A bidirectional scan tool, also known as a coding scanner, is a tool that connects to a vehicle’s engine computer to read error codes and send commands. The best bidirectional scan tool will support many different types of vehicles, have many built-in functions, and will be durable.
A traditional scan tool has the ability to perform system tests. In doing so, the scan tool initiates a request from the ECM (engine control module), which gives a response by sending information back to the scan tool. This can be helpful when diagnosing basic problems, but the information received is limited. All that you get is a number that you have to look up (Source).
A bidirectional scan tool can not only display more data coming from your engine computer, but you can also use it to send commands to your car in order to test various modules. They can also be used to reset different system components and counters. Bidirectional scan tools are built to handle a wide array of problems that a car might have.
Bidirectional scan tools vary widely in price and feature-set. Before buying a bidirectional scan tool, consider how often you plan on using it, the size and type of display, and if it has the functions you need to use (Source).
In this review, we will examine all the top-rated bidirectional scan tools. All of the bidirectional scan tools in this review will check for error codes and send commands to an ECM, whether you are working on a vehicle at home, or you are running an auto repair shop.
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 Quick Comparison of the Top 5 Products
- 4 Top 5 Bidirectional Scan Tools
- 5 1. Launch X431 DIAGUN IV – The Best Overall Automotive Scanner
- 6 2. Autel MaxiPRO MP808 OBD2 – Best Automotive Scanner For The Money
- 7 3. LAUNCH X431 Pro Mini – The Most Portable Bidirectional Scan Tool
- 8 4. LAUNCH X431 V PRO – The Most Durable Automotive Scanner
- 9 5. FOXWELL GT60 Plus – The Best Multifunctional Bidirectional Scanner
- 10 6. Autel MaxiSys MS906 – Best Bidirectional Scan Tool for Professional Mechanics
- 11 7. Innova CarScan Pro 5510 – Professional Scan Tool at an Affordable Price
- 12 8. Noregon Systems JPRO – Professional Heavy Duty Truck Scan Tool
- 13 9. Foxwell NT630 – Best Bidirectional Scan Tool Under $200
- 14 10. ThinkDiag Bidirectional Bluetooth Scanner – Best Bluetooth Bidirectional Scan Tool
- 15 Bidirectional Scan Tool Brands
- 16 Factors to Consider Before Buying a Bidirectional Scan Tool
- 17 How to Use a Bidirectional Scan Tool
- 18 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?
Most bidirectional scan tool devices cost around $600. Alternatively, you can buy a really simple model for less than $20. 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.
Quick Comparison of 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
1. Launch X431 DIAGUN IV – The Best Overall Automotive Scanner
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 injector, resetting the ETS, resetting the BMS, performing an IMMO reset, resetting the DPF, resetting the TPMS, and resetting the gears. This Launch scan tool 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-hour technical support and 2 years of free bidirectional scan tool software updates will ensure that your scanner is always ready to go.
2. Autel MaxiPRO MP808 OBD2 – Best Automotive Scanner For The Money
This Autel scan tool 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 to 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.
3. LAUNCH X431 Pro Mini – The Most Portable Bidirectional Scan Tool
In addition to the tools that the Diagun offers, the Pro has the 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 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.
Furthermore, this Launch scan tool can reset the tire pressure monitoring system and 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.
4. LAUNCH X431 V PRO – The Most Durable Automotive ScannerThe Launch X431 V Pro has all the functionality of the Pro Mini, but is backed by a powerful Lenovo Android tablet that comes with Android 7.1 OS.
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 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 the 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!
5. FOXWELL GT60 Plus – The Best Multifunctional Bidirectional Scanner
This Foxwell scan tool 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.
6. Autel MaxiSys MS906 – Best Bidirectional Scan Tool for Professional Mechanics
The Autel MaxiSys MS906 gives users easy access to full system diagnostics. It allows users to check the status of their antilock braking system (ABS). Plus, unlike most scan tools, it can assess your supplemental resistance system (SRS)—the official name for an airbag system.
It doesn’t end there. This bidirectional scan tool can also assess your vehicle’s body, powertrain, engine, transmission, chassis, and more.
A host of value-added features make this model a favorite of professional mechanics, saving them time and money. Mechanics can gauge a vehicle’s throttle, brake bleed, suspension, seats, odometer, headlamp, injector, oil reset, and TEC lean.
The Autel MaxiSys MS906 leverages the Android operating system. It features the Exynos 5260 6-core processor, a 32 gigabyte SSD hard drive, and an eight-inch high definition touchscreen.
Finally, Autel offers a one-year warranty and 24/7 customer support in case users run into any problem, large or small.
