No one likes the idea of having to go take their car or truck to the repair shop, after all, if you are not an autophile, there is always the fear you can get ripped off. By having an automotive diagnostic scanner, you are one step ahead of the game, as a scanner will let you know what’s up with your vehicle, and if it is not too serious, you might be able to do the fix yourself, saving you a lot of money at the repair shop.
However, once you start to shop around for an automotive diagnostic scanner, you might feel just a little confused when confronted with all of the features, functions, and types. Fear not, we have made your search that much easier with our article on how to choose the best professional automotive diagnostic scanners, & have chosen 5 top of the line models so you can get a good idea of just what an excellent scanner is made of.
Top rated professional car diagnostic tools
5 Best Professional Automotive Diagnostic Scanners Reviewed
1. INNOVA 3100
The INNOVA 3100 is at the top of our list for the best diagnostic scanner and is a top selling favorite for both consumers and professional mechanics alike. This versatile, portable scanner and code reader has a battery backup along with ABS technology which ensures that the majority of vehicles built after 1996, foreign or domestic, will be able to use this scanner.
If you are driving to work, and your ‘check engine’ light appears, the INNOVA 3100 will be able to diagnose the problem for you. This scanning tool welcomes updates, and comes with an easy to read LED display on a patented black and white all in one screen is designed to let the vehicle owner see up to 20 pieces of information at once.
This design lets you monitor emissions readiness, drive cycle verification, clears diagnostic trouble codes, all with the convenience of real-time monitoring, which updates the information every 30 seconds. Your diagnostic features include diagnostic trouble codes, state emission readiness, basic reports, and comprehensive reports all available quickly with the use of hotkeys. It should be noted, that while the basic report is free the aforementioned comprehensive report has to be purchased separately.
- Works with most vehicles, foreign and domestic post-1996.
- Easy to read the black/white screen to read codes.
- Easy to install and user-friendly, connects to OBD2 port.
- Live ‘real-time’ data.
- Freeze frame feature to show engine conditions.
Summary- The INNOVA 3100 Diagnostic Scanner is an OBD-II scanning tool that works with any vehicle built from 1996 onward, both foreign and domestic. Diagnostic trouble codes appear on an easy to read, black and white screen, easily connects to the OBD-II port.
LED indicator lights for emissions and to alert of potential problems, Check Engine light codes, Anti-lock brake codes, freeze frame for fuel trim, engine coolant temperature. We named this our top model for its ease of use, ability to read live data, battery backup, diagnostic abilities and clearing of codes.
Bluedriver is a fantastic diagnostic scanner that is easy to use and delivers what it sets out to, making sure that all repair tips are verified by certified, professional mechanics by using the Identifix database. Lemur Vehicle Monitors set out to create the most comprehensive scanner tool possible for your smartphone or tablet, Bluedriver is an app for iOS and android, that comes loaded and ready to diagnose any issues.
Bluedriver reads your OBD-II engine codes, clears the codes, gives you repair reports, and its smog check feature can let you know if your engine is ready for an emission test. Repair reports are vehicle specific for each DTC and have a code definition, possible cause and a possible fix for the problem. Read and clear codes include confirmed CEL codes, Pending CEL codes, Enhanced codes which include ABS, airbag, transmission.
The Freeze frame feature means that if your engine light goes on, Bluedriver will take a ‘freeze frame’ snapshot of the data so you can view it. Bluedriver works with most vehicles built since 1996, foreign or domestic, and supports OBD-II and CAN protocols. The live data feature means that the data is all ‘real-time’, just as it is occurring when the vehicle is on. you can also take data from the Bluedriver and share it.
- Mode 6 for advanced test results.
- Freeze frame feature.
- Live data, plus read and clear codes easily.
- Repair reports for each diagnostic trouble code (DTC).
- Database of fixes are verified by certified, professional mechanics.
Summary- Bluedriver is an app that uses Bluetooth technology and is certified for iOS and Android devices. Bluedriver is easy to use, install and intuitive, uses live data feed, and has repair reports for each diagnostic trouble code (DTC).
