Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

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

asked by on

Is it worth it to buy my own scanner or code reader?

A: A code scanner is used to access the onboar...

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 connector while you download an app on your phone to work with the scanner using Bluetooth or a cable. These scanners can simply get the codes, clear them and go, or have full diagnostic scans with trouble code diagnostics. The more complex and in depth diagnostics they have, the more expensive they are.

If you are looking for a full size or hand held scanners to do a little more than just getting the codes out, then you will start to get into more expensive scanners. Basically the more expensive the scanner, the more it does for you to help in diagnosis. Some cheap scanners will only get the code out and clear the code. As the price increases you will start to see more options and capabilities like data analysis, freeze frame, component activation, and monitors for emissions. These scanners will work on the engine only and cannot access other vehicle systems but may display the codes through the engine control module (ECM).

As a scanner gets more and more options to work on other systems like the anti lock brakes system (ABS), tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), body control module (BCM), transmission control module (TCM), anti-theft module or other systems, you will see the price increase to thousands of dollars. You may get a cheap scanner to get the codes but your scanner will not be able to help in diagnosis other than get you a code. A good low cost scanner will give you the code and its meaning to help you out in diagnosis. A mid-range scanner may look at the ECM and ABS system with data and freeze frame capabilities.

When it comes to purchasing a scanner you will need to ask yourself a few questions. Why do I want a scanner? Will I be doing my own repairs? What scanner best suits my needs? How much do I have to spend? After you answer these questions you can then decide if a scanner is right for you. Some people purchase scanners to turn off the Check Engine Light if they accidently leave the gas cap off and just need to clear a code. Others like to do their own work and want a scanner to help diagnose a code and fix the problem on their own.

One problem with the scanners is they are aftermarket in most cases and are not guaranteed to work with all vehicles, years, makes or models. If you want to purchase a scanner for your vehicle, I would suggest seeking the advice of a professional mechanic or scanner sales person to get the correct scanner that will work for your vehicle.

Was this answer helpful?

Need advice from certified mechanic? Get help now!

Over 1000 mechanics are ready to answer your question.
The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Ask a Mechanic
(100% Free)

Have a car question? Get free advice from our top-rated mechanics.

Ask A Mechanic
Over 10,000 questions answered!

Get an instant quote for your car

Our certified mechanics come to you ・Backed by 12-month, 12,000-mile guarantee・Fair and transparent pricing

Get a quote

What others are asking

Q: Codes P0420 and P0171 appearing

When it relates to the air conditioning system, the dealership does not have an advantage when it comes to hybrid air conditioning systems. These air conditioning systems require special evacuation machines that are different from that of a normal air...

Q: Does the OBD system use more than lights to communicate with the driver?

Malfunction Indicator Lamps (MIL) and audible alarms are currently the only means by which the On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) system can inform the driver of any issues that adversely affect the operation of the engine or other electronically controlled system. The...

Q: Can a loose gas cap or driving on really rough roads cause a P0193 error code?

Hi there, thanks for writing in. To answer your question in a simple way: maybe. The P-0193 OBD-II error code is as you indicated, a fuel rail pressure sensor circuit issue. This may have been triggered by the aggressive off-road...

Related articles

How Do Power Car Windows Increase Passenger Safety?
Power windows are responsible for approximately 2,000 emergency room visits every year. When a power window closes, it exerts enough force to bruise or break bones, crush fingers, or restrict an airway. Though...
P0240 OBD-II Trouble Code: Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance
P0240 code definition Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance What the P0240 code means P0240 is an OBD-II generic code triggered when the Engine Control Module (ECM) detects the intake boost...
What are the Car Pool Rules in Hawaii?
Hawaii is widely regarded as a land of vacation and relaxation, and as such, its scenic roads and routes are far better known than the state’s freeways. But, as with all...