Owning your own car allows you to have the freedom to just pick up and go wherever you want, but car ownership isn’t without its downsides and this includes the cost of driving and routine maintenance, in addition to the cost of repairs. Once your car fails to start or begins to cough and wheeze during your everyday commute, owning a car can be pretty frustrating.
Not everyone is mechanically inclined and able to work on their own cars or trucks. So if you don’t know much about your car or truck, there are some tools that can make it easier to learn what’s wrong with your vehicle and what needs to be done in order to fix it. One of these tools is known as an auto scanner. An auto scanner includes software that was once only available to professional mechanics. These devices have now become available to the public and allow the user to run diagnostic tests that display a variety of codes that signify which system needs attention.
Auto Scanning Diagnostic Tool Buyer’s Guide
When a check engine light comes on it can give most of us anxiety. This bright red light provides little information and can often require a visit to your local garage. At a professional garage, the mechanic will first run some diagnostics on your vehicle in order to determine the cause of the check engine light. They’ll do so by plugging in a handheld device into your car’s info port, which is usually located by the steering wheel or beneath the dashboard. The readings will allow you or the professional to decide how to best tackle any issues your vehicle is facing. Knowing the extensiveness of your car troubles can also save you a lot of time and money if the cost of repairs can potentially be higher than the worth of the car. Once you have the scan results you can begin the repair process at home or discuss with the mechanic the best course of action based on your budget and the age and quality of your vehicle. If you aren’t very familiar with repair costs you can also look up the average estimate for parts and labor regarding each issue.
Depending on the origin of the car as well as its age, a scanner will use a variety of codes.
Professional grade scanning tools are very comprehensive and have the ability to thoroughly scan a vehicle within a few minutes. These scanners use highly intelligent software to determine exactly why your car is malfunctioning. Certain features of professional grade software that are useful for repair shops include bi-directional control. This feature works to control certain parts of the car or truck in order to determine which component is compensating or failing. Professional scanners can provide in-depth diagnostic information regarding a variety of systems, an ability which may not be available with less sophisticated models.
Scanners are considered an integral part of car diagnostics. This piece of equipment will plug into your vehicle and retrieve the codes that the car’s computer is broadcasting. For some mechanics and savvy car owners who have experience working on cars, using a scanner may be enough to diagnose any problems with a vehicle.
It’s important to keep in mind that auto scan tools aren’t just for mechanics, they’re for any car or truck owner who wants to closely monitor their vehicle and potentially save hundreds of dollars a year that’s otherwise spent attempting to determine the cause of a malfunctioning car on their own, or from being overcharged for work done at a professional garage.
When shopping for a scanner we recommend reading product reviews in order to get a better understanding of how each model performs, how each feature works and to find out if each model of interest has any common issues. You should also do some research in order to determine if the car or truck you own is compatible with the model of scanner you have your eye on.
Because onboard diagnostics are standardized across different models of cars it’s possible to get a model that’s compatible with most models at a reasonable price.
Most new models of auto scan tools can be plugged into the car and the information can be uploaded to any type computer, including MACs. Other models are compatible with smartphones and tablets for ultimate portability. These models are often higher priced.
Since the standardization of on-board diagnostics for cars and trucks, it’s become significantly easier to buy reliable scanning tools.
Until a few years ago, these scanners could cost thousands of dollars and were only sold to auto repair shops. Now, there are small scanners that can fit in your pocket. These models are just as sophisticated and have the ability to monitor an engine’s parameters including voltage, temperature and speed and they can also track other vital areas including tires, ventilation, brakes, and steering.
Every time a vehicle’s computer sees something that isn’t right it stores a fault code, signaling the check engine light to come on. OBD 2 scanners will delve deep into a computer’s memory, extracting codes in order to provide you with the information you need to know to fix your ailing vehicle.
There are literally thousands of fault codes and none of these codes can be retrieved without a scanner. These devices are great for second guessing mechanics and diagnosing problems, and they are considered a must-have tool, much like a dwell meter or timing light. Every car owner should have one because they’re affordable and easy to use and can give you an in-depth look at what’s wrong with your car or truck without having to pay for a diagnostic scan at a garage. As a car owner, you should take the responsibility for the condition of your car, instead of only leaving it up to a professional once something goes wrong. Buying this type of scanner is a great start.
Are Auto Scanners Really Easy to use and what is the Best Feature to look for?
The hardest part about using a scanner is trying to figure out where it plugs into your vehicle. Every vehicle that was produced after 1996 has an OBD 2 plug located within a few feet of the user. Typically, if can be found under the dash, behind trim panel, between the seats or hidden under an ashtray.
