Routinely servicing your vehicle is important in order to keep it running efficiently and smoothly. Often, the check engine light will turn on when sensors pick up an issue with your vehicle’s performance. However, the check engine light can pop on at any time, even if you take great care of your vehicle. Using the best Bluetooth OBD2 scanner can help you determine the cause of the check engine light, within minutes, so you can take care of the problem immediately and keep your vehicle running smoothly.
I’ve put together an in-depth buyer’s guide that includes all the important information you need to know when you’re shopping around for a new OBD2 scanner. I’ve also reviewed many of the best-selling models, narrowing it down to six scanners that are a steal for the price and offer a better than average, highly accurate performance.
Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that features each product on my list, their best features, and their rating.
Bluetooth OBD2 Scanner Comparison Chart
Autel AP200M OBD2 Scanner Bluetooth
This Bluetooth OBD2 scanner by Autel provides a more stable Bluetooth connection compared to competing models, offering a range of up to thirty feet. This model can perform OE level functionality, providing comprehensive diagnostics, advanced ECU scans, allows you to read and clear codes, and features live data reading scans. It also has a reputation for being three times more accurate than competing models. It comes equipped with six maintenance functions including electronic throttle position service, diesel particulate filter, battery management system, steering angle sensor, electronic parking brake, and oil reset.
- Twelve-month guarantee
- Multilingual menu
- Compatible with iOS and Android devices
- One-year free subscription
- $19.99 monthly subscription fee after the first year
This feature-packed model can do it all. Download the app on your smartphone and watch as the scanner runs diagnostics on your vehicle. The device is compatible with over 130 makes and models and comes with a multilingual menu, free year subscription for scanner use, and a DTC lookup feature that allows users to read the explanation behind each code.
BlueDriver Bluetooth Pro OBDII Scan Tool
This scanner is compatible with Android and Apple devices, is easy to use and allows you to get free unlimited repair reports that are vehicle specific. These repair codes are generated from a database of millions of fixes that have been verified by automotive technicians. The code reader is easy to use, includes free updates, allows you to save data, and features an interactive graph of live data.
- Easy to use
- Compatible with Android and Apple devices
- Bluetooth capabilities
- Trusted by mechanics
- Slow data refresh rate
With this scanner, you can read and clear error codes, using an extensive database that includes millions of fixes. This scan tool also comes with free updates, no subscription fees, is easy to use and it was developed by pro engineers. This model is reliable, accurate, and a steal for the price.
Veepeak Mini Bluetooth OBD2 Scanner
This OBD2 scanner is compatible with Windows and Android devices but will not work with Apple devices. This model will allow users to read diagnostic trouble codes and reset check engine lights. You can use a PC, tablet, or a smartphone to view important vehicle information. To use this model, you’ll need to download a third-party app such as OBD Fusion or Torque Pro. This model is compatible with trucks and cars made after 1996.
- Easy to use
- Compatible with a variety of third-party apps
- Low price
- Resets check engine lights
- Not compatible with Apple products
This device is easy to use and can turn your phone, PC, or tablet into a diagnostic tool that will allow you to easily determine the cause of a check engine light. This model will allow you to reset check engine lights, clear and read diagnostic trouble codes, view live sensor data, view freeze frame data, and determine whether or not your vehicle will pass a smog check. Reasonably priced, compact, and easy to use, this model is a great choice for beginners and car owners who want to save money on costly diagnostic tests offered at their local garage.
AUTOPHIX 3210 Bluetooth OBD2 Enhanced Car Diagnostic Scanner
This model scored well for its user-friendly design and its ability to diagnose a check engine light, clear default codes, battery health checks, O2 sensor tests and more. The scanner is also able to provide data for EVAP system tests, onboard monitoring, performance tests, freeze frame, and I/M readiness. It also comes with a built-in OBD2 fault code library, so users can reference the library for the definition of each error code.
- Includes code library
- Performance tests
- O2 sensors
- Can provide readings in nine different languages
- Poor Bluetooth connection
Unlike most scanners in this price range, this model provides all the information needed to accurately diagnose a car’s trouble codes, so even people who don’t know much about repairs can benefit from using this handy device. Additionally, this model is compatible with both Android and iOS devices and supports major brands and models for vehicles made in 1996 and newer. This model won’t just read off code errors, it will also provide the definitions of each code and the possible causes your vehicle’s check engine is turning on. This model is a great choice for pros and vehicle owners who don’t know much about repairs.
