Autos, Justin Helton is an enthusiast with a passion for heavily depreciated autos and a penchant for philosophical debate. As a lifelong Manhattanite, he has mastered the ins and outs of classic car ownership in one of the least car-friendly cities in the world.
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Best Travel BackpacksP: PowertrainB: BodyC: ChassisN: Network0: Standardized (SAE) fault codes1: Manufacturer-specific codes0: Fuel and air metering and auxiliary emissions controls1: Fuel and air metering2: Fuel and air metering (specific injector circuit)3: Ignition systems or misfires4: Auxiliary emission controls5: Vehicle speed control and idle control systems7, 8, 9: Transmission and gearbox faultsA, B, C: Hybrid propulsion systemsHearst Autos Gear Team