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Unlock the Secrets of Your Car With an OBD2 Scanner

OBD2 scanners help car owners and professional mechanics keep cars healthy, saving on cost, time, and frustration.

In instances when you’re having issues with your vehicle but are unsure what the problem is, an OBD2 scanner can help alleviate the stress by providing some clarity. For example, when the “Check Engine” light on the dashboard of your vehicle begins to flash, an OBD2 scanner can help you and your mechanic locate and analyze the problem.

This article will clarify what OBD2 is, what usage an OBD2 scanner has, and what to look for when choosing the right scanner for your needs. In addition, a list is provided detailing which high-end OBD2 scanners are recommended and available for your purchase.

Table of Contents
What are OBD and OBD2?
What is an OBD2 scanner?
Why do you need an OBD2 scanner?
How to choose an OBD2 scanner?
3 high-end OBD2 scanners recommended for you
How to choose the right OBD2 scanner supplier
Why choose LenKor Tech. when buying Launch or Autel products?

What are OBD and OBD2?

OBD (On-Board Diagnostics) is a system that monitors the performance of your car’s engine and emissions systems, records data, and reports any problems it detects. The first implementation of this system dates back to the 1960s.

OBD2, also known as OBDII, is the second-generation of this system. This updated system was launched in 1996 for gas-powered vehicles and with modifications for diesel vehicles in 2008.

Both systems begin the scanning process once the car is started, checking if all emission-related components are running as expected.

If a problem is detected, the system will record a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) in its memory and trigger the “Malfunction Indicator” or “Check Engine” light. When the light turns on, the system is telling the driver the car needs to be checked and fixed.

What is an OBD2 scanner?

An OBD2 scanner can be connected to your vehicle’s OBD port (the location will depend on vehicle model and brand) through a wired connection, Bluetooth, or WiFi. Once connected, the scanner allows you to read DTCs, access your vehicle’s live data, and, in some cases, even make changes to your car via coding.

There are different types of OBD2 scanner, each with different ability levels:

  • Code Readers: These scanners are able to perform basic scans and can be used to complete a preliminary analysis of any vehicle with a “check engine” light.
  • Generic Scan Tools: These tools provide emissions-based information on the vehicle, allowing for basic OBD2 diagnostics.
  • OEM-Enhanced Scan Tools: These tools are used to access information specific to the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) from each of the vehicle’s modules. Some also provide bi-directional controls for advanced diagnostics and maintenance tracking.
  • Professional Scan Tools: By far the most powerful available, these tools can customize your car or even program the electronic control unit (ECU) to enhance vehicle performance.

Why do you need an OBD2 scanner?

  • Have full control of your car and the peace of mind that your car is healthy.
  • For trained mechanics, OBD2 scanners provide the easiest way to locate the underlying cause when a vehicle’s “Check Engine” light is on. The more advanced OBD2 scanners, with coding and programming capabilities, will provide additional services.
  • For car owners, OBD2 scanners can save thousands of dollars on maintenance and repair fees, even when the owner has little experience in mechanical issues and diagnostics.

How to choose an OBD2 scanner

In addition to there being various types of OBD2 scanner with differing functionalities and levels of capability, there is also a wide price range in aftermarket scanning tools. These start from $10 USD for the low-end ELM327 to 70000 USD for the high-end Abrites. 

The scanner you choose should be based on your needs. Following that, determining the price you pay is fairly straightforward: higher cost = higher functionality.

For everyday drivers and car enthusiasts

The first thing to consider is what information you want to extract from your vehicle. 

For instance, if your vehicle’s ABS light is on, then buying the cheapest diagnostic reader that only covers the generic OBD-II functions, such as emissions testing, won’t help at all. Likewise, if all you need is to clear a “check engine” light, then you don’t need to buy an expensive, professional-grade diagnostic scanner.

Knowing your requirements before choosing an OBD2 scanner can save you money. For instance, a professional-grade diagnostic scanner costs upwards of $200, but if your needs are simple, then any simple entry-level scanner can get the job done.

The following table explains the relationship between functionality and price for OBD2, or OBD-II, scanners:

Price Range$15-29$29-59$59-79$79-119
Generic OBD-II
C.A.N. Capability
Manufacturer Specific DTCs
I/M Readiness Status
Freeze Frame
Live Data Stream
Vehicle Information
ON-Screen DTC Definitions
Built-in DTC Lookup
DTC Cause/Tips
Live Data Graphic
Advanced Mode 6
I/M Readiness Hot Key
ABS Coverage
SRS Coverage
Starting & Charging System Test
Multilingual Support
Internet Updatable
Print via PC

For qualified technicians and mechanics

A garage must have equipment suitable for many different car types and car manufacturers. This can be problematic, as buying a factory scanner compatible with only one specific car manufacturer brand is already very expensive, with a single unit costing over $2500. Fortunately, there are several aftermarket scan tools able to perform most functions related to the original equipment (OE), and which are compatible with worldwide makes and models. 