Bafx Products Bluetooth OBD2 Diagnostic Scanner
This affordable OBD2 scanner is compatible with Windows and Android devices but isn’t compatible with Apple products. This model will work on all types of vehicles made in 1996 or newer. It’s also covered by a two-year warranty against defects. You can use this scanner to clear and read codes, and run diagnostics in real-time. This scanner is not able to read oil changes, TPMS, SRS, ABS, or anything that’s not directly related to the check engine light.
- Easy to use
- Covered by a two-year warranty
- Provides diagnostics in real-time
- Does not include code library
- Not compatible with Apple products
This model is pretty limited in terms of what it can do. While some competing models will include an onboard library, and will run a variety of diagnostics, this is a very basic model that can read error codes only and will allow users to clear codes. However, unlike competing models, this scanner is covered by a two-year warranty and includes a basic design that makes it very user-friendly.
OBDLink MX+ OBD2 Bluetooth Scanner
This Bluetooth OBD2 scanner is compatible with Windows, Android, and Apple devices. It’s also compatible with a wide variety of apps, allowing you to choose one that offers a user interface that works for you. It also offers advanced support for certain major vehicle brands including:
This model will allow users to run diagnostics, clear check engine lights, and will also provide live parameters for TPMS, SRS, ABS, and more. It also features battery drain and over-voltage protection and regular firmware updates.
- Easy to use
- Firmware updates
- Compatible with Android, Windows, and iOS devices
- Battery drain protection
- Does not include an onboard code library
This easy to use Bluetooth OBD2 scanner is compatible with most smartphone operating systems, includes advanced support for many of the major vehicle makes and models, and offers more live parameters than many models of OBD2 scanners in this price range.
OBD2 Scanner Buyer’s Guide
With an OBD2 scanner, running diagnostics on your vehicle is a breeze, in fact you can usually get a reading in under a minute. A car has a computer system that monitors a variety of subsystems that make a vehicle run. The onboard diagnostics scanner allows users to check the status of their vehicle without having to take it to a mechanic and pay a fee for the same service.
Models that run on Bluetooth allow you to use your smartphone or tablet as a diagnostic scanning tool. Using apps that communicate with the scanner when its plugged into your vehicle makes the process even simpler.
While there are many different types of scanners on the market to choose from, wireless Bluetooth models are more convenient and easier to use compared to traditional models.
But before I go over what features these innovative easy to use scanners have to offer, first, let’s discuss the benefits of owning your own OBD2 scanner.
Bluetooth OBD2 Scanner Benefits
- When a sensor in your vehicle detects an issue, the car’s computer produces a code and the check engine light will turn on. This light indicates that there’s an issue somewhere in the system. However, without reading the code from the onboard computer, the vehicle owner will have no idea what the issue is. In order to read the codes, the vehicle owner will need to take it to a local garage and have a mechanic run diagnostic tests or the owner can simply purchase an OBD2 scanner. Running diagnostics will cost money, so if you take your vehicle to a mechanic every time your check engine light turns on, you’ll have to pay a fee. But if you have a scanner, you can do the same tests yourself, for free.
- These portable devices can easily hook up to your vehicle and will display any trouble codes that pop up. This knowledge will be invaluable when it comes to either the car owner fixing the problem themselves or figuring out how much money it’s going to cost them to have a professional do it.
- When you own a code scanner, you can easily do your own diagnostics. All you need to do is locate the OBD connector which is usually placed on the driver’s side, under the dash. Once you’ve located the connector, you’ll follow the connection instructions for the scanner. When you run the diagnostics, the codes will instantly pop up on the scanners display or your smartphone or tablet.
- Sometimes a check engine light will turn on for a serious problem, one that will make it unsafe to drive your vehicle until it’s been repaired. In some cases, the light will turn on when a sensor is out. While it’s important to get that fixed, it’s not something that will require immediate action. The ability to read trouble codes yourself will help determine the severity of the problem.
