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Every car and truck is more than just four wheels and an engine. Each of them has a computer system installed in them, which regulates and keeps track of the main functions of the car like ignition, condition of the engine, coolant, temperature, and such others.
This standardized system of diagnostics in every vehicle is called Onboard Diagnostics or OBD2.
Although this system regulates the anomalies occurring within any vehicle, it is not able to solve every issue in the vehicle. That is when the ‘check engine’ light on our dash is turned on.
This is where an OBD2 Scanner comes in, and here are the top 10 best OBD2 Scanners under 50.
It is a tool that lets car owners scan the diagnostics of their cars, allowing them to learn about any irregularity within their vehicles.
It lets every car owner to easily maintain car health. Different kinds of OBD2 Scanners have several functions and features in both hardware and software.
Browsing for the right kind of scanner and finding the one that fits our needs perfectly might be tiresome but will definitely prove to be fruitful in the long run.
How Does an OBD2 Scanner Work?
Simply put into words, an OBD2 Scanner lets us know if there is something wrong with our car so that we can work on repairs accordingly.
Although functions may vary from model to model, the standard process of using such a scanner is simple and effortless.
By putting the scanner into proper use, one can easily carry out maintenance of their vehicles, which would otherwise require an appointment with a mechanic, followed by expenses.
Keeping on to the course of action mentioned hereafter, we can easily adapt to the process of using this scanner.
Before everything, comes connecting the OBD2 scanner to our car. For this, we have to turn the power off in our car and plug the scanner into the OBD2 data link of our car (usually located under the dashboard).
OBD2 is a standardized system, and so it employs the same type of connector, called SAEJ1962, in every vehicle. The scanner will start to function after it has been plugged in.
Turning the Scanner on
After plugging the scanner in, we have to switch on the car battery, and it should boot up. If it does not, we have to press its power button to turn it on.
When it boots up, we have to enter some information about the car, such as its model, engine, Vehicle Information Number (VIN), etc. These are all necessary data that our scan tool requires in order to recognize the vehicle.
Then, for the device to scan the vehicle’s diagnostic system, we have to initiate this by pressing a button to allow it. For specifics and further operating details, we should always check the scanner’s manual.
When the scanner is done with reading the car’s systems, it will show some codes or an error code.
These can either be noted down, or the data may be transferred to any other device, like a mobile phone. Later, refer to the scanner’s manual to find out what these codes mean and take actions accordingly.
Turn off After Done
After we are done with noting the codes, we have to turn off our vehicle and then disconnect the scanner carefully.
Best OBD2 Scanners Under $50 Review
The market today for scanners provides its customers with a wide range of choices. By considering our needs besides the various kinds of features that are offered by OBD2 Scanners, we can pick out the perfect scanner that fits our requirements.
ANCEL AD310Top Pick[amazon box=”B01G5EA74I”]
On top of our list, we have the ANCEL AD310 scanner, which comes with a classic design and easy handling, especially for beginners. This device supports many different languages and can be used for a wide range of vehicles.
It is a well-performing handy tool that is easily able to detect the cause of the check engine light.
The scanner has a large liquid crystal display (LCD) screen that includes contrast adjustments. It directly indicates the test results and does not require any charger or batteries.
This device can read and erase diagnostic error codes, both common and vehicle-specific. It views all its data on a freeze-frame, which makes it very convenient for the car user.
Furthermore, this scanner can also detect and view an evaporative emission control system (EVAP) leak. Besides that, it also provides certain units of measurements of the vehicle.
A great advantage is that the scanner has a built-in library to help us with code definitions. Along with error codes, it also displays the meaning of the codes.
However, there are no options for any software updates on this scanner. The error reading may not be the most accurate with this one.
Next up, we have the BAFX product scanner, which works on a very broad range of vehicles. This OBD2 scanner is adjustable to most car models manufactured after the year 1996.
The device stands out even more because it is specially built to work exclusively and solely with Android devices. It is adjustable to any Windows devices as well.
Besides reading the check engine light, this scanner also gives readings on emissions to keep the car in proper check.
It shows the fuel and air ratio and ensures whether the oxygen sensors of the vehicle are working correctly or not. This device also assures very reliable Bluetooth connections when active.
