Since the introduction of computers in vehicles in the early 70’s, there have been major improvements in their use for car diagnostics. Code readers and scan tools are some of the most relevant developments achieved with the use of computers. However, they differ in a series of functions which will be carefully distinguished in this publication for your perusal.
As the name implies, code reader connects to the OBD II port to translate what the error codes mean.
When a code reader runs, the error code generated tells the mechanic there is a problem with a vehicle, however, this code requires translation and that is precisely what the code reader does. The mechanic can then choose to clear the error code generated, but apart from that, there’s nothing else the code reader can do.
Scan tools on the other hand were manufactured for use in auto shops as they provide a rich set of tools for diagnostics and testing. Using scan tools, mechanics can access other parts apart from the ECU. They can also gain access to codes as well as information on problems in the ABS system and other supplemental systems.
They are cost effective because they cover more ground when it comes to diagnostics and testing. They can display sensor values and various system data , however, to perform self-tests such as checking the operation of the cooling fan, fuel pump and fuel injectors, you would need a professional scan tool which while expensive, has bidirectional communication capacity and is the most appropriate software for such operations.
Similarities between Code Readers and Scan Tools
Given the definitions above, we can conclude that scan tools are more advanced than code readers. However, since scan tools were built as an upgrade model based on a preexisting version – code reader, they share some similarities which are explained thus;
Read and Display Codes:
Both techs can read and display codes, maybe differently but surely. However, while the depth of the diagnostics may greatly differ, you can be rest assured that both devices will in their capacity run diagnostics, read and display the result in codes.
After transmitting to the user the presence of a problem in the module of a vehicle, both scan tools and code readers can clear the codes and reset the check engine light. In simpler terms, you can clear the result and reset the display.
Differences between Code Readers and Scan tools
While both tools have similar functions, there are still some obvious differences between them:
Provision of Troubleshooting Data and Tips
Basically, code readers can only display the error message in codes. However, scan tools can detect the errors in the inner workings of the vehicle and provide a report in detailed information that the user can comprehend using basic language knowledge, and then provide tips for solving said problem – be it to consult a mechanic, or self-help solutions.
Record and Playback Live data
Apart from transmitting live information about the state of a vehicle, scan tools can also record this information to be recalled at any time in the future. Given that code readers only display the information in codes, there is no way it can store said information because its module doesn’t have a memory capacity integrated in it.
Scan tools can utilize functions which need bi-directional communication, read manufacturer codes as well as pending codes and provide a graphical representation of the data gathered in terms of their consistency or significance over time.
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