Code Reader & Scan Tool Reviews Archives

Find out if your car is ready to pass emissions. Get the details behind the check engine light. Do all of this at home in your garage without visiting a mechanic when you have one of these scan tools. Let’s look at them both to see which one is best for you.

Actron CP9575 AutoScanner

actron cp9575

actron cp9575

The backlit display is not as pretty as the one on the Innova scanner, but don’t let that fool you. The Actron CP9575 is a powerful tool in a small but rugged package. Actron, which is a division of Bosch, promotes it as a tool for professionals. It comes ready-to-use with a OBD II DLC cable permanently attached. There’s no battery backup, so it’s slim and light compared to many other scanning tools, and it can be operated with just one hand. It runs off power from the car’s battery. There’s only four buttons and not a lot of menus, so it’s straightforward to use.

The CP9575 can read and clear CAN and OBD II codes on vehicles made in 1996 and later, as well as some from 1994 and 1995. It cannot read SRS or ABS codes. It does read VIN, Cal ID, and CVN on cars from 2000 and later so the VIN doesn’t have to be keyed in first.

It shows whether the car is ready to pass an emissions test and does a state OBD check. The CP9575 shows eleven categories of I/M (Inspection and Maintenance) data, like Oxygen System and Misfire Monitor.It reports DTCs (Diagnostic Trouble Codes) and Pending DTCs from the last drive cycle.

The data appears in real-time and can be frozen on-screen. This is nice since there is no memory to record data or play it back. There is no graphing feature, either, or any way to pass data onto a PC. (The PC is only needed if the user wants to upgrade the software on the scanner.) The lack of these options makes the CP9575 seem primitive compared to the Innova 3100.

More features of the Actron CP9575 AutoScanner

  • 1-year limited warranty
  • Upgradeable firmware but only with a PC running Windows
  • Menus, manual, and definitions are available in English, Spanish, and French
  • Comes with no other accessories
  • CE certified

INNOVA 3100 Diagnostic Scan Tool/Code Reader with ABS and Battery Backup for OBD2 Vehicles

innova 3100

innova 3100

Compared to the Actron CP9575, the Innova 3100 is packed with features. It is not part of Innova’s official pro line but it would be a handy tool for a technician all the same. The 3100 works for reading and clearing OBD II codes on 1996 and newer cars, and ABS (Anti-Lock Brake) codes on domestic and Toyota vehicles. (The Actron can’t read ABS codes.) The 3100 can’t read SRS codes, but neither can the Actron.

The 3100 has built-in memory and battery backup. Innova offers PC Link software that works on Windows or Mac so the user can export data and keep reports. The tool and its user manuals are readable in English, Spanish, and French. The backlit screen is nicely designed to present twenty piecesof information clearly. It refreshes every 30 seconds.The tool shows definitions for the codes so there’s no need to go look them up. There’s even a three-LED system of red, yellow, and green at the top that reports readiness for an emissions test.

Upgrades, updates, and software are available at Innova’s website. The site will also tell the potential buyer if the 3100 will work for their vehicle.

More features of the Innova 3100 Scan Tool

  • 1-year limited warranty
  • Comes with DLC and USB cables and a quick reference manual

 Recommendation

If you’re not a technician and don’t have a lot of experience with car systems and codes, the Innova 3100 would be a better choice simply because it explains the information it presents.You’d also have access to a lot of helpful extras, like the RepairSolutions website, the PC Link software, and definitions for terms and codes. It also has battery backup and memory to save data for later.

If you are a mechanic and need a scan tool, both of these are good value for the money. You may prefer the Innova because it can read ABS codes.

If you want a basic tool to just get the job done, and would prefer something simple, small, and light that you can use with one hand, the Actron CP9575 might be the tool for you.

Click here to purchase Actron CP9575 on Amazon!

Click here to purchase INNOVA 3100 on Amazon!

 

 

They call it an “idiot light” for a reason—it can’t tell you what’s wrong, there are too many possibilities. But Innova has a solution for you. Their scan tools can show you the systems and parts that are reporting problems and even suggest a fix. Let’s look at these two scanners and see which one will be best for your needs.

Innova 31603 CarScan + ABS/SRS Scan Tool

innova 31603

innova 31603

The 31603 is part of Innova’s professional tool lineup. It has a wide range of functions and comes with enticing extras to make the job a lot easier.

Not only can it read Onboard Diagnostics Information (ODB II), it also interprets Controller Area Network (CAN) codes, and more. The Anti-Lock Brake Systems (ABS) and airbag (SRS) code readers work on domestic, Toyota, and Honda vehicles. The OBD II reader works out of the box for all vehicles compliant with the standard. Upgrades are available to handle a wider range of Asian imports, OBD I codes in older cars, and European vehicles, too.

Once the 31603 reads what’s going on, it has a code lookup and definition feature so there’s no need to crack a manual or get online right away. It can freeze data, record it, graph it, play it back, and send it to a PC for reports, emailing, or printing.

Innova provides access to RepairSolutions where the user can see the most commonly reported fixes for the problems found. It also recalls and more definitions. The site even gives an estimate of labor time and cost for parts.

