Car Code Reader? – How To Choose The Best One For You

A car code reader can give you extremely valuable information about your car’s health by reading out diagnostic trouble codes. This is very helpful in order to diagnose unknown issues or prevent problems from becoming severe.

The best part is that a code reader can be very affordable. Additionally, you don’t need to be a professional mechanic to use it! This scan tool can be used by everyone who owns a car. It can help you save thousands of dollars a year on car repairs and maintenance.

So, let’s find out what is a car code reader and how to read your car’s erro memory. We will also help you decide what you need from a scanner!

What is a car code reader?

car code reader

A car code reader (or OBD2 scanner) is a small device that can read out any fault code in your car. This can help you know the issues present. Additionally, you can also clear old or fixed diagnostic trouble codes out of your car’s system.

The way this scan tool works is through your car’s OBD2 interface. OBD stands for on-board diagnostics, and it is present in almost all cars manufactured after 2001. This interface provides the possibility to access the car’s information through an OBD2 scanner

Usually, people take their car to independent mechanics when a warning sign turns on, such as the check engine light. What mechanics do, is that they will check engine codes and evaluate their severity.

There are some cases where the severity level of the check engine light might be extremely low and repair is not needed. However, you end up spending unnecessary money on costly repairs or car revisions.

On the other hand, there are cases when the check engine light code can be extremely severe… to the point that you need a tow truck to take your car to the mechanic.

Thus, in both cases, having a scan tool to know the severity of the check engine light would help save money or prevent further damaging your car.These scan tool devices are extremely easy to use by anyone who wants to know more about their car’s health.

If you use your OBD2 scanner regularly, you can even save up to $3,000 per year. All of this just by avoiding severe issues and knowing the state of your car at all times.

What differentiates every car code reader?

There are many differences in OBD-II scanners such as:

  • Complexity of equipment
  • Clarity of information
  • Compatibility with your car and phone
  • Price and available features
  • Warranty

Below we will dive deeper into each aspect so that you can have better clarity of what type of car code scanner you need.

Complexity of equipment

There are many different types of OBD2 scanners ranging from small to large. They also differ between easy-to-understand to more complex devices.

For example, there are handheld scanners that include a screen ranging in size from a smartphone to the one of a tablet. Depending on their size, they are become more complex with more buttons on the screen or larger cables to carry around. Only some handheld scanners might be able to fit in your glove box.

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Moreover, the most complex tools are the software scanners where you need a separate screen such as a computer or laptop. Additionally, you need larger and heavier OBD cables to carry around so it’s mostly used by professional and independent mechanics.

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However, if you are looking for a scan tool with the least complex equipment you should get a Bluetooth OBD2 scanner! These pocket-sized scanners fit anywhere and you can always take them wherever you go. No additional cables are needed. This is because the connection between your car and phone is established through Bluetooth. 

Code you car

Clarity of information

The most functional scanner will be the one where you can clearly read out and understand the information that the device is displaying. 

Most handheld scanners are meant for people with slightly more expertise in cars since they will display more raw data. There are some that will give you additional information. However, the more complex they get, the more raw data you will get.

Moreover, diagnostic software will give you the most (detailed) data, with many numbers and graphs. So if you are not a car expert, you will have to research on your own on how to interpret the data.

Lastly, Bluetooth OBD2 scanners are meant for beginners and professionals. Therefore, the data is usually displayed in a highly understandable way where you also get code definitions.

diagnostic device

Some scan tools will give you even more explanations. For example, the Carly OBD2 scanner will also tell you the meaning of each error code, the severity level of each exact fault, and the overall car’s health depending on the present faults.

Available features vs. Price

There are some dedicated scanners that only read out generic codes related to the engine, such as the check engine light. The price of an engine code reader can vary from very cheap to thousands of dollars depending on the depth of data delivered. 

However, there are other code readers that read fault codes related to every single system in your car. These are called manufacturer-specific codes. These scan tools are more useful since you can get information on both the engine and other parts of the car as well. Thus, we believe the price you’ll pay for this device will be more reasonable since more functionalities are available.

Lastly, there are scan tools that do even more than just reading our engine and manufacturer-specific codes. For example, the Carly OBD2 Scanner also lets you code your car. You can customize your car’s welcome and headlights.

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Additionally, you can also track real-time parameters, perform DIY maintenance, detect mileage tampering, perform your emissions test, and more!

The most expensive scanner is typically the one with more features included. However, if you are looking for affordable OBD-II scanners, Carly offers the features that expensive scanners offer but for way less money.

Compatibility

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Additionally, you can perform your own basic repairs, track real-time parameters, do emissions tests, and more.

Most OBD2 scanners work with any Diesel and gasoline-powered vehicle manufactured after 2001. Depending on the car code reader that you select, it will only be compatible with certain car brands. Therefore, you should always check if your car brand and model are compatible with the car code reader.

