Purchasing an OBD-II Code Reader and Scanner

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Have you ever had a problem with your car, which resulted in your check engine light illuminating? Or have you ever needed to trouble shoot things such as poor acceleration, increased fuel consumption, or other problems associated with your car? If so, then an OBD2 reader is what you need.

What is an OBD2 Reader?

OBD strands for “Onboard Diagnostics.” Anytime that you have a check engine light illuminated or a problem with your car, one of the first things your mechanic or dealership will do is plug in an OBD reader into your car.

OBD2 is the new standard that most modern day vehicle computers use for reporting and tracking car analytics. This includes tracing of engine codes, O2 levels, fuel consumption, voltage levels for ignition, and much much more.

The best thing about OBD2 is that it has become a universal communication protocol. That means almost all new cars and trucks produced after 1996 now have a standard and universal OBD2 port. This allows anyone with an OBD-II scanner to collect and troubleshoot issues on almost any car or truck.

What Can An OBD-II Scanner Do?

When it comes down to your OBD-II reader, the functionality is dependent on the type of reader you purchased and whether or not you have an off the shelf (consumer) code reader or a commercial grade (advanced) reader. Typically a consumer based OBD-II reader costs around $5-$10, whereas a commercial OBD-II reader will cost $100+.

Consumer based OBD-II readers are perfect for your everyday person like you and I. These devices are very affordable and allow you to view almost all major statistics of your vehicle. These consumer based readers will even allow you to clear basic engine codes and will allow you to save car data and run pretty detail diagnostics tests, such as testing your alternator or battery health, viewing your sparkplug health, and much more.

On the other hand, if you have some more money to dish out, you will get many more features with a commercial grade OBD-II reader. These devices can range from $100 to over $5,000 for tablet based readers.

In most cases these OBD-II readers will be able to display the same information as the cheaper consumer based OBD-II readers, since they are both pulling information using the OBD-II protocol.

The more expensive commercial based OBD-II will however be able to do allot more in terms of running detailed diagnostics, clearing specialty codes, and obtaining more finite details from your vehicles ECU. Some great things that the more expensive OBD-II readers do include, but are not limited to:

  1. Clearing all check engine lights
  2. Clearing airbag lights
  3. Pin pointing exact parts that require repair
  4. Providing parts diagrams:
  5. And cycling abs modules for newer cars such a BMW and Audi (brake jobs).

What Are the Different Types of OBD-II Scanners

Generally speaking, there are two types of OBD-II Car Scanners. They include small wireless OBD-II scanners and larger units which are typically wired. You also have “Code Readers” and “Scaners”.

If you are looking for a device that will be able to clear codes or engine lights, then a “Code Reader” is not for you. You should be looking at “Scanners.”

OBD-II code readers are typically small and inexpensive devices that will only tell you what is wrong with your car or vehicle. They are limited to only providing basic information and may not get to the root cause of an issue that you are experiencing. Albeit, code readers are great for people interested in the basic function and analytics for their vehicle.

Now, if you are looking for a device that can clear codes such as check engine lights, you will want to look for an OBD-II device that is both a “Code Reader” and a “Scan Tool.” These devices are typically a bit more expense, but, they will provide you with a wealth of knowledge on your vehicle and can save you time and money when troubleshooting issues and clearing codes once you have made your repairs.

The Best Low Cost OBD-II Scanner & Code Reader

Out of all of the low cost budget OBD-II scanners and code readers, our favourite is the ELM-327 OBD-II module. The specific version that is the best bang for your buck is the “wifi” version.

ELM-327 OBD-II Reader

Purchasing the Wifi ELM-327 reader will allow you to look up and clear codes, and will also allow you to view live time car statistics. In addition to all of the stats, the ELM-327 wifi OBD-II reader can also be used on both Android and iOS devices. This is great news since most standard Bluetooth OBD-II readers will only work for Android and NOT iOS devices like your iPhone or iPad.

Some of the Apps that we recommend to use in conjunction with the ELM-327 Wifi OBD-II reader are:

  1. Torque 
  2. Scan Master 
  3. Car Scanner 

Overall, having an OBD-II car scanner and code reader is a great investment for any car owner. These devices typically range in price from $10 to over $1000. With that said the budget OBD-II readers are great to keep in any glovebox. These devices will allow anyone to pinpoint common problems with your vehicle and provide assistance in how to fix such issues.

If you have any questions about this article or require any help with your OBD-II reader (especially the ELM-327) leave a comment in the section below and we will be happy

1 COMMENT

  1. Thanks. I went and purchased the ELM (little blue one). After setting it up I was able to find out why my engine light was on. Turned out to be a simple plug and play part…. so this thing already saved me a tripp to the dealership 🙂

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