Choosing the Right OBD Code Reader

An OBD code reader is a device that you connect to your truck or cars on-board computer so it can read data that was generated by this computer, called error codes.  It is also a device that reset these error codes.

Basic or high-end code reader

The basic code reader is less expensive and will just read the engine codes and then erase them, which is all you need if you just want to know the codes so you can do your own basic repair.  These codes will also help your mechanic find out what is wrong with your car.  You can identify the basic OBD code reader because they usually will only have two buttons but they can have compatibility issues.  These code readers are made to work on the most common cars and do not have the programs to cover all the protocols from every car manufacture.  The protocols are specialized codes that work for a specific car. When you purchase a basic OBD code reader, check the car’s protocol to make sure that it is compatible with the code reader you are buying.

The higher end OBD code reader is more expensive but it has more functions and less change of incompatibility.  Some of the extra functions can include:

  • On screen definitions—in basic code readers you just get a code and then have to look them up to see what they mean in a code book but the higher-end code readers you can see the definition of the code displayed on the code reader’s screen.
  • Airbag or ABS capability—this means that you can read the problem and then reset other systems such as your airbag or antilock brake systems.
  • Printing ability—it has the ability to send the data to your computer so it can be printed out so you have the information to show your mechanic if there is a problem they need to fix.
  • Retrieve the VIN number (vehicle identification number)—the code reader can display your VIN number, which is useful if you think the VIN number of the vehicle has been tampered with. It can also tell you if your car has been rebuilt.
  • Memory—the higher-end OBD code reader will save your data in the scanner’s memory so you can look at it later.
  • Updatable—in order to keep up with the changes in your vehicle’s protocols you can update the device online to make any changes.

When buying an OBD code reader make sure that it does not have any compatibility issues with your car so be sure to find the OBD 2 protocol before you buy one.  Although more expensive, buying a higher-end one offers more features and is a better investment.