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Are OBD2 Car Tool Scanners Accurate?

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Automobile service technician using an OBDII OBD2 diagnostic scan tool to check for DTCs

The Onboard Diagnostic Data (OBD2) scanner is one of the most sought-after vehicle tools for individuals and businesses. This powerful little device is pretty pricey, but it can help save you money, resources, and time. But are OBD2 scanners accurate? Here’s the truth about this device:

The OBD2 scanner gives accurate diagnostics from the vehicle’s system and allows a driver or mechanic to assess vehicle data. The OBD2 scanner does this by providing generic and manufacturer-specific codes to inform which diagnostic tests the vehicle has failed

OBD2 scanners give you vital information about your vehicle all in the palm of your hand, literally. And with all the accurate information at your fingertips, doesn’t it make you wonder how the OBD2 scanner works?

How Does an OBD2 Scanner Work?

If there’s a problem with your car, for example, if the dreaded engine light turns on, all you have to do is plug the scanner into the OBD2 port of your vehicle, and then after a short wait, it will provide you with some generic or manufacturer-diagnostic codes.

After you’ve found the diagnostic code, it becomes as easy as looking up the code number on a search engine to decipher what the problem is. This helps you to decide whether you need to see a professional or not.

If the problem is something you can fix by yourself, then you can actually use the scanner to turn off the engine light.

Most modern cars have software that produces an onboard diagnostic, which came into effect by authorization of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) in 1996. Nowadays using the OBD2 scanner is even easier than before because we even have wireless options, no more needing to find the OBD2 plug and port.

Person using an OBDII OBD2 diagnostic scan tool inside the vehicle to check DTCs

Can An OBD2 Scanner Detect Any Problem In the Vehicle?

It’s important to understand that before you buy an OBD2 scanner, you need to be specific about which functions you’re wanting to be able to check because your entry-level OBD2 scanner is adequate to identify an issue when the engine light comes on, but it won’t help you with most of the advanced functions.

If you’re wanting an OBD2 scanner that checks all systems, like checking Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), you’re going to have to get a professional-grade OBD2 scanner.

What Are the Different Types of OBD2 Scanners?

You can choose from two main types of OBD2 scanners available on the market. There are the:

  • Standalone handheld OBD2 scanner
  • OBD2 Scanner with app

Wireless and ultra-portable OBDII scan tools are convenient, especially the ones that have both iOS and Android available apps to download.

They work by connecting to your phone via Bluetooth and are great to own because they’re not as bulky and can be just as good if not better than some of the traditional low-tier OBDII scan tools that are standalone units with cables and their own interface screen.

I can’t recommend the BlueDriver enough. I’ve personally purchased one for myself and for my family members. It’s easy to use and what’s great is it can do more than just a ‘check engine’ scan. Meaning it can scan other computer modules in the car to detect faults in other areas.

It also can share the DTCs (Diagnostic Trouble Codes) via text message, and even recommends parts to fix on Amazon directly from the app.

BlueDriver Bluetooth Pro OBD2 Car Diagnostic Scan Tool & Check Engine Light Code Reader for iPhone & Android

bluedriver ob2 bluetooth scan tool

What Should I Look for In A OBD2 Scanner?

When you’re looking to invest in an OBD2 scanner, then there are a few things you want to make sure it has to get the best quality for your budget.

Is It Compatible with Your Vehicle?

Always ensure that the OBD2 scanner is compatible with your vehicle or else it could be rendered useless. Most OBD2 scanners are compatible with every modern car.

If you’re unsure of whether your car is compatible with an OBD1 or OBD2 scanner, you can check under the hood, and you’ll see a sticker that will let you know which OBD your vehicle is. Alternatively, if your vehicle is older than a 1996 model, then it will be compatible with an OBD1 scanner.

What Are Its Data Storage Capabilities?

This feature is something that will save you time in the long run. If an OBD2 scanner can store any diagnostic codes and you can have them in memory for any future problems, it can give you the results a lot faster than recognizing previous diagnostic codes

Does It Transfer Data Fast?

You want to be able to get diagnostic codes as quickly as possible, and not have to wait around for hours when you could already be at the mechanic

What Is Its Software Update Capabilities?

When looking for your OBD2 scanner, pay close attention to if its software can be upgraded. Sometimes it’s tempting to go for the older models of these devices to save on some cash, but if you’re unable to update their software then you’ll just find yourself sitting with an OBD2 scanner that gets slower and slower and you’ll be paying for another one a few years down the line.

Autel Scanner MaxiCOM MK808S – Bidirectional OBDII Diagnostic Scan Tool

Autel Scanner MaxiCOM MK808S - Bidirectional OBDII Diagnostic Scan Tool

Does It Have User-friendly Dashboards and Screens

There’s nothing better than using a device that feels like it was made just for you; something that is easy to use, and you can clearly see what is going on.

Wireless connectivity

One of the most significant innovations to hit the planet, and has made things super convenient. Look for an OBD2 scanner that can connect through wifi or Bluetooth to your phone to provide you with the diagnostic codes. There’s nothing wrong with using a wire and manually attaching it to the OBD2 port, but wireless is a lot more convenient.

How Much Does an OBD2 Scanner Cost?

There’s not really a flat rate for an OBD2 scanner as a basic scanner can enter the market at $50 and high-end devices can cost up to $5000. This gives us many different variations of OBD2 scanners to choose from and makes them accessible to most people.

With various price options when choosing which OBD2 scanner to buy, there are some features to keep in mind that will influence the price of it:

  • car coding feature included or excluded
  • designed as a mobile app or an integrated scanner
  • potential reading ability basic or comprehensive
  • only read errors or comprehensive diagnostic functionality
  • one or two-way communication
  • lifetime warranty or does it have a short-term warranty
  • speed of communication
  • utilizes Wi-Fi or Bluetooth

Conclusion

OBD2 scanners are incredibly accurate and can even pick up on engine problems if there are no symptoms like your engine light is on. So, the OBD2 is worth the investment because it can save you the time and money of knowing whether a vehicle’s symptoms are serious enough to go to the mechanic, or if it’s something you can handle yourself. So rest easy and know that the OBD2 scanner is doing what it was made for.

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References:

Carly

OBD Scanner & OBD2: How It Works, How To Choose The Best One

Blackbox My Car

3 Things You Need to Know Before Buying an OBD-II Scan Tool

Mile IQ

How to use an OBD2 scanner for your business

Amazon

BlueDriver Bluetooth Pro OBD2 Car Diagnostic Scan Tool & Check Engine Light Code Reader for iPhone & Android

Autel Scanner MaxiCOM MK808S – Bidirectional OBDII Diagnostic Scan Tool

Ernest Martynyuk

An automotive enthusiast who's been tinkering with vehicles since I was 15-years old. Repairing automotive electronics has been my main job for over a decade now and have a passion for everything technical regarding cars.

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