Additionally, if you want to purchase a Bluetooth OBD2 scanner you should make sure that its mobile app is compatible with your phone. Some scanners are only compatible with iOS or Android.

The best scanner will be the one compatible with both operating systems in case you use the app on different devices. For example, you can use the Carly app with both iPhone & Android smartphones.

Lifetime Warranty and updates

A car code reader typically lasts a long time and you can use it on your car for the rest of its lifetime. However, there are some readers that only include a three-year warranty on your purchase. Thus, the car code reader that you can get is one with a lifetime warranty.

Additionally, some OBD2 scanners have updates on their system. If you purchase a standalone car code reader, you might have to purchase a new version of the device every time there is a system update. 

However, there are also OBD-II scanners that include lifetime updates. This is especially true for a Bluetooth OBD2 scanner since all the software updates are included in their respective mobile app.

Why Should I Read Out the Fault Memory with a Car Code Reader?

Smart Mechanic

The error or fault memory is part of the complex system of interconnected computers that every modern car has. It records mechanical and electronic defects and malfunctions as they are detected.

There are several times when a warning sign illuminates on your dashboard.  This is the car’s way of notifying you that a fault has occurred and needs to be rectified.

To determine whether it is a serious fault or not, the fault memory must be readout. There are also some minor errors that may occur but are not alerted via the control or warning lamps. So eventhough they are minor you might want to know about these as well.

Additionally, reading the error memory regularly can help you foresee potential problems at an early stage and avoid them. This will help you prevent having severe issues that could turn out to be expensive.

So, how can you understand these error codes from the error memory?

Error codes are saved in your car in the form of numbers and letters that must be interpreted. If you’re not a car expert, you can quickly search on the internet for the meaning of an error code.

However, it is possible that you don’t find the appropriate solution to correct the fault. In which case, you should seek professional advice from an expert, such as a workshop.

Of course, you do not need to run to the workshop for every single fault. Nevertheless, knowing the fault via the fault memory before visiting the workshop can save time and costs spent at the workshop itself. Workshops often have additional devices for diagnostics, as well as direct lines to the experts at your car manufacturer.

Therefore, it is helpful to regularly read out the fault memory with a scan tool to know the current condition of your vehicle. However, be cautious when interpreting and correcting errors. If in doubt, seek the help of a specialist.

What Are My Options to Read Out the Fault Memory?

For a long time, reading out the fault memory was the preserve of auto repair shops. This is because they were the only ones that had dedicated scanners and corresponding software. However, this is no longer the case since small consumer-grade device are now available.

If the fault memory is read out in a workshop, the cost can range from $25–$60. In addition, reading out the error memory incurs a time cost as well. It can take 15–30 minutes, and even more if there are other vehicles ahead in the queue.

In addition, there is also the time cost of traveling to and from the workshop… and you might have to make an appointment and wait days or even weeks. Therefore, it is clear that a workshop visit is neither a cheap nor a quick solution.

With your own OBD2 scanner, you can read and clear current and past errors via the app. This can be repeated as frequently as you wish and saves you the time and monetary costs of the workshop visit for this purpose.

A scan tool like the Carly OBD2 Scanner costs around $79.90. It communicates with the Carly app that is available for free on all Android and Apple devices.

Additionally, if you wish to access more advanced functionalities, the app costs between $21–$80 per year. This depends on your car brand and if you also want to unlock these functionalities for all car brands.

Considering that you may spend up to $100 on a workshop check, this makes the cost of Carly very efficient. Furthermore, Carly is able to read out further information such as detecting mileage tampering with the “used car check” feature.

Using an OBD2 Scanner

car code reader

Using the OBD2 scanner is very easy. Simply connect it to the OBD2 port in your vehicle and pair it with your smartphone via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) through the Carly app. The app is available for Android and iOS. 

Anyone can do this in minutes. Carly shows not only the error code but the associated text with the fault code, saving you the time of researching it on the internet. This gives you a concise overview of all errors that were detected, as well as their interpretation.

Additionally, you can also know the severity of each fault code. This makes it easier to decide if a workshop visit is crucial or not.

Moreover, the Carly app also offers the option to delete errors from the error memory. So, you can remove errors once the underlying condition has been resolved. If you delete an unresolved error, the car will recognize that the fault still exists. Thus, you will see it appear again in the error memory and possibly in your car’s dashboard.

With the Carly Universal OBD2 Scanner you can readout errors on various car brands! So, you can use the same device on multiple vehicles at a reasonable price.

You need a car code reader!

If you wish to read out your car’s fault memory, there is no need to go to a workshop. With your own car code reader, you can save all your time and money.

No matter where you are, you can perform diagnostics check using your phone. The best part is that in addition to diagnostics, you can get a scanner that offers many more features! Such a scan tool is definitely a good long-term investment decision.

However, if you are unsure about an error code it is always best to ask a workshop rather than delete them. Especially if the code pertains to a critical system, such as the airbags. Download the Carly lite app for free and see what Carly can do for your car!