Whether you are a professional mobile mechanic or a DIY amateur car expert, you will appreciate the value of a truly good car diagnostic tool. Thanks to advances in vehicular technology, there are now a vast array of diagnostic tools available for in-garage or at-home repairs.
Car diagnostic scanners (known as an OBD2) are ideal for getting a quick diagnosis on a car. They interact with the car’s internal computer (the on-board diagnostics (OBD)) and, when combined with live data, can diagnose any vehicle issues from the car’s diagnostic trouble codes. You can feed them into your computer, laptop, or even smartphone depending on the level of sophistication you require.
What to look for in a scanner
If you’re an amateur mechanic or just a car enthusiast it’s important to find the right diagnostics tool that fits your needs, as there are a range of products out there at all different price points, it’s easy to purchase one you may not need.
· Compatibility– Before looking into any on-board diagnostic scanners (OBD2), it’s essential to find out what is right for your car. You can do this by looking underneath the bonnet of your car for the vehicles protocol label, there are five possible protocols on an OBD2 scanner so one of these should be compatible with your vehicle. Once established, it’s time to look for some OBD2 scanners.
· Internal storage– Dependent on the general use of the diagnostic tool, it’s useful to have somewhere to store the data once measured, this would be inside an internal storage function within the diagnostic tool. This means that you have something to refer back to, either when comparing data or verifying it.
· Updateable scantools– With constant technological advances it is easy for your diagnostic tool to become out of date – software wise. Therefore, to avoid buying a new diagnostic tool to gain the most out of your data or when you buy a new vehicle, it would be beneficial to go for a model that offers updateable scantools.
· Additional functions- Additional extras in OBD2 scanners is where the tool can be tailored to you, dependent on how often you use it, personal preference, and what you use it for can separate what diagnostic tool you would choose. A few additional extras can include; ABS/ airbag capability which allows you to observe and reset systems including the Anti-lock brake system and airbags. On screen definitions which describe and explain what codes mean as they display them. Printing functions allow you to print data which is easily transferrable. And finally a live data function which offers real time data stream of engine performance figures, and obtain a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), this is useful when buying and selling cars as it reveals if the car is registered, or if it has been stolen and tampered with. There are many more functions available but these are the ones you may find most useful.
Different types of scanners
Once you know what you’re looking for in a scanner, it is easier to narrow down your search, however it’s important to distinguish different styles of scanners to see which one you can make the most of.
· Simple Handheld OBD2 scanners – A Basic diagnostic tool is a low cost option that will effectively read engine codes then erase them. This is often handy to carry out your own simple repair as they’re easy to navigate, or to verify a mechanics work. These scanners will work with most vehicles, however, they have the most compatibility issues, and therefore it is important to check with your vehicles ‘OBD2 protocol’ as mentioned before.
· High end Handheld OBD2 scanner – Professional diagnostics tools not only read the error code, but also offer steps for the mechanic to get to the route of the problem. Some provide diagnostic flow-charts for locating the exact source of the problem, rather than replacing multiple parts. They can also offer internal storage memory and being able to print results. Unsurprisingly more expensive, but they should have much less of a chance of running into compatibility issues.
· Smart device centered OBD2 scanner – These scanners are usually app based which is handy as they’re easier to navigate and have good usability after retrieving data. This means that they can be more cost effective as the scanner itself doesn’t need a screen, but the tradeoff could mean less functions available dependent on what you might need.
Your car diagnostic tools are an ideal weapon in your toolbox arsenal. We suggest selecting the most suited to you and not splashing out unless you absolutely need to. You may want to get to know the basic code scanners first before upgrading to a more powerful system.
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