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Old 06-03-2019, 09:05 AM   #1
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Suggestions for Best Affordable Code reader/diagnostics


I am looking for an affordable code diagnostics reader that will tell me the codes, clear the codes and tell me the problem and fix. Is there one on the market that won't break the bank?

As touchy as cars/trucks are today, it is next to impossible of a DIY mechanic to know the things a real pro mechanic knows without help. I have seen code readers that will do just about everything, but the costs are so high only a pro who deals with all different brands of cars and trucks every day would buy one of these. If I were still doing mechanic work today, I would have the best I could afford to make my job easier and more efficient.

Back in the 60s, having to adjust the points quite often was a real pain (I thought). Compared to today's problems and touch vehicles, setting the points and adjusting the carb was nothing. Today I am afraid to touch the gas peddle with the key off. Have you seen the process to reset a MAF (or what ever you call it) on a Nissan Altima, unreal is not even close to the description of all it takes to reset one of those things.

Anyway, I need a reader that will tell me what is wrong, and what to do to fix it. Any suggestions? I have done a search and am more confused now than before.
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Old 06-03-2019, 11:27 AM   #2
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Re: Suggestions for Best Affordable Code reader/diagnostics


BigJim, This turned into a lengthy reply as it's worth going into, but I decided to post an answer to your specific question first, (with a caveat). The caveat is No scan tool will fix your car or tell you what is causing the code. I've gone into the "whys" following your question on scan tools. The avg vehicle owner has basically 3 choices: 1. the $10-$15 dollar "code reader" that spits out nothing but the trouble codes that have been set by an ongoing light on the dash, and probably any "hard faults" which may not currently be the only code in the system but are stored. Usually you can clear the memory w/ these (but code will return until problem fixed). 2. $35-$100 hand held scan tools. (What I use) provides all the code reader does, but allows you to operate the vehicle and see real time readout of engine parameters of the different systems in a quite detailed manner providing some waveform analysis. Also allows you to "take a picture" of these readouts to print or save to study later. 3. $100-$300 Waveform graphing scan tools. These are the creme de la creme and, in addition to the choices above, give much more detail on the electrical impulses and voltages occurring and (if you learn to read it), will allow you to see differences in spark plug voltages as they occur, cylinder firing imbalances and the like. Put one on your Christmas for me pls

As a mechanic (ASE certified-Engine Repair), my education/career spanned the pre-computer days on through the genesis of CCC (compter controlled carburetors), and into the OBD systems that followed. The computer control system was/is designed to be a much more accurate, responsive, and dependable way to monitor and adjust what is a bit more refined but basically unchanged combustion engine systems of fuel, ignition,combustion that pre-dated them. Those systems, not the "computer" are the over riding concern. What has changed is that the physical properties of ignition, fuel/air ratio,combustion, temperature, cold start, ignition timing, and many others, are now primarily controlled through the use of switches and servos which feed back information through sensors in the form of voltages to the computer which then makes adjustment depending on load conditions, temperatures (internal/external), and numerous other variables all in fractions of a second on a continual basis.

Understanding what "trouble codes" are and are not is the difference between paying the parts store or "technician" bukoos of $$'s for trial and error as you/he replaces every component that his scan tool has flashed a "code" for, and properly analyzing the results of the scan tool and following the repair book (usually) troubleshooting protocols that lead you through the process of elimination that will ultimately explain the cause of the "code" and the system that is at fault (NOT ALWAYS THE CODE RELATED DEVICE).This is the only way to confidently approach a trouble code related repair and will greatly reduce trial and error for those who have a decent understanding of the principles of combustion and the workings of an automobile.

