Understanding The Different Types Of OBD 2 Scanners

OBD scanners are a useful tool that can guide mechanics and technicians, helping them understand the specific malfunctions that a car is experiencing. They are used to interpret diagnostic trouble codes (DTC) from a vehicle, and some are capable of much more. This article will aim to show the differences between the range of different OBD 2 Scanners.

The Difference Between OBD 1 and OBD 2

Before you make a purchase, you should know that vehicles manufactured before 1996 won’t be compatible with an OBD 2 scanner – you’ll need the older model (OBD1). Even the best OBD1 and 2 scanner models won’t be compatible with cars not manufactured within their range of years. 

Entry Level OBD 2 Scanners 

These are your most basic OBD scanners and are only useful in interpreting the check engine light. They are relatively cheap (some even as low as $30), because they have a specific function and don’t do much else. They are only able to connect with the Engine Control Unit (ECU) and thus can only provide related diagnostics. Of course, they can also turn off the check engine light. 

Multi-System OBD 2 Scanners

Scanners that go beyond the check engine light are known as multi-system scanners because they can connect with a variety of systems in the car to show the specific fault that may be detected. By reading codes from different modules such as the transmission, tire pressure monitor, anti-braking system, and many more – these scanners are considered much more versatile. Of course, different models can connect to a different number of modules. Some connect to more, and others connect to fewer modules – so choose wisely. Note that multi-system scanners have one-way communication – which may be limiting for some uses. 

Professional Scanners 

Finally, there are scanners that cost thousands of dollars – they are generally used by professionals such as dealers and some high-end mechanics and technicians as well. These devices are capable of diagnosing malfunctions from all systems of the vehicle, also offering two-way communication. This type of communication allows you to activate different sensors for testing, a function that is not available in regular multi-system scanners. They are very versatile devices, making them worth the price for those who need to deal with many vehicles on a daily basis – such as mechanics and technicians. 


An OBD scanner is certainly a useful tool to have when trying to diagnose and repair a malfunctioning car. Models range from the simple and inexpensive, to the professional types that come with a hefty price tag. Choosing the appropriate model for your needs depends on how often you expect to use the scanner, and what functions you require. Of course, everyone has different needs and preferences; so we cannot recommend a specific type of scanner over the other. Each type has its place and function, and there is a demand specifically for them as well. Prices can also vary according to a variety of other factors such as battery life and touch screens.