best auto code readers

Best Auto Code Readers: Figure Out That Check Engine Light

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Most car junkies and hobbyists know enough about their rides to handle the basic issues through the use of the right auto code readers. After all, not only does it help them take care of their cars by being more aware of the errors or malfunctions, but they can also actually save a lot of money.

You can also invest in high-quality gear that the auto mechanics themselves use, such as full diagnostic tools, even if they would cost a bit more. In return, the chance to monitor how well your beloved wheels are really doing will be more than worth the investment.

What Kind Of Tools Do You Need?

Auto Code Readers obdAs a car owner, you know there are many indicators on the dashboard that would light up when there is something amiss with your automobile. Mechanics or car hobbyists can then use an auto code reader to link into the car’s computer and figure out what is wrong.

This device looks quite simple and small, but it is perfect for diagnosing any malfunctions by connecting with the car and giving you information through trouble codes. What is even more impressive is that these machines are not very expensive to begin with.

By having one, you save yourself a trip to the mechanic every single time a warning light comes off in your dashboard. What’s more, you also do not have to spend so much money.

Two Types of Auto Code Reader Systems


As cars become more advanced, the systems also become more complex, which is why there are two different kinds out there. OBD-I (on-board diagnostics) systems are typically found in models that were manufactured around the end of the 1970s and into the beginning of the 1980s.

In fact, some of them would not even require a car code reader to be able to check error codes.


Beginning 1995, carmakers started moving to the OBD-II standard, so all recent models will use this. However, both systems function the same way, that they keep track of specific sensor outputs and inputs.

Should there be any abnormality, a code is generated, which would also refer to a certain error. There are also kinds of codes that would identify repeating or existing problems.

It is when a code is set that the light in your dashboard comes on.

How Car Code Readers Work

These machines will read these trouble codes when they are attached to the OBD connector of your car. Beyond communicating with the car computer, they may also be able to conduct some simple functions.

obd2 Code Reader scannerUsing them is pretty straightforward, the code reader simply needs to be attached to the connector. OBD-I systems can be found in various parts of the cars like under the hood or the dash.

However, the newer OBD-II connector is easier to spot, because they are now located below the dashboard close to the steering wheel, or rarely, behind the ashtray.

A simple reader will use power from the car itself, so once it is attached, it will switch on. Once it does, it will be able to read codes, show basic parameter IDs, and check readiness monitors.

You can also use Bluetooth OBD scanners if you are bothered by the wires and connections.

You may also clear the codes once you are able to identify the error based on the code chart.

Some car code readers range can only perform simple tasks such as reading error or trouble codes. However, most technicians invest in higher-end models that can conduct different diagnoses. If the information is not available, you may refer online or even to a technician to translate the codes.

What To Look For When Buying A Car Code Reader

A car code reader is a very helpful device but it is important to consider these two factors when choosing which one to buy:

Features You Need

While more advanced models might sound better and have more capabilities than a simple one, it really does not automatically mean you should opt for the latest and greatest. After all, you should consider your purpose and your knowledge.

The basic purpose of a car code reader is to simply access engine codes and delete them afterward. They may be able to do some simple repairs as well.

On the other hand, a high-end model will be able to perform additional functions. For example, it can also access and read other systems of your car like the ABS (Antilock Brake System).

It might also be able to show you what the codes mean, which is impossible with a basic one.


There are versions that are tagged as universal, but it is still important to look at what kind of protocol it actually uses. This can be found on a label under your car’s hood.

Checking is a good step to make sure you invest only on a model you can really use.

Best Auto Code Readers Reviews

Autel MaxiScan MS300 Car Code Reader

Autel | Best Auto Code Reader-5be9f678af95e

What We Like

  • Cost effective
  • Ease of use
  • Wide compatibility

If you are looking for a first car code reader or do not want something complicated, the Autel MaxiScan MS300 is the perfect one to pick up. First of all, you would not need to invest a lot of money or need a lot of technical capabilities to use it.

Therefore, if all you want to have is something that can read trouble codes accurately, this is the one for you.

