This page contains auto scanner reviews of code scanners that I
personally own like the pocket scan on the right or have used a lot. My first review will be of the
Actron 9125. This thing is a very basic unit with only two buttons.
It reads and erases codes and resets the check engine light.
I use to recommend the 9410 for the most basic scan tool. The pocket scan is basically the same reader without an urgency indicator feature. If you need a reliable way to connect a vehicle, read trouble codes and turn off the check engine light then you'll be happy with the Actron CP9125.
It is small enough to store in the glove box. This is handy when the light comes on as you're sitting in the smog inspection line. A drawback to this automotive code reader is no on-screen code definitions.
The PocketScan comes with an instruction manual that includes the code definitions. You will have to write the code down and then look it up to find out exactly what it means. The newer ones actually come with a CD type instruction manual. This adds another few steps to finding the definition.
I liked when it shipped with the paper manual you could bring over to the car. This unit is perfect for someone who wants to read and erase codes and is not interested in reading the data stream. For a few dollars more see the review of the 9550 scan tool. It has on-screen code definitions and more functions.
The Actron 9550 was one of the best selling code scanners on the Internet at the time of this writing. The reason being is that it is easy to use and has a few advanced features that may be useful in diagnosing and repairing check engine lights on cars. It can read and erase codes while providing the definition of the stored code right on the screen.
The automotive scanner is also capable of taking a snapshot of the data stream that can be reviewed off the car. With the CP9550 OBD-II Auto Scan Tool You can also view the status of your cars inspection and maintenance monitors. Some states use similar technology for testing the emission system.
This is critical for mandated emission tests or smog inspections. The cp9550 interfaces with OBD-II vehicles only. It will not work on 1995 or older cars. These code scanners are C.A.N. capable. Which stands for controlled area network. I believe this protocol is mandatory on all vehicles from 2007 Up to present day.
It works on 2015 models so you don't have to worry about obsolescence any time soon. The price and over-all usability makes this unit my recommendation for the beginner to intermediate DIY driveway mechanic. Never heard of Actron? They have a 40-year history as a division of SPX a giant in automotive test equipment.
Next step up is the Innova 3160 Diagnostic code scanner that is compatible with all OBD-II compliant vehicles 1996 and newer. It includes ABS and Air Bag trouble code coverage for many GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota and Honda automobiles (not all). Advanced features include a back-lit screen and snap shot mode so you can record and play back the data stream.
I own the 3120 that is hard to find because it's been updated. I use it more than any scan tool I own. I recommend this unit for intermediate to advanced users or even beginners that want to have a code scanner they can grow into. The local tool man let me demo the 3160 so I've used it. It has more functions for about the same cost as my old 3120.
This tool can be connected to your PC and updated via a USB cable. This connectivity allows you to print data the scanner has retrieved so you can give it to the shop. Be prepared for a shocked look from the service writer when you hand him the diagnostic information.
This initial testing data can cut down on the over-all diagnostic charges and will also show your repair shops that you know a thing or two about check engine lights.
One of my favorite features of this scanner is being able to connect it to a PC and the research available for codes set in memory. The Innova 3160 comes with access to Repair Solutions through the canobd2 website.
Repair Solutions allows users to take the next step in
diagnostics by providing you with the common solutions for specific set
trouble codes. Basic reports are provided with scanner purchase, but
detailed analysis and professional tech support cost extra. Remember, just because you set a trouble code for a throttle position sensor, doesn't mean that part is the problem. It means the TPS system needs further diagnosis.
With that said, I think the increased functionality of this tool provides a lot of bang for your buck's. One more thing to consider is saving about 50 bucks and going with the 3150. This is only missing a few functions of the newer model and these may not be needed by you.
One difference is the OBD2 Data Stream is not live there is a delay in displayed results. This is not something that will affect most diagnosis. The 3160 also has all 10 diagnostic modes. Again this is something I don't really use. Note that service mode 8 is for evaporation emissions control. Finally the 3150 does not have a back light for the screen display.
If you will not miss these things go for the cheaper one. Before you invest in this full-featured automotive diagnostic scanner think about if you will use these advanced features. Check the application chart to make sure the family cars are on it. Finally take advantage of the auto scanner reviews from other do it yourself car people and see what they think about the 3160B.
I've owned an Equus 3120 scanner for about 8 years. This was replaced with the newer 3140 and then the most recent update to the 31403 model. The entire Innova and Equus product line is going through a remodel right now.
The company is using a slimmer exterior case that provides a more modern look. Inside the unit, very little has changed from a functionality point of view. However, the display seems a little easier to read when it comes to data graphing. You can save a few dollars by going with the older model if this isn't important to you.
What I like about all 3 of these models is they can connect to many OBD I vehicles from 1984 to 1996. It also scans generic and manufacturer specific codes on vehicles from 1996 to present day using OBD II. This gives you a lot of coverage.
Innova provides a very complete kit that comes with all of the cables and connectors needed. Although it's packed with a lot features you probably won't use, it's nice to know you could if you run into a specific situation.
Here's an example, I was looking at a used car for a friend. There was no check engine light on, but when I connected the scanner it showed a pending code. It also displayed a history fault for the same code. This meant the seller cleared the light right before we got there.
The 3140 can be updated by connecting it
to your computer and downloading the update files from the Internet. An
included CD walks you through the different modes of operation and
provides details about how to use the "Repair Solutions" feature.
I read some reviews on Amazon's website, that this function works very well. My equus model 3120 does not have this function. I also read some auto scanner reviews on the unit that a few people were having trouble scanning certain OBD I vehicles.
One of the vehicles mentioned was a 1987 Chrysler conquest TSI. This is an oddball car that is a blend of Chrysler and Mitsubishi technology. I mention this because I want you to understand that you will be able to scan many automobiles with this scanner, but not all. You may find a few older ones that it will not scan, so check the application list.
I prefer to hold an automotive scanner in my hand, but coworkers and friends have purchased the Elm Scan unit that turns a personal laptop computer into an automotive diagnostic machine. I've used it and I'm impressed with the functions the unit is capable of.
It performs all of the functions as good if not better then the top of the line scan tools listed above. If you have a laptop this may be an economical solution for you. I'm also impressed with the very complete kit available that includes all of the usb cables and diagnostic connectors plus a CD with software and instructions on how to get the most out of the Elm scanner unit.
Scanning your car with a laptop gives you the advantage of a large easier to read color display. If this is a tool that interest you, click on the link and read the reviews from actual users on the Amazon website. Bookmark or share this DIY auto repair page.
One of the most effective methods used to repair a check engine light is using a scanner in conjunction with a service manual. I put together a video showing how to use my favorite brand of online car repair manual.
I have an update on the Elm scan tool mentioned above. My shop purchased one and I installed it. I also scanned the first vehicle. See How it went on my auto scanner reviews page for the Bluetooth automotive laptop scanner.
If you want to learn more about this car repair website and what gives me the right to perform auto scanner reviews the homepage is available from the next link. See why I think some people can do auto repairs at home.
After you have an engine diagnostics tool, you will want to visit my check engine light help page for more information on this subject. The next link takes you from the auto scanner reviews to check engine lights.