As the tool is compatible with Android devices only, an Android smartphone is needed to run the device. The scanner has to be joined to an app on the smartphone to start working.
There are different apps that work well with it, but Torque Pro stands out and is highly recommended for the users.
However, the BAFX Products scanner is not compatible with any iOS devices and does not read the Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) codes for airbags.
KOBRA Products OBD2 ScannerBudget Pick[amazon box=”B0725Q6X7B”]
This scan tool is able to diagnose over three thousand car codes instantly. It stands out for its accuracy in reading the error codes along with delivering them within seconds only.
Along with its accuracy, this device is extremely compatible as it works with all vehicles from 1996 to 2016. The compact size and easy connectivity to the electronic control unit (ECU) make it very user-friendly.
A great advantage with the purchase of this scanner is the full customer support that is provided along with it. Hence, any customer-facing any kind of handling difficulties is likely to find the right support.
Unlike a lot of scanners, this one works well with car emissions and leaks. It can be counted upon for reading faulty codes like leakage from a fuel tank cap, which may not appear so accurately with others.
Also, the ease of use and handle makes this tool a great choice for beginners. This fine compact scanner will undoubtedly help save a lot of expenses for its users.
One down-side of the KOBRA Product scanner is that its final look is completed with a thick plastic coating, which might not be the most durable and appealing. It also fails to clear error codes from the device after they are detected.
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The next scanner is not only compatible with seven different languages, but also with various protocol vehicles.
It gives quick and accurate diagnostics for car owners all over the world. The best part is that the scanner does not need any batteries to function and has a very user-friendly design.
Along with displaying diagnostic trouble codes (DTC) in multiple languages, it also has an in-built speaker to provide readings in both audible and visual indications.
The displays are a well-constructed freeze frame and can stream live data and error codes for emission checking.
Besides these, the tool is also helpful for resetting the warning lights that get locked on and prevent other functions of the vehicle. It is effortless to use and only needs to be plugged into the vehicle to start performing.
Thus, it is a very convenient scanner for beginners as well. An option for software and internet updates is also available on the AutoLink scanner to assure more accurate and faster readings.
Nonetheless, as the device is small and compact, the cable might not be long enough to hold it in a comfortable position while driving.
The software updates, however, might not be well documented. Thus, the user might have difficulties in understanding them.
Veepeak OBDCheck BLE
This OBD2 scanner works great with a broad range of both Android and iOS devices. It is very easy to connect to the vehicle and does not require any complicated connections or settings.
The power consumption level is very low, and the scanner does not block access to the internet for other applications. This tool does, however, need a third-party app to perform, which may have to be purchased separately.
Furthermore, the screen of the scanner can display live data readings and fuel measurements. It can also be used to create a personalized dashboard and reset the check engine light.
Unlike many others, this particular scanner can also detect whether the connected vehicle is prepared for a smog check. This tool is very reliable and does not use any Wi-Fi to be connected.
One issue that might arise while using this scanner is, the connections may not be so strong with certain apps, so the user might have to do some trials before finding the best combination.
This problem may particularly arise with iOS devices. Overall, this handy tool is very portable and gives accurate readings once it is connected via Bluetooth.
Autel MS309 Universal
Next up is the Autel MS309 Universal scanner that provides readings for error codes very easily. For a more accurate diagnosis, readings are displayed on a freeze-frame.
This enables users to keep a close check on the data recorded when the check engine light turns on. It reads important engine variables such as vehicle speed, fuel pressure, engine temperate, and many others.
The wide range of readings makes this scanner a great and reliable scan tool for car owners. It has an I/M Readiness program to check emissions and monitor fuel systems, oxygen sensors along with many others.
Moreover, the best part about this scanner is its unmatched compatibility. It works with all OBD2 adaptable vehicles, both light trucks and passenger cars.
Besides the basic readings, this particular scanner is also able to access the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and similar codes, which are very useful while checking the electronic control unit (ECU) of a previously used car.
It removes all the detected error codes and provides definitions for all diagnostic trouble codes.
The readings on the screen might appear to be a bit unclear and difficult to interpret with this scanner.
