There are few things more annoying than finding that the check engine light has come on. Sometimes there isn’t much to the check engine light. Other times it can cost thousands of dollars in repairs.
Of course, there can be a lot of terror to the little yellow check engine light. We fear what it might be. It’s a hassle that we don’t want to deal with.
Engine scan tools have become increasingly popular, and are fairly cheap to own and operate.
They can quickly tell you what your car thinks is wrong with itself. They help you to determine how costly and time consuming the problem is going to be. Sometimes a piston has misfired, or sometimes you’ve simply been driving with the oil cap off!
In situations where you need a bit more information, a bidirectional scan tool can help. It can not only read the engine codes, but also send commands to the module. It tests your car in different ways (Source).
Prices for such tools range from as low as $300 to over $600-$700.
What Is A Bidirectional Scan Tool and How Does It Work?
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is A Bidirectional Scan Tool and How Does It Work?
- 2 How Much Do Bidirectional Scan Tools Cost?
- 3 Comparing the Top 5 Products
- 4 Top 5 Bidirectional Scan Tools
- 5 1. Launch X431 DIAGUN IV
- 6 2. Autel MaxiPRO MP808 OBD2
- 7 3. LAUNCH X431 Pro Mini
- 8 4. LAUNCH X431 V PRO
- 9 5. FOXWELL GT60 Plus
- 10 Bidirectional Scan Tool Brands
- 11 Factors to Consider Before Buying a Bidirectional Scan Tool
- 12 How to Use a Bidirectional Scan Tool
- 13 Ready to Buy an OBD-II Scan Tool?
A bidirectional scan tool reads the error codes on your engine that cause the check engine light to come up. Normal engine scan tools that aren’t bidirectional can also work for this purpose as well.
The real power of the bidirectional tool comes from the fact that it can send directional commands to the module in your car. Hence the “bidirectional” aspect of the tool. It has the ability to both read inputs and give outputs.
To use the tool, simply hook it up to the port that all cars have. The port is usually underneath the steering wheel somewhere. You’ll be able to see the error code or even preemptively read your engine’s health if no error codes have popped up.
If you need further information or want to run tests, you can use the tool to do that as well. A normal scan tool can tell you what is currently wrong. A bidirectional tool can tell you what might be wrong in the future.
How Much Do Bidirectional Scan Tools Cost?
All the tools on this list are over $600. You can get a scan tool for less than $20. So why buy a bidirectional one? The ability to perform bidirectional commands will give you a much more complete read on the data that is in your car.
More complete readings need bidirectional compatibility. It will allow the scan tool to give commands to your module to return more accurate data measurements.
While the cost may seem high, it may save you that much money over the life of your car. Remember that a lot of fixes on cars are a lot easier and cheaper if you catch them early.
Staying on top of the health of your car extends its lifespan. It also helps to prevent additional maintenance costs that could’ve been avoided. Bidirectional scan tools help you catch the easy fixes.
Comparing the Top 5 Products
|X431 DIAGUN IV|
|Autel MaxiPRO MP808 OBD2|
|LAUNCH X431 Pro Mini|
|LAUNCH X431 V PRO|
|FOXWELL GT60 Plus|
Top 5 Bidirectional Scan Tools
It’s a tool that’s built to handle all the problems that your car could have, all at the same time. Because it has bidirectional capabilities, it can perform active testing on a number of different modules.
Those systems include ABS bleeding, resetting the brakes, coding the injetor, resetting the ETS, resetting the BMS, performing an IMMO reset, resetting the DPF, resetting the TPMS, and resetting the gears. It can also perform adaptation and code the ECU.
It can perform the bidirectional maintenance procedures on about 94 different models of cars. The display can show up in languages including English, Russian, Japanese, Spanish, and Arabic.
24 hours technical support and 2 years of free software updates will ensure that your scanner is always read to go.
It makes an ideal companion to the home mechanic or casual car lover that wants to take their repair skills to the next level.
Using the bidirectional capabilities, the Autel can test a lot of things. It can test the power-balance of the vehicle, perform a test on the leakdown, do a limited variety of coding functions, add key fobs, reset the transmission, and gather the idle information.
It can fix misfires, reset the oil, ABS, TPMS and many other resets. Really, the Autel prides itself on active tests. It’s a great choice for any at-home mechanic that wants greater access to the information that they’re vehicles have for them.
It even has a quick read function to see all the codes for the body that are currently firing. It’s easy to pop it into your friend’s vehicle and diagnose the current health of the car.
The tablet is also a fully-functional android tablet that can browse the internet and play YouTube videos. Great for watching how-to videos and answering mechanical questions on the fly.
In addition to the tools that the Diagun offers, the Pro has hardware to do actuation tests. It can turn on and off the a/c clutch, maneuver the fuel pump, and adjust the control solenoid.
The The Launch X431 Pro Mini is like a professional tool for the home mechanic. It can read, assess, and remove failure codes for your entire car system. If it lights up on the dashboard, this scan tool can read and reset it.
