Have you ever driven your car to the workshop because of a problem you were unaware of? After you explained to the technician about a funny noise when driving, they said, “wait a minute,” and grabbed a handheld device from the box.
Then the technician inserted a cable under your steering wheel, looked at the device's screen, and gave you every detail of what was probably happening to your car. It probably looked magical, but that was perhaps a vehicle code reader. It’s an essential tool at the workshop.
What’s a Vehicle Code Reader?
A vehicle code reader is a device capable of reading out any fault code in your car. It’s the simplest car diagnostic tool and a must-have in most workshops. They are designed to communicate with the car’s computer and report trouble codes such as check engine light. The code reader comes in handy when you want to identify the issues in your vehicle and have a mechanic or technician resolve them.
The car code reader can also clear old logs of fixed diagnostic troubles from your car’s system. The diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) stored in the system indicate the affected area with a letter, then five digits to specify the exact error. There are codes for every crucial function in the car, including chassis, network, powertrain, and body.
How does a Car Code Reader Work?
The OBD2 code reader reads from sensor inputs and outputs. If it finds out something in the system is out of spec, it sets a “trouble code,” which a mechanic will see in their diagnostic procedures and act accordingly. Usually, people take their cars to the service station whenever they get warnings such as check engine light. Ignoring such an alarm can end up costing you more in car repairs.
Trouble codes are set as an indicator on the dashboard called the malfunction indicator lamp (MIL). The indicator is what call the check engine light. Not all codes trigger the MIL, but the vehicle code reader will still be able to find even those that didn’t trigger the indicator. The OBD2 allows the car code reader to pull not only the codes but also perform some basic functions.
What Differentiates Car Code Readers
All vehicle code readers are different, and you must be keen when buying one. Many DIYers who know a thing or two about servicing a car buy these tools for personal use. It would be best to help anyone planning to buy it make the right decision. Here’s what you need to consider when purchasing a vehicle code reader.
It would not be pleasant to buy a vehicle code reader incompatible with your car. Lucky for you, all Ancel code readers are compatible with all USA, European, and Asian vehicles manufactured after 1996. The Ancel AD530 and the Ancel AD410 are the best car code readers from the brand.
They all work with gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles. However, if you buy from a different brand, you should ensure it’s compatible with your car brand. Again, if your car brand is popular, chances are that most vehicle code readers are compatible with it.
There’s also the question of phone compatibility if you prefer a Bluetooth-enabled code reader. Most of them are compatible with Android and iOS. You can try installing the app on your phone before buying a code reader.
Your Budget and Available Features
A code reader that performs the basics only, such as reading the check engine light, is more affordable. Readers with more functions can do much more than read codes from the check engine light. Ancel has more expensive code readers that can perform more functions. One of them is the Ancel V6 bidirectional scanner and reader.
The amount you’ll pay for a device like this would be reasonable as it does extra and performs functions that would have forced you to buy a tool for that specific role. These tools are helpful because they can provide valuable information about your car’s engine and other crucial parts like the car lights.
How they Display Information
Code readers display information almost the same but operate differently depending on the manufacturer. You would want a scanner that you can read and understand the information on its screen. Most handheld code readers are recommended for mechanics who can read and understand complex data.
Bluetooth code readers and scanners tend to be used by beginners. The data displayed on your phone after connecting to a dongle is highly understandable. If you don’t, you can use the app to chat with customer service for help or Google the information. Bluetooth devices also offer code definitions to help DIYers understand the information better.
Some handheld scanners offer more information, and the data will be more complex for an average person. However, that will be more detailed data, and you’ll need to research to interpret the data and get to the root cause of your car problems.
How to Use the Car Code Reader
To use a vehicle code reader, you must plug it into the ODB2 port. The port is under the dash for most vehicles and the steering wheel for some car models. Here are the steps for using a car code reader.
Step 1: Find the ODB2 port under the dash. If you don’t find it, Google where the port for that particular car model is located.
Step 2: Insert the ODB connector cable into the port or the Bluetooth-enabled module if that’s what you use.
Step 3: Turn on the code reader.
Step 4: Turn the ignition to the accessory position.
Step 5: Follow the prompts on the screen of the code reader or your phone.
There are many car code readers from different manufacturers in the market. I have tried several of them, and Ancel AD410 was my last. It has been advantageous to me, and I would recommend it. Before I bought it, my friend Dave, who’s the real deal and runs a workshop downtown, recommended it. I also recommend it to anyone who wants a vehicle code reader with so many capabilities at a great price.