- These scanners are very versatile and will work for many different makes and models of vehicles. In 1996, manufacturers were required to use a standard diagnostic method. This onboard diagnostic system allows users to purchase a single scanner for a variety of vehicles. This means car owners will not have to buy a new scanner every time they get a new vehicle.
- These devices are highly portable, so you can bring one along when you head out on a long car trip. This way, if your check engine light pops on when you’re on the road you can whip out the scanner and determine whether or not your car is in need of immediate repairs.
- The ability to pinpoint the source of your vehicle’s check engine light means that you’ll be more likely to handle the problem yourself. Some scanners will provide more information than others.
- If you don’t know much about your vehicle and you’ve never done your own repairs, having a scanner can come in handy to ensure your mechanic isn’t charging you for repairs you don’t need. Most mechanics are honest, but there are some who will overcharge a client who obviously has no idea what’s going on with their vehicle and doesn’t have much knowledge in terms of automotive repairs. Knowing exactly what’s wrong with your vehicle before you bring it to a mechanic will allow you to do a little research online to find out how much the repairs will cost.
Other Important Features
When a check engine light pops on, this indicates that the car’s computer has detected some type of error. This can be anything from a dead oxygen sensor to a loose fuel cap. The error pops up as a code, which will remain stored in the computer’s memory until it has been cleared either with a predetermined reset, a number of engine starts without further issue, or by using a special tool.
OBD2 devices will come in handy for a variety of reasons, especially if you’re someone who is capable of working on your vehicle yourself. But there are many features you’ll want to look for before you purchase a scanner. For starters, if you’ve never used one before, you’ll want to purchase a model that has a reputation for ease of use. Additionally, a scanner should be compatible with both your smartphone and your vehicle and should provide codes within a matter of seconds. Unfortunately, not all models are created equal.
Now, let’s take a look at the basic features these devices have to offer and discuss why a scanner will be invaluable to both the DIY mechanic and the drivers who don’t have much mechanic knowledge.
The codes that a car’s computer generates can be checked with a scanning tool. These tools are a standard piece of equipment at any garage. These scanners can be very simple to use, but you can also come across models that are more feature-packed and thus more challenging to use correctly. The devices themselves consist of a small piece of hardware and an LCD screen, a primitive operating system, and a few buttons. The scanners are preloaded with trouble codes from a wide range of manufacturers and they’re designed to assess an engine’s performance, quickly and efficiently.
You’ll also come across a number of pro-quality models that are designed for smartphone use. These compact devices will connect to the serial portal in your vehicle, transmitting data over Bluetooth and interacting with an app on your tablet or smartphone. These scanners will allow you to read and clear codes and have a better reputation for more accurate readings.
These devices work by translating the data that’s output from a vehicle’s computer using the OBD interface.
Since everyone has a smartphone these days, using one of these Bluetooth devices is incredibly convenient.
Some scanners will have brand specific apps, while others will allow users to choose from a wide variety of apps based on operating systems. Most of these apps are free, however, there are some that will require a small fee to install it.
Some higher priced scanners can require a monthly subscription fee to use the dedicated app. Often, these scanners will offer a free six to twelve-month subscription, then they’ll begin monthly charges after the trial period is over. The subscription fee can be as low as $2 a month, up to $20 a month.
One of the biggest concerns buyers will have to deal with is choosing a model that’s compatible with their vehicle. Before you purchase a scanner, you need to ensure that the model you choose is compatible with your vehicle. This can be done by reading the product’s spec sheet. Not all scanners will be compatible with every car. If you have a newer vehicle, then you’re probably in the clear. However, if you have an older vehicle, then you may run into some issues when it comes to finding a model that will work with your vehicle. As of 1996, all vehicles that were sold in America have been required to be OBD compatible. Basically, if your vehicle was manufactured before 1996 then you probably won’t be able to use an OBD2 scanner. Additionally, when it comes to compatibility, you’ll also need to check if the scanner is compatible with the type of smartphone or tablet you use. If you have a major brand of phone or tablet, then you shouldn’t run into any compatibility issues.
Every model will list the trouble codes after a scan has been completed. Once you have the trouble codes, you can do a quick online search if your scanner doesn’t have a code library. This can help you diagnose what’s going on with your vehicle. If you have a higher priced scanner, the tool may provide you with the description of the trouble code, which will make the process much faster. Some models will even provide information that’s vehicle specific. Once you have determined what the codes mean for your vehicle, you can use this information to make the necessary repairs and to purchase the right parts. If the repairs are beyond your skill level, then you can take this data to your local mechanic.