Kungfuren OBD2 Scanner
Our next choice, the kungfuren OBD2 scanner, comes with a compact design and great compatibility. Thus, it is portable and allows multiple languages in the device.
It is a great multi-tasking tool that reads error codes, speed information, and many other vehicle codes.
With an in-built library to interpret the readings and ease of operation, this scanner is very practical and convenient for car owners.
It does not require any batteries to run and gives accurate readings on its freeze-frame display screen. This great scan tool is very compact and portable.
In short, this scanner by kungfuren is a great accessory for your vehicle. Not only is it helpful and adaptable with its multiple languages, but its compact design also makes it even more preferable for the vehicle drivers.
Besides all the unique features, this scanner also displays a real-time graph on its screen for quick reading and easy monitoring. One drawback of this tool is that it only supports and works on vehicles driven by petrol.
It also does not provide screen readings for airbags or any other systems except the engine mechanism. Overall, this scanner is a very convenient and practical tool for all car drivers.
LAUNCH OBD2 Scanner CR319
This OBD2 scanner comes with more additional code reading functions such as the oxygen sensor test, emission status of the vehicle, and the fuel efficiency.
It can read and erase faulty codes along with streaming live data on its freeze-frame display screen.
The scanner is compatible with most car models in 1996 and the newer protocol vehicles in Europe, Asia, and the US, which are designed to support OBD2.
The tool also supports multiple languages and provides an in-built library for easier code interpretation.
It is extremely easy to use and handle, even for starters and amateurs. Also, it does not need any batteries or other connections for setup. It also comes with a flexible and strong cable, which makes it even more preferable.
However, the functions are quite basic on this scanner, which might make it seem a bit out-dated when compared to similar ones.
It may be a bit difficult to read the codes as the display on this scanner is comparatively small. This is a firm choice for detecting and reading accurate error codes.
OBDLink LX Bluetooth
On number nine, we have the OBDLink LX Bluetooth scanner that works fast and accurately with Android and Windows programs. This diagnostic device is easy to activate and install without draining the vehicle’s battery.
It also features wireless safety security for hackers. And it does not use an easy PIN access code like most generic scanners.
Also, the scanner provides free apps and windows software. It includes OBDwiz for the Windows program and the OBDLink app for any Android program. Third-party apps like Dash Command and Torque are compatible with this device.
Besides these features, it also provides coverage for maximum vehicles in the market.
Another important trait with this device is its protection against over-voltage, which prevents it from catching fire.
The best part about this scanner is that it comes with a payback guarantee within the next three months after its purchase.
However, with some devices, the Bluetooth connection may be a bit unstable. The scanner may be a bit difficult to handle as it is relatively larger in size.
TOPDON OBD2 Scanner
Lastly, we have the TOPDON OBD2 scanner, which is a great pick for detecting faulty error codes in vehicles. It works great with most vehicles from 1996 and the newer ones as well.
The built-in library helps to interpret the readings better and also to identify the main reason for the problem. It also helps to monitor the emission levels of the connected vehicle.
In addition, the I/M readiness helps keep check of the emission levels. All readings are displayed on a freeze-frame screen recorded by the electronic control unit (ECU).
The device reads and removes codes efficiently and comes in a hand-held design, which is portable and easy to use.
It is very simple to connect the scanner to the vehicle, and it also works fast with Bluetooth.
Its ease of handling and portability makes it a great choice for beginners. Overall, this handy device will give very basic faulty code readings, which might leave some users not entirely satisfied.
For certain newer vehicles that require a high-tech error code reader, this OBD2 scanner might not be able to give the most accurate readings.
What to Look for in an OBD2 Scanner?
There is a wide array of these models in the market coming in different shapes, sizes, and prices. Each of these scanners has a range of features and functions, depending on their price.
Although a more expensive scanner will have more features and a wider range of operations that are offered with the purchase of one, there are many important functions and facilities that are included in a good OBD2 scanner under $50.
First of all, we are to consider what a scanner allows us to do with the codes it reads from a vehicle’s on-board diagnostics and other core functions.
The scanners usually have no trouble connecting with vehicles of almost every build and model, since the OBD2 is a standardized system.
