Thread: OBD2 reader...
View Single Post
Old 09-24-2021, 02:50 AM   #4
Total Buzzkill
Join Date: Nov 2016
Location: OR
Posts: 3,062
Vehicle: '90 D21 4cyl 5spd 2wd
Thanks: 338
Thanked 569 Times in 509 Posts

The short answer is, something like this would probably fit the bill:

A much more long-winded answer is, it depends on what you want/need it to do. The $2-300 range is a difficult price point to shop for. Not because of a lack of options but because of what you get at that price point. For anything made after about 2005 you're definitely going to need something that supports CAN, so you can talk to all the different modules instead of just the ECU. Newer cars set a lot of "ghost" codes when something goes wrong and it often takes a bit of detective work to determine what the actual problem is.

If you just need to read CEL codes and look at live data there's no need to spend $200 on a scan tool, a cheap bluetooth dongle will work just fine, as Deerhurst mentioned above. And a lot of them can also read transmission and ABS codes. They are cheap enough it's worth owning one just to keep it in the car. A $2-300 scan tool will be able to talk to all the modules on the network and might support some functions like ABS bleeding and electronic parking brake reset but you're still in read-only mode at this point.

The $6-700 range is where you'll actually start gaining capabilities compared to the cheaper tools. These tools can generally do things like program new keys, do an idle relearn/TB calibration and reconfigure the keyless entry settings in most vehicles. At that price point, most of these tools also support bidirectional controls, or the ability to override the ECU and switch things on and off manually (for example, if you suspect you have a bad EVAP purge solenoid you could command it on/off and watch the live data to see if the fuel tank pressure reading changes). On many vehicles, they also support what's called a PMI (programmable module installation) for some of the modules. Essentially what it does is takes the information from the old module and writes it into the new/replacement one, so you don't have to take the car somewhere to have it programmed. A good example of this would be rewriting the VIN in a used replacement ECU so that it plays nice with immobilizer in whatever vehicle you're installing it in.

It's worth mentioning that most if not all of these tools are subscription-based and the updates are not cheap once your free update period runs out. That said, don't let it deter you. It would be a lot like if you had a PC running windows 7 after 10 had become the norm. It'll still work and you'll still be able to use it just fine, you just won't be supported unless you give them more money. As long as you aren't working on brand new stuff it really makes no difference.

There's also the option of using manufacturer-specific software (such as Forscan and VCDS), but that can get quite cumbersome if you work on stuff from several manufacturers. Either way, you'll need the appropriate USB cable and a laptop that can run it. I know for Toyota vehicles you can go online and buy a USB to OBD2 cable and what I'm sure is a totally legitimate copy of Techstream for around $50. I'd imagine a similar setup exists for Honda vehicles but I'm not sure.

Personally, besides a basic HF code reader I keep in the car I have two higher-level scan tools: a launch X431V and an Autel MK808. Both are way overkill for a DIYer and will do just about anything you'd need for most domestic and asian vehicles. IMHO the Autel has a nicer and more intuitive user interface but the Launch is a more powerful tool for the money. Subarus are kind of their own thing, though. Neither of my scan tools supports many functions on them. I don't think that's a limitation on the tool's part so much as it is that Subarus are just weird like that. I've thought about trying to get my hands on a used/cracked copy of the software before. TBH I'm not even a fan of their cars but I work on them occasionally.

I realize this might not be the answer you're looking for but I hope it helps.
SBJ is offline   Reply With Quote
Thanked by:
89'HBV6 (09-24-2021)