Top of the line models that come equipped with an onboard code library can save you plenty of time and effort that would otherwise be spent looking up the code definitions. These code libraries will allow you to quickly perform a search for the code definitions, so you can learn more about why the check engine light keeps turning on and pinpoint exactly what’s going on with your vehicle. Unfortunately, not all models offer this feature, which is a must-have for people who don’t have much car repair experience.
Basic models that will provide just the codes, can run anywhere from twenty dollars up to forty dollars. Models that will display the codes and a description of what each of the trouble codes mean will cost more, but this ability can save you plenty of time and money. On average, these scanners can cost $30 to $100. The more information a model provides, the higher the price tag.
The warranties available can range from ninety days to two years. Higher priced models will often come with better warranties that offer more coverage, while low-priced scanners may not come with a warranty at all.
Ease of Use
Some models will be easier to use than others. If you don’t have much experience working on cars or you’ve never used an OBD2 scanner, then you’ll want a model that has a reputation for a beginner-friendly interface and one that includes intuitive controls.
Connecting and Reading an OBD2 Scanner
- Using an OBD2 scanner is pretty straightforward. Before you start, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the scanner’s user manual. After you’ve learned about the basics of the scanner, you’ll need to download an OBD2 scanner app on your tablet or smartphone, then pair it with your device.
- You will also want to update the scanner’s software before you use it. Many scanner manufacturers will offer software updates, which will update the model’s code database. This is often done by plugging the scanner into a computer via a USB cord.
- Next, you’ll plug the standard connector into the vehicle’s port, which is located on the driver’s side of the dash. Turn your vehicle on in order to power the scanner. You may need to enter vehicle specific information such as the VIN. In order to check for the engine codes, you’ll press the scan button and follow the instructions that pop up on your tablet or smartphone.
- A scan will usually take about thirty seconds. Once the scan is completed, follow the screen prompts to see if your vehicle is reporting any error or trouble codes. Make sure you record the data. If you want to see if the code was a one-time issue or you’ve used the data to repair the vehicle, use the scanner to clear the reported codes. This resets the check engine light.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are all OBD Readers the Same?
All vehicles will use the same definitions when it comes to generic codes. For enhanced codes there are models available that are vehicle specific, however, the accuracy can vary from one year to the next, so the codes may be out of date by the next model year.
What is the Difference Between an OBD Reader and Scanner?
A code reader is essentially a simplified version of a scanner. This type of tool is only able to perform basic scans for trouble codes. A scanner can read and clear codes and may also be able to read advanced data and can come with knowledge bases and playback features, in addition to diagnostic procedures.
How do I Permanently Delete Engine Codes?
In order to clear trouble codes using a monitor cycle, you’ll begin by repairing the issue that caused the trouble code to appear. Once the repairs have been made then you can clear all the codes.
How Can I tell if my Engine Code has Been Cleared?
On the scanner, you’ll press enter or read, depending on the model of scanner you have. Next, you’ll scroll down to the I/M readiness menu and choose it. Take a look at all of the systems. If the majority of them say not ready, then it means that the check engine light has recently been reset.
How Many Miles do you Have to Drive to Clear a Check Engine Light?
After clearing a car’s computer, you may only need to drive fifty to sixty miles, but one hundred miles seems to be the average for most vehicles. As you drive around, the vehicle’s computer will monitor every sensor and register the results.
The best OBD2 Scanners are beginner-friendly, feature an intuitive menu, and will connect to your tablet or smartphone via Bluetooth technology. Make sure that the model you choose is compatible with your make and model of vehicle. In most cases, you can purchase a model that will work for all of your vehicles, however, there are model specific scanners available, which can be a huge plus for some vehicle owners. This buyer’s guide, in addition to the products I’ve chosen, are designed to help you select a model that will come with all of the features you need to accurately diagnose your vehicle and have it up and running in no time. Each of the models included in my guide scored well in terms of versatility, ease of use, and overall quality, so you should have no trouble finding a solid model that you can rely on the next time your vehicle’s check engine light turns on.