What's the Difference Between a Code Reader and a Code Scanner?

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In order to determine why your Check Engine Light is on, a mechanic will connect a handheld device to the OBD II connector under your dash (in a vehicle made in 1996 and onward). This lets the mechanic access the trouble code stored in the computer and begin diagnosing the problem. However, there are many different devices that do similar things, and it helps to know the differences between them.

Code reader vs code scanner

You’ll find two primary categories of devices out there – code readers and scan tools. There’s a lot of blurring of the lines between these two options, but here are the main differences:

  • Code Reader: A code reader is generally the cheaper of the two options, and also the most limited in terms of functionality. They basically connect to the OBD II connection, and tell you what the code is. You can then choose to clear the code if you want. That’s where their features usually end.

  • Scan Tool: A scan tool is generally manufactured for use in an automotive shop, and provides a robust set of tools for testing, diagnostics and more. Mechanics can also access more than just the ECU – the code scanner generally provides access to codes and problems in the ABS system, traction control and other supplemental systems.

In addition to the difference in functionality, there’s also a considerable difference in price. A code reader can cost hundreds but a good scan tool might set you back thousands, depending on the software and tools included. Some of these are very high-end, with touchscreen capabilities and additional equipment that can be used to make a more accurate diagnosis, test components on the car, and even control the vehicle’s onboard software to simulate different operating conditions.


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Rigoberto

9 years of experience
706 reviews
Rigoberto
9 years of experience
Chevrolet Equinox - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Niles, Illinois
Rigo was great! He got there early, finished the job early, left everything clean. He changed my rear pads and rotors. The original quoted time was 90 minutes, he was done in about 60. He knows what he is doing and I am recommending him to all my friends and coworkers.
Mercedes-Benz C250 - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Chicago, Illinois
Rigo is a maverick hands down. Don’t take your car for work elsewhere. Especially great at Mercedes—this guy knows his profession! I will be using him for everything related to my car going forward.

Arturo

25 years of experience
35 reviews
Arturo
25 years of experience
Kia Forte - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - San Diego, California
ARTURO is great! very professional , fast, replaced my front brake pads and oil an filter change. everything now works and works well. Brakes have much improved stopping power and engine is smooth and quiet.Arturo is also kind and thoughtful. "Your mechanic" is very fortunate to have Arturo Lopez represent your company. I enthusiastically recommend him and "Your mechanic> as a fine operation Best regards to the Team Peter Marto
Nissan Maxima - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - San Diego, California
Arturo was prompt and completed my brake repair, including new rotors in a very efficient manner. I am very pleased with the quality of the work and the parts and will definitely look to have him service our other car in the near future.

Scott

32 years of experience
345 reviews
Scott
32 years of experience
Lexus IS250 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Denver, Colorado
Always on time, speedy, professional, and pleasant to interact with. The work is always consistent and we'll done. I can't reccomend Scott highly enough!

Michael

10 years of experience
15 reviews
Michael
10 years of experience
Nissan Sentra - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Conyers, Georgia
He was promptly on time and got the job done efficiently in a timely manner. I really appreciate the rapid respone on getting the job done! I would most definitely use this service again.

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