Usually, a quality scan tool will include an easy to use interface and a detailed description after each code. Freeze frame is a must have feature that’s pretty handy, especially if you use your scanner in a professional capacity. This feature allows you to freeze the readings each time, allowing you to record each code at your leisure. If you’re working on a series of cars, or one car that has a lot of issues then this feature can prevent you from having to redo scans in order to ensure you’ve read each code carefully. Other models will include features that allow you to monitor every system in your vehicle including air pressure, tires, airbags, and brakes.
Along with a small tool kit, jumper cables, and a tire pressure gauge, you should always keep a scan tool in your car, especially for cross-country road trips.
Actron CP9575 Auto Scanner Review
The Actron CP9575 auto scanner is a high-quality model that can be used for professional or personal use. This model is compatible with all models of light trucks and cars built after 1996 that feature CAN and OBD 2. This scanner can be used to diagnose a variety of issues, providing you with the information you need in order to repair your vehicle, or giving you the type of information you need in order to prepare financially for the required repairs, while also giving you an edge over the pros should they attempt to overcharge you or charge you for repairs that are unnecessary. According to consumers, this model is exceptionally easy to use, even for consumers with no real experience working on cars. Using the scanner is pretty simple, just plug one end of the USB cable into your vehicle’s information port and the other end into the device. Should the scanner encounter any issues the screen will display the codes. This is not your standard code reader, in fact, most users felt it was a major step up from the basic code readers of the past, which is why it’s considered so user-friendly. This model allows you to frequently update your scanner, so it’s always up to date with the most current diagnostic codes, a feature which you won’t find on lower quality models. You can also test your vehicle and determine if it will pass emissions testing. Getting emission testing results before you take your vehicle in will allow you to make the necessary repairs that will ensure your vehicle passes. Packed with more than fifteen thousand generic and model specific codes, this is a must-have device if you’re looking for an auto scanner for professional use. Equipped with a large display screen and a user’s menu that’s newbie friendly, this Actron device can be considered a great buy for any driver. This model received mainly positive consumer feedback and it’s easy to see why considering it’s packed with a ton of extra features and considered one of the most accurate and reliable models of diagnostic scanners on the market.
Click here to read the full Actron CP9575 auto scanner review
Innova 3160 Diagnostic Scan Tool Review
The Innova 3160 diagnostic scan tool weighs in at two pounds and is small enough to easily fit in your pocket. Described as a highly portable device, this model is equipped with SAE enhanced data system that provides rapid scan results in mere seconds. The large blue backlit display screen allows you to get a clear view and makes reading codes easier. The car ID feature is a perfect feature for mechanics because it can automatically identify each car by model without the need of manually entering in this information. With the ability to run basic diagnostic tests and view the result in real-time or by playing back the results, this model allows the user to have more control over the testing process and makes it easy to give your vehicle a complete once over thanks to additional features including ABS, oxygen sensor, and SAE. This model’s innovative user menu and overall design of the display screen allows this scanner to stand out from the competition and is a huge selling point for consumers who are tired of trying to read codes using a standard display screen. A scan tool that’s so simple in function, yet full of additional testing features, the Innova is a consumer favorite that’s reliable and accurate enough for professional use, but easy enough to be used by the novice. The 3160 has a reputation for providing results significantly quicker than your average code reader, which is why this particular model is widely used in professional garages all over the country.
Click here to read the full Innova 3160 diagnostic scan tool review
OTC 3111PRO Trilingual Scan Tool Review
The OTC 3111 Pro Trilingual scan tool features diagnostic information in English, Spanish or French. It’s also equipped with expanded code readings for domestic and Asian cars. Described as an accurate and versatile model, the 3111 has a lot of offer and can make the task of diagnosing whatever is ailing your vehicle easy and fast. The scanner is compatible with cars and light trucks produced after 1996 and features over three hundred possible PIDS and auto ID. Auto ID is an innovative feature that’s perfect for the car owner with more than one car or the professional mechanic because it can automatically detect the make and model of the car or truck it’s hooked up to, which means you no longer have to manually enter this information in before doing a scan. It’s also equipped with the popular freeze frame feature, which allows you to freeze the readings for each code, should your scanner detect a number of problems. This allows you to carefully record each and every code without missing important information. Because it’s packed with a ton of features it’s a consumer best-seller. The scanner’s real-time feature allows you to read diagnostic results live while also allowing you to playback this information, preventing you from missing any info. It also includes both ABS and SRS retrieving capabilities, so you can expect an extensive scan that will pick up any issues. The code connect feature offers the ability to provide you with an extensive amount of global codes that cover both manufacturer specific and generic codes. A scanning tool that’s fully loaded, you may even find yourself having fun using this highly intuitive tool.
Click here to read the full OTC 3111 trilingual scan tool review