Smog check to alert about emissions, freeze frame feature which takes a snapshot of repair codes and comes with a Mode 6 for advanced test results. This is a favorite of ours, mainly because of the Identifix database, which ensures that you only get repair fixes from certified, professional mechanics.
Autel Maxidas DS808 is built for mobile Android devices, has a rapid-fire quad-core processor for speed, power and dependability, that is specifically designed to keep all of your data, information and records organized and easy to reach.
The easy to use interface uses a 7 inch LCD touchscreen at 1024 x 600 resolution. Features include an ambient light sensor to detect the surrounding ambiance, power LED indicators for battery level, charging and system status, built-in battery, and a collapsible stand for easy hands-free use. The built-in battery 3.7 V/3200 mAh lithium-polymer battery charges with a 5 VDC power supply and is good for about 4-1/2 hours of power. The Autel Maxidas DS808 covers over 80 Asian, US and European vehicle models, OE-Level system coverage, and Smart AutoVIN technology which helps to identify vehicles correctly.
This scanner is more than capable of handling codes, active tests, live data, ECU info, and many other functions, along with a handy automatic software and system updates. You can also reach customer support with instant remote control, and do it 24/7. Their online community called MaxiFix is a fantastic find for users and is loaded with repair and diagnostic tips, plus a huge database, and their interactive data logging sessions allow you to have one on one contact with Autel customer service in case you have a question.
- Covers more than 80 US, Asian, European vehicle designs.
- Smart AutoVIN technology to Identify vehicles correctly.
- Automatic updates.
- Instant remote control customer support 24/7.
- Extensive MaxiFix online community and database for tips.
Summary- The Autel Maxidas DS808 handles more than 80 Asian, US, European vehicle models, has a Smart AutoVIN technology which allows for easy and correct identification of vehicles, plus automatic firmware and software updates.
Online community MaxiFix, interactive data logging sessions with customer support, 3.7V/3200 mAh lithium-polymer battery lasts 4.5 hours, and the 7 inch LCD touch screen has 1024 x 600 resolution. The support for users is quite evident here, with the Maxifix community and Autel customer service availability.
The ergonomically designed, OBDLink MX Bluetooth is a small scanning tool which supports all OBD-II protocols, as well as advanced Ford and GM vehicle networks such as MS-CAN and SW-CAN. Prevent unauthorized access, as this unit is designed to be hacker proof with secure 128-bit data encryption, and is a Class 2 Bluetooth version 3.0 transmission with a maximum range of 262 feet. Once connected, your OBDLink MX Bluetooth will take your smartphone, computer or tablet into a real-time scanner.
You also get free Android app and Windows Diagnostic software with your OBDLink, and free updates mean that you will always have access to the newest software and firmware for your adapter. This unit is touted as being 300 percent faster than its competition with extensive vehicle coverage with the ability to connect to more makes and models than most other scanners. Reads your diagnostic trouble codes and clears them when done.
The BatterySaver Technology means you plug your unit in once, and leave it in as it has an automatic ‘sleep and wake’ feature, so you will not have to remember to manually turn it on or off. No matter what mobile device you choose to use, your gauges will show up on your display in real-time.
- Extensive vehicle coverage.
- 300 percent faster than other Bluetooth OBD adapters.
- Small size means it won’t interfere with driving.
- Guaranteed hacker proof, 128-bit data encryption.
- BatterySaver Technology.
Summary- OBDLink MX Bluetooth adapter allows you to scan your vehicle for issues before they get worse. It has extensive vehicle make and model coverage, 300 percent faster than its competition, and designed to be hacker proof with 128-bit data encryption.
Battery Saver Technology, free firmware and software updates, reads and clears codes. One of our favorites due to its superior protection against hackers and overall speed.
The Autolink AL519 OBD-II/EOBD Scanning tool is a reliable and affordable way to give you a complete diagnosis of your vehicle, supporting all 10 OBD-II modes, displaying vibrantly colored diagnostic trouble codes on an easy to read 320 x 240 dpi, TFT color display screen.