I've seen the "Oh, it's a trouble code for both O2 sensors and a catalytic converter, AutoZone has it on order, can't believe it's $900", far too often when in fact the cause was a broken vacuum line or other "non-code" related issue. That said, there are times when the sensor itself (O2 for ex) is bad and is setting a code that should be read as a bad device or, as computer repairs often come down too, the part changing scenario where you'll just have to take the chance and replace it (always a last, last, last resort w/ me). Happy hunting!
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Old 06-03-2019, 11:35 AM   #3
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Re: Suggestions for Best Affordable Code reader/diagnostics


BigJim, This turned into a lengthy reply as it's worth going into, but I decided to post an answer to your specific question first, (with a caveat). The caveat is scan tools aren't designed to tell you what part to replace (or they'd say that next to the code), but rather point you to the system that the computer has determined is not operating within the proper "voltage ranges". You need to be able to trouble shoot to properly use a scan tool/code reader. I've gone into the "whys" following your question on scan tools. The avg vehicle owner has basically 3 choices: 1. the $10-$15 dollar "code reader" that spits out nothing but the trouble codes that have been set by an ongoing light on the dash, and probably any "hard faults" which may not currently be the only code in the system but are stored. Usually you can clear the memory w/ these (but code will return until problem fixed). 2. $35-$100 hand held scan tools. (What I use) provides all the code reader does, but allows you to operate the vehicle and see real time readout of engine parameters of the different systems in a quite detailed manner providing some waveform analysis. Also allows you to "take a picture" of these readouts to print or save to study later. 3. $100-$300 Waveform graphing scan tools. These are the creme de la creme and, in addition to the choices above, give much more detail on the electrical impulses and voltages occurring and (if you learn to read it), will allow you to see differences in spark plug voltages as they occur, cylinder firing imbalances and the like. Put one on your Christmas for me pls

As a mechanic (ASE certified-Engine Repair), my education/career spanned the pre-computer days on through the genesis of CCC (compter controlled carburetors), and into the OBD systems that followed. The computer control system was/is designed to be a much more accurate, responsive, and dependable way to monitor and adjust what is a bit more refined but basically unchanged combustion engine systems of fuel, ignition,combustion that pre-dated them. Those systems, not the "computer" are the over riding concern. What has changed is that the physical properties of ignition, fuel/air ratio,combustion, temperature, cold start, ignition timing, and many others, are now primarily controlled through the use of switches and servos which feed back information through sensors in the form of voltages to the computer which then makes adjustment depending on load conditions, temperatures (internal/external), and numerous other variables all in fractions of a second on a continual basis.

Understanding what "trouble codes" are and are not is the difference between paying the parts store or "technician" bukoos of $$'s for trial and error as you/he replaces every component that his scan tool has flashed a "code" for, and properly analyzing the results of the scan tool and following the repair book (usually) troubleshooting protocols that lead you through the process of elimination that will ultimately explain the cause of the "code" and the system that is at fault (NOT ALWAYS THE CODE RELATED DEVICE).This is the only way to confidently approach a trouble code related repair and will greatly reduce trial and error for those who have a decent understanding of the principles of combustion and the workings of an automobile.

I've seen the "Oh, it's a trouble code for both O2 sensors and a catalytic converter, AutoZone has it on order, can't believe it's $900", far too often when in fact the cause was a broken vacuum line or other "non-code" related issue. That said, there are times when the sensor itself (O2 for ex) is bad and is setting a code that should be read as a bad device or, as computer repairs often come down too, the part changing scenario where you'll just have to take the chance and replace it (always a last, last, last resort w/ me). Happy hunting!

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Old 06-03-2019, 03:00 PM   #4
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Re: Suggestions for Best Affordable Code reader/diagnostics


BigPlanz has a reader and can do other stuff that goes on your phone. Got to have a smart phone but I believe that's gonna be the cheapest way. Scroll down as I believe he did a thread on it. Autel is my cheapest scanner but they cost under a grand. I have 3 scanners, Snap-on edge, Autel, and a Determanator (Geneses) from Matco and kept it as it will read old cars. With the Autel, I can do key fobs but the Snap-on won't. Crazy.
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Old 06-03-2019, 04:36 PM   #5
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Re: Suggestions for Best Affordable Code reader/diagnostics


