3 best car diagnostic software for mechanics [2021 Guide]

Matthew Adams
by Matthew Adams
Windows & Software Expert
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Has your car broken down again? Well, that might mean another trip to the mechanic is required. And one thing your mechanic might use is a vehicle diagnostic software.

This is software that presents engine and emission control diagnostic details provided by the car’s Onboard Diagnostic (OBD) system in numerical and graphic forms.

Then users can identify mechanical faults and fix them. The software can also be handy for monitoring fuel economy or to check vehicles for emission testing.

Before you invest in car diagnostic software, first check if your vehicle is OBD 2 compatible.

Modern European and U.S. cars have On-board Diagnostic systems that monitor engines and emission-related controls.

Compatible vehicles include OBD 2 ports through which your laptop, mobile, or tablet can receive diagnostic details from the OBD system.

To check your car’s compatibility, have a look through its manual. You can usually find OBD 2 slots around the dashboard, gear stick, or handbrake.

If your car is OBD compatible, you’ll need either a USB connector cable or Bluetooth-enabled OBD adapter scan tool for laptops or other devices.

You can use an adapter scan tool that slots into the OBD 2 port if your laptop is Bluetooth enabled.

With a suitable connector cable or scan tool, you can then connect your Windows PC or mobile to the OBD system and make the most of this car diagnostic software.

Best automotive tools for easy car diagnosis

In this article, we will help you choose the best car diagnostic software that fits your needs, answering such questions as:

  • Which OBD software export data for offline use on my PC?
  • How do I choose my OBD software?
  • Does it read the manufacturer’s error codes?
  • Does it tune the car?

What is the best OBD software?

TOAD Scanning Tool

Toad is one of the best OBD tools out there. It allows you to run a full and comprehensive check on your vehicle.

Using customizable graphs, this tool makes it possible for you to understand the state of your car’s systems and helps you solve all the possible problems that may occur.

One of the most powerful features is the possibility to tune and reprogram your car ECU chip data.

Other important features include: diagnosing common problems, optimizing fuel consumption, showing and fixing many problems without a professional mechanic, revealing your car’s CO2 emissions.

In order to answer all your needs, the software comes with a full guide that will help you detect and understand the errors and problems found on your vehicle.

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Let’s quickly look at its key features:

  • Clear your Check Engine Light
  • Pass Emissions Testing
  • Supports multiple controller modules (ISO-9141, ISO-14230, ISO-15765 CAN and more)
  • Supports multiple OBD protocols (OBD1, OBD2, EOBD, JOBD, ADR, and JDM)
  • Monitors real-time data (including engine temperature, O2 value, RPM, speedometer, battery voltage, ignition angle, etc.)
  • Analyze fault codes and get solutions (extensive OBD2 code analysis from a built-in database of over 15,000 fault code definitions)
  • ECU Chip Tuning, Correction, Remapping
  • ECU Map Editor (contains 14,000+ optimized car ECU map files)
TOAD Scanning Tool

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OBD Auto Doctor

  • Transforms your smartphone into a vehicle scanner
  • Developed and tested by professional engineers
  • Compatible with Android and iOS
  • Wide range of car compatibility
  • Save you time and money
  • Not useful for those that can't interpret the readings

OBD Auto Doctor is great car diagnostic software that works with both diesel and gasoline engines. This is also a multiplatform tool you can use on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux laptops as well as Android, iOS, and Windows mobiles.

The program has Express, Standard, and Business editions but there’s also a freeware version you can try first by pressing the Download button on this web page.

OBD Auto Doctor has an extensive offline database of diagnostic trouble codes that includes more than 14,000 DTCs.

Let’s quickly look at its key features:

  • Freeze Frame (provides a snapshot of the engine conditions with DTC and parameter readings at the time the vehicle detected a fault, which you can then export to text files)
  • Readiness monitors (self-test emission systems and oxygen sensor monitors)
  • Monitors and displays numeric sensor values in line and histogram graph formats (like fuel consumption)
  • Extensive diagnostic codes database
  • Freeware version available

OBDWIZ Automotive Diagnostic Software

OBDWIZ Automotive Diagnostic Software

OBDwiz is a reliable automotive diagnostic software with a highly versatile infrastructure.  It’s not only compatible with most PC-based scan tools, but it’s also flexible enough to seamlessly work with every Windows version from Vista to v2004.

Packed with useful features, this tool will verify your emissions readiness, improve your fuel economy, and help you troubleshoot any issues affecting your vehicle.

Plus, it’s easy to install, it comes with an intuitive interface and it’s touchscreen-friendly.

Let’s quickly look at its key features:

  • Supports all OBD-II compliant vehicles
  • Customizable real-time dashboard display
  • Record and playback of monitored data
  • Export data logging to CSV format
  • Diagnostic trouble codes
  • Read freeze frame data

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So these are our picks for the best OBD software to easily diagnose faulty vehicles.

While these tools are perfectly capable of providing you with enough details for basic repairs, you’ll still need to consult a mechanic if the problem is serious enough.

Let us know what tools (if any) do you use to tackle vehicle diagnostics via the comments section below.

FAQ: Learn more about car diagnostic software

  • What are the differences between OBD and OBD2?

The main differences between these two systems are:

  1. OBD2 connects remotely, whereas OBD connects to the vehicle’s central console
  2. OBD is no longer available on newer car models
  3. OBD2 is more reliable than OBD
  • Can I connect my laptop to my car?

Yes, you can do that, but you’ll need a suitable nOBD/OBD2 scan cable and car diagnostics software. You connect the scan cable to your vehicle’s diagnostics port, turn the ignition key to the On position without starting the engine, and fire up the software. The program should be able to recognize the car.

  • What is the best car diagnostics software?

Although all the car diagnostics software on our list can help you achieve quick, satisfactory results, we’ve decided that TOAD-Pro is currently the best one on the market.

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Editor's Note: This article was originally published in October 2017 and was revamped and updated in November 2020 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
  • Please I need the reality of this lesson.
    Because I want to learn how to work with scaner. I m an Engineer please I need your help.

  • All of this reviews say the same thing and do not specifically state if the software is “bidirectional” any cheap scanner can tell you codes, however for advanced troubleshooting you need to be able to control the ECM “real time” ie shutting off cylinders or reading misfire data.