Best Automotive Oscilloscope Reviews

Automotive oscilloscopes, On-Board Diagnostic scanners are a valuable piece of equipment vehicle technicians use to diagnose the health and well being of an engine.

Generally, they are handheld devices with a cable that plugs into a designated port within a vehicle's engine. This feeds data and statistics back to the scanner about the condition of many of the vehicle applications.

Best Automotive Oscilloscope

Armed with this information, the user can repair, replace or fix any issues. The scanner can turn off and reset any warning lights that may have appeared on the dashboard.

Use our reviews of the best automotive oscilloscopes currently available to ensure you have made the most informed buying decision.

What is an automotive oscilloscope?

Oscilloscopes are instruments mostly used in industry to analyze and display electric signal information in the form of a wave-graph.

Voltage is measured and displayed as a time function. This allows the user to get a perfect reading of a particular component’s performance at an exact moment in time.

Now, use this theory in the automotive industry and you will have a piece of equipment that can troubleshoot many issues that a vehicle might face.

These include switches, solenoids, relays, sensors, and actuators.

More commonly known as OBD1, OBD2, Diagnostic tools and Scanners, the best automotive oscilloscopes are a vital tool that every professional or DIY mechanic cannot do without.

They save time and money by giving a fast diagnosis of many auto problems.

Comparison Table of 10 Best Automotive Oscilloscopes

Whether you’re a professional tech or a home mechanic this Innova oscilloscope could be the one for you.

It is convenient to hold, measuring just 4 x 7-inches, it is lightweight and would fit in a pocket or glove box.

It has a great deal of added extras all included in the very competitive price. The ability to link to your smartphone via Bluetooth is the most advanced. Here you can access the internet and get all possible fixes and even quotes for your repair.

This scanner can analyze huge amounts of data from a wide range and age of vehicles. Constant updates maintain you get the most current advice for your make and model of vehicle.

Features we love

  • Bluetooth connectivity. Pair the scanner with your smartphone and stream all of the results without the need for being stood at the side of the vehicle
  • Code reader. The ability to read and clear SRS and ABS trouble codes plus worldwide OBD2 codes
  • Easy connection to vehicle's subsystems for live data on the health of battery, alternator, and airbags. All electronic parts are tested and possible actions, repairs are advised
  • Compatibility rate. Successful results can be achieved for most cars, SUVs, light trucks and hybrids from 1996 onwards, whether domestic or international
  • Software updates. Information is kept current about possible fixes and bug correction
  • 3.5-inch LCD screen. This makes reading and understanding of all data and images simple. The anti-glare screen allows for use in bright conditions

With the ability to save and retrieve information from the last 3 vehicles checked, this scanner could prove invaluable.

Reading and clearing dashboard warning lights can save a costly, sometimes unnecessary garage bill.

Pros

  • ​Bluetooth connectivity
  • Buttons for quick access to individual screens, no scrolling
  • Fast and easy to access trouble codes
  • Major compatibility with many vehicles
  • Live data and charts
  • Regular updates
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Large, bright screen
  • LED-lit for harder to find connections

Cons

  • First use can be awkward to navigate
  • Not compatible with some specific vehicles
  • Doesn’t come with a carry case

Would you like the power of the best professional automotive diagnostic scanners that the best vehicle techs use but at a fraction of the price? Of course you would!

BlueDriver has designed a plugin tool that streams all data to your iOS or Android tablet or smartphone. No need to carry around a bulk scanner, the technology is probably already in your pocket.

Suitable for EVERY vehicle, this oscilloscope will supply the user with a vehicle-specific Repair Report which gives a detailed analysis of any issues plus in-depth fixes. This information all comes from a huge databank compiled by top certified North American technicians.

Features we love

  • Bluetooth connectivity. Download the app to receive all of your statistics via phone or tablet. Available to save, export or share
  • Free app. User-friendly and provides unlimited Repair Reports
  • Easy to connect to any vehicle post-1995 with an OBD2 port
  • Code reader.  It provides everything that a regular handheld tool supplies. Read, reset all trouble code notifications
  • All vehicles can receive a concise system report including ABS, airbag and climate control status
  • Enhanced diagnostics. These are available to most major car makes, including Ford, Toyota, Nissan, and Chrysler. Those BMW, Honda, VW, Audi, Mazda AND Bentley models that are sold in North America will all benefit. Constant updates are being supplied to widen the net.

