One of the most common questions we’ve been asked is ‘What’s the best OBD2 scanner out there for my vehicle?’.
The answer to that question really depends on the functions you need to perform. There are several types of OBD2 scanners out there. This article will therefore try to explain their functions and what you can get out of them.
Having your own OBD scan tool can help you save hundreds of dollars. Why? Because now you can reset codes without having to pay a dealer to do them! Say goodbye to per-hour labour and other nonsense charges. It also allows you to have a tool on board when you are in remote locations so that you can check what the issue is and fix yourself, as a light on the dashboard does not tell you much.
And with vehicles these days basically being computers on wheels, you really need these tools to do basic tasks such as Battery Replacements, Rear Brake Pad Changes, Service Resets, and much more.
Basic OBD2 Scanners
If you need to just scan and clear a nasty check engine light, settle for a basic OBD2 scanner. A basic OBD2 scanner scans and clears codes from the engine ECU only while also reading the engine’s live data. This basic Bluetooth scanner, therefore, is best for tech-savvy individuals (one who understands how to download an app onto a phone). They’re the ones who prefer to use smartphones or tablets to scan and clear codes, and view live engine data through cool, customisable gauges and dashboards.
This scanner will also work on Hybrid/EV vehicles such as the Toyota Prius or Nissan Leaf using special apps/software. Meanwhile, Dr. Prius/Dr. Hybrid is a useful app for Toyota Hybrids and LeafSpy is best for Nissan Leaf.
For those who want a hassle-free, plug-and-play scanner, the handheld version would be most suitable. All you have to do is plug it in and you’re away! Among the two scanners mentioned though, the Bluetooth version has a larger code database and is easily upgradable through software updates.
OBD to USB Scanners
For those who prefer to use PCs and laptops for diagnosis, another option would be to use an OBD to USB basic scanner (although the Bluetooth version will also work on computers also). The primary reason you would use this ELM327 to USB cable is that you have a certain piece of software that you would like to use, such as the MultiECU.
Basic OBD2 Scanners in Australia
It is important to note that a basic OBD2 scanner will only work on OBD2 compliant vehicles. In Australia, these are petrol vehicles made after 2006. While for diesels, it’s 2007 and newer. To find out if your vehicle is OBD2-compliant, see our guide here. Note that some vehicles made prior to the mentioned years may also be OBD2-compliant. Still, if you cannot work it out, please get in touch with us and we will help you out.
In a nutshell, a basic scanner has basic and limited functions only. Considering that most modern vehicles have more than one system controlled by different ECUs, a basic scanner will not be enough in some instances. In addition, a basic scanner will not even access other system ECUs as it’s only limited to the engine ECU. This is where a full system scanner comes in.
Full System Scanners
Let’s say you’re driving down the freeway, happily going about your business, when suddenly the ‘ABS’ light on the dash comes on. Or think of the time when your seats or seatbelts were removed for maintenance, and the next thing you know the ‘SRS’ light comes on. You then plug in a basic scanner, but it does nothing to make these lights go away. What’s going on, you ask yourself?
SRS, ABS, suspension and many other systems (including that annoying service reset light the dealer charges hundreds of dollars to turn off) not related to the engine can only be accessed via full system scan tools. A full system scan tool can also scan and clear engine codes, as well as view engine live data. Of all the OBD tools out there, a full system scan tool is the most powerful of them all.
Full System Scanner Functions
Below will list some functions that a full system scan tool can do: (Note not all tools can do all of these and it depends on make and model of the vehicle):
- Scan all ECU’s for codes and clear them and also show data from these ECU’s.
- Apply active tests. This is where you can activate systems on your vehicle to help diagnose issues and work out problems.
- Reset battery management system when a new battery has been put in. Important so the car knows to treat it like a new battery and not overcharge it.
- Injector coding when new injectors and put in you need to code this with the digits on the injectors.
- IMMO the chip in your car key that allows you to start your car which needs to be reprogrammed when a new key is coded.
- Manual regeneration of the DPF systems as short city drives may cause issues and you need to do a manual burn-off.
- Reset DPF unit count when you put a new DPF unit in you need to reset the count again.
- The service indicator resets after a service is done.
- Plus many, many more
As you can see by the start of the list above, what these tools can do is vast and will require some basic knowledge of car’s systems etc to use.
Best OBD2 Scanners from OBD2 Australia
This table below will show you the different scan tools OBD2 Australia offers, each with its corresponding supported vehicle make.
What about Toyota, Nissan, Subaru and Mitsubishi?
Diagnostics for some older Toyota, Nissan, Subaru and Mitsubishi vehicles will only work with Windows-based special software. These older models run on their proprietary diagnostic system, which is why there is a need for special software.
Mitsubishi runs on the MUTT protocol and unfortunately OBD2 Australia does not have scan tools that will work.
Our Final Word
Not all vehicle models, as well as functions, are available in the scanners mentioned above. It’s always best to check with us first, via email or chat, to see if your vehicle and the function you are after is supported.
Now that we’ve discussed the best OBD2 scanners out there and their functions, the next question is; what will you be getting? Happy shopping!