The backlit display on the 31603 contains twenty pieces of data about the car’s functioning. The buttons are shortcuts to most-used features so the user doesn’t have to dig through a lot of menus. The screen refreshes every 30 seconds. There are three LED lights at the top that show red, yellow, or green so the user instantly knows if the car will pass inspection or not.

Full-length user manuals in English, French, and Spanish are available at Innova’s website. There are firmware upgrades for the tool to download so the 31603 is always up-to-date. The PC Link software offered with this tool helps a technician maintain customer records and create reports.

More features of the Innova 31603 scan tool

  • 1-year limited warranty
  • Can run off 3 AA batteries
  • Comes with DLC for OBD II, USB cable, carrying case, and quick reference manual
  • PC Link software also works on Mac computers

 

INNOVA 3160 Diagnostic Scan Tool with ABS/SRS and Live Data for OBD2 Vehicles

innova 3160

innova 3160

The 3160 is part of Innova’s collection of tools for do-it-yourselfers as well as professionals. It can read and clear OBD I and II, CAN, ABS, and SRS (airbag) codes on a wide range of domestic and many foreign cars, SUVs, and light trucks.No upgrade is required for this functionality, unlike the 31603. Upgrades only add codes for newer vehicles.

Like the 31603, the 3160can graph and freeze data and play it back. It has code lookup and definitions and RepairSolutions that shows the most frequent fixes for problems. The RepairSolutions database tells what parts are needed, how hard the repair is, and estimated labor time. This is a great feature to have if the user isn’t a car technician and wants to fix it themselves.

The backlit LCD screen shows lots of vehicle information at a time so there’s less need to scroll up and down. Innova also made the 3160 with “hot keys” so there’s not so many menus to navigate.

Another handy part of this tool is the red-yellow-green LEDs. The user can know instantly if the car will pass an emissions test.

More features of INNOVA 3160 scanner

  • 1-year limited warranty
  • Can run off 3 AA batteries or just the car’s battery through the DLC connector
  • Comes with DLC cable for OBD II, USB cable, case, and a quick reference guide
  • A detailed user manual is available online
  • Menus and information are in English, Spanish, and French
  • PC Link software can be downloaded from INNOVA and it works with Windows or Mac

Recommendation

If you’re working on older vehicles, the software of the 3160 can read OBD I codes right out of the box, but the 31603 has to have an upgrade first. Innova states that the 31603 is made for technicians who work on newer vehicles. Although the 3160 isn’t officially part of the pro lineup, it functions like a pro tool. (You will need to get an OBD I connector for the specific vehicle because that does not come in the box.)

If you’re working on newer cars and want something from Innova’s professional tool selection, get the 31603. It’s up-to-date and has a sleek design with a larger memory.

Click here to purchase Innova 31603 on Amazon!

Click here to purchase INNOVA 3160 on Amazon!

 

 

The check engine light is on but the car runs fine. What’s the story? These four scanning tools are made to help you get the inside scoop without visiting a mechanic first. They reveal the codes to help you diagnose the problem. Then they tell you which is the most likely repair needed.

If you’re new to the world of auto scanning, these tools can all seem the same. Let’s look at each one and see which will work best for your needs.

OTC 3111 OBD II, CAN and ABS Scan Tool

OTC 3111

OTC 3111

OTC was acquired by automotive parts giant Bosch. Bosch also owns Actron, so there are definite similarities between this scanner and the next two below. All of these four scanners are handy tools for the do-it-yourself mechanic.

The OTC 3111 reads three types of codes: On-Board Diagnostics II (OBD II) , Controller Area Network (CAN), and Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS). It works for cars manufactured from 1996 through 2010. Since it had its last firmware update in 2011 it won’t work for cars or light trucks newer than 2010. The OTC 3111 reads OBDII codes from all manufacturers and ABS codes from Ford, Chrysler, and GM, and some from Toyota. It cannot read airbag fault codes (SRS) like the INNOVA tool described below.

This is a handy scan tool to have. It comes near to pro level quality because it does so much more than just read and clear codes. It can record and freeze data, show live information from the car while it is running, and graph the information, too. It explains the five-digit codes it reads, as well as the acronyms that appear. It also has the CodeConnect function to look up the most common repairs for problems it finds.

The OTC 3111 comes with a CD for a program called Scanning Suite. It runs on Windows XP and is compatible with Vista and 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7. This program can take the information from the OTC 3111 and print it to the computer. That way the user can keep a record of the car data. There’s no need to take a laptop out to the car for this. The scan tool runs off four AAA batteries so it can save information when disconnected from the car. It can also be powered by just the USB connection from a computer or just the DLC connection from the car’s battery.

