With an OBD-II code reader, you can retrieve the codes that your car’s OBD-II system generates and stores when it detects certain malfunctions in your car. When the check engine light turns on, just plug the device into the DLC of your car, which is usually located at the base of your steering wheel, and you can retrieve the codes, recognize the problem that is occurring, and decide the best measures to deal with the problem.
If you haven’t had an OBD-II code reader to scan the codes and decide to buy one, there are two factors that you should mind.
There is an unwritten covenant within the automotive community that categorizes all car trouble code readers into two big categories.
- Coder Reader
An OBD-II code reader is widely regarded as the most basic device to read trouble codes. It has the capability to retrieve OBD-II codes and to show it on its built-in display. Many code readers can only show the raw code without interpreting it; however, more recent models also show the interpretation of the retrieved codes, although the codes that they can interpret are mostly generic codes and not manufacturer-specific ones.
- Scan Tool
A scan tool is the more advanced version of the OBD-II code reader. In addition to performing basic diagnostic tasks, such as code reading and clearing and manufacturer-specific code interpretation through VIN acquisition, it also offers many advanced diagnostic functions, such as freeze frame options, database update, and readiness monitor reset. The price of a professional scan tool is significantly higher than that of a basic code reader, but it is definitely the best choice for car enthusiasts.
Although this categorization has become very common, especially on the OBD2 scanner market, it is safe to say that both the OBD-II code reader and scan tool are similar devices with different features.
Wired or Wireless
When you buy an OBD-II code reader, you have the freedom to choose either a wired or wireless code reader. Each choice has its pros and cons. If you choose a wired code reader, you will have to deal with the inconvenience of a wired device, including limited cable length, tangled cable, and the necessity to unplug the device from the DLC port when you are not using it. However, a wired device often doesn’t require an external power source because when you plug the device into the DLC port, it will get the power from your car. Of course, not all wired code readers offer this advantage.
If you buy a wireless OBD-II code reader, you have all the conveniences of a wireless device. A wireless code reader usually takes the form of a Bluetooth dongle that you can constantly attach to the DLC port. It is okay to remove the dongle, but most users prefer to keep it attached to the port for the reason of convenience. The dongle is usually paired with a display device that is included in the package or with an app that you have installed on your smartphone.