This amazingly low-priced piece of kit is reliable enough to run a very fast and accurate basic diagnostic. It would be useful to someone who trades in or repairs many cars as many results can be achieved in little time. Emissions tests and trouble codes, current or pending can be analyzed and reported in moments.

Pros

  • ​One sensor and an app is everything required
  • Android and iOS compatible, tablet and smartphone
  • No tools required
  • Can be left in as engine runs
  • Trouble codes and reports for every single post-1995 vehicle with
  • OBD port
  • Professional mechanics produce trusted Repair Reports
  • Excellent low cost

Cons

  • Repair reports are only available to USA and Canadian users
  • Carry case not supplied, can be bought at an additional cost 

When we say this is a high-end oscilloscope that does virtually everything, we mean it.

All of the vehicle's system is covered, engine, brake assist, chassis, steering and security systems are just some. Tire pressure monitoring, security system, and ABS are just some of this tool's amazing capabilities.

Designed for the professional, you will receive the scan tool and a series of adaptors in a carry case. Each adaptor is marked and is for a specific job on an individual vehicle.

The pad itself is impressive, with all of the features of an Android tablet, even a 5mp camera, whilst also being able to diagnose a multitude of engine issues. Handily, it is also grease, dust, and water-resistant!

Features we love

  • Android operating system 5.1. Simple to operate and understand. Faster processor and large storage capacity, all displayed on a large 10.1-inch touch screen
  • Complete system diagnosis. Everything and more that you would expect from a top-quality scanner. Read and erase error codes and DTCs, Sensor test, all on-board system analyzing and trouble-shooting
  • 11 special functions. Something else that sets this oscilloscope above its competitors. The ability to reset oil checks, electric parking brake, battery management, and tire pressure monitoring systems are but a few.
  • Wireless Bluetooth Connection. View the analysis whilst away from the vehicle
  • Compatible with 108 brands and over 10,000 makes of vehicle to date. This number regularly as more data is gathered and updated
  • Heavy truck diagnostics. Few other scanners can offer this service

This scanner is one of the quickest available when all you need is a quick diagnosis, just set it to auto-detect.

We also love scrolling through to find many amazing features, like the ability to set and recode new keys.

Also read: [Top 10] Best Lockers for Jeep JK

Pros

  • 5-year warranty2-year free software updates
  • Everything included for simple, fast set up
  • Scanner runs fast with a powerful processor
  • Wireless Bluetooth allows the user to receive all data when away from the vehicle
  • Compatible with over 90% of vehicles in the USA, Europe, and Asia
  • Economical as these tools cover all automotive systems
  • Durable and tough
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Limited diesel vehicles are compatible
  • User has to wait for a registration number and activation code from the manufacturer
  • More expensive than other models

This is the optimum piece of equipment for a busy garage or workshop owner.

Not only does it offer the best possible diagnostic solutions and ECU programming, but it also manages all of your customer’s files and data.

Being able to retrieve all previous vehicle analysis as it is being worked on is a definite positive.

Powered by an A9 quad-core processor, this Android pad is up to 50% faster than its nearest competitor. The fact that it is extremely simple to set up and use just adds to the attraction.

Features we love

  • WiFi capabilities. Not being bound by a cord leaves the user freedom to multi-task
  • Data management system. VIN recognization allows all previous history to be stored for countless individual vehicles. 64GB memory ensures this
  • OE Factory Resets. Previously a laptop would have been required, along with a scanner, 1 tool covers many jobs. Including service lights, ABS, SRS, AND key programming
  • OBD2 Professional-grade scanning of ECU Code Programming Systems and many more enhanced and common functions
  • Huge compatibility. Works with more than 80 types of vehicle from the USA, Asia, and Europe, from 1996 – present day
  • Diagnostics for all electronic systems, codings, adaptations, and schedules
  • 1-year software upgrade available

Autel works very hard at keeping the software current with the latest system updates delivered at least once a week. It is simple to download them, the pad works just as a regular tablet would. Just register on the website and you will be kept fully informed, free of charge, for the first year of ownership.

Also read: 10 Best Ball Joints for Jeep JK Review

Pros

  • ​All OE regulated diagnoses available
  • Quick and accurate vehicle identification
  • Fast and powerful processing speeds, useful in a busy workplace
  • All data stored in one place, files kept systematically
  • Live data checks and freeze-frame capabilities
  • Large 9.7” high-resolution touch screen
  • 8 mp camera
  • Very easy to understand, clear graphics to help navigate the system
  • Top-quality for the demanding workplace

Cons

  • Currently, the ECU programming is only available on BMW and Mercedes
  • Only suited to professionals due to the high cost

This is one of the best automotive diagnostic scanners that provides very fast, reliable results for the basic 4 vehicle systems, engine, transmission, SRS, and ABS.

