The Check Engine light came on, and it can really affect our plans and financial expenses. An inexperienced driver is confused: does this mean that the trip is canceled? Or is there a simple solution to the problem? Without an expensive trip to the service station, there is only one way to find out why the Check Engine light came on: an OBD-II scanner.
What is OBD-II and how to read errors
OBD (On-Board Diagnostics) is a car diagnostic system , which uses electronic technology to detect malfunctions in the vehicle’s systems and transmit this information to the driver or mechanic.
OBD-II consists of sensors that measure parameters of the engine and other vehicle systems, and control devices that regulate the operation of these systems. In addition, OBD-II has a standard connector that allows you to connect an external scanner to read error codes and debug the system errors.
After detecting a malfunction, OBD-II records the corresponding error code in its memory and displays this code on the car’s dashboard or transmits it to an external scanner. The process is usually accompanied by the illumination of the Check Engine icon. This code helps the mechanic find the cause of the problem and fix it.
OBD-II (On-Board Diagnostics, version 2) was first introduced in Europe in 2001. It was installed as a standard diagnostic system on all petrol cars produced after that date. It has been mandatory for diesel cars since 2004.
How and why to read OBD-II control system errors
It is clear that ignoring system errors is highly not recommended. First, no driver can instantly be able to tell how serious the reason is for that damn Check Engine to appear on the dashboard. Secondly, one error leads to the appearance of another, they can accumulate up to the impossibility of starting the engine or a critical malfunction.
It’s all money, and sometimes huge money for major repairs. So the sooner we find out the cause of the error, the less chance there is of having to make a serious repair. You can find out the origin of the error at the diagnostic post at the nearest service station. But it’s still the cost of paying for diagnostics and a waste of time.
Instead, every driver can easily connect a diagnostic scanner and independently learn about the nature and level of complexity of the error. To do this, it is enough to look at the error codes issued by the OBD-II scanner, if, of course, there is one.
Which OBD-II scanner is better, species. What is an error code
There is a huge price difference between OBD-II scanners, ranging from $20 to several thousand. As with most gadgets, the more you pay, the more features you get. To decide which one is right for each situation, it’s worth considering a variety of OBD-II scanners at different price points.
In this review, we did not touch the scanners that cost a lot of money. Such models are suitable for professionals who, at least in the near future, will be able to repel them. You and I, garage warriors, will have enough scanners in the lower and middle price range.
What are OBD-II error scanners
Conventionally, all scanners sold can be divided into two groups. Let’s emphasize—to divide conditionally, since it depends on the capabilities of the device.
- OBD-II display scanners. That is, those devices that simply display the value of the error code and the code itself. They can provide access to a limited amount of data, usually the most important ones, such as antifreeze temperature, rpm, mileage, fuel system pressure, ignition advance angle, etc. They will show, but they will not be allowed to influence anything.
- OBD-II Diagnostic Scanners. It are serious repair tools that boast much more diagnostic information than display scanners. They also cost more. Diagnostic scanners offer advanced testing of components and modules, some even offer technical advice, typical repairs and Technical Service Bulletins (Technical Service Bulletins, TSB).
Cars equipped with OBD-II typically have a port under the instrument panel on the driver’s side. They can be hard to find, but they are always available. In some cars, they are located on the left side of the steering column, others on the right side. To access information from the system, the scanner is connected, and the ignition is turned on, often without starting the engine.
What are OBD-II error codes
Vehicle error codes are displayed as a five-digit Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC). This code is shown along with a short description that may or may not make any sense to us. DTC will point you in the right direction, but it’s up to us to investigate and uncover the real cause of the problem.
A number of DTCs, usually transmission related, are common to all vehicles and can be read by any scanner. However, some fault codes, such as those for braking or chassis systems, may be manufacturer specific, so you may need to investigate which scanners (if any) will communicate with the various on-board computers for a specific car make.
Some autoscanners can even do almost everything a dealer can do, including some programming .
Popular models of OBD-II car scanners 2023
Both wired scanners and Bluetooth OBD-II scanners are available. In general, the interface and ease of use are more typical of Bluetooth scanners and related applications. But their setup will take more time. With the app on your smartphone, additional information is literally in the palm of your hand. Meanwhile, the speed and simplicity of wired scanners are clear advantages. Which one is better? It depends on the user’s preferences.
ELM 327 Bluetooth V1.5 Super Mini
Probably the most common among garage masters in Ukraine is the OBD-II car scanner. There are several varieties, but all of them are built around the ELM 327 chip. They are usually sold with software, and only support Windows XP/7/8/10 or Android. The price is about $12-15. You should not be tempted by too cheap offers from China, because 90% are fakes with reduced functionality and dubious performance.
Can display the main parameters of the engine — air consumption, fuel pressure, instantaneous and long-term fuel consumption, speed, indicators of almost all major sensors. Mainly suitable for all cars on the European market from 1999-2000.
Ancel BD310 is the choice as the best OBD-II scanner for home use. A great solution for balancing wired and Bluetooth capabilities, the native app interface is simple, logical and enjoyable.
This is a unique scanner because it can be used not only with a wired interface, but also connect via Bluetooth and use a free app to access additional data, diagnostic resources and performance testing .
The BD310 is quick to connect and display codes, and it has many of the benefits of expensive scanners while remaining affordable. You can buy this scanner for $40-45.
Launch Maker 3001
Inexpensive multi-brand autoscanner with a standard set of functions. A fresh model (which officially updates the software regularly) costs $30. Very easy to use, but has limited functionality, usually reading and resetting error codes, reads streaming data in real time.
An undeniable plus is that the model has a liquid crystal display, so there is no need for another gadget for data processing. But there is a limitation — it does not work with diesel engines until 2004.
For a semi-professional OBD-II scanner with a wider range of diagnostic capabilities, test functions, bi-directional control and additional diagnostic offerings, the Innova 5610 is impressive. No other scanner in this price range offers so many features.
The latest software allows you to work even with hybrid cars and electric cars. Allows programming of most desired functions, Auto Re-Link feature helps user verify during drive cycle if fixes to clear DTCs are successful, works with all 1996-later vehicles, but costs around $200, which allows not everyone pours himself.
Launch CReader V+
Launch CReader V+ semi-professional autoscanner is a fully autonomous model. Provides access to all information, plus allows you to adjust the parameters of the engine management system. With a price of about $60 in Ukraine and lifetime brand support for updates, this is one of the best offers.
For those drivers who feel confident in the engine management systems, have the need to monitor the instrument readings in real time, draw up graphs and diagrams of the operation of the engine systems, ABS, transmission, creating a freeze frame and many other functions, Launch CReader V+ will be the best option.
Of course, the selection of OBD-II car scanners in Ukraine is not as wide as in the same China. However, knowing exactly your goals and financial capabilities, you can profitably purchase a useful gadget and keep your car always in excellent shape.