Most of the time if there is a problem with your car, it is hoped that the problem will be easy to fix. But sometimes you run into errors that can be difficult to understand. For example, what does it mean if the “Check Engine” light is lit?
As you know, going to the car repair shop and having them diagnose and repair a problem costs money, and such bills are of course reluctant to pay if you do not have to. Especially if it were to turn out to be an error that one could have corrected itself with little resources.
So how do you proceed? What you need is an error code reader, also known as obd2 scanner. With such a scan you can easily scan all kinds of fault codes that you may encounter, whether it’s fault codes from the ABS brakes, gearbox or whatever.
There are plenty of error code readers on the market today and the range ranges from cheap, generic bluetooth scanners that let you interpret simple error codes and reset factory settings via your mobile phone to professional, hand-held devices with extended functionality.
OBD2 scanners that use Bluetooth allow you to use mobile devices such as mobile phones and tablets as diagnostic tools via an adapter that you plug into the car. Software in your device then interprets the OBD data from the car and visualizes it for you.
The best fault code readers let you interpret inputs from all sensors in your car, engine sensors, RPM, elåtgång, engine temperature, fuel consumption and more and perform simple diagnostics.
One advantage of the more advanced error code readers is precisely the availability of extended data. For example, if you have a car insurance that is tied to your OBD data, you can easily keep track of all the data yourself with a tool like this. Needless to say, you get good access to data that helps keep your insurance premium down.
Good to know before your purchase of error code reader
In this best in test we will go through a total of three units and they fall individually into different categories. The most expensive of them, iCARSOFT CR PLUS, is to be considered as completely self-contained. It has all the necessary functionality available in the device itself but its analytical uses increase with availability to a computer. The other two tests were performed on units in the budget class.
One, the Donop Professional U480 CAN OBD2 OBD II, is a completely standalone device that does not require any peripherals, while the ELM327 WiFi ELM 327 I is of the type where you need a USB compatible device to interpret the measurements.
Generally, when it comes to error code readers that require peripherals, it should be said that it is important that you pay attention to compatibility between different devices. Keep track of what kind of software comes with your device or if there’s anything you need to buy separately.
Most of the cheaper fault code readers work exactly as they should, but it is common for them to have flawed manuals. It may also happen that they are a bit unreliable, not in the data they retrieve from your car, but in that the hardware itself is not always so high quality.
That said, we hope you’ll be able to find something in the following recommendations. These devices work in our experience as they should. We start our best test of error code readers with a standalone unit in the budget class.
Error code reader best in test
1. Donop Professional U480
This is one of the cheapest fault code readers on the market that at the same time does not require any peripherals. It can be used to scan your car’s electrical system to find any problems plaguing the car.
You plug it into your car’s diagnostic socket and after you have gone through the codes that resulted from the scanning, you can hopefully solve the problem.
The scanner is compatible with all cars that support the OBD2 and CAN languages. This particular error code reader has what we can understand a very good reputation, where many who bought stated that it has saved them a lot of money. Not bad for a unit in this price range.
Donop Professional is compatible with most cars made in Europe, USA and Asia, but of course check up your own car just in case.
Other advantages of the model are that it has a clear LCD display and that it does not need any batteries. Just plug it into the socket of your car and get started and diagnose.
- The best test for the final assessment of error code readers is that this is a very good, multifaceted and affordable unit for those who want to solve the most common problems themselves without having to go to the workshop. However, it will not save you in case of more advanced difficulties.
2. iCarsoft CR Plus
With iCarsoft CR Plus, this is best in test up considerably in price range. Here we are dealing with a completely standalone bug code reader in professional class, it should be said, however, that you can access some extra features using a USB cable and a PC.
This error code reader allows you to perform in-depth error detection and access data that simpler devices cannot access. It has a price and it is at the expense of buying a device that works for your particular car model.
This is not an error code reader for the person looking for a multi-tool to use on several different car brands. At the time of writing, it is available as specialized units for:
- Audi, Volkswagen, Skoda
- LandRover, Jaguar
- Citroen, Peugot
- Fiat, Alfa Rome
- Volvo, Saab
- Toyota, Lexus, Scion, Isuzu
iCarsoft CR Plus gives you a whole arsenal of problem solving opportunities. If you are reasonably handy in the workshop, this unit will basically make sure that you will never have to go to a workshop again. Of course, you still have to pay a rather juicy lump sum, but it is no higher than that you will have earned it already after a cancelled workshop visit.
You reset all possible alarms with a few simple button presses and get access to factory reset codes and other things that are typically only available for workshops. In addition, you can stream data from your car’s various sensors live. It includes all the car’s different systems.
But does it really have no flaws perhaps the attentive reader wonders? Yes, of course it has, but it should already be said that this is the best error code seeker in this best test, and that the benefits outweigh.
For example, if you plan to use this bug code finder for car models manufactured before 1996, you can forget about it. it is for most people.
- The final judgment in this best in test of error code reader is that this is an excellent error code reader for those who need an in-depth device for a specific car brand. The downside is that you’re going to have to cough up a little bit. But with such extensive possibilities for troubleshooting and diagnostics, it will probably save some or some visits to the workshop.
3. ELM327 WiFi I
With ELM327, we are back in the budget class. Here we have a device of the type that requires you to have access to a smartphone with either iOS or Android.
However, this device is by far the most beneficial for iPhone users. For iPhones, there is a software that gives you access to deeper diagnostic tools, software that is also compatible with a range of additional apps that can help you conduct deeper analysis. Connect your device to your phone via Wi-Fi.
The device is compatible with car models manufactured later than 1996 and supports cars of, among other things, the brands:
- Ford, Chrysler
- Honda, Mazda, Toyota
Unfortunately, the user manual lacks a complete list of all supported models, which became apparent to us when we tested the device on a Mercedes of vintage 2001, a mark that you will surely note is missing from the above list. However, we accessed data on gearbox, ABS, Airbag and so on.
- The final rating for ELM327 is that it is good for its price. As with most error code readers in this price range, you get what you pay for. You get a tool that gives you access to basic features across a wide range of different car models at the expense of deep and advanced features.
If you belong to the type who likes to repair cars and maybe even have it as a hobby, you will probably come into contact with more different brands and models. In that case, of course, you have little use for a lavish device that still only works to a specific brand. It is clear that if you are to get the most out of your bug code scanner, you should have basic knowledge of how to fix the most common problems.
The type of device you should bet on ultimately depends on the type of car you drive and how often you change cars. For example, we can imagine that if you drive a newer car model, it feels much more reasonable to pay for an iCarsoft.