Home » Using An Autel Diagnostic Scanner To Fix Broken Cars Is Like Having A Superpower

Using An Autel Diagnostic Scanner To Fix Broken Cars Is Like Having A Superpower


There is a huge downside to my affliction for owning over a dozen cars, most of them German. Yes, my insurance is astronomical and my storage costs are nearly as much as my rent. But those don’t even register as downsides to me. Instead, it’s the processes to repair them. While none of my vehicles have experienced the maladies faced by our David Tracy, they instead have failures could have about a million (read: expensive) solutions. That’s why the Autel MaxiPRO MP808BT scanner is now my favorite tool.

This thing makes getting to the bottom of complex issues so much easier.

[Full Disclosure: My Volkswagen mechanic and a Volkswagen-owning online friend both recommended this tool for my massive vehicle fleet. Not long after the recommendation, Autel reached out to me and asked me if I wanted to give a scanner a try. I used it on every broken car in my fleet.]

So, what is this scanner and why would you want it?

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Mercedes Streeter

[Editor’s note: Don’t let this nicely-framed picture above throw you: This article isn’t sponsored. Mercedes just wanted to write about how much of a godsend this diagnostic tool has been. I myself don’t even have a car with OBD II, so I can’t relate. But I’m assuming this is like a timing light with a color screen? -DT]

Modern cars are loaded with a ton of control systems and computers. You not only have obvious ones like your ECU and TCM, but there are computers for your instrument cluster, infotainment system, body control functions, active safety functions, passive safety functions, lighting and other electrical functions, and so many more. Today’s cars are smarter than ever, but that sometimes means old troubleshooting tricks don’t work.

To give an example of what I mean, here’s my 2005 Volkswagen Passat TDI wagon. This silver diesel wagon may be 17 years old, but that doesn’t mean that working on it is always easy.

Mercedes Streeter

A few weeks ago I found myself stretching the wagon’s legs on the highway when the transmission vibrated a ton before slamming into fifth gear. The red gear indicators on the vehicle’s instrument cluster all illuminated at once.

The average person might think to take one of those cheap OBD scanners and shove it into the vehicle’s OBD port. That’s a fair assumption to make; fully illuminated gear lights in an older Volkswagen are the car’s way of indicating a transmission fault. But guess what? You’re not going to get anything on a generic OBD scanner.

Instead, you’re going to want something with more horsepower. For a Volkswagen, one of the best tools that you can buy is the Ross-Tech VCDS, which gives you a dealership level of access and diagnostics to the vehicle’s systems. But what if you’re like me and you’re working on vehicles from a variety of brands? That’s where the Autel MaxiPRO MP808BT comes in. It gives you most of the functions that you’d find on a dedicated system like VCDS, but you aren’t saddled to a single brand.

Autel is the diagnostic tool brand of Intelligent Technology Corp. Ltd, a company headquartered in China. The brand’s devices are meant for the independent automotive technician, but can be used to supercharge an enthusiast’s prowess, as well. This particular scanner sits in about the middle of Autel’s diagnostic tool range, costing about $800. The company’s cheaper units have fewer features and coverage. Meanwhile, more expensive units can be like having a repair garage in the palm of your hands, where the units can go as far as to give you step-by-step tutorials.

The MP808BT has countless functions that normally require a dealership visit; Functions like programming key fobs, working with safety systems, individual testing of vehicle systems, and programming TPMS. However, the scanner’s ability to program fobs and TPMS is more limited than the company’s more expensive units. So you may run into situations where it can program one car’s fobs, but not another. Unfortunately, it’s not readily apparent what cars it works better for, so be sure to check online reviews.

During my time with the tool thus far I’ve used it on a few of my Volkswagens, a couple of Smarts, my Saturn Sky Red Line, and my fiancée’s Toyota Prius. Here are my highlights.

