An OBD scanner can tell you a lot—including why you’re getting a check engine light.
(Image/Summit Racing)

Whether it’s for a holiday or birthday, this Tools Under 30 Dollars Gift Guide Series shows you important, yet somewhat uncommon, tools that any gearhead would want.

Today, let’s talk about OBD Scan Tools & Code Readers.


If you’re staring at a check engine light on your dash, an OBD Scan Tool is the quickest way to get to the bottom of it.

Note: OBD stands for On Board Diagnostic, an industry technical standard established decades ago to help mechanics troubleshoot increasingly complex vehicle systems.

They’re surprisingly easy to use, and often times it’s a simple plug-and-play.

The tool will scan your vehicle’s computer and spit out whatever trouble codes the ECU is seeing. Then, you can take that code to the internet and start researching possible causes and fixes.

There are a bunch of different scanner models available; as you add more features and capabilities, prices will rise. (Image/Summit Racing)

Most scan tools can clear codes as well—eliminating those pretty check engine lights that make dashboards all Christmasey.

Many common scanners have some sort of compatibility with the OBD-II standard established in 1996, but it’s vital that you check your vehicle year.

It’s likely that scan tools like these will be useless with most stock cars made before the Reagan administration.

A lot of folks don’t know these scan tools are available to the public, so they’re a great gift idea. And while the pro-spec versions can cost a bit more, there’s a good chance you can find a basic one for under 30 bucks.

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Author: Paul Sakalas

Paul is the editor of OnAllCylinders. When he's not writing, you'll probably find him fixing oil leaks in a Jeep CJ-5 or roof leaks in an old Corvette ragtop. Thanks to a penchant for vintage Honda motorcycles, he spends the rest of his time fiddling with carburetors and cleaning chain lube off his left pant leg.