It is also a specialized service tool for individual systems, including Oil Reset, EPB, SAS, BMS, and DPF.

Results are displayed via the 4-inch screen where live data images are easy to decipher.

Features we love

  • Reads and clears trouble codes for ABS, SRS, transmission, and engine
  • Worldwide coverage for any USA, Asia or European vehicle post-1996
  • Support live data via concise graphics and text
  • Enhanced service functions reset SAS, oil service, battery monitoring service to name a few
  • Opens and closes EPB for easy brake pad removal
  • Powerful hardware enables 6-second boot-up. 16GB sd card for greater memory capacity to store, compare and file vehicle history

The scanner itself is lightweight and comfortable to hold. It is tool grease and water-resistant, perfect in a garage environment.

The buttons are large and easy to use, no fiddly keys to concern yourself with. Scrolling through the system is easy, and although it's self-explanatory, we love the detailed yet readable user's manual.

Pros

  • ​Accurate, fast and efficient, affordable solution
  • 1-year limited warranty
  • Free lifetime updates
  • Full color 4" LCD screen supports live data graphics
  • Sturdy carry case complete with extended cable
  • Codes and menus available in many languages

Cons

  • No technical support available in the USA, deal with the seller
  • No WiFi connection, just via cable

If you have an older vehicle with an OBD1 connection and are struggling to find a scanner that can run a basic analysis for you, then worry no more.

Actron has designed a scanner that performs all enhanced diagnostics that you would expect from a high-end system; with the bonus of adaptors to fit an OBD1 port.

In OBD2 mode you can expect results to be retrieved from Code Connect, a database with over 26,000,000 verified checks on there.  Each displayed trouble code will be shown with its definition, you won’t need to do the research, and your time can be better spent doing the fix.

Features we love

  • Reads and resets all DTC for 1996 vehicles and newer that were built for sale in the USA. Both generic and enhanced
  • OBD1 cable for GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota 1984-95
  • Real-time Data. View, record, playback, send or freeze-frame live engine data. A USB port to send analysis to pc to print
  • The 3.5-inch screen clearly displays several fix options drawn from a huge pre-installed database
  • I/M readiness displayed
  • Can read SRS codes and definitions and ABS codes and definitions for most 1996-2013 GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and Hyundai vehicles
  • Reset the oil light for most 1996-2013 BMW & GM, and some Ford & Hyundai

This is the best automotive diagnostic scanners  for use in a busy workshop as all graphs, data, and statistics from the previous 5 tests can be stored. However, it is affordable and versatile enough for the amateur enthusiast to keep on hand.

It is straightforward to use although there is a downloadable PDF to help every stage and every setting.

It is lightweight, fast and reliable. The simplicity with which it can accurately diagnose a multitude of vehicle health issues is outstanding.

Pros

  • ​Runs diagnostics on more vehicles than regular OBD2 scanners
  • 8’ long cables allow user more movement
  • No batteries? Use the cigarette lighter adaptor
  • All menus and code definitions available in 3 languages
  • Handy carry case
  • Help screens always available
  • Works without the need for a running engine
  • Offers ideas for fixes and where components might be found

Cons

  • This scanner is only compatible with certain vehicles built to be sold in the USA.
  • Although it may well work on other models, it is advisable to check the Actron list
  • Soft storage case supplied isn’t particularly sturdy
  • No WiFi capabilities

For around the same price that you could pay a garage to run a diagnostic on your vehicle to find out why a warning light is on, you could own this automotive oscilloscope.

It’s a complete plug and play device that takes minimal time to run a set of diagnostics and display any trouble codes, along with their definition.

This is particularly useful as the time that you spend looking-up the details can be spent completing the repair.

If the job is too big, print off a copy before you take your car to a garage, see if their report agrees with yours!

