TTAC commentator Toy Maker writes:
Hi again Sajeev,
Steven Lang’s post buying quality tools piked my interest again on getting myself an OBDII scanner. But which one is right for me? Even the Autel brand mentioned by Steve have readers ranging from $30 to the $350 Autel MD802 mentioned in Steve’s post.
I don’t plan on working on my cars much, just want to use more than onomatopoeias to converse with my mechanics. (Nice. – SM)
Though I did read online “Scanners” can give you more real-time diagnostic than “Code Reader”. Is there guideline to say when should someone spring for a Scanner , and when can they settle for a Reader? My budget for this month is under $100. Will be less after Christmas time, but much more when the CEL comes on again.
In theory, you want the tool that pulls the most codes for your car(s), but the cheaper tools pull basic powertrain codes and little else. Which kinda makes them useless as our cars get more complicated with more fail points. Damn those proprietary software codes from each manufacturer!
In reality, you can go to any parts store and they’ll pull most engine codes for free. Or get a super cheap one from Harbor Freight if you are too lazy/uppity to go to said retail establishment.
If you need to reprogram some obscure VW Transmission after doing a fluid change, a super special tool (i.e. VAG-COM) is necessary. But if you have a late-model GM pickup, buying a normal code scanner with the additional GM software isn’t a bad idea. It all depends on how “smart” you want to look.
Speaking of, OBD-II works nicely with most WiFi enabled smart phones. Which is super cool if you (like me) are wired to these damn things. What’s not to love about a little plug for your OBD-II port and an app on your phone to give you an ungodly amount of data? If you have an uber-tuned machine, a fancypants phone and the desire to know everything, the show-off factor available gives you ultimate bragging rights.
To wrap things up, the value proposition of owning your own scan tool depends on a few salient points:
- Brand loyalty to a single manufacturer. (GM, Ford, VAG, etc.)
- Interest in fixing problems with a repair manual and extensive searching on brand specific forums.
- Desire for another plastic box that’ll collect dust in your garage and/or ability to wow your mechanic with non-onomatopoeia based communication
- Interest in using the free tool at the parts store, or the (somewhat) better rent-able tool (deposit required) when needed.
Quite honestly, communication via onomatopoeia isn’t the end of the world. This is why we pay for mechanics, and why they (usually) add value to our society.
Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.