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Tech tips

4 smart gadgets to diagnose your check engine light issue

Presented by CarShield - CarShield Cars Go Farther!

Presented by CarShield - CarShield Cars Go Farther!

Call 1-800-858-2550 and mention code KIM, or visit and use code KIM to save 20%.

Car troubles aren’t just frustrating — they’re also costly. Just think back to what your last repair bill was for proof.

Even minor maintenance problems can cause massive repair bills, especially if issues compound over time. That’s why it’s crucial to get to the bottom of why your car’s check engine or other warning lights come on as soon as it happens. If you don’t, you risk causing severe damage to your vehicle. Not everyone can afford a $3,000 repair to a transmission.

Plus, there can be long waits and big bills if you make an appointment at a mechanic shop. Fortunately, you can take matters into your own hands with the tech gadgets below. The tools will help you diagnose your car troubles from your driveway so you can make the best repair decisions possible.

1. Get the officially licensed gadget the pros use

Want to diagnose your car troubles with a tool the pros use? This officially licensed gadget is a little pricier than some of the competition, but it’s the same tool that mechanics use to figure out what’s wrong with your car.

Is your check engine light on? This scanner can read and clear your check engine light and any other vehicle system. It offers all the capabilities of a more expensive handheld scan tool — including a complete set of diagnostics on a wide range of manufacturers.

You’ll even get vehicle-specific repair reports generated from a database of millions of fixes verified by Professional Automotive Technicians.

Another big selling point is this scanner is certified for both Apple and Android devices. Many other vehicle scan devices are limited to one or the other, but this one works with both. It’s a solid option for any driver — and according to the user reviews, it’s helped a lot of car owners save money on repairs.

Promising review: “I should’ve written a review for this a long time ago. This thing saved me money. And I mean a lot of money. I recently bought a used car and this helped me weed out like 10 lemons. Ended up buying a car that was in much better shape for a really good deal.” — Amazon reviewer.

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2. This one is a solid budget option for Android users

If you’re an Android phone user with a spare $20 lying around, this reliable budget option will help you diagnose your car troubles in minutes. Amazon users swear by this tool, which has an overall rating of 4.5 stars.

This wireless diagnostic car scanner is easy to use and can help you quickly understand the cause of your car’s warning signals. All you have to do is scan your vehicle with this tool to read and clear your check engine light. It will also give you readings on your emissions and check your air/fuel ratio. It can even confirm your O2 sensors are working correctly.

This diagnostic scanner works by Bluetooth connectivity and is compatible with almost all modern cars. So, if you’ve got an Android phone and want a diagnostic tool that won’t break the bank — this is it.

Promising review: “I’ve been a professional in the automotive business for almost 20 years and have ASE L1 advanced diagnostic specialist certification. I can say that this is the best bang for the buck OBDII device I have ever seen. Naturally it won’t do a lot of things that the more expensive equipment I use ($20k+) can do, but for quick checks and watching limited lists of live data it’s very useful. I use the Piston app for Android, and this works extremely well with it – quick live data refresh rate, and good access to codes and freeze frame data. With other apps, I use it to monitor fuel economy in real time in my own vehicle. Nice job, BAFX. I wish everything worked this well for the money.” — Amazon customer.

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Related: 6 ways you can save big on unexpected car repairs

3. This bargain option is easy to use, affordable and doesn’t need any extra components

If you’re looking for an inexpensive diagnostic tool that doesn’t need an internet connection to work, this bargain option should be right up your alley. You don’t need a battery or Wi-Fi for this diagnostic scanner to work. All you have to do is plug it into the obd2 port on your car to diagnose problems and reset your check engine light.

What’s nice about this diagnostic scanner is that it can read your engine code in about 4 seconds flat. It works with most vehicles made after 1996, and you can use it to figure out why your car’s warning lights are on. It saves you the hassle and money that comes with a trip to the mechanic.

This tool can help diagnose several common problems, and the possible cause of your car issues will be displayed right on your scanner’s screen. It even checks vehicle emission-related monitors such as the O2 Sensor and the EVAP system. It also gives you info on your battery health.

Promising review: “Have to say, this was quite easy to find the source of the check engine light and clear the error. Just plugged it in, turned on the ignition, and hit diagnose. The whole process was 2 minutes from plugging it in to finding and clearing the error code.” — Amazon reviewer.

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4. This mid-range gadget can help diagnose nearly any issue

If you need a tool that can diagnose almost any problem, this mid-range gadget does it all. It gives you information on why your check engine light is on and also helps you understand why your car isn’t working as efficiently as it could be.

Need to get more info on your powertrain or emissions? Scan your vehicle with this tool. It’s easy to use — no matter your DIY mechanic skill level — and it can detect almost all car problems. Once it finds an issue, a code will be displayed on the screen, and you can look up the problem in the built-in code library.

It also offers tons of other helpful features, such as your vehicle’s VIN, CID, and CVN. This scanner even offers an oxygen sensor and evaporative control system test. This option might not be as economical as some of the others, but it’s a handy tool to keep on hand.

Promising review: “I like that you can update the software/database on this scanner. The build is solid, and the wire going to the testing port is thick and solid. I like being able to clear my own check-engine light (and also to know what the suspected problem is without an expensive visit to the repair center). Overall very happy.” — Amazon reviewer.

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Need something a bit more comprehensive? Try CarShield

If you need something a little more comprehensive than a handheld scanner, you might want to check out the vehicle protection plans that our sponsor, CarShield, offers. CarShield is America’s top auto protection company, and it offers customizable and flexible payment plans with no long-term contracts. Plans start at just $99 a month.

Curious about what CarShield covers? Let’s take a look:

  • Engine, drive axle and transmission coverage: Most of CarShield’s plans cover these expensive repairs.
  • Highly customizable service plans: You can choose the options and coverage you need.
  • Easy, flexible payment terms: Unlike expensive car repairs, CarShield’s plans won’t break the bank.
  • 24-hour roadside assistance: Any time, anywhere.
  • Towing and rental cars provided: Worried about being stranded with a broken-down vehicle? With CarShield, your car will be towed and you’ll receive rental car benefits with qualifying repairs.
  • Your choice of repair facility: CarShield lets you take your vehicle to your dealer or any ASE licensed mechanic.

There’s nothing worse than being stuck with expensive car repairs — and CarShield keeps that from happening. Want to save money on your new CarShield plan? Call CarShield at 800-CAR-6000 and mention code KIM or visit and use code KIM to save 10%!

By clicking our links, you’re supporting our research. As an Amazon Associate, we earn a small commission from qualifying purchases. Recommendations are not part of any business incentives.

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