Automotive scan tool reviews from a car mechanic. My name is Mark and I’m going to show you the scan tools I own.
First let me briefly explain why it’s now safe to buy an automotive scan tool. From 1982 through 1995 auto scanners needed to be replaced or updated every couple of years as vehicles advanced.
The deployment of obd 2 in 1996 has changed the operation of the computer scanner for the better. Federal laws have standardized the on-board diagnostics system in all automotive vehicles going forward. This allowed the price of diagnostic tools to fall drastically.
In fact, the last four units I purchased still work today on the 2016 models and it appears they’ll continue to work in 2017 and beyond. The automotive scan tool reviews below will provide four choices for do it yourself car repair or even professional auto mechanics.
Scanner Reviews for OBD2 Code Readers
The Autel Maxi Scan ms300 is the first scan tool to cover. This is your most basic automotive scan tool, but is a good choice for the DIY auto repair consumer. This scanner only reads and erases codes, but will also reset the service engine soon light.
It saves time and money by performing diagnostic scans at any time or place when your “check engine” light comes on. Perfect size for the glove box or when your heading to the emission testing station.
The Autel code reader is very basic and includes a bilingual manual of generic trouble code descriptions on a CD or paper manual. It will tell you the code number and then you look it up in the supplied manual to get the definition.
Car Scanners Review #2 a Better Tool
The Actron scanner is more in price compared to the simple code reader from Autel, but provides more features and power. My favorite features are the color display and on-screen definition of the codes stored in memory.
This means no stopping to look up what the code means like with the plain code readers on the market. Trust me this is a big deal. The CP9670 automotive diagnostic tool will comply with the newest C.A.N. (Controller Area Network) protocols.
Industry leaders say C.A.N. will remain mandatory on all vehicles for the foreseeable future. Now that the 2017 models are out we know they’re still using it and plan to do so moving forward.
The Actron CP9670 replaced my CP9575. It has the same features, but with an improved screen. It displays freeze frame data or snapshots of the operating conditions at the time of the fault.
Also view the status of a cars inspection and maintenance monitors. Of course you can also read and erase diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs) that will turn off the check engine light.
This is the most common function of an automotive scanner as it can reset the system so the car can be driven to see if the light returns indicating a hard failure requiring diagnosis.
The Actron scanner is small and only has 4 buttons allowing users to quickly link to vehicles with a large easy-to-read color LCD screen. Again it provides the diagnostic trouble codes and the description of what it stands for. No stopping to look it up.
This is a good choice for DIY auto repair mechanics and why it’s one of the better selling tools on Amazon. If you want the older model like mine, look for the CP9575. It’s about $10 cheaper.
Best OBD2 Scan Tool for 1996 and Up
The Innova 3160e OBDII and ABS/SRS Scan Tool is more than the cp9670. Let me explain what you get for the extra money and then decide if you would even use these capabilities.
This scanner will read and erase codes on almost all vehicles newer then 96. However, it will also read and help diagnoses ABS and SRS codes. Coverage is limited to the most popular 1996 and newer GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota and Honda vehicles.
Please make sure your vehicle is one of these. If you don’t need the ABS or Air bag functions then consider the 3140e below. It does OBDII plus older OBD1 cars and trucks.
You can upgrade these Innova scanners via the Internet by using a USB cable connected from a PC to the unit. The cable came with mine, but I’ve heard others complain it wasn’t in the box.
It’s important because it allows you to transfer data from the scanner to your computer and print out the diagnostic information. If you take an automobile to the repair shop this print out can save diagnostic charges and will let your shop know that you are educated on the check engine light subject.
This tool pulls codes, but can also read the data stream to aid in diagnosis of more complex problems. To help in this diagnosis you can connect the tool to a PC and use the online repair solutions that are included. Another feature worth mentioning is you can freeze-frame data in blocks.
This way you can play it back to isolate faults without having to recreate the failure over and over again. You can now play it back frame by frame to scrutinize all the information.
A very useful feature for when you have intermittent problems that turn on a check engine light. Combine this with Internet connectivity and the ability to interface with a PC and you have a powerful, professional diagnostic scanner.
This is a more advanced unit but the basic functions are as easy to use as the above scanner. This is a tool you can grow into and learn from. The kit comes with a helpful CD to explain how to get the most from this auto scan tool and diagnose the check engine light properly.
Scanner Reviews for Both OBD1 OBD2
I own the 3120 model, this has been updated to the Innova 3140 and now the 3140e. For the same price I paid you now get a better scanner. This automobile scan tool has a few advantages over the three above scanners and one disadvantage.
This unit will not scan ABS or airbag codes. Therefore, the main advantage is that it handles OBD1 and OBD2 compliant vehicles. This will give you coverage from 1982-2016. The scan tool links to all OBD II protocols including CAN (Controller Area Network).
The tool captures and displays freeze frame data that will help you pinpoint and troubleshoot many intermittent car problems. Information can be reviewed off the car to help find complex and hard failures in a more comfortable setting.
The scan tool package includes: 3140e tester, OBD2 DLC cable, OBD1 extension cable, OBD1 GM adapter, OBD1 Ford adapter, OBD1 Toyota/Lexus adapter, OBD1 Chrysler/Jeep adapter, software, instruction video, PC cable for updates and a soft storage case.
This is a nice package that’s good for beginners up to experts. Automotive scan tool reviews an overview. I have purchased more than 10 automotive scan tools in the last 27 years. I own three out of the four listed above.
The Innova 3140e scanner in my opinion provides a lot of value because you can walk up to many (not all) vehicles from 1982-2016 and scan it.
Keep in mind that on some older 80’s vehicles diagnostic functions are limited depending on the automobile. Another thing to consider is to actually “fix some codes” you will need the factory diagnostic tree chart to handle it efficiently. All Data one year subscriptions are inexpensive and can help pin down the fault responsible for throwing the code.
Update: I don’t own this scan tool, because I don’t have a laptop. I have been asked many times about my opinion on the best way to interface with the cars computer using a laptop or pda.
This is my answer to the left. The elm scan 5 compact USB scanner is the latest release from the people that in my opinion perfected this type of system.
With a price point of around 50 bucks it’s a great value because it includes the OBDwiz diagnostic software. Yes, you can get a cheaper USB scanner, but it won’t have this software.
With it, you can read and erase codes and manipulate the data stream in real time. This is for vehicles 1996 and up. It is as powerful as any of the scanners listed above if not more so. I think the hand held scan tool is easier and quicker to use.
That’s just my personal opinion. However, if you already own a laptop and don’t care about Bluetooth this might be right for you? And you can display more data at one time on the much larger computer screen.
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