7. Innova CarScan Pro 5510 – Professional Scan Tool at an Affordable Price
It accurately scans and resets aspects of your vehicle you’d expect from a high-quality scanner. These include the engine, lights, brake system, airbag system, and a lot more. It is the perfect scanner/code reader for the home mechanic who needs professional-grade features at a reasonable price.
The Innova CarScan Pro 5510 allows users to check their vehicle’s emissions before taking their car in for their state’s emissions requirements test. It also measures and tests the voltage and initialization of a hybrid battery cell, as well as a vehicle’s alternator.
Additional features loved by users include transmission temperature testing, parking brake diagnosis, and real-time data readings on things like oil temperature and revolutions per minute (RPM).
Plus, it also verifies whether or not your vehicle is programmed to accept a new battery. Additionally, it indicates whether your vehicle will return accurate results for system tests once the new battery is installed.
Are you on a tight budget but want a powerful bidirectional scan tool with the features of a professional tool? If so, this model may be exactly what you’ve been searching for.
8. Noregon Systems JPRO – Professional Heavy Duty Truck Scan Tool
The Noregon Systems JPRO is essentially the company’s flagship product. It is used by thousands of companies looking to boost productivity and lifespan of large cargo-carrying trucks. There are good reasons to support the brand’s and the Noregon Systems JPRO’s popularity in the trucking industry.
It can diagnose issues in an 18-wheel truck’s engine and internal vehicle systems. Plus, it has the capacity to detect and resolve issues related to the trailer a given truck is towing.
With over 44,000 built-in fault codes, no other heavy-duty bidirectional scan tool comes close in terms of features and capabilities. It can diagnose issues with virtually all commercial truck brands, from Mack and Cummins to Mercedes and Volvo.
This scan tool can run a comprehensive diagnostic scan of an entire vehicle in about one minute. This is one of—if not the—best selling points of the Noregon Systems JPRO. In one minute, it produces an assessment of every mechanism, nut, and bolt of a truck and generates reports outlining every last thing that’s wrong with it.
It can clear system faults and rapidly diagnose every last vehicle component in a single scan.
9. Foxwell NT630 – Best Bidirectional Scan Tool Under $200Foxwell NT630 to perform so well. It can’t quite compete with other models that cost over $1,000, but it sure comes close.
This device is packed with helpful features and capabilities that make diagnosing your vehicle’s issues a breeze. To start with, the Foxwell NT630 is compatible with and can diagnose problems on any vehicle that’s OBD2 compliant.
OBD stands for “on-board diagnostics” and OBD2 is the second generation of this system, which is used around the world. If you have an OBD2 compliant truck made by a Russian brand you had never previously heard of, this device will diagnose it.
This Foxwell scan tool automatically detects the make and model of any vehicle it’s plugged into. This removes the step of having to manually set your scan tool to a specific model and make.
It has a surprisingly broad feature set. You can do everything from receive live data about engine health to perform bidirectional diagnostic tests on your SRS system. If your battery is low and the airbag light comes on, for example, it can cost a few hundred dollars to have it reset. The Foxwell NT630 does it for free.
If you’re on a budget but want a bidirectional scan tool that holds its own, check out this Foxwell model.
10. ThinkDiag Bidirectional Bluetooth Scanner – Best Bluetooth Bidirectional Scan ToolThinkDiag Bidirectional Bluetooth Scanner is the best example of this emerging technology.
ThinkDiag spearheaded this technological evolution and was the first such tool launched to the market. Its technology development was funded by a crowdfunding campaign and is now leading the path to a new generation of bidirectional scan tools. But don’t think that this technology can’t compete with traditional scan tool kits. The ThinkDiag Bidirectional Bluetooth Scanner can read and diagnose over 120 vehicle brands, which is a lot more than some tools that cost more than five times as much.
It also includes powerful features that you’d expect from robust traditional bidirectional scan tools. These include:
- The ability to fit your tool in your pocket or the palm of your hand
- Advanced actuation tests for each system actuator a vehicle has
- Full system scans that identify every issue
- OBD2 compatible
- The ability to receive notifications on your mobile device when something goes wrong
- Live data streams and visual graphic representations of issues
- Bidirectional functions which allow the user to receive and send commands
Plus, it’s quite inexpensive as you might imagine. All you need is your Android or iOS device and this kit, and you’ll be all set.
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.
Autel scan tools continue to improve 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 has 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 who is responsible for a few different cars, wants to avoid additional maintenance costs, and enjoys 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 in 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 in 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?
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. Additionally, you can get bidirectional scan tool software updates for these high-performance tools.
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.
Check out our other awesome guides on tools to help you take care of your vehicles and make them more efficient.