As noted above just having the codes may not be all that helpful but you can get inexpensive Autel scanners at Walmart that work for that... for about $30-$50. There are also many cheap bluetooth scanners that come with a module that plugs into the OBD port and connects with an app on your phone. I went with one of the more expensive bluetooth offerings called Blue Driver primarily because it claims to have more comprehensive information and access to manufacturer specific codes for my vehicles. I don't recall but it may also be able to cycle ABS modules and read Toyota tranny temps but I am not sure. I can't really say how well it works because my daily driver is a Toyota and has never thrown a code in the 10 and 1/2 years I have owned it. Probably just jinxed myself.
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Old 06-04-2019, 08:47 AM   #6
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Re: Suggestions for Best Affordable Code reader/diagnostics


AFAIK the bluetooth phone units only work with Android phones, not iPhones—not sure why.
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Old 06-04-2019, 08:50 AM   #7
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Re: Suggestions for Best Affordable Code reader/diagnostics


Not sure about the more generic scanner apps but BlueDriver scanner has an iOS app. That's what I use... or at least will use if/when I need it.

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AFAIK the bluetooth phone units only work with Android phones, not iPhones—not sure why.
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Old 06-04-2019, 10:19 AM   #8
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Re: Suggestions for Best Affordable Code reader/diagnostics


Sorry I didn't get back to reply sooner, I was under the truck until after 10 last night and was wore out. I really do appreciate all your help and time to answer my question. I will look up the thread BigPlanz has and see what he has to say, thanks BB. No way could I afford the high dollar equipment you have. All that has got to make your job more accurate. I could not be a mechanic in today's world, just changing out the 02 sensors was a real experience for me.

Will your computer reprogram a key as well as the fob? The last one we had reset cost $400 at the dealer for our daughter.

measure2cut3, I really do appreciate your time to post that rally good information and explanation. A year or two ago I bought one of the code readers and it cost $65, today that same reader cost about $15-$25, amazing how the price of thing drop like that. These units are the ones I am looking at. I am surprised at how low the price is for what they do.

https://www.amazon.com/ANCEL-Automot...-6-spons&psc=1

This is the one I am leaning more toward:

https://www.amazon.com/ANCEL-Vehicle.../dp/B07DDD2CKV

I did look at the Bluetooth ones, but my phone and I don't get along to well together. lol But my phone is Android.

raylo32, our other truck is a Toyota 4X4 and has never given us any problems other than a battery and valve covers leaking. I plan to sell it and buy a Toyota Camry as it is really really hard for my wife to get into, it is so tall.
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Old 06-04-2019, 11:57 AM   #9
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Re: Suggestions for Best Affordable Code reader/diagnostics


Jim, glad the information had some value to you. So looks like your looking at
the #2 option mentioned, which imo is the way to go. Paying over $150 for a wave form tool is ridiculous for most of us, but definitely more bang for buck by paying a cpl of $20's more and getting one the gives a real-time data stream and some wave form to boot. I actually have the Autel but probably could have done better (smog chk pressing, iykwim). Your choice looks gd, also came across this one while poking around, noticed some cmplnts on your about not uploading data...most likely user error but...? Saw this one w/ pretty solid reviews in same price range: https://www.amazon.com/FOXWELL-NT301...4-0a40e5024291

Happy hunting.

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Old 06-04-2019, 07:19 PM   #10
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Re: Suggestions for Best Affordable Code reader/diagnostics


Quote:
Originally Posted by measure2cut3 View Post
Jim, glad the information had some value to you. So looks like your looking at
the #2 option mentioned, which imo is the way to go. Paying over $150 for a wave form tool is ridiculous for most of us, but definitely more bang for buck by paying a cpl of $20's more and getting one the gives a real-time data stream and some wave form to boot. I actually have the Autel but probably could have done better (smog chk pressing, iykwim). Your choice looks gd, also came across this one while poking around, noticed some cmplnts on your about not uploading data...most likely user error but...? Saw this one w/ pretty solid reviews in same price range: https://www.amazon.com/FOXWELL-NT301...4-0a40e5024291

Happy hunting.
I looked at that one also, it was a toss up. I read so much that facts were running together. lol I appreciate your suggestion, thanks again.
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Old 06-05-2019, 05:07 AM   #11
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Re: Suggestions for Best Affordable Code reader/diagnostics


I have a mid range priced Autel that does OBDII diagnostics and live feed with engine running. I think I paid $150 for it a few years ago.

