What is the Best Code Reader for Vehicles

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A check engine light is an indication that something is off with the engine. While something as simple as a loose gas cap could have triggered the warning, an overheating engine or failing spark plug could also be the culprit. 

And depending on what triggered the warning, you may only have some minutes before blowing your head gasket. Having a diagnostic code reader you can use to scan the check engine light for diagnostic code makes a whole lot of difference. 

Interestingly, things have since changed from the early days when people had to spend several hundred dollars to own an OBD2 reader. There are several affordable units on the market that allows you to run a quick scan on your vehicle to detect the cause of the warning. And ANCEL AD310 is one of those reliable units you can get without breaking the bank. 

ANCEL AD310 Universal OBD II Scanner

The ANCEL AD310 is a compact and inexpensive OBD2 scanner that can read and clear trouble codes. The unit also provides real-time data reading, view freeze frame, and an I/M readiness test.

The device works with all 1996 or newer model-year vehicles sold in the United States. Like most ANCEL scanners, the AD310 is beginner friendly and perfect for buyers without prior experience using an OBD II scanner. It has four buttons — up and down buttons to navigate through the options, an Enter button to select options, and an exit button. 

How to Connect the ANCEL AD310 OBD2 Scanner

Connecting the ANCEL AD310 to your vehicle is pretty straightforward. The scanner is compatible with most 1996 and later OBD II-compliant vehicles. All you have to do is locate the OBD II port — a 16-pin connector usually located under the driver’s side dashboard. 

Before plugging in the device, make sure the ignition is turned off. The scanner will automatically come on after plugging it into the OBD II port. And prompt you to “Turn the ignition on” and “Press any key to continue.”

Turn on the ignition but don’t start the vehicle, and press any key on the device to continue. Now, wait for the device to link to your vehicle, and it will take you to the “Diagnostic Menu” once it is done. The available options on the ‘Diagnostic Menu’ include:

  • Read Codes 
  • Erase Codes
  • Live Data
  • View Freeze Frame
  • I/M Readiness
  • Vehicle Info

Available Features on the ANCEL AD310

Read Codes

The primary function of the scanner is to read error codes, and it does a great job doing so. Besides scanning the vehicle for error codes, it also explains the codes to give an insight into the faulty component after pulling the code. 

And unlike most inexpensive scanners that only read stored codes, the ANCEL AD310 allows you to read pending codes. The Engine Control Unit logs a pending code whenever it notices that a component or sensor intermittently fails routine testing. However, a stored code indicates that the system has established a system failure. 

The difference between both codes is that a stored code triggers the check engine warning while the pending code doesn’t. With pending codes, the ECU only logs the data and will only activate the check engine warning when it reaches a certain threshold. 

Usually, the diagnostic code consists of a five-digit alphanumeric code. And the first value is an alphabet that gives a clue about the malfunctioning component. P stands for “Powertrain,” B for “Body,” C for “Chasis” and U for “Network.” The remaining four digits that follow the alphabet further streamline the suggestion. 

Erase Code

The scanner can also be used to erase code. But you should know that clearing the error code without addressing the trigger will only erase the codes and turn off the check engine warning. It will not fix the problem. 

Erasing the code clears all the stored data, making it more difficult to diagnose the issue when you decide to fix it or seek professional help. Also, clearing the error codes won’t help you pass emission tests like it previously did. 

Emission tests now include checking the vehicle's readiness monitor to ascertain if the codes were recently cleared. Your vehicle will fail the test if the system detects that the codes were recently cleared, and you’ll be asked to return to redo the test again after several drive cycles. 

So, you should only clear the diagnostic codes after fixing the problem. Otherwise, it won’t be long before the check engine warning comes back on. Also, erasing the codes won’t help you pass the emission test. To clear an error code, navigate to “Erase Codes” on your ANCEL AD310 and hit the enter button. The scanner will ask you to confirm your option by pressing ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ 

Live Data

This device has more functionalities than the basic OBD II scanner. It also allows you to read live data in real-time. With live data, the scanner provides more details you can work with when diagnosing a check engine light or inspecting your vehicle’s overall performance.

It provides live data for the fuel system, engine cooling temperature, intake air temperature, throttle percent, oxygen sensor voltage, etc. Reading the codes alone doesn’t always provide exhaustive information about what caused the malfunction. 

But with Live Data, you get to narrow down the source of the malfunction by investigating the operation of the sensor suggested by the diagnostic code in real-time.

View Freeze Frame

In addition to Live Data, the device also provides Freeze Frame data. A Freeze Frame data is a record of sensors and components readings (parameter values) taken when the ECU detected a malfunction.

The records captured provide a technician with data he can investigate to determine which component or sensor triggered the failure. Usually, the Freeze Frame data includes the vehicle’s RPM, load percentage, fuel system status, coolant temperature, readings from the MAP sensor or MAF sensor, vehicle speed, and other details when the system detected the malfunction. It basically shows everything during that drive cycle. 

I/M Readiness Test and Vehicle Info

The I/M Readiness Test and Vehicle Info are the last options on the diagnostic menu. The readiness test is the inspection and maintenance readiness check. The test scans all the systems needed to pass the inspection test to ensure they are ready for inspection. Besides the MIL Status, which says ‘Off’, all other systems should report either OK or N/A after the test. 

The Vehicle Information will provide details such as the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), Calibration Verification Number (CVN), and Calibration Identification (CID). 

Final Thoughts

Overall, the ANCEL AD310 is a reliable and cost-effective code reader that is well-suited for basic diagnostic tasks. It may not have the advanced features of more expensive professional-grade scanners, but it is a good choice for car owners looking for a basic tool to help diagnose and fix simple issues.

With real-time data and diagnostic codes at your fingertips, you can stay on top of potential issues and take corrective action before they become major problems.

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