Buyers Guide : What Should You Look Out For In A Car Diagnostic Tool?

The OBD 2 standard ensures that all car diagnostic tools available on the market are universal, hence adaptable to all vehicle models. However, this universality doesn’t erase the need for personally investigating the features you need to personalize the adaptation of the tool to your convenience.

Car Diagnostic Tool Buyers Guide



Here are some considerations to have in mind before purchasing a car diagnostic tool :

1). Features & Functionality :

This covers the different features and specific functionalities you should look out for in the model you intend to install. While having all the features and functionalities might come at a great expense, you would be able to choose which ones are must-haves for you and those that don’t really have any influence on your opinion, hence, helping you make a less costlier but effective choice.

  • Basic code reader or high end unit?

The basic code reader is very limited in its features and just merely informs the user about a car problem that requires diagnosis, at a point from which you can proceed to run the diagnostics and fix the problem. It costs way less than the high-end unit and only works effectively on the most common (domestic) car models.

However, for more modern cars with more functions than average, the high-end unit is more preferable. This type is used by professionals and has a lower chance of incompatibility with any vehicle it is installed in. Apart from being a universally Integratable version of the OBD 2 car diagnostic enterprise , it’s functionality includes several features as explained thus;

  • A well-defined user interface which displays definitions of diagnostic codes on the screen fixed on the car’s dashboard.


  • Real time data transmission which displays information about the car’s performance levels as well as the sensors even while the engine is running.


  • Data Logging and Storage Capacity which saves the information transmitted to the user, on the memory to be accessed on a later date for a deeper scan.


  • Airbag Capability – with this feature, you can monitor and reset the airbag and antilock brake systems, as well as other systems, and more importantly detect any faults if there are any.


  • Some types have printing capabilities with which you could send the results of your scan to the printer and provide physical copies for reference purposes.


  • Retrieval of Vehicle Identification Number: This feature helps display the VIN of the car and helps the user to discover if the car has been in the past tampered with or refurbished.


  • Compression Tester: This feature helps diagnose and fix the problems in the components that need pressure for optimum performance.


  • Battery and Charging System: This feature helps test, service, charge and boost the car batteries as well as other systems that require electric charging.


  • Cooling System: with the temperature gauges and antifreeze testers, the diagnostics software can diagnose systems associated with the cooling system.


  • Engine Control Diagnostics: locates and resolves intermittent auto engine control problems such as such as idle speeds.

Other Considerations under the high-end user category include;

  • Upgrade Support:

The car diagnostic tool is basically software operated. If it cannot be upgraded, then it just limits its use against futuristic use like in electric cars or hybrid models with far more sophisticated builds. If it is upgradable, then this won’t be a problem when that happens.

  • Versatility on different platforms:

A certain category of high-end OBD 2 scanners based on their adaptability onto different platforms are;

PC-based auto scanners which makes use of the power in the device to diagnose and troubleshoot the vehicle’s issues, be it a car, a motorcycle or even a truck. In comparison to the stand-alone versions , The major benefits of this type is that they have tons of storage (the PC’s memory which in any case is large enough), brilliant user interface, as well as access to a comprehensive variety of diagnostic softwares that can be easily updated from time to time.

Handheld Auto scanners which are quite handy and powerful enough to be used by auto-professionals to diagnose a large range of failures in different car engines. They usually have a simpler user interface and their kit includes a power cable, power and data cable, as well as a battery pack among other things.

Bluetooth Auto Scanners which could basically transform your smartphone, tablet or even computer into an advanced diagnostic tool and provide quick and reliable performance data in real time.

Other General considerations include;

2). Brand Popularity:

There just is this kind of assurance that comes with the popularity of a brand that people tend to rely on. On the flip side, said popular brands do whatever it takes to keep their reputation on point. So, you could rely on their fear of being thrown out of the spotlight to trust them enough to deliver as promised.

3). Customer Support:



The benefits of having a good customer are mostly reaped when you’re having a bad day with the software. Their response time as well as the quality of their response has to be on an average, very helpful.


Other factors such as cost effectiveness (the balance between the price and its functions), the warranty period and the ease of installation fall into a more general category but should be taken just as seriously. More importantly, considering how important the information transmitted to you from the diagnostic tool is, it would be very responsible of you to report to a certified mechanic about the consistency of the problems in your vehicle and get real work done on it.

Leave a Comment