How to choose the best OBD scanner for you

If you’re looking for insights into how your vehicle is working or what’s wrong under the hood, there’s no better way than to plug in an OBD2 scanner and read the results. After all, it’s how your car dealer or repair shop would figure out what’s wrong with your car when you drive (or are towed) in. Why shouldn’t you have the same information?

The best automotive tool provide the right mix of size, weight and the ability to read your car’s fault codes and live data. The most important criteria are:

*  Easy setup. If it takes forever to set up the scanner, you probably won’t use it to diagnose a problem early.
*  Faults and explanations. The best OBD gear not only tells you the faults your car has but also can explain the meaning so you can either fix it yourself or tell a mechanic.
*  I/M Readiness check. A good scanner will run the major engine and emissions tests to see if you’ll pass your state’s inspection.
*  Accuracy. A scanner is worthless if its results aren’t accurate, because the only thing worse than no information is incorrect information.
*  Size and weight. If the scanner is heavy and bulky, chances are it’ll stay in your toolbox and not in the car to help you on the road.
*  Live data. By tapping into the car’s engine speed, timing and other parameters, the right scanner can help track down an intermittent problem.
*  Graphs. Numbers are good, but a visual representation of it is much better, particularly if you’re comparing before and after.
*  Warranty. You expect your car to last at least eight or 10 years, so why shouldn’t your OBD2 scanner? That said, the best offer a lifetime warranty that should outlast your ride.

There’s a gas tank full of criteria used to determine which Professional Diagnostic Tool is the best one for you. The most important is whether you want one that connects with your phone or tablet’s screen over Bluetooth or a handheld unit with its own display and cable.

Next, think about longevity and get one that includes lifetime warranty or software updates so the scanner will stay current with changing automotive tech.

Then, how about screen size for a handheld scanner? Get the biggest, brightest and easiest display to read that is icon based for easy changes. If you’re clumsy, look at rugged scanners with rubber bumpers to absorb the shock of being dropped.

Look for extras Auto Scanner that are included on some models, like an electrical multimeter, the ability to read a manufacturer’s proprietary codes or export documents as Acrobat PDF files. Finally, the price for these sophisticated devices is right on par with professional-level scanners that are available for under $100. That’s barely an hour’s labor for a qualified mechanic, making it a win-win purchase.