Features we love

  • Full OBD2 Functions. 10 test modes including retrieval of al DTC codes whether they be basic or manufacturer specific
  • Engine, ABS and Airbag system issues resolved after performing diagnostics, or controlling ABS/Airbag systems. Testing all electronic parts including solenoids, switches, relays, and sensors. Ability to turn off warning lights once the fix is completed
  • Compatible with most 1996 and newer makes and models of car, domestic, Asia and Europe
  • Software updates are regularly available. Keep updated as more makes and models plus codes and suggested fixes become available
  • Definitions for each code displayed. This can be time-consuming otherwise
  • Easily diagnoses many engine and subsystem issues, even when they are pending
  • Live data images displayed on the backlit screen. Save, replay, store, and export for printing functions available

The smog check factor is a great test, particularly if you live in a region with regular emissions tests.

This handy, lightweight scanner can compete with some of the more expensive kits and achieve the same accurate results.

Also read: Best Battery Tester for Small Batteries

Pros

  • Exceptional live chat support
  • Firmware updates are free for life
  • All codes, even enhanced ones appear with an onscreen definition
  • Backlit, large LCD screen
  • Substantial carry case
  • USB lead and 16GB micro SD card included
  • Good value for money

Cons

  • The 5-feet cable could be longer (extensions available)
  • Update not available on Apple Mac (contact customer services)
  • Buttons would benefit from being backlit

This diagnostic scanner is possibly the best on the market if you run a busy garage and daily see many issues on different makes and models of vehicles. It is accurate, modern and advanced.

The scanner itself looks like a regular tablet, and gets you online in the same way, via WiFi.

How it differs is you build up a database of any vehicles that might interest you in your line of work. The larger the database, the greater the annual subscription cost.

This proves invaluable in most garage situations, as not only the types of vehicles get updated, but also any new features, problems, and bug fixes.

This will enable your garages diagnosis techniques to always remain accurate and fast, saving your business huge amounts of money in wasted man-hours and incorrect diagnosis.

Features we love

  • Read and clear OE-level codes for all the present vehicle systems. From the engine to the ABS, and transmission, and many more.
  • It can reset oil service, SRS, ABS, TMPS relearn, SAS, and EPB.
  • Android operating system with fast processing times and 2GB internal memory
  • Live data reading and inbuilt 8mp camera to photograph and share problem fixes
  • Large high-resolution touch screen. An 8-inch screen that means reading and understanding data has never been clearer
  • Smart Auto-VIN. Fast system to recognize the vehicle
  • Broad cover of supported vehicles
  • ECU and Injector coding maintains fuel output

It seems that Autel has thought of everything when designing this diagnostic tool.

The fast processing speeds of a multitude of vehicle system health will benefit busy garages.

The kit comes fully loaded with adaptors for most makes of vehicle, start-up guides, cigarette lighter adaptor, CD guide, and a USB cable all in a handy storage case.

The interface is user-friendly; if you need to check engine light, press on EOBD and you will be prompted through the series of required tests. Simple!

Also read: Best Exhaust Tip for Deep Sound

Pros

  • ​1-year warranty
  • 1st year of software updates included
  • Subscription recommended but the system will operate without updates
  • Does everything a high-end OBD2 scanner should do, and much more
  • Ideal for multiple vehicles in a busy workshop setting as live data can be stored and managed
  • Large color display
  • User-friendly, just plug and play

Cons

  • Higher cost makes it suitable for professionals
  • Maybe a tougher screen protector would be useful

If you are new to the world of diagnostic tools, then this scanner could be the perfect place to start. It is easy to operate and understand; each code is followed by its definition.

So, if a check engine light appears, plug this device in and run an analysis. The problem may be a simple one that you can fix at home, therefore saving time and money on an expensive trip to the garage.

Once the issue is fixed, the AD310 will reset the dashboard light.

Features we love

  • Detects and clears diagnostic trouble codes, both generic and manufacturer-specific, for the check engine light
  • Compatible with most 1996 US-based vehicles and 2000 onwards US, Asia, and European based vehicles
  • Plugin and on-screen prompts will instruct you
  • Reads live stream including volts, rpm, temp and speed, and views freeze frame data
  • Finds multiple trouble codes, including emission issues
  • A large LCD screen can be adjusted to read in bright sunlight and dull conditions

For a novice mechanic, this is the perfect budget price diagnostic to buy.

Not only will it help you to determine the cause of an engine warning light, but it will also help you to find the solution.

Pros

  • 3-year warranty
  • No batteries required, data cable from car powers it
  • Multi-language settings
  • Durable, thick, virtually indestructible cable
  • Performs well for an amazingly low price
  • Easy to use, easy to understand DTC’s
  • Ideal for beginners

Cons

  • Only for use in detecting engine system, read and clear the error codes.
  • Connector cable only 2.5-feet long
  • Suitable for vehicles with 12V battery only

If you're looking for a handheld scanner that will not only help you to check and erase error codes but will also offer repair solutions, then this diagnostic tool is worthy of serious consideration.

