Having at least some basic car diagnostics is a must for every car owner who likes to know a couple of things about car maintenance, and at least sometimes lifts the bonnet on their tin pet. Of course, there’s always an option to visit the mechanic and have it checked out, but such a device comes in handy in several situations, especially when you are preparing for a long trip. If you have ever experienced an orange or red light is turned on on your control panel, while you’re driving on the highway hundreds of miles from your home then you know that it is a very uncomfortable feeling to keep driving and have no idea what is going on with your car. Will stop, or brake along the way, or nothing will happen. It’s a lot to gamble with because your safety might be at stake.
If you have a portable self-diagnostic device in the toolbox in such a situation, everything is much easier. Just pull over to the side, plug it in and see what it’s all about.
Now, if you do not own a diagnostic kit, but would like to, there are tons of options to choose from. According to originaldiag.com some are cheap, some are not so cheap, but if you would like to have something reliable on the road, buying the original tool is always the best choice.
In this article, we’ll do our best to provide an answer to whether or not cheap diagnostic tools are worth buying, or in other words – are they any good.
A couple of words about the cheap diagnostic tools…
Professional self-diagnostic tools tend to be expensive and have functions that require some prior knowledge for handling, which a regular vehicle owner does not really need. Moreover, the possibility of reprogramming the operating parameters can quickly get an unprofessional user into trouble because in just a few clicks it is possible, for example, to delete paired keys from the vehicle immobilizer and block the car’s ignition. In other words, doing more damage than good.
It is the reason why cheap diagnostics are devices that everyone can afford and that are simple and safe to use by any amateur. The first choice for owners of personal vehicles that are not older than 10-15 years is the so-called OBD or EOBD diagnostic systems.
These devices are designed to quickly check the condition of the car and are standardized to work on any vehicle, regardless of brand and country of origin. With it, you can read the errors recorded by the engine computer and erase them and turn off the error lamp. In addition to faults, it is possible to monitor various sensors in the vehicle, the condition of some filters, the components in charge of reducing the number of harmful exhaust gases, and the readiness for the eco test.
Which devices can be used for cheap diagnostic tools…
Some diagnostics are intended for connecting vehicles and PCs on which a self-diagnostic program is installed. So, in most cases, people use laptops, since they are obviously more convenient. This type of system is the most convenient if you want to have self-diagnostics that you will most often use in the garage. The choice of self-diagnostic programs that you can install on your computer for free is really large, but it has the disadvantage that you have to have a laptop to work with it, so it is not the happiest solution if you want a device that you can always have with you in the vehicle. If car mechanics is one of your hobbies, this is ok, but if you need these tools for a “just in case” scenario on the road… It’s not handy.
Some diagnostic tools can also be installed on your mobile device. Wireless Bluetooth and Wi-Fi working tools are designed to connect to smartphones or tablets. Also, the most popular devices in this category are based on microcontrollers. The wireless adapter is a small connector that connects to the car’s self-diagnostic port and pairs with a phone that has one of the diagnostic programs installed.
Such wireless adapters exist in versions that connect via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. If you have an Android phone or tablet both versions will work on it. If you use an iOS device, you need a WIFI adapter because it is not possible to connect via Bluetooth.
For free self-diagnostic programs that work via wireless adapters, all you have to do is open the Google Play Store (or in the case of the iPhone APP STORE) and type “ELM327” in the search and a bunch of programs for this purpose will be listed.
So, are they any good?
Giving a concrete answer to this question is difficult. Since, as we mentioned, most of these tools are free, one has to be aware they are not entirely compatible with a certain type of car. What we want to say is that there is a possibility the real issue will not be detected. And there is also the possibility of misleading. There is a reason professional, paid tools are so expensive, and certain types of cars can only be properly scanned with certain diagnostic tools.
Also, it’s important to repeat what we have written in the first part of the article, in order not to make more damage than good, it is best to use quality, original diagnostic tools for assessing what is wrong with your vehicle. Purchasing cheap diagnostic can come in handy for detecting minor faults when you have to do it on your own, but it’s best to turn to a professional as soon as you can.
The days when the car was still mechanical, and you can easily solve problems on your own, are long gone. Meanwhile, almost every car has a built-in computer that controls a wide range of processes with the help of different control units. As the mechanics became more complex, maintenance became easier. All you need to do is know how to click.