However, it is unlikely that even top-rated products can offer all the functionalities needed by a professional mechanic or technician. To choose the right scanner, you may consider the points below:

Vehicle and function coverage

It’s important to check which vehicle makes and models are compatible with each scan tool. Some tools only work with certain vehicles and provide limited functionalities. This means it is essential to know which car functions you will be checking the most, and which cars you work with most. Be sure to write a list to make the decision-making process easier.

Regular updates/upgrades

Modern vehicles have a high number of requirements in terms of diagnostics and continuous checks. Moreover, manufacturers are constantly adding more to new models. With this in mind, tool makers offering upgrades for new cars/functions should be on your checklist, as their products will continue to improve and stay relevant over time. 

Quality

It is always better to purchase from established tool makers, even if this often means buying at a higher price point than from cheaper, no-name brands. These unknown devices, with little to no reputation in the industry, can cause more problems in the long run. 

Guidance/usage

Before buying a OBD2 scanner, it is important to ensure you have, or are willing to do, the necessary training to use your scanner. This could be a course, or simply familiarizing yourself with the user manuals and tutorials before starting. In addition, ensure you have all the necessary components for the scanner to work, as it may be that your particular OBD2 scanner needs additional parts to function properly. Be sure you understand the financial and time implications of learning how to use the tool and using the tool before purchasing it. 

Hardware

Higher hardware configurations, such as a faster processor, the latest display technology, larger storage capacity, or a bigger battery, will simplify your work and help make it frustration-free.

Cost-effectiveness

Last, but certainly not least, consider the affordability of your scanner in terms of purchase price and regular updates/upgrades.

There are many car scanner manufacturing companies specialized in multi-car scanning, including Launch X431, Autel MaxiCOM, Bosch KTS, Gscan, Fcar, JBT, Actron, Snap on, Iscan, Autologic, and Abrites. 

Autel and Launch are two of the most trusted and established brands. One of the reason for this, is that the quality of their products is superior to other brands and backed-up by great software. 

To help you choose the best OBD2 scanner for you needs, our team of car experts and technicians tested over 25 Autel and Launch scanners, narrowing them down to the following:

1. Autel Ultra Lite: “Diagnostic Intelligence of Tomorrow”

The Autel Ultra Lite boasts ultra-powerful features presented in a way that makes it easy-to-use. This OBD2 scanner allows you to tackle complex vehicle diagnostics in a vast array of vehicles — compatible with over 80 makes and over 140 models from Europe, the United States, Asia, Australasia, and more.

The Autel Ultra Lite is compatible with over 140 car models from across the world

The Autel Ultra Lite’s core features include:

  • Adept at ECU programming & coding
  • Dynamic topology module mapping
  • 40+ OE-specific special functions
  • AutoAuth for 2018+ FCA cars equipped with SGW
  • Supports D-PDU/J2534/RP1210/DoIP/CAN FD
  • Direct bi-directional control
  • Other high-end functions
  • Battery life of up to 8 hours.

For further insight into this brand and range, a comparison has been drawn between the 3 most bought Autel MaxiCOM scanners in 2022.

MK906Pro vs. MK908P vs. Ultra Lite

ModelAutel MaxiCOM MK906PRO
Autel MaxiCOM MK906PRO
Autel MaxiCOM MK908P
Autel MaxiCOM MK908P
Autel MaxiCOM Ultra Lite
Autel MaxiCOM Ultra Lite
Release Date202220192022
Configuration
CPUQualcomm 660Exynox 5260Exynox 8895
RAM+ROM4G+128G2G+64G4G+256G
Battery11600mAh15000mAh18000mAh
SystemAndroid 10.0Android 4.4.2Android 7.0
Screen8-inch, 1920*120010.1-inch, 1920*120012.9-inch, 2732*2048
WiFi2.4 & 5 GHz2.4 GHz2.4 & 5 GHz
Camera16M+16MRear 8M16M+5M
Features
Generic OBD-II Functions
Action Test
Benz Online Programming 
BMW Online Programming 
Benz Online Coding (SCN) 
BMW Online Coding
Audi Online Coding 
Porsche Online Coding
VW Online Coding
BMW Hidden Features
VW, Audi, Skoda Hidden Features
VW, Audi, Skoda, Seat, Man LD Guidance
Bentley Guidance
McLaren, Tesla Diagnosis  
Auto VIN & Smart Scan
Scan VIN & License 
D-PDU/RP1210  
DoIP/CAN FD 
Pre & Post Scan
WiFi Print 
Smart Diagnosis
FCA AutoAuth (North America)  
Topology Mapping

2. Launch X431 PAD VII: “Flagship Beyond Expectations”

The Launch X431 PAD VII offers qualified mechanics and technicians all-around diagnostic solutions, suited to experienced specialists looking to support their repair and maintenance knowledge.

