Whenever your dashboard has its check engine indicator light turned on, you normally need to take your car to the local mechanic. In this case, the car mechanic pulls out a fancy looking scan device and plugs it into your car. This is usually a bidirectional scanner.
Has it ever made you curious what it actually is and what exactly it does? Have you ever wondered if only a licensed mechanic has what it takes to use these things? Have you wondered how much one costs and if it’s worth buying one for yourself?
If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about bidirectional scanners.
What Exactly is a Bidirectional Scanner
A bidirectional scanner is a scanning device designed to plug into your vehicle’s on-board diagnostic system. Most bidirectional scanners are handheld devices that are usually the size of a large tablet at most.
Every modern vehicle has a built-in computer on the inside. It’s not the same as your standard desktop PC or laptop, but it’s a digitized system that is capable of monitoring the status of your car and its various components, especially the engine. The system is capable of activating indicator lights and other signals to let you and mechanics know that something is wrong and needs to be examined.
Bidirectional scanners are basically the tools that act as the interface to your car’s internal computer system. When a problem is detected with your vehicle’s engine, brakes, emissions system or any other aspect of the car, the indicator light activates, letting you know it’s time to plug in a scanning device.
What Functions Does a Bidirectional Scanner Do
While standard car scanning tools like engine code readers can only scan inputs, a bidirectional scanner can release output signals back into your car as well.
That’s why it is called a bi-directional scanner, because it can handle both incoming signals and output test signals as well. These output tests are essentially like health scans of your car’s various systems so you can get a better reading on their exact condition.
Just like a standard OBDII device, a bidirectional scanner can be plugged into your vehicle via the DLC (Diagnostic Link Cable) port located inside your car near the dashboard. From here, it can perform a simple scan for error codes that can then be looked up to determine what exact problems are going on with the body, chassis or engine.
But a bidirectional scanner can also perform more advanced tasks like telling you exactly which modules are failing or in disrepair so that they can receive immediate attention. This makes them a great choice for DIY people who love being proactive and nipping car problems in the bud.
Bidirectional Scanners Communicate with Your Vehicle
It’s important to keep in mind that car scanners of any kind, including bidirectional scanners, can’t actually make any car repairs. They are merely scanning and diagnostic tools. Even if you find out exactly what is going wrong, you still have to make the repairs yourself or head to a mechanic in the event that the problem is too complicated or you lack the necessary replacement parts.
As mentioned earlier, bidirectional scanners can send test outputs to figure out the exact condition of your car’s various systems. These are much more in-depth than error codes, which can only tell you what’s wrong, not its current condition.
Bidirectional scanners are often used to test the condition of the battery, temperature sensors, the transmission, the engine, the braking system and more. Most bidirectional scanners will perform all of these tasks, and then some.
Should You Buy a Bidirectional Scanner for Yourself
Bidirectional scanners are much more advanced than your standard car scanners, engine scanners or OBDII tools in general. As a result, they are considerably more expensive. They tend to be around ten times more expensive, making the most affordable models around $400.
This makes it harder to determine if they’re worth buying. With a standard OBDII, the answer is almost always yes because they are considerably cheaper and much easier to use.
A bidirectional scanner has a lot more functions to get used to, and you probably need to really be into automobile DIY repairs to fully take advantage of one.
If that’s the kind of car owner you are, then a bidirectional scanner will be worth it as it will save you both time and money from going to the car shop over the years. As long as you use your scanner regularly and know how to stay on top of your car’s health before anything goes south, a bidirectional scanner will pay for itself faster than you might expect.
Which Bidirectional Scanners are Worth Buying
If you’re unsure which scanning device you should go with, stop in your tracks now and look no further than Ancel. They specialize in the best of automotive intelligent diagnostics and are one of the best companies for DIYers around the world.
If you want to know which models to really look out for, the Ancel V6 Pro is a great starting point. With a high quality screen that’s easy to read, Bluetooth functionality, Android 10 OS and tons of all system diagnostics, it is a premium scanner in its price range.
If you need something more advanced or are dealing with heavy duty vehicles with different systems and engines, consider the Ancel X7HD.
It can perform tests related to oil resets, valves, broken cylinders and oil changes. This is a great tool for any trucker who is constantly on the road and loves to stay on top of their vehicle’s condition.
A bidirectional scanner is an extremely useful tool to have if you frequently work on cars. It has tons of functionality that an OBD2 code reader doesn’t offer. But for everyday car owners who don’t spend much time working on vehicles, and OBD2 code reader would suffice. Either way, a bidirectional scan tool is a useful and handy tool to have. How to use an OBD2 scanner a quick user guide?
What is a bidirectional scanner and what does it do?
A bidirectional scanner is a device that connects to a vehicle's onboard diagnostic system, capable of both scanning inputs and sending output signals for testing various systems.
Can a bidirectional scanner make car repairs?
No, bidirectional scanners are diagnostic tools and cannot perform repairs. They provide information about the condition of car systems but do not fix the issues themselves.
Are bidirectional scanners worth buying for DIY car owners?
Bidirectional scanners are more advanced and expensive than standard OBDII tools. They are worth buying for DIY car owners who frequently work on their vehicles and want to proactively identify and address problems.