The Best OBD-II Scanner

If you are experiencing problems with your vehicle or if the engine warning light is illuminated and you don’t know why – it may be time to invest in an OBD-II scanner. All cars that were produced from 1996 onwards are compatible with OBD-II scanners.

An OBD-II scanner plugs into your vehicle’s onboard computer and reads any error or warning codes which are being generated. These codes allow you to diagnose the problem and will allow you to establish whether you need to take your car to an auto repair shop or if you can fix the problem yourself.

Below is a review of 3 popular OBD-II scanners.

BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBD-II

Features

  • Free diagnostic app
  • Supports all OBD-II protocols
  • Live data capture
  • Large code database

Pros

  • Switch and between data sources
  • Access to Advanced Mode 6 data readings: Advanced data readings, such as misfire counts.
  • Automatic Repair report
  • Emission testing

Cons

  • Software only works on Android and Apple devices
  • Poor data transmission
  • Not compatible with all types of car
  • Cost

PWOW ELM327 OBD-II

Features

  • Compatible with Android and Windows devices
  • Displays a wide range of sensor data
  • Reads both manufacturer-specific and generic codes
  • Database of over 3000 generic codes

Pros

  • Affordable price
  • Solid build quality
  • Fast data transfer

Cons

  • Length of device
  • Device continues to draw power when engine off
  • Not stand alone device
  • Not compatible with iOS devices

Autel MaxiScan MS309 CAN OBDII

Features

  • Large backlit LCD screen
  • Multilingual menu
  • Supports CAN protocols
  • Searches and displays definitions of specific and generic codes

Pros

  • Displays freeze frame data
  • Retrieves VIN, CVN and CIN information
  • Easy-to-read data

Cons

  • Small size of device can make operating the controls difficult

Verdict

The BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDII is a device which displays data on a smart phone which is loaded with the free app provided by the manufacturer. Simply plug the BlueDriver into the socket and wait as it communicates with your car’s onboard computer and transmits the data via Bluetooth to your phone.

Once received, the app on your phone will use this data compile a detail report on any error codes it detects. However, it must be said that the Bluetooth connection can sometimes be unreliable, which can be frustrating when all you want is a quick and accurate data reading.

Once you have the code, you can search an in-app database which contains details of over 4.3 million repairs which have been carried out by certified vehicle mechanics. Once you have this data on your phone, you can quickly email it on to your local auto repair shop so they can carry out further analysis.

One feature provided by the BlueDriver, which is not provided by more basic devices in the smog readiness test. The smog test allows you to check the level of emissions being produced by your car along with information about any limits you are breaking. However, the BlueDriver does have some drawbacks.

When it comes to cost, the BlueDriver is at the top end of the market. The device also has some severe limitations. For instance, the app needed to run the device is not compatible with Windows phones.

Also, the scanner will not work very well with some models of car, such as Volvos, BMWs, Hyundais and VW Golfs. Because of these limitations, you should think carefully before you purchase this product.

The PWOW ELM327 consist of a dongle which is inserted into the data socket on your car and software which is compatible with Windows and Android devices. Once the device is plugged in, it will automatically search for data from your vehicles onboard computer, which will be transmitted via Bluetooth back to your device.

This scanner provides a wide range of data concerning the engine RPM, coolant temperature, short-term fuel trim, long-term fuel trim, fuel system status, intake air temperature, manifold pressure, absolute throttle position, oxygen sensor readings and calculated load valve.

This data can be displayed in a number of different graphs and charts for easy reading and can then be emailed to your local auto garage.

The PWOW ELM327 does have a few drawbacks, however. The main problem is that while the scanner is compatible with all makes and models of car, its length may mean you psychically cannot insert it into the data slot. You will need a least 4 inches of clearance to insert this scanner.

The software supplied with this app is not compatible with Apple iOS devices so if you have an iPad or iPhone, you will have to look elsewhere. It is also important to remember that if you leave this device plugged in, it will still draw power from your car’s battery even when the car is off, which could result in a dead battery if you forget to remove the scanner.

Finally, the Autel MaxiScan MS309 OBD-II Code Reader provides you with an easy way to access diagnostic codes and their definitions. Although the Autel MaxiScan can be easily held in the palm of your hand, it is a very powerful piece of equipment. The device features a backlit LCD screen, multilingual menu and intuitive control layout.

The device can be used to collect vehicle information, identify any pending codes and to diagnose the cause of an illuminated check engine light. The information displayed on the device can be viewed using a freeze frame menu, which allows you to take a closer look at what exactly in occurring in the different vehicle systems.

The device features an in-built library which lets you quickly access hundreds of thousands of diagnostic code definitions once the scan is complete. This library can be easily updated using the internet to ensure you always have access to the latest codes.

The one drawback of the Autel MaxiScan MS309 OBD-II is the small size of the control buttons, which can make it difficult to select commands when you have oily or greasy fingers. However, this is a minor complaint towards what is an excellent and affordable OBD-II scanner.

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