It can reset the tire pressure monitoring system and the gear learning. Have a diesel engine? It can read the status of the diesel particulate filter and let you know if it’s causing your engine problems.
A warranty of 5 years makes sure that the product lasts a long time.
It’s hooked up to some powerful data analysis tools so that you can watch the data come to life in real time. See the data in text for to get into the nitty-gritty of what’s going on. Watch the data unfold in real time as it graphs.
The X431 V Pro can graph any system that you want it to: engine, transmission, ESP, multimedia, electric windows, cruise control, suspension, air conditioning, TPMS, and AWD. It can perform automatic VIN identification, advanced ECU coding, and resets on almost all of your systems.
If you run a business, you can have the machine create free vehicle health reports which can be printed and shared with customers. Be the best car-loving friend you can be by giving vehicle health reports to friends. You’ll be the go-to mechanic in your circle of friends!
It can use its bidirectional capabilities to do key fob programming, reset your oil, help code the injector, move the oil reset, and restore odometer function. I can also handle a variety of other active tests.
The tool is compatible with models dating back to 1995, and works on even the newest car models. It even works with some GM motorhomes!
Compatible with both OBDII and OBDI vehicles. It has a live graphing feature so that you can watch the data develop in real time. You can focus on specific parameters that you want to check in on.
Bidirectional Scan Tool Brands
Launch is located in Ontario, California. Three of the Five bidirectional scan tools used on this list are produced by Launch. They create great solutions for automobile diagnostics that don’t cost a lot of money. Their products allow people to take their vehicles into their own hands.
They know that the automotive industry is changing constantly and so they seek to provide updated solutions and provide constant service for their products. They have factory trained technicians and are dedicated to supporting their products with continual upgrades.
Foxwell knows that to continue to have customers, they need to continue to produce products that are ahead of their time. They invest at least 20% of revenue into research every single year. They are targeting car owners and workshops alike by offering solutions that are forward thinking. It’s their goal to empower people.
Both amateur and professionals can figure out what their cars need before things go wrong. They are passionate about maximizing the efficiency of the people who use their tools, making things easy to use and even easier to understand.
Autel, on the other hand, has a similar mission. But they only invest about 10% of their revenue back into research. They’ve taken the opinion that they need to continue to service their current products instead of obsessing over the next product that they’re going to sell.
They continue to provide updates to their products so that customers feel like they’re getting their money’s worth by investing in an Autel code reader.
Each of these three companies is dedicated to connecting people with cars. If any of them connect with you more than the other ones, you can’t go wrong by going with that company. Each of them have great products and even better service to help you understand and use those products.
Factors to Consider Before Buying a Bidirectional Scan Tool
How Often Will I Use It?
In a scenario where you need to read a simple engine code to know if your check engine light spells death for your vehicle or is simply a small thing that can be ignored, you probably don’t need to invest in a bidirectional scan tool.
A unidirectional scan tool, or normal code reader, will do the trick in cases where you simply want to see what’s up with your check engine light.
The bidirectional scan tool is vital for anyone is responsible for a few different cars, wants to avoid additional maintenance costs, and enjoy working on cars.
Mechanics don’t really need you to bring your own code reader, so if you’re simply going to assess the danger to your car and move on, you might be overpaying for the information.
What Kind of Display and Data?
The more expensive models on this list, especially the Foxwell, have a great display system. It allows you to see a lot of what is going on with a car.
Running an auto shop and want to show people how their car is doing? These advanced graphs and numbers can really help them get a visual understanding of the situation.
On the other hand, if you’re a mechanic or have some training yourself, you may not need the fancy graphs and color coded numbers.
What Do I Need to Do?
As you saw, all of these different readers can perform a number of different really powerful functions. You may not need anything hyper specific. You may also need to make sure that the code reader can do something that you want it to do.
If you’re buying to handle a specific problem, check the specs before making the purchase.
How to Use a Bidirectional Scan Tool
The scan tool has a screen that will display the data, graphs, and error messages for you. You just need to hook it up to the computer on the car. There should be a port somewhere around the steering wheel in most models.
If you can’t find the port that looks like it will fit the cord on your bidirectional scan tool, look in your owner’s manual to see where you might hook it up.
Most cars built in 1995 and newer have these computer ports that are easily accessible to the consumer.
If you have an older car or an exotic kind, make sure you consult the owner’s manual on what kind of readers will work for you before you drop money on the code reader.
How to Use an OBD-II Scan Tool
Ready to Buy an OBD-II Scan Tool?
Ready to become a home mechanic and start reading codes?
Any of the bidirectional scan tools on this list will give you plenty of data and feedback. You’ll be able to start performing maintenance on your car. The more expensive versions have slightly increased functionality and slightly better displays. The less expensive versions still have bidirectional functionality to get extensive data on the health of your car.
Not sure where to start? Take another look at the Launch X431 V Pro. It has a vehicle health report that it can automatically generate. That allows you to get a feel for what is going on with your car without knowing the more advanced tests that your bidirectional tool can perform.