This page contains auto scanner reviews of code scanners I personally own, like the pocket scan on the right. My first review covers 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. However, the drawback is, it doesn’t have on screen code definitions.This means you have to look them up.
I use this tool a lot, because I keep it in my daily driver. It’s very durable, but I’m glad I have most of the common check engine light codes memorized.
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.
Since this automotive code reader has no on-screen code definitions, you’ll have a few extra steps. The PocketScan comes with an instruction manual that includes the code definitions.
You write the code down and then look it up to find out exactly what it means. The newer models actually come with a CD type instruction manual.
This adds even more steps to finding the definition. I liked when it shipped with the paper manual. This way you could bring it over to the car.
Nevertheless, the unit is perfect for someone who wants to read and erase codes and isn’t interested in reading the data stream. However, for a few dollars more see the review of the 9550 scan tool. It has on-screen code definitions and more functions.
Auto Scanner Reviews Good
The Actron 9550 was one of the best selling code scanners on the internet at the time of this writing. This is the case, because it’s easy to use and has a few advanced features 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.
This automotive scanner is also capable of taking a snapshot of the data stream that can be reviewed off the car. With the CP9550 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 2017 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.
Scanner Reviews with ABS Functions
The next big step up is the Innova 3160e Diagnostic code scanner. It’s compatible with all OBD-II compliant vehicles 1996 and newer.
The unit includes ABS and Air Bag trouble code coverage for many GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota and Honda automobiles, but not all.
Advanced features include a back-lit screen and snap shot mode so you can record and play back the data stream. I used this feature to diagnose a Ford ABS light problem.
I actually own the 3120. It’s hard to find, because it’s been updated several times over the years. 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.
The connectivity aspect 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 mass air flow sensor, doesn’t mean that part is the problem. It means the MAF system needs further diagnosis.
With that said, I think the increased functionality provides a lot of bang for your buck’s. One more thing to consider is saving about 50 clams and going with the 3150.
This is only missing a few functions of the newer model and you may not need them. One difference is the data stream is not live. There’s a delay in displayed results. This isn’t something that changes most diagnosis.
The 3160 also has all 10 diagnostic modes. The 3150 does not. Again this is something I don’t really use. Note that service mode 8 is for evaporation emissions control.
This is handy for resolving the gas cap code. 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’ll use these advanced features.
Also 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.
OBD 1 and OBD 2 Scan Tool
I’ve owned an Equus 3120 scanner for about 8 years. They replaced it with the newer 31403 and then the most recent update to the 3140e model with a color display. The entire Innova product line is going through a remodel right now.
The company is using a slimmer exterior case that provides a more modern look on the 31403. 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.
You can update the 3140 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.
It also 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 doesn’t have this function and I wish it did. 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’s 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.
The Elm Scan USB Car Scanner for Laptop PC
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.