This scanning tool offers the convenience of a battery back up, and works on post 1996 OBD-II and CAN vehicles, both foreign and domestic. Their patented One-Click Readiness Key can be used for a fast emissions readiness check and drive cycle verification. LED indicator lights work with the built-in speaker to give you visual and audio. Checks for diagnostic trouble codes, clear the codes and resets the display, as well as giving you access to thousands of informative and useful troubleshooting and repair tips.
This model has a freeze frame feature, reads ‘real-time’ PCM data stream, and graphs live data, live O2 sensor test data retrieves vehicle information (VIN, CVN, CIN), as well as storing and playback of saved data. Other valuable features include enhanced OBD-II mode 6, easy to download updates and will print any saved data by using your PC.
- Patented One-Click I/M readiness key.
- TFT color display and built-in speaker.
- Convenient battery backup.
- Built-in speaker for audio as well as visual.
- Checks for codes defines codes and clears codes.
Summary- The Autolink AL519 OBD-II handheld scanning tool comes with a patented one-click I/M readiness key, 320 x 240 dpi TFT color display, built-in speaker for accompanying audio, and a convenient battery backup. This unit will scan for diagnostic trouble codes, give definitions for the codes as well as erasing codes.
Users have access to thousands of troubleshooting and repair tips. Reads live data streams, O2 sensor test data, and will print your saved data. This is a nice model for those looking for a solid, affordable and dependable scanner tool.
How to use car diagnostic scanner?
The reason we have automotive diagnostic scanners is to be able to catch a malfunction in its early stages. As you will see, operating a scanner is a very simple and cost effective way for you to ensure that your car runs perfectly, and if there is an issue, you catch it in time.
Remember the importance of researching the issues on your own as much as possible to increase your understanding, which results in the proper care of your vehicle. We have included a basic outline of how an automotive diagnostic scanner works, but always remember that your product may vary, so follow the instructions in your manual, this is only a guide.
Step 1: Hook your scanner into the OBD-II connector under your dashboard. Most OBD-II ports are on the dash, and a little left on the steering wheel. Next, turn the key without starting the vehicle. Depending on the model and make of your automotive diagnostic scanner, follow and complete the instructions on the screen.
Step 2: If this is the first time you are using your scanner, you will want to check your VIN information. VIN stands for “Vehicle Identification Number”, and depending on your unit, can be found in the ‘vehicle information section’ of your scanner. You want to make sure that your vehicle’s information is correct before proceeding.
Step 3: Next, look for any DTC’s or diagnostic trouble codes. Each DTC will have a number, and that number is only for a specific fault for your vehicles make and model. Depending on your particular scanning tool, either save the data or write down the codes so you can do the necessary research.
Step 4: This step involves interpreting the codes, the act of troubleshooting. For instance, if you follow steps 1 through 3, and you obtain the code P0401 you now know it means that you may have an issue with an O2 sensor heater circuit. Most high-end scanners will have repair reports and troubleshooting tips, and research will determine whether you can repair the issue yourself, or take it to a mechanic.
Step 5: Once you have your codes sorted out you may now do a sensor scan. Depending on the unit you have purchased, you may have the ability to scan your system for issues that do not depend on warning light alerts. Things to scan for might be the water temperature, oxygen sensor, rpm, water and air temperature, oxygen-sensor function, engine load, ignition timing and rpm.
The Final Thought (Conclusion)
As we have shown you today, with our brief article on how to find the best professional automotive diagnostic scanner, there are many benefits to owning your own professional grade scanning tool. First and foremost, these scanning tools can save you a lot of money at the repair shop, as they may diagnose an issue which you can repair yourself using the resources provided by your scanner.
While you can purchase the more inexpensive, basic code readers, we advise against it for the sake of your vehicle, as they cannot diagnose issues or scan your vehicle for issues. The high-end, professional grade scanning tools are the absolute best way to successfully diagnose any issues your vehicle may have, keeping it in top running condition and possibly saving you money in the long run.