Not only does it read and define all of the trouble codes, but it will also display suggested fixes via the huge Repair Solutions database.

If you're looking for a handheld scanner that will not only help you to check and erase error codes but will also offer repair solutions, then this diagnostic tool is worthy of serious consideration.

Features we love

  • Read reveal the cause and clear all check engine lights for vehicles from 1996 onwards, domestic or foreign
  • Read and erase ABS and SRS codes on most cars, light trucks, SUVs, and hybrids with the same criteria. Emission readiness tests completed
  • Connect to the internet for regular free updates
  • Large, high resolution, color LCD screen that displays high amounts of information
  • Oil reset feature comes with step-by-step guidance to complete the task
  • LEDs of varying colors enable the user to pick up on pending issues
  • All DTCs and their definitions are stored in a library

At a mid-range price, this is a useful piece of kit for the home mechanic while being fast, accurate and responsive for a professional tech to use.

The capability to reset battery maintenance and oil lights from home can save unnecessary expensive charges.

Freeze-frame capabilities ensure the user has the exact data from the moment the warning light switched on, a huge help in arranging the correct repair.

Pros

  • ​US-based customer support, 6-days a week in English and Spanish
  • Long cord supplied, no need for extension
  • LED-lit plug for awkward to see, dark ports
  • Screen bright and vivid for easy analyzing
  • Maintenance reminders for 1 registered vehicle
  • User-friendly, no more guesswork, saves time
  • Repair Solutions free for 1st year
  • Recognizes manufacturer specific codes from many worldwide vehicles
  • Hotkeys allow fast access, no need for scrolling

Cons

  • No bi-directional feature
  • No live-data feature
  • No carry case supplied

What do all the terms mean?

If you’re getting confused by all of the initials and abbreviations, here’s a short ‘jargon buster’ to help you understand.

OBD2 – On-Board Diagnostics
SRS – Supplemental Restraint System
ABS – Anti-lock Braking System
DTC – Diagnostic Trouble Codes
SAS – Steering Angle Sensor
BMS – Battery Monitoring System
DPF – Diesel Particulate Filter
EPB – Electronic Brake Callipers
MIL – Malfunction Indicator Lamp (check engine light)

Bi-directional controls – scanners fitted with these enable the user to send or request information from one device to another. They can also be used to command the unit to perform specific service tests or functions.

I/M Readiness – is the cycle performed after all tests have completed ensuring an emissions test has been run. Its results dictate whether the vehicle has passed the emissions output test.

Also read: Can A Car Battery Freeze?

FAQ

Will this diagnostic tool be compatible with my vehicle?

This has to be the most frequently asked of all questions.

Since 1996, almost all vehicles have an inbuilt OBD port in which to plug your scanner. This is a 16 pin Data Link Connector

The easiest way to find if your car is compatible is to follow the link where you will be met by a dropdown table requesting your vehicle's details. If this doesn't help, go directly to the company's website.

Are all OBD2 scanners the same?

The principal is the same. They all connect via the same 16-pin port and retrieve valuable engine and electronic data via an oscilloscope.

The most generic diagnostic tool will be fine for analyzing basic trouble codes but technology has advanced to enable the higher end machines to give a much more enhanced overview.

Are trouble codes the same for all scanners?

On basic scanners, yes they are. Generic codes will begin P0, P2, P3, AND UO each number will tie in with a designated problem.

Manufacturer-specific codes are usually P1, P3 and U1 and vary depending on the vehicle they’re testing. The user will be able to access their definitions via the scanner.

Also read: When Do You Need a Wheel Alignment?

Why won’t the fault light go out?

The light will remain on until the fix has been completed. Once the repair is done, you can use your OBD scanner to reset it.

The Bottom Line

A diagnostic scanner is the first piece of equipment that a mechanic reaches for when faced with an engine warning light.

With a huge amount of capabilities and compatibility with hundreds of make and model vehicles, we feel that everyone with an interest in cars should own one.

Hopefully, our review of the best automotive oscilloscopes has helped you to decide which one best suits your needs.

The busiest garage or the home mechanic can always use a helping hand to faster diagnosis and repair advice, therefore freeing up time to do the things you want to be doing.

Leave a Comment