Because you might not be aware of some malfunctions or errors in your car, you might suddenly experience a random breakdown. Not only is this a huge hassle, it might also require you to hire someone to pick up your car and then bring to the mechanic.

A car code reader, especially something as simple and widely compatible as the Autel MaxiScan MS300, can help you identify what needs to be fixed.

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Ancel AD310 Auto Code Reader

Ancel | Best Auto Code Reader-5be9f67a36653

What We Like

  • Large screen
  • On-screen code definitions
  • Support CAN and OBD-II protocols

The Ancel AD310 may not be as fancy as others because of its simple black-and-white screen, but it makes up for this by providing owners and users with a bigger screen than other readers. A colored screen is not necessarily the most important feature, since the Ancel AD310 has other great attributes that can help you get past that.

First of all, this unit is very easy to use because it can work with any OBD-II compliant car from Europe or the USA. Some manufacturers may claim the universality of their model, but not every reader can really prove this.

The Ancel AD310 is one of the few that really has no problem with being used in different cars. The last great feature is the trouble code definitions that are automatically shown, saving you time trying to research the meaning or other things.

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Blusmart OBD Mate OBDII Reader

Blusmart | Best Auto Code Reader-5be9f67b99bc1

What We Like

  • Displays emissions readiness
  • Small and easy to store
  • Can read live data stream

Having the capability to check your car at any time is great, which is why some of the best auto code readers are small. Blusmart OBD Mate OBDII is no exception.

In fact, it is so small you can always stash it away in your glove compartment. That way it will be ready the moment you would need it.

This means that even if you are on the road and suddenly the Check Engine light comes out, you would not need to look for and rush to the closest mechanic just to figure out what is wrong. Its size and ease of use make it popular for DIY car mechanics out there.

This model is also able to read more than just the usual engine data. For example, it does an emissions readiness check, which is a smart step to do before doing an emissions test.

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Oxgord CAN OBD II Scanner

Oxgord | Best Auto Code Reader-5be9f67d2e418

What We Like

  • Lightweight
  • Compatible with most American cars
  • Reads manufacturer-specific codes

The Oxgord CAN OBD II Scanner 8-ounce device might look small, but it actually works hard making sure your car systems are all running perfectly. Beyond its light weight and small size, it is also compatible with the majority of US-made cars produced after 1996.

This makes it easy for owners with several cars to share one device to use for trouble code reading or for beginners.

Do not be fooled by its size, though. It is in fact, carrying a database for generic and even manufacturer-specific codes. This is a great bargain since you would not need a more advanced tool if your car has some issues specific to your model.

Definitions can be found in the booklet that comes with the scanner, so you could easily find the exact problem and troubleshoot accordingly.

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Donop Professional U480 Auto Code Readers

Donop | Best Auto Code Reader-5be9f67ee72c5

What We Like

  • Supports multiple code requests
  • Retrieves VIN
  • Accurate and reliable

The Donop Professional U480 is one of the most adaptable car code readers out there because it works with automobiles manufactured in Asia, Europe, and the US, so long as they are OBD-II or CAN compliant. Buying this unit minimizes the risk of wasting your money on a diagnostic tool that will actually not fit.

Using it is also pretty straightforward. After plugging it in, you might easily read the error or trouble codes of your car. It can easily read generic, but at the same time, manufacturer-specific codes, including pending ones.

Beyond these features, it is also able to retrieve your car’s Vehicle Identification Number so long as they are made after 2002 or support Mode 9. Just make sure you do not lose your booklet of trouble codes as the item will help you search and discover what needs to be done.

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While most people have car electricians or mechanics they trust and where they are a long-time customer, many others find it tough to find an expert they can rely on. After all, every single visit to the garage will cost money and worse, you are also not sure if they are indeed successful in keeping your car in tip-top shape.

Looking at the best auto code readers out there, the best thing is that they are not as expensive as you may think. The advantages really go beyond, because you can better take care of your car without putting a hole in your wallet.

So whether you are a car hobbyist or even an expert, you can finally look into your car and figure out what is wrong. You may then be able to go to your mechanic with a clearer idea of what needs to be done and save yourself some money from unnecessary repairs as well.


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