Diagnosing My Diesel Smart

Mercedes Streeter

When I bought this 2006 Smart Fortwo Passion Coupe CDI, its previous owner told me that the check engine light was on because one of the diesel engine’s glow plugs were shorted out. It also had an airbag light on because they removed the driver seat at one point.

I was able to confirm the seller’s story with a generic scanner, but as I said before, a generic scanner isn’t even going to touch a vehicle’s safety system.

When I got home I plugged the Autel’s dongle into the vehicle’s OBD port. From there I was able to launch the scanner’s diagnostic program, which pulled the Smart’s VIN and ran a scan of the whole vehicle’s systems. Three of the vehicle’s systems came back with faults. I got a code for bad communication with the instrument cluster, the bad glow plug, and this error regarding the driver airbag:

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Mercedes Streeter

Naturally, I first cleared the error just to see what happened, and it came back literally a second later. That sent me snooping around the car for answers. The seller said that he removed the driver seat once, so I checked its wiring. Sure enough, the seat’s weight sensor was unplugged.

I love an easy fix.

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Mercedes Streeter

Ah, but don’t think that will cause the light to go off. Smarts will stubbornly display the airbag light even after a fault has been resolved. The idea is that you’ll take it to the dealership to have the car checked out and the light turned off. That’s fine, except that no Mercedes-Benz dealership in the States is authorized to mess with these first-generation cars.

However, extinguishing the light was no problem for the MP808BT, and it hasn’t returned since.

Next, I hooked up the MP808BT to my recently revived 2012 Smart Fortwo Passion Coupe.

The Smart Ran Like Crap After I Fixed It. Here’s What The Scanner Said

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Mercedes Streeter

This car sat for over two years not running. I tried to revive it a number of times during that time. As a result, the car has sporadically gotten power every now and then from batteries of varying health. It was no surprise to me that when the car finally did start there were hundreds of errors from all kinds of systems. The car had codes for misfires on all cylinders, a loss of connection for many of the vehicle’s modules, and the car even convinced itself that it, too, had an airbag fault.

Some of the car’s problems were accurate, as the vehicle was actively misfiring. The engine was previously stuck and now it was drinking over two-year old fuel, so I wasn’t surprised there. And all of the loss of connection errors could be explained by me ripping the battery out of the car when my revivals failed. I cleared all of the codes and only got back the ones that were already active from before the car was sidelined. Whew.

Mercedes Streeter

One thing that I did find useful here was that the MP808BT was able to tell the Smart to run through its transmission programming. You could do this by simply driving the car, but I’d rather the car run into a fault here than on the road.

VW Passat Diesel Transmission Shift Issues

Let’s go back to that aforementioned 2005 Volkswagen Passat TDI wagon. When it failed to properly engage fifth gear it illuminated the transmission error light and eventually went into limp mode. No check engine light. Plugging in the MP808BT revealed a code implying that the torque converter had inadequate performance and another suggesting an incorrect ratio from gear four.

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Mercedes Streeter

Armed with these codes I went to VW forums, which first suggested checking transmission fluid. Sure enough, the car was low. I filled it up, took it for a drive, and the problem was gone.

Turbo Issues With The Diesel Jetta SportWagen

The next time the tablet would see use would come after my trusty 2010 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI became not so trusty. It went into limp mode during a highway cruise, producing a P0299 code for turbo underboost.

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Mercedes Streeter

It happened just once then didn’t come back. It’s now 500 miles later and it still hasn’t come back.

These cars don’t have boost gauges so normally, you have no idea how much boost the car is creating. However, thanks to the MP808BT, you can read live data from all of the ECU’s channels. For this Volkswagen, ECU channel 11 gives you the boost that the car is requesting against how much boost that it’s getting.

In my case, the boost that it’s getting is just a smidge lower than requested.

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Mercedes Streeter

My VW gurus tell me that this could be because of the very beginnings of a boost leak (an air leak in the boost piping) or the beginnings of a vacuum leak. Another told me that the turbo’s actuator could have gotten temporarily stuck from non-use. But since the issue hadn’t come back in 500 miles the consensus was to keep watch on it to make sure the boost figures don’t get worse. It hasn’t happened since.