The Launch X431 PAD VII is suited to experienced professionals in the field of car mechanics

The Launch X431 PAD VII’s core features include:

  • Covers 10000+ models made after 1996
  • New SmartBox 3.0 for 2022
  • ECU programming & coding
  • CANFD, DOIP & HD protocols of DC9-36V
  • 50+ industry-leading special functions
  • Effective bi-directional controls
  • AutoAuth, PIN detection, topology mapping
  • Non-16pin connectors & cables kit
  • Works with separately sold service tools

For further insight into this brand and range, a comparison has been drawn between 3 popular Launch scanners:

PAD III V2.0 vs. PAD V vs. PAD VII

ModelX-431 PAD III V2.0
X-431 PAD III V2.0
X-431 PAD V
X-431 PAD V
X-431 PAD VII
X-431 PAD VII
Configuration
Operating SystemAndroid 5.1.1Android 7.1Android 9.0
Display10.1″/IPS 1920*120010.1″/IPS 1920*120013.3″/IPS 1920*1080
CPU2.0 GHz Octa-core2.0 GHz Octa-core2.0 GHz Octa-core
Memory2GB4GB8GB
Storage64GB64GB256GB
Camera8MP Rear + 2MP Front13MP Rear + 8MP Front13MP Rear + 8MP Front
VCI ConnectorDBScar IVSmartBox 3.0SmartLink C
VCI ConnectionBluetooth2.4 GHz & 5 GHz Dual WiFi2.4 GHz & 5 GHz Dual WiFi
Battery15000mAh9360mAh19000mAh
Features 
Generic OBD-II Functions
Full System Diagnosis
AutoVIN & Auto Scan
Bi-Directional Control
Advanced Coding
VW & Audi Guided Function
J2534 
DoIP 
RP1210/D-PDU 
Advanced Programming
Complete TPMS Servicewith X431 TS-Gunwith X431 TS-Gunwith X431 TS-Gun
Advanced Key Programmingwith X-PROG 3with X-PROG 3with X-PROG 3
Service Functions26+35+50+
SmartLink Remote Diagnosis  
Software UpgradeWiFiWiFiWiFi
Vehicle CoveragePassenger cars, medium & light duty vehicles, with heavy duty vehicles as optionalPassenger cars, medium & light duty vehicles, with heavy duty vehicles as optionalPassenger cars, medium & light duty vehicles, with heavy duty vehicles as optional

3. Autel IM608 PRO: “Work Smarter Not Harder”

The Autel IM608 PRO is an all-in-one key programming and diagnostics tool offering all a mechanic would ask for.

The Autel MAXIIM IM608 PRO is all a mechanic would ask for

The Autel IM608 PRO core features include:

  • Locksmith-level key programming
  • OE-level diagnostic capabilities
  • Complete IMMO coverage
  • Smart and expert modes
  • Built-in database guidance
  • XP400Pro key programmer
  • MaxiFlash ECU programmer 
  • Android-based touchscreen

For further insight into this brand and range, the following table shows the difference between the IM508, IM608, and IM608 Pro scanners. If you already own the XP400Pro, you can purchase optional adaptors to upgrade the IM508, giving it some of the same features as the higher range IM608 or IM608 Pro.

IM508 vs. IM608 vs. IM608 Pro

ModelMAXIIM IM508
MAXIIM IM508
MAXIIM IM608
MAXIIM IM608
MAXIIM IM608 Pro
MAXIIM IM608 Pro
Programming
EEPROM Read/WriteBasicIntermediateAdvanced
MCU Read/WriteBasicIntermediateAdvanced
Immobilizer Read/WriteIntermediateAdvanced
Engine Read/WriteIntermediateAdvanced
Mercedes Infrared Key Read/WriteNeed XP400 Pro and extra adapters
Remote Frequency DetectionNeed XP400 Pro and extra adapters
IMMO
Smart Mode (Guided and Automated Key Learning Function)
Auto Detect Make/Model/Year/System
Read PIN (Add Key/All Key Lost)
Key Generation/Key Learning/Remote Learning
IMMO ECU Reset/Adaption
IMMO ECU Refresh/Coding
Backup/Restore IMMO Data
Benz 3rd Generation IMMO Add Key, All Key Lost via OBDNeed XP400 Pro
Read/Write/Erase Benz ESL_W209/W906 DataNeed XP400 Pro and extra adaptersNeed XP400 Pro and extra adaptersNeed extra adapters
Benz OE NEC Key LearningNeed XP400 Pro and extra adaptersNeed XP400 Pro and extra adaptersNeed extra adapters
Audi Q5/A4/A5 2015-2017 Key Learning via OBD
VW/Audi MQB Add Key, All Key Lost via OBD
VW/Audi 4th Generation IMMO Add Key, All Key Lost via OBD
VW/Audi 5th Generation IMMO Add Key via OBD
BMW CAS4/3/2/1 Key Learning
BMW EWS3 Key LearningNeed XP400 Pro and extra adaptersNeed XP400 Pro and extra adaptersNeed extra adapters
2015-2019 Jaguar Land Rover Write Key via DumpNeed XP400 Pro
Volvo Smart Key/Fobik Smart Key LearningNeed XP400 Pro
VW/Audi/BMW/Benz Key UnlockNeed XP400 Pro and extra adaptersNeed XP400 Pro and extra adaptersNeed extra adapters

