Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls
  1. Home
  2. Articles
  3. What's the Difference Between a Code Reader and a Code Scanner?

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

code reader

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.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

More related articles

The Traveler’s Guide to Driving in Malaysia
CraigBurrows / Shutterstock.com Malaysia is a popular destination for many tourists today. The country has amazing sights and attractions that you will want to explore....
Veteran and Military Driver Laws and Benefits in Idaho
The state of Idaho offers a number of benefits and perks for those Americans who have either served in an Armed Forces branch in the...
Auto Safety Tips
Driving is more than a way to get from point A to point B. Owning and driving a car can also be a highly enjoyable experience. Whether a person is driving...

Related questions

Q: Is It Worth It to Buy My Own Scanner or Code Reader?

A code scanner is used to access the onboard diagnostic system (OBD) of your vehicle. Not all code scanners are created equal; there are many different scanner types. The most inexpensive scanners on the market today hookup to the OBD...

Q: Are Code Readers and Scan Tools Different?

There are differences and similarities between code readers and scan tools. With the advent of the vehicle on board diagnostic system (OBD) there have been many different makers of scan tools and code readers. The code readers were the first...

Q: Stalls without warning

I have never seen a DTA's message displayed on the dashboard of any vehicle, so I'm not sure what you mean. To determine the problem, you need to "catch the vehicle in the act." Checking fuel pressure and spark when...