AVOID expensive trips to the dealership with one of these nifty handheld diagnostic tools.
Fancy electronic systems are now making it more and more difficult for a bit of home-based tinkering on your motor.
Gone are the days where lifting the bonnet and having a quick check might resolve a minor rattle.
These days, one of the biggest gripes from drivers is manufacturers’ refusal to disclose error codes, meaning you're out-of-pocket before you even understand what is wrong with the car.
Shelling out on a car diagnostics tool is a smart alternative, since it’s paid for itself in the first diagnosis and can be used on multiple vehicles.
By diagnosing what the issue is at home, you can combine the results with an internet search and potentially save yourself hundreds in maintenance and repair bills.
The diagnostic tool, also known as a car reader, will not only give you the error codes, but also means of resetting them.
The tool connects to the OBD II port. This is the way garages connect their software tools to determine what the matter is with your car.
Though it’s usually located under the steering wheel, it can vary between manufacturers and some manufacturers are known (and frequently criticised) for putting it in hard-to-reach areas to kerb home diagnoses.
It’s worth checking where your port is before you invest, to make sure you feel comfortable accessing it.
Using a mix of expert knowledge, industry tests and user reviews, here’s our guide to the best car diagnostic tools for 2019.
1. Foxwell NT301 EOBD/ OBD-II Engine Scan Tool
Used by professional mechanics and home workshop amateurs alike, the Foxwell NT301 is a reasonably priced car reader compatible with most EU-sold models sold at the turn of the century.
Durable, with a colour screen, it’s quick, easy-to-use and battery-free.
Since it takes its power from the car, it can be stored in the glove box.
It can give you real-time live data streams from the engine’s sensors, so you can understand exactly what is happening.
It’s worth noting, the Foxwell NT301 can’t help with braking or suspension systems and can’t reset annual service notifications.
2. NEXPEAK OBD2 Diagnostic Scanner
Edging the Foxwell in terms of price, the Nexpeak NX501 is one of our favourites.
Supporting most vehicles from 2003 onwards, the NX501 is a plug’n’play device that will suit even the most basic of knowledge and like the Foxwell, plugs into the 12V port for power.
The user manual is helpfully clear and the 2.8” LCD display feels more familiar than other diagnostics tools on the market.
With a 100% full return and refund policy and a three-year warranty, this ergonomically designed diagnostics tool also features free lifetime updates from the Nexpeak library, via a PC, making it fantastic value.
3. iLC OBD2 OBD Wireless Car Code Reader Scan Tool
The iLC OBD2 Wireless is for those amateur mechanics that are a little more tech-savvy than the average spanner monkey.
Using iPhone and Android apps such as DashCommand, Torque or Car Doctor (which you may need to pay for), the iLC Wireless couples with your smartphone via Wifi.
It’s one of the cheaper options, even when you factor in the cost of the app.
It does, however, only diagnose check engine light (CEL) errors. Clear instructions, fitting is easy and the LED lights let you know when it's connected to the car’s core computer.
4. Autel Scanner MD802 OBD2 Code Reader
This Autel MD802 has a hefty price tag but can do some things the others simply can’t, such as resetting the ECU and service interval.
Supporting most car brands, the MD802 is the non-pro cousin of the professional series tool, the DS708 - a comparable bargain, being four times cheaper than the DS708.
It reads and clears trouble codes on engine, transmission, airbag, EPB, Oil Service Reset and ABS failures.
Designed like a rugged tablet, if you’ve got the budget, it pays to get the MD802 - though worth noting updates aren’t free.
5. Foxwell NT200 Car Diagnostic Scan Tool
Foxwell’s NT200 is a more basic version of the NT301 and respectively, comes with a more basic price.
Like its brother, it’ll read and clear codes for the engine, but not for other systems, like airbags and assisted braking.
Backlit and battery-free, it’s useful, even on the road.
It can give you reading on your emissions too—helpful for those living in cities introducing ultra-low emission vehicle (ULEV) zones.
For those of you not sure whether such a tool will be worthwhile or easy-to-understand, the NT200 is a great introduction.
If this list of best car diagnostic tools is useful - and you're a self-fixer - why not check out our best car battery guide?
Enjoyed our roundup of the best car diagnostic tools? Check out our dedicated Sun Selects motoring section.
To browse our full range of Sun Selects recommendations, be sure to head back to the Sun Selects page.
This article and any featured products have been independently chosen by The Sun journalists. All recommendations within the article are informed by expert editorial opinion. If you click a link and buy a product we may earn revenue: this helps to support The Sun, and in no way affects our recommendations.