How to choose the right OBD2 scanner supplier

To get the best scanner for your money, follow the expert advice below:

1. Only choose officially authorized sellers

There are many fake or counterfeit scan tools out there, all manufactured without authorization from the brand owner. Even when these fake products look identical to the original ones, they are often poorly made and do not have all the functions they advertise.

Authorized sellers are chosen for their ability to properly represent, sell, and (in most cases) service the brand owner’s products. If asked, they should be able to show you the certificate of Authorization for Distribution. This way, you can know that the products they are selling are genuine, meet official standards, and are covered under a direct official warranty.

You can locate authorized sellers by visiting the Authorized Dealer List on the tool maker’s official website or, if you are uncertain, by directly contacting the manufacturer. An example would be to email sales@cnlaunch.com before purchasing a Launch scan tools.

2. Skip the middleman, go straight to the primary seller

By going to a primary seller who doesn’t pay for intermediary services, you can save money. Skipping the intermediary lowers the immediate operating expenses, meaning the benefits can pass along to customers. 

No middleman also means a closer relationship with your supplier. If you were to encounter an issue or were seeking clarification, a middleman might try to shift responsibility by diverting your query. This creates a sense of removal and can mean delays when seeking answers. Having a direct business relationship with the supplier could also mean more beneficial arrangements in the long-term.

3. Choose a seller with international warehouses

Sellers with overseas warehouses can deliver products from an area local to you, thereby greatly shortening delivery time, reducing transit, and reducing the potential for damaged or lost goods.

In addition, local delivery is usually carried out by national logistics enterprises, meaning you can track your order in real-time. This is also convenient if needing to return or replace the product, as it can reduce time and improve your experience.

4. Choose a seller offering timely and attentive service

A seller who simply answers calls and e-mails quickly is not enough anymore. Choose a seller who creates a positive experience, has a pleasant attitude, and is knowledgeable and resourceful on your product and vehicle.

If your seller is an expert on their product, then the knowledge they provide can help you get the most out of your purchase. By knowing their range, they can also recommend compatible products that will upgrade your scanner, or simply make recommendations for using new features for better productivity.

Importantly, be sure to choose a seller who will be understanding and supportive if there is a problem with the product — putting your needs at the center of his customer service.

Why choose LenKor Tech. when buying Launch or Autel products?

  1. LenKor Tech. is an authorized online agent for both Autel and Launch, selling 100% genuine Autel and Launch products you can trust. You can find the contact details for LenKor Tech. (LIANKE) on Autel’s “Authorized Dealers” page, as seen in the below image:
LenKor Tech. is an authorized Autel dealer, selling 100% genuine Autel products
  1. LenKor Tech. has been selling goods through online stores for 12 years, operating on Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba — where it has become a top-ranking online seller by building a solid reputation.
  2.  As the primary, direct seller for Autel and Launch, LenKor Tech. can save on middleman costs to offer you a more reasonable and competitive price.
  3.  LenKor Tech. understands the needs of their customers. With every product purchase you make, you can expect:
  • Free 1-year product warranty and 24/7 sales service, including holidays and weekends.
  • Fast delivery within 2 days anywhere on Earth, thanks to their many overseas warehouses located in Europe, America, Australia, and Russia. All deliveries tax free and with free shipping.
  • Top-quality technical support. LenKor’s experts can guide you through any issues — from basic connection problems to complex software issues (and everything in between). Step-by-step, walk-through instructional images and videos are also available if needed.
  • All products sold by LenKor are from the latest batches with the newest software. In addition, there is no regional locking, meaning all LenKor’s products can be used across the world without restrictions on features or programs when in a certain region.

Disclaimer: The information set forth above is provided by LenKor Tech. independently of Alibaba.com. Alibaba.com makes no representation and warranties as to the quality and reliability of the seller and products.

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