More features of the OTC3111 scanner

  • 1-year limited warranty
  • User can check OTC’s website to confirm that the 3111 is compatible with the vehicle
  • Comes with DLC universal car connector cable, USB cable, CD with software, user manual, and carrying case
  • Needs at least 8V through the DLC connector to operate when scanning a vehicle (so trying to scan a car with a dead battery doesn’t work)
  • Has auto power-off when running off just the batteries
  • User can change the tool language to English, French, and Spanish
  • Backlit LCD shows 128×64 pixels and has adjustable contrast

Actron CP9580 Auto Scanner with CodeConnect Trilingual OBD II, CAN and ABS Scan Tool

Actron CP9580

Actron CP9580

Other than the color of the housing, this Actron CP9580 scanner is almost exactly the same as the OTC 3111 described above. It has many of the same features and limitations. For example, the CP9580 is limited to domestic vehicles manufactured between 1996 and 2011 because it has no more firmware upgrades available. Like the OTC 3111, it can read OBD II, ABS, and CAN codes, and clear them. There is a lookup feature to explain what the codes and acronyms mean. CodeConnect shows the most common repairs needed for each code found. CodeConnect comes from a database over 3 million solutions from support calls made by car technicians, so it’s much better than guessing at the fix needed.

The CP9580 graphs, records, and freezes live data. It doesn’t come with a software CD or a USB cable, so it’s not as computer-friendly out of the box as the OTC 3111. It does have a USB port in case there were a firmware update needed.

More features of the Actron CP9580 scanner

  • 1-year limited warranty
  • Comes with just a user manual in English, French, and Spanish
  • Needs at least 8V through the DLC cable to operate in the car
  • Auto power-off when running on just the batteries (4 AAA)
  • Display is the same as on the OTC 3111, but there’s no PC functionality

Actron CP9580A Enhanced AutoScanner Plus

Actron CP9580A

Actron CP9580A

The Actron CP9580A is the newer version of the previous scanning tool. It can read and clearOBD II and CAN codes, as well as ABS codes from cars manufactured by Asian companies, like Hyundai and Nissan.That makes it better than the CP9580 for foreign vehicle owners, and it’s up-to-date for newer cars.

Its CodeConnect database accesses over 4.3 million suggested repairs, more than a million more than the CP9580. It cannot read OBD I or SRS airbag codes like the INNOVA tool described below. It also does not come with any extras, like a USB cable, software or a case. Some users have complained that this tool has to be updated right out of the box because it comes with older firmware and lacks the newer code information. Fortunately, Actron provides the upgrade software for download from their website.

More features of the Actron CP9580A scanner

  • 1-year limited warranty
  • Software to upgrade the firmware is compatible with Windows XP, Vista, and 7 (32 and 64-bit versions)
  • English, Spanish, and French menus and definitions (but CodeConnect information is in English only)

 

INNOVA 3160 Diagnostic Scan Tool with ABS/SRS and Live Data for OBD2 Vehicles

INNOVA 3160This scanning tool can do a lot more than the other three already reviewed. The INNOVA 3160 can read and clear OBD I and II, CAN, ABS, and SRS (airbag) codes on a wide range of domestic and many foreign cars, SUVs, and light trucks. This fact alone makes it a worthwhile purchase for someone who works on a variety of vehicles.

Like the other three scanners, the 3160 does much more than just read codes. It graphs and freezes data. It has code lookup and definitions, and a similar feature to CodeConnect called RepairSolutions that shows the most frequent fixes for problems. The RepairSolutions database gives parts needed, difficulty level, and estimated labor time so the user can decide if they want to make the repair themselves. This is a great feature to have!

The backlit LCD screen holds up to twenty pieces of vehicle information at a time so there’s less need to scroll up and down. INNOVA also made the 3160 with “hot keys” so there’s not so many menus to navigate.

Another handy part of this tool is the red-yellow-green emissions readiness LEDs. The user can know instantly if their car will pass the test. To make the 3160 even more user-friendly, the INNOVA website will showright away if the 3160 is compatible with the user’s vehicle so no one has to waste money hoping it will work.

More features of INNOVA 3160 scanner

  • 1-year limited warranty
  • Can run off 3 AA batteries or just the car’s battery through the DLC connector
  • Comes with DLC cable for OBD II, USB cable, case, and a quick reference guide
  • A detailed user manual is available online
  • Menus and information are in English, Spanish, and French
  • PC Link software can be downloaded from INNOVA and it works with Windows or Mac

Recommendation

If you own a domestic car made in 1996 through 2010 and you want to read OBD II, CAN, and ABS codes, all of these tools will work for you. The OTC tool is especially nice because of its included PC software and accessories.

The Actron tools are useful if you don’t need any extras. The CP9580 works for cars up to 2010/2011 and the CP9580A for both older and newer cars.

If you have a vehicle from an Asian manufacturer, you might be able to use either the OTC or Actron scanners, but the safest bet is the 3160 from INNOVA. The same is true for newer cars, SUVs, and light trucks dating from 2010 to 2015. Go to INNOVA’s website and verify that the 3160 will do the job for you.

If you need to read OBD I codes, the INNOVA 3160 can do this if you get the correct DLC connector.

If you’re reading SRS airbag codes, the only choice here is also the INNOVA 3160.

And if you happen to want to put the scanned data on your computer and you don’t have Windows, INNOVA offers software for Mac.s

Click here to purchase OTC 3111 on Amazon!

Click here to purchase Actron CP9580 on Amazon!

Click here to purchase Actron CP9580A on Amazon!

Click here to purchase INNOVA 3160 on Amazon!