Checking Out The Saturn, Diagnosing Prius Window Issues

Finally, I popped the tool into the OBD port of my Saturn Sky Red Line.

Mercedes Streeter


The car’s check engine light wasn’t on and there weren’t any indications of problems, but I was curious. I found an astonishing number of historical, not-active codes from across most modules. The neat thing was that the codes seemed to coincide with the car’s long service history. My Sky has more or less had everything replaced but the engine, transmission, and body in its lifetime. It wasn’t crashed or flooded, just hilariously unreliable.

For a final demonstration of what this scanner can do, let’s look at a common scenario. One day, your driver window stops working. In the past, you really only had to check the switch and the regulator. When you hit the switch, power goes to the regulator. So when your window stops working, it’s going to be the switch or the regulator.

However, today’s cars have nifty one-touch automatic down and up windows that can also stop in their tracks for obstacles. When you hit the switch here, a signal goes to a module, then the module tells the window what to do. This adds a little more complexity to troubleshooting.

With this scanner, you can watch the live data produced when you hit the window switch. If you hit the switch and it doesn’t indicate switch press then you know that the signal probably isn’t making it to the module. It could be a bad switch or wiring.

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Mercedes Streeter

If it indicates a press but still doesn’t work, then you know that the issue is likely past the module, be it wiring or the regulator. You can also use it to verify if your auto windows aren’t working because of a bad switch. It can go even further, using test functions to use the module to operate the part in question. That way you can verify that the module isn’t broken.

The Autel MP808BT will run you $799 and is sold at countless retailers. One caveat is that the purchase isn’t a one-time deal. The scanner comes with a yearly subscription that runs about half of the cost of the unit. The subscription ensures that the system has the most up-to-date diagnostic software. You don’t need to buy the subscription and you don’t lose functionality if you don’t buy it. But, not having the subscription means that the system may not work well with a vehicle introduced to the market after the subscription expiration.

Overall, this is already my favorite tool. After all, it’s basically the scanner that informs me about what tools that I’ll have to use. I haven’t even cracked the surface of what this little thing can do. Would I say it’s a must if you own just one or two cars? Probably not. If you have one or two reliable vehicles then you may never end up using it to its potential. But if you have a whole fleet consisting of different brands of unreliable cars, I think you’ll be happy that you bought it.

(This post contains a few Amazon affiliate partner links. If you buy something by clicking on a link The Autopian may make a commission)

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58 Responses

  1. The downside with Autel is the lawsuits. They’ve been sued by a few manufacturers over stealing IP rights, and the tool has to communicate with their server in China to work properly during certain scans.

    There’s better US made options out there with not much of a cost difference.

  2. Personnaly I buy official knock off on aliexpress, I have a Lexia tool for peugeot, Toyota Tis for Lexus and Toyota and a Honda HDS. All works great and especially for the Lexus you have all the testing or maintenance fonction for a fraction of the cost. I also had a VCDS but bricked it. The toyota tool knock off was the cheapest of all and the best investement. About 30$. And that is a huge sparing of money. Your kind of tool is good if you’re a professionnal to avoid getting sued. That’s all.

      1. Look for a VCDS tool in V22 version, but you’ve got to be careful there is plenty of version of different quality. But they’re aboute 30$ and you’ll be able to do absolutely everything.

      1. Hello, a V17.00.020 MINI VCI pour TOYOTA TIS Techstream Mini vci FTDI FT232RL puce J2534 OBD2 câble de Diagnostic de voiture jusqu’en 2022

        It works well on my Lexus RX400h, did all kind of test, maintenance and variant coding. I didn’t try flashing ecu software though.

    1. Oh man, having tool rentals shipped to you like old-school Netflix would be brilliant. I have no idea if that would be a profitable venture, but I love the idea!

