OBD2 Scanner testing and comparing features, then consulting with a local expert diagnostic technician, we picked the BlueDriver as the best OBD2 scanner. The BlueDriver app and adapter combo have better compatibility with systems like ABS and airbags than anything else under $100, and unlike some scanners, you won’t have to guess about what apps and cars it will work with. We set out to find the best value for a car enthusiast who just wants to know why that warning light came on. We found three top picks: one for advanced smartphone scanning, one for no-fuss diagnostic work and one for teaching you’re car new tricks. what is OBD2 anyway? There’s a lot going on under the hood of your car, and an onboard diagnostic scanner can give you a look at the data from the essential systems.
If you live in a state that requires a “smog check,” OBD2 is the system they’re plugging into to make sure your engine is running the way it should. If the computer sees a failure in an essential system, it records the information and turns on your dashboard’s “malfunction indicator lamp” – the check engine light.
OBD2 scanner, even the super-cheap ones, can show you that “fault code” to tell you what triggered a check engine light. Most scanners can even show you the “freeze frame” of what was going on with your car’s systems when that problem popped up. More advanced scanners will also show you readouts of your engine’s systems in real time, either numerically or as a graph. Once you get above the $100 range, scanners start to do other stuff, too, like checking manufacturer-specific airbag and braking systems that aren’t included in the basic OBD2 scanner system. So, what’s the deal with Bluetooth scanners. The latest trend in diagnostic tools is to skip the standalone hardware and use a Bluetooth adapter to send the car’s data stream wirelessly to a smartphone or tablet. Just make sure the adapter you buy is compatible with your device and the app you want to use. Some smartphone apps can do cool tricks that standalone scanners can’t, like showing a virtual dashboard or logging performance on a map. So, we bought seven standalone plug-in scanners and four Bluetooth adapters.
OBD 2 Scanner List
The best Bluetooth scan adapters to get data into your smartphone are
1 – Lemur – Bluedriver
2 – Carista – Bluetooth OBD2 Adapter
3 – Veepeak – OBDcheck BLE
4 – BAFX – 34t5
For Standalone Scanners that Work all by Themselves, we Picked
1 – Launch – CReader V+
2 – Foxwell – NT301
3 – Launch – CReader 4001
4 – Innova – 3030g2
5 – Autel – AutoLink AL319
6 – Ancel – AD310
7 – Autel – MaxiScan MS300
We tracked down three specific systems we could unplug to make our test car’s computer generate a consistent set of error codes. Then we plugged in each scanner to see if it could read and clear that warning. First, we unplugged an O2 sensor to confuse the emissions monitoring system and generate a generic check engine light. Next, we unplugged a braking system fuse to throw off the ABS computer. And finally, we unplugged the weight sensor cables under the passenger seat to get an airbag warning code. The first basic emissions code was easy for all of the scanners to catch, it’s a system that OBD2 scanner was built around. The other two codes are specialized systems that use manufacturer-specific programming, and we could only reset them with the more sophisticated BlueDriver app. we first started seeing reviews of the BlueDriver, it’s unheard of for a $100 scanner to have all of these features (you normally wouldn’t see these codes without a $2-300 scan tool). It is right at the top of the price range for this lineup of affordable scanners, but if you need to scan ABS and Airbag systems it’s a bargain.
Lemur Blue Driver
BlueDriver can’t read every system on every car, so make sure to check the compatibility list on their website before you buy for a specific job, but the list of systems it will read is downright impressive. Some other scanners only list vague compatibility ranges. We were pretty frustrated that the Innova didn’t read our test car’s ABS codes, but the BlueDriver list was precise and accurate. The fact that the BlueDriver app gets regular updates makes it more future-proof than most other scanners. The app is free, too, so you won’t need to pay to unlock advanced features or if you borrow the hardware from a friend. What about downsides? Sure enough, even this wonder-scanner isn’t perfect. We loved the interface overall, but the graph readout takes some tweaking to make it really useful. Doing a complete scan is pretty slow, too. BlueDriver’s adapter also doesn’t connect to other apps for stuff like mapping. That’s kind of annoying, though it’s nice to have the adapter and app working together seamlessly. OK, we know that some of you hate the idea of relying on a smartphone or iPad to work on cars.
The Launch – Creader V+. We didn’t find any standalone models in our $100 budget that could read all the extra systems that BlueDriver can, but for less than fifty bucks the CReader reads basic OBD codes without any extra complications. The feature that really sets this scanner apart is that it has the best real-time graph display. We like the customizability of BlueDriver’s interface, but the CReader graph just gives you the data you need with no tweaking. The V+ also connects to a few other systems, like mode 6 and the fuel evaporation system test. The cheaper model from Launch is nearly the same in every other way, but for about $10 more we think it’s worth having the extra systems. The C reader’s interface isn’t as polished as the BlueDriver app, but there’s no doubting that it’s a reliable tool at a good price. Now if there’s nothing wrong with your car and you’re more of a power user than a mechanic, the Carista app and adapter combo are worth taking a look at, maybe even in addition to the CReader or BlueDriver. Carista’s app includes basic OBD2 scanning, but mostly it gives you control of some of the programmed features of your car’s control systems. So, for example, we can make Cara’s windows and sunroof open from the remote like this. Carista isn’t really a diagnostic tool as much as a key to the hidden secrets of your car’s features. This is also probably the easiest way to reset those pesky oil change lights on newer cars but check for compatibility if that’s on your wish list.
We were also a fan of the Carista adapter’s price: last year it was $40, but at the new $20 price, it’s the best way to get into specialized Android and iOS apps. This means you can use good diagnostic apps like OBD fusion and Torque, so it’s definitely our pick for a multi-purpose Bluetooth adapter. But then, the flaws. Apps like Carista and other diagnostic apps have a subscription or unlock fees for advanced functions, so it’s not just a $20 adapter you’ll be paying for. If you work on a bunch of different cars BlueDriver’s one-time purchase will probably be cheaper. Bluedriver also had better compatibility than those apps in our tests.) Also note, the Carista app is supposed to work with other Bluetooth hardware in addition to their own, but it only worked with one other Android-only adapter we tested.