Depending on the model of scanner, here are some of the functions that we may be offered by an OBD2 Scanner under $50:
As with most electronic devices and scanning tools, OBD2 scanners also require software applications to run and perform effectively.
It is wise to have a good idea of the manufacturing details of the desired scanner and its software compatibility before purchasing it.
Personal research and customer reviews from reliable online sites will always help in finding out the compatibility options before finalizing the purchase.
Buying a scanner without checking its software complicity is likely to be very useless and a waste of money.
After all the internal functions, we need to consider our preferences in the physical aspects of a scanner and the user interface related inclinations we may have.
Most of the scanners that we may find in this price range come in different shapes, sizes, and interfaces.
A large, user-friendly display is always the best choice. It should have a bright display with specified buttons for designated functions.
For maximum ease of use, the scanner should have a simple interface that the user is comfortable with.
Also, it should have a small and compact design for portability. The handling gets easier if there are grip notches at the sides. As for the cable, longer ones are always more preferable for providing mobility.
Lastly, the purchased scanner must come along with all the necessary cables, adapters, and, most importantly, a detailed user manual.
Customer Support Mechanisms
It is often very disappointing to invest in a product and not get the value for price or technical support when it is required. This is also the case with these scanning tools.
Hence, it is recommended that the purchase should be made from a trustable company and a manufacturer that provides full customer support and product warranty.
This will save the buyers a lot of hassle if they face any difficulties with handling the product or need any help while repairing or replacing the scanner.
Similar to any other electronic operating system, OBD2 scanners also need the latest software updates to ensure efficient performance and delivery.
This is also essential and important for detecting the right error codes and displaying the correct information on the scanner.
Hence, it is vital to check the available updates for the desired scanner and to make sure that the software updates are well-documented and running smoothly.
If the updates are documented poorly, the user will have a hard time interpreting the error codes from the display screen of the scanner.
For this, we must ensure that proper updates are still available for specific models and familiarize ourselves with how to install these updates.
Although all the features mentioned are standalone and some are exclusive to one another in different models, it is possible to find OBD2 scanners in the market that include most of these useful characteristics, and that too at quite a reasonable price.
OBD2 Scanner Frequently Asked Questions
Automobile mechanics usually charge a lot for minor repairs or just for a regular check-up of the car, making it quite time-consuming and expensive to maintain the vehicle. An OBD2 Scanner is obviously a cheaper option for all this.
With a bit of knowledge about our cars and its functions, we can do everything by using an OBD2 Scanner, which a mechanic would not be doing free of cost, saving time and money.
The car should be completely switched off when we connect the OBD2 scanner to it. After it is connected, we have to switch the car on, and the scanner should boot up. If it does not, then we have to press its power button.
The OBD2 is a standardized system that can be connected to all vehicles, using the same cable on every scanner device.
This cable should be connected to the data link connector under the car’s control panel, usually the place under the steering wheel.
Moreover, the connector is a 16-pin plug, which is very delicate, so it is recommended to connect it with ease. Rough plugging may cause the pins to bend.
Every scanner usually has a manual provided with information/description of the codes shown, but most of them are only the basic codes.
Again, codes may differ for cars of different build and models. So, you may have to look these up on the internet specifically.
If the OBD2 scanner is connected to the car while the car is switched on, there is a possibility of the software getting corrupted. In case it gets corrupted, it may mean that the device has to be replaced.
Hence, it is highly recommended that the car is switched off before connecting to the scanner.
Whenever we notice that something is wrong with our car, we usually go to a mechanic to set appointments for repair or check-up of our vehicle.
It can be quite expensive and also time-consuming to have our cars go through regular check-ups and minor repairs when we can be doing all these by ourselves in the garage at our homes using an OBD2 Scanner.
Rather than wasting our time and spending fuel to drive our vehicle to a workshop, we can get repairs done at home with minimal knowledge about how a car works.
Be it a technician, a car enthusiast or collector, a trucker, or just a regular car owner — an OBD2 Scanner is a must-have for everyone who has a car.
Because, in the long run, the best OBD2 Scanners under 50 are bound to make our maintenance a lot easier and cheaper, and also save us an ample amount of precious time.
More importantly, these scanners will also make our drives safer by narrowing the chances for any unwanted mishap when we are riding our cars.