Important ABS scan tool update: OTC automotive tools division has heard my plea for an affordable brake system diagnostic tool. Here is the OTC 3111 Pro scan tool that does OBD II, ABS and Airbag (SRS) Codes.
The other tools below are more expensive, but also have more features. if you’re looking for an all in 1 type tool with a color screen then scroll down for the Actron and Innova tools.
They released the OTC scanner a couple of years ago. This is why it’s a few bucks cheaper. However, it still pulls down more good reviews then bad ones. Remember that people who take the time to comment are often a tough crowd to please.
The ABS brake scan tool connects to most domestic vehicles 1996 and newer and helps you diagnose Anti Lock Brake problems on your own. Be sure to check the ABS application chart to make sure it will work on your automobile.
The number one complaint in the reviews is it will not scan a particular vehicle. Avoid this by confirming your car or truck is covered. This abs scanner can diagnoses the brake control module, pump motor, brake switch, wheel speed sensors, Anti lock control solenoids, vehicle speed sensors and more.
The scan tool can update the built in code library online from a USB connection to your Internet connected PC.
A battery backup can also be used to save data and power the unit when it’s not connected to the OBD self powered port.
Someone asked me what the difference was between the older Actron 9680 without the color screen and the OTC. I don’t think there is any difference. The buttons and capabilities seem to be the same. I think the insides are built in the same plant and then they use the shell for branding.
Another abs scanner available is the Innova equus 3160. The link on the left takes you to the updated model 3160e. The e model has a color screen and USB connectivity instead of a serial port. This is a big difference and the USB cable is included.
It is a fully functional obd II scanner and it also provides Anti-lock Brake System diagnostics. This scanner can troubleshoot problems with ABS solenoids, pump motors, switches, modules and speed sensors.
Sometimes the problem can be located in the connectors or wiring that connects these devices to the ECU (Electronic Control Unit). Scanners can help locate problem areas.
The ABS scan tool works on most 1996 and newer GM, Ford and Chrysler vehicles. Be sure to view the application chart make sure you are on there. Read some user reviews from the link on the left.
An actual screen capture image above shows a common code for a wheel speed sensor input fault. Often this code is set by broken or damaged wiring to the speed sensor itself. Wheel speed sensor codes are what I see most often.
If your car has either a check engine or an ABS light on you don’t have to reach into your toolbox for two different tools.
The 3160 can do both jobs if the vehicle is on the compatible list. Since the unit is C.A.N. (controller area network) capable it will continue to work on 2013 and 2014 automobiles for scanning check engine lights and reading the data stream.
It has Internet connectivity as well for software updates as I mentioned. Beware that some reviews stated the updates can be difficult to install. It’s seems that tech savvy people did not have a problem.
But others had to call customer support to resolve certain issues. I own the equus 3120 which does not have the ABS functions. I have found it to be a professional grade diagnostic tool that I can count on.
Abs Light Information
When the ABS light comes on, the easiest way to find out why is with a brake system scan tool. If the ABS system malfunctions and illuminates the warning light I think diagnosis is harder than it should be.
Anti lock braking systems aren’t as complicated as the manufacturers are making it out to be. This is just my opinion.
They have simplified check engine light diagnosis by mandating the OBD II systems comply with industry standards. When it became standardized it simplified diagnosis of check engine lights.
Unfortunately, this mandate has not trickled down to the anti lock braking system yet. A separate data stream and computer are used on some cars. In this case a specialized abs scan tool is needed for the proper diagnosis of the system on many vehicles.
When the system turns on the warning light it will set a code just as in standard OBD II applications. The codes relate to a specific failure in part of the computerized anti-lock system.
On modern four-wheel anti-lock brake systems the ABS computer monitors wheel speed through four independent wheel speed sensors and compares that to the vehicles Main speed sensor.
The VSS is monitored by the vehicles main computer and the ABS computer. The component is usually located in the transmission output shaft area but can also be located on the rear differential on rear wheel drive vehicles.
When the computer sees a difference between the actual speed of the vehicle and an independent wheel. It begins to pulse the brake system through a computer-controlled brake modulator.
The Actron 9680 is another tool that can read the vehicle data stream and Anti-lock codes. You can see that Innova and Actron are in a heated competition to develop these diagnostic tools and this benefits consumers.
Common Causes of ABS Lights
If you have an ABS scan tool you can retrieve the code from the braking computer that will point you in the direction of the malfunctioning area.
My experience with this system is the individual wheel sensors are fragile and easily damaged. I have also seen wheel speed sensor testers, but I use a meter on the millivolt scale. You can check output from the part while rotating the wheel.
When I’m diagnosing an ABS system and I’ve retrieved codes for a wheel speed sensor, the first thing I do is a visual inspection. Many times when examining it I find easy to see external damage.
This can be caused by road debris, ice, snow or other external forces that have damaged that particular wheel speed sensor or wiring connecting the sensor to the ABS module. The abs code that’s set is for communication lost from the speed sensors in question.
The repair or replacement of an individual wheel speed sensor in some cases is very simple. The diagnosis of this system is also within the skill level of many driveway warriors if you have an ABS scan tool.
Unfortunately, this specialized tool is expensive and it doesn’t work on all vehicles. ABS system diagnosis without the tool can be complicated and time-consuming without a manual or diagnostic tree chart.
We all hope that the Government will standardize the ABS diagnostic system just like they did with the check engine light. When you attempt your own DIY ABS troubleshooting you can examine each wheel sensor.
Also look at the wiring for signs of an external damage. If you find a sensor or wiring broken you can replace this and then drive the vehicle to see if the light goes out. As soon as the module detects the new sensor it resets the light.
You can get inexpensive wheel speed sensors from doorman, Motorcraft, AC delco, and Wagner at amazon.
If you check out the abs tools listed on this page take a minute to check availability and prices on the wheel sensors. The anti lock brake system is a constant monitor system.
In other words, if a code is set by a failure of one-wheel sensor, when this part is replaced the computer will identify that the speed sensors are now producing a signal. And it will extinguish the ABS light automatically.
The ABS scan tools I’ve listed on this review page are good values, because they also do OBD II diagnostics, along with many domestic ABS systems. All the units include updated software, cables and memory space to tackle some of the most complicated auto repair diagnostics.
Learn More about Modern Brake Systems
The today’s technician series is a very complete manual and one of the first choices for professional mechanics. This one diagnostic training book can get you ready to handle the repair of any automotive brake problems.
Things like warning lights and hydraulics are covered to the point you could pass the certification tests in these areas. Plus it ties it together with braking system malfunctions you see in the real world. Don’t let the price scare you, because you can get these text books used.
As a side note, any time that you’re ABS light, airbag light or check engine light is on, the problem is worth looking into. At least get the initial diagnosis performed to find out what’s going on.
To many times I see people driving around with these lights illuminated on their dashes for extended periods. These are vehicle safety systems that were put in place to protect drivers. Do not ignore these warnings or safety could be compromised.
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