Cheap auto scan tools are a quickly expanding marketplace. Car owners are starting to realize that when their check engine light comes on they do have choices. 2 good choices under $40 are reviewed for you on this page.
One is a USB laptop computer interface and the other is the Autel ms300 hand held auto scanner. In 1996 when OBD II first came out if your check engine light came on your choice was simple. You just took it to the dealer and paid the money.
Now that OBD II has been out for over 15 years things have changed. Not only for the automotive scan tool but also for car owners. Years ago you would not be able to find a scan tool for less than $100. Now inexpensive auto scan tools are commonly found for under $35.
What this means for car owners is when the check engine light comes on they can do the first step of diagnosis. This is to record the set code and then clear it. Next operate the vehicle to see if the check engine light comes back on. If the same code does return you now know a genuine problem exists that needs to be addressed.
Some check engine light codes are easier to fix than others. In many cases a do-it-yourself car mechanic may be able to solve the car problem in their driveway.
The availability of auto repair manuals online lets car owners follow repair diagrams for the specific diagnostic trouble code that was set. You only need a diagram if the diagnostic trouble code is cleared and then returns.
Drivers can also take it to an auto repair shop. But armed with the information that the trouble code is not an intermittent problem. After you inform the shop that you have done the first steps of basic diagnosis, not only will you have cut down the diagnostic time but you have also earned the respect of the repair shop.
Cheap does not have to mean poor quality. The two scan tools on this page have received above average reviews and are quite capable of getting the job done. The first scan tool review is the cheapest one I personally have ever seen. It is the Autel Maxi scan.
This is a hand held scanner that just reads and erases codes. The next one down is the crescent USB laptop scanner that is a cheap laptop scanner solution. One thing to make clear about the Maxi Scan MS300 OBD-II code reader is it doesn't read the data stream.
It provides car owners and diy auto mechanics with an affordable, portable and convenient way to read codes that are turning on the check engine light and perform a push button reset. This cheap auto scan tool will interface with autos from 1996 to present day. This scanner is also CAN capable which stands for controller area network. This means that it should work on future models as well. Another important note, there are no on screen definitions.
The Autel MS300 includes trouble code definitions on CD. The CD can be helpful for troubleshooting a wide variety of generic and manufacturer specific check engine light trouble codes. This auto scan tool is self-powered through the OBD II diagnostic connector. The unit does not require batteries or an AC adapter. You just plug it in using the included standard 16-pin OBD-II connector.
Next up is the Crescent USB laptop OBD2 interface. This is a cheap auto scan tool that will pair up with your laptop computer. It includes software that will allow you to read and erase check engine light codes. It also includes some third party diagnostic software that allows more detailed information to be displayed on your laptop screen.
The advantage of the personal computer for diagnosing trouble codes is the ability to display more data at the same time on the larger screen as opposed to the small hand held scan tools. The connection to your laptop computer is through a USB cable that has a built in USB to serial converter.
There is a wide range of third party software available for these kinds of tools. The down side is this ability to tweak the displayed data makes this scanner more complicated to use and set up then the cheap plug in and go auto scan tool above. But if you have a laptop and are comfortable with installing and configuring software then this item is a good choice.
After you get a scan tool I provide some information about how to use
the scanner to solve your check engine light problems this next link
takes you to the main auto scan tool page.
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