I had the need to diagnose ABS brake problems on my Ram, so I bought a Foxwell that was supposed to do it all. It would not communicate to my vehicle. I had a year long communication with someone in another country regarding its inability to do the job. They had no idea how to make it work on my American vehicle. Technical support at Foxwell inhales rapidly, so be aware before you buy one.

After flaming out with their tech support, they reluctantly allowed me to return it. Once they received it back, they said the package was opened. Well, duh, it was difficult to explain in English to non English. They said they could only give me 10% of my purchase price for it. I told them to return it to me. They did, but only after someone flashed the insides of it making it useless.
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Old 06-05-2019, 05:53 AM   #12
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Re: Suggestions for Best Affordable Code reader/diagnostics


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I have a mid range priced Autel that does OBDII diagnostics and live feed with engine running. I think I paid $150 for it a few years ago.

I had the need to diagnose ABS brake problems on my Ram, so I bought a Foxwell that was supposed to do it all. It would not communicate to my vehicle. I had a year long communication with someone in another country regarding its inability to do the job. They had no idea how to make it work on my American vehicle. Technical support at Foxwell inhales rapidly, so be aware before you buy one.

After flaming out with their tech support, they reluctantly allowed me to return it. Once they received it back, they said the package was opened. Well, duh, it was difficult to explain in English to non English. They said they could only give me 10% of my purchase price for it. I told them to return it to me. They did, but only after someone flashed the insides of it making it useless.
Larry I really hate to hear that, I am sorry you that you got ripped off like that. Looks like something could be done to make that right for you. Dealing with foreign companies is a real pain in my book, I can't hear to start with. and with their accent there is no use for me to even try to talk to a foreign person. I hope you gave them a very bad rep, they certainly deserve it.

I went ahead and bought the:

https://www.amazon.com/ANCEL-Vehicle.../dp/B07DDD2CKV

I hope I don't have the same experience that you did, and once again I am sorry that you did. That same $150 unit now costs $67 and the price will keep dropping if it keeps going like it has the past few years.
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Old 06-05-2019, 02:55 PM   #13
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Re: Suggestions for Best Affordable Code reader/diagnostics


Quote:
I went ahead and bought the:

https://www.amazon.com/ANCEL-Vehicle.../dp/B07DDD2CKV
Looks as if the unit you bought will do the job. Let us know how it does once you have a chance to work with it.
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Old 06-12-2019, 09:33 AM   #14
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Re: Suggestions for Best Affordable Code reader/diagnostics


My Ancel AD350 test unit came yesterday and I hooked it up and went through some of the things it tells. But to be honest, I don't have a clue what all that stuff means or how to use the information it is reading. I know how to operate the unit, it is the understanding of what is going on that I don't get.

I do know the Pathfinder doesn't have any codes outstanding right now. I also know the truck has cleared all monitors that would stop me from getting it inspected, it passed with no problems at all.

I also know the battery is operating at full, at least that is what the graph shows. What I want to know now is how do I tell if the truck is running rich or not. The gas mileage is not very good. Maybe we are use to the gas mileage of the little Nissan Altima that got wrecked. We are at this time checking to see what the actual gas mileage is.

Back to the tester, I do like one of the things it does, because when it does post a code, it will state what to check that usually causes the problem, and I really like that. It also will show any codes that have ever popped up.

I need to do a setup so I can read the temps of the engine and transmission from C to F. I also need to plug into my pc to see if there are any updates for the tester.

I guess I will learn as I go, I sure hope so.
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Old 06-12-2019, 09:49 AM   #15
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Re: Suggestions for Best Affordable Code reader/diagnostics


I dunno, Jim. Unless you are a pro or just have a lot of time to play with it... or a lot of broke cars to repair... you'll never learn it all, or remember what you learned when you pull it out a year from now to read a code. I just ignore mine until I need it since by then I'll have to relearn everything anyway. Too many other hobbies...
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