Top Car Diagnostic Tools for DIY Mechanics

When that check engine light on your dash mocks you every time you drive, and you want to find out what the problem is before taking it in for repairs, an Onboard Diagnostic (OBD) scan tool can give you the answers you are looking for without requiring you to go to the mechanic. Onboard diagnostic scanners that are standardized for use across car makes and models are referred to as OBDII, or OBD2, devices.

Why Would I Need an OBD? 

If you own a car, it is extremely likely that you could benefit from an OBDII scanner. Here are a few reasons you might find this technology helpful:

  • You enjoy doing your own repairs. This device allows you to accurately diagnose the problem with your vehicle.
  • By scanning your car and diagnosing it yourself, you can research and have awareness about how much a car repair should cost. Information is power. While we hope our mechanics are honest with us about the repairs they suggest, an OBDII device allows us to double-check.
  • Nobody enjoys spending money on car repairs. By equipping yourself with knowledge about your issues, you can prioritize your repairs. If something leads to a bigger issue if left untreated, you will have the information to decide. 
  • Turn off that check engine light. If you have made the necessary repairs, you can use the scanner to turn off those warning lights yourself without visiting an auto repair shop.
  • If you are purchasing a used car Fargo, you can verify the car’s mileage and check the VIN number as well. 

How OBDII Scanners Work

In the mid-nineties, the federal government began a push to reduce emissions. OBD2 scanner ports were installed in all vehicles manufactured domestically. The ports are installed beneath the steering wheel column. 

Automobiles have a 16-pin connector port that the scanners are plugged into when diagnosing issues with the vehicle. The scanners can provide you with a lot of information about your car. For instance, it can show you the following: 

  • Error codes
  • Emission testing
  • Engine temperature
  • Fuel efficiency 
  • Speed
  • Accesses onboard computer system to update software
  • Diagnoses problems before they have advanced enough for the check engine light to be triggered.
  • Battery testing 

The most standard OBD2 scanner will show you an error code that you can then investigate online or in the owner’s manual. Newer OBD2 scan tools allow you to skip this step and will tell you what the error codes mean. Top-of-the-line OBD2 scanners could provide links to help you repair the problem yourself.

Possible Issues

While there are error codes that are standard across manufacturers, there are some variations. For instance, a code concerning a Chevrolet might provide a different reading than that of a Subaru. This is not really a problem since you can look up the error code for your specific vehicle.

What You Get For Your Money

From budget OBD2s to more professional devices, these devices run the gamut of prices and features. Before you purchase a diagnostic tool, consider what you need the instrument to do. They typically range in price from $30 to $500. 

The higher-end options are typically reserved for professional mechanics. Although you might not need the most expensive device, the cheapest may not be the best option either. Inexpensive scanners may not tell you what you want to know without subscribing to a service to access its features. 

Listed below are some of the features you can expect for various prices: 

  • Less than $60 gets you a basic OBD2 device. These can read most common error codes and can typically check your emissions. Read the fine print and online reviews about the device you are considering. Lower-priced OBD2s often require subscriptions or have difficult to operate apps.
  • In the $100 to $200 price range, more features are available. At this price point, you can often access live data, can you monitor the antilock braking system (ABS), and can check the effectiveness of the airbag system. You can expect these devices to rely on Bluetooth so you can see the results on your laptop or telephone. This is the choice of most DIY mechanics. 
  • If you spend in excess of $200, you have access to the widest scope of features. Some of the features you can expect in these models include advanced code reading, antilock braking system (ABS) monitoring, supplemental restraint system (SRS) monitoring, and transmission checks. Instead of Bluetooth, expect these OBD2 scanning devices to feature touch-screen, large displays. They work with a wider selection of automakers, including luxury brands. 

Recommended Devices

There are great diagnostic scanners at every price point. Below are some suggestions at various prices: 

  • Coming in at a whopping $420, the TOPDON’s ArtiDiag800BT is the best OBD2 device on the market. It is wireless, has a large touchscreen display, is easy to use, and has a host of features. This scanner has you covered if you want to check common and less known codes, emissions, SRS, and ABS. With almost 100 vehicle manufacturers compatible with the device, you will almost always be able to use it with your vehicle.
  • If you are looking for a midrange diagnostic scanning tool, the $120 BlueDriver Bluetooth® Pro OBDII Scan Tool is a solid choice. It uses Bluetooth to connect with a free app that works with Androids and iPhones. This device is simple to use. Simply plug it in to view reports about your engine’s performance. If error codes appear, the device will suggest potential repairs.
  • Most drivers will be satisfied with the Foxwell NT201. For the economical cost of $50, this device checks a lot of boxes. The device delivers standard data collection, freeze-frame information, and real-time engine data. The device will allow you to read your engine’s codes and clear them fairly simply. 

Saving Time and Money with OBD2 Scanners

Depending on how many vehicles you are responsible for, whether your car is still under warranty, how much and how far from home you are traveling, and your automobile’s condition, you could benefit from owning an OBD2 scanner. It could save you money on costly repairs, keep you from being taken advantage of by less-than-honorable mechanics, and potentially walk you through repairs. 

If issues with your vehicle were caused by the negligence or willful misconduct of another party, contact Salango Law for advice. Our team is here to protect your rights, explain your options, and pursue damages when necessary. 

Steven Hatman
Steven Hatman

We break down every information into easy-to-understand articles that cover all the categories anyone who owns a car needs to know about, such as oil , brakes , tires and etc. Our car guide is free and updated regularly for you to use as a resource, not only when you have an issue with your car but even before buying a new or used car! We also give tips on what to look for in each category or part of your vehicle.