Which scan tool is right for you? This all depends on the features that are important to you. For basic code reading with the definition displayed, code clearing and low cost, it is very hard to beat a basic code reader. Most basic code readers will read OBD II generic engine or power train trouble codes on 1996 and newer vehicles. Even if your repair shop has a more expensive scan tool like the OTC Genisys, OTC Pegisys or the Snap On Modis or Snap On Verus, it's more convenient to have a basic code reader handy for doing quick checks and for clearing the code after a repair without chasing down the shop's scan tool.
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Some tips to compare ODB-II scanners by reading the codes and descriptions

Determine your spending range. ODB-II scanners range from $150 to several thousand dollars. Buy a cheap scanner if you're a novice. Invest in a sophisticated scanner if you're a professional mechanic or aspire to become one. If you haven't taken a course in auto mechanics, you probably won't understand the specialized codes that sophisticated scanners access. Let a professional mechanic do the troubleshooting with his scanner.

Evaluate scanners based on size. Chose a stand-alone Palm or Pocket PC version instead of one that may be small but requires connection to a laptop. If an ODB-II scanner is portable like a multimeter, it's easy to store and easier to use during emergencies.

Check the software interface. Choose an ODB-II scanner that runs on software that you find comfortable to navigate through. A scanner with a good interface makes for a smaller learning curve and saves you time.

Ensure that a scanner has all or most of the important features. At minimum, a sophisticated scanner should record data, play back stored data, produce engine data graphs, print information through a computer and display enhanced data. Expensive scanners can access many more engine codes than generic scanners and can perform more tests. This step matters more for expensive scanners, but even cheaper devices may differ considerably in the number of features they offer.

Prefer a scanner that can clear engine codes and can write data to the vehicle's computer over one that has read-only capabilities.
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