    2. There’s a pretty strong market for this with VCDS dongles on VW forums and eBay, or was. Haven’t checked since I bought a dongle.

    3. There’d almost have to be a deposit at least equal to the replacement price. Kind of a limited market for tools as expensive as this but maybe for things that aren’t pushing a grand it could work. I think most of us that like to do our own work would just buy it if we could afford it and it’s worth the price or if we can’t then just do without. Maybe an option to just buy the tool if you like it would be good, like a test drive for pricey tools.

      1. That’s exactly how the tool rental at one of my local stores worked. You paid the price of the tool up front, but when you brought it back they refunded the entire amount. I don’t know if that’s how it works for all of their tools, but it did at least for the giant socket I needed to replace an axle nut.

      2. That’s how AutoZone’s loan-a-tool works. You basically pay full price then get it back when you return the tool. I used it for a vacuum pump and gauge manifold for an AC. I think they intend it as a loss leader for consumables like the oil for the vacuum pump. The “deposit” was on the high end of retail, so I wouldn’t recommend just keeping that specific tool.

    4. There is a website called borrowmyscantool.com. I don’t know if it’s legit but it doesn’t look like an obvious scam. Looks like the security deposit is required and then it’s $69 dollars a day for the Autel 808

      Someone should give it a try and write an article about it 😉

      1. Hello Kyle,

        Thanks for the mention! Yes, we (borrowmyscantool.com) do indeed rent an Autel MaxiPRO MP808TS, which actually has more capability than the Autel used in the article above (e.g. diagnose TPMS systems and program TPMS sensors)

        The cost is $69 for a 3 day rental period and that price also includes shipping both ways (like OG Netflix).

        Further, The Autopian Readers get $10 off their first order with the promo code “Autopian10”!

        We do require a $1,000 deposit to help ensure the scan tools are returned on one piece. Fortunately, our customers are a responsible crowd. We have always been able to fully refund the deposits and look forward to continuing that trend!

        In addition to the Autel, we also have a Launch (similar capability to the Autel, just a different user interface that some people prefer).

        Additionally, we have a couple of authentic Tech 2 scan tools for those GM folks.



    5. There is a place where you can rent a full system scanner if you live in the USA. Look up the youcanic full system scanner. They ship it to you and return shipping is paid. The YOUCANIC full system scanner does pretty much the same as the Autel Scanner shown here.

  3. One can also use things like Carly/Carista, etc. to do something similar. Even an OBDII scanner is a godsend.

    If I get into a serious project, I will likely try to nab one of these (or get Carly) as a matter of course.

  4. Have you tried the Torque Pro app paired with a generic BT/Wifi OBDII reader? I currently use Torque because it works very well for me and I’m very cheap, but I always wonder if the upgrade is worth it. Thanks for the writeup!

    1. I have generic OBDII bluetooth adapters in all my cars and use em with Torque Pro for years. Definitely worth the $5, but doesn’t access any systems beyond the engine computer AFAIK… but that’s been plenty for me. The real time gauges are fum to play with and configure, now if only I could get that screen into android auto and on my dash lcd… ????

    2. I love Torque for it’s price, but it can only read a small subset of the fault codes on my VW.
      (Had to take it to a garage who charged me £60 to tell me I needed a £6 brake light switch grrr)

  5. That is a really sweet unit. It looks very similar to some of the Snap-On scanners, but it’s hard to say whether they have a common manufacturer.

    Anyway, thanks for clarifying the subscription and that it doesn’t affect older vehicle functionality. Which, you know, is fine, because I’ll probably never be able to buy a new car in this market anytime soon.

  6. Just wow!
    I never knew such a thing existed. A couple of months ago I paid a locksmith $80 just so he could program a new key fob for my mom’s 2015 Subaru. Took him 8 minutes. That’s just one thing this baby could possibly fix. Also, my kids drive older cars that kick off faults all the time.

    BTW. My mom keeps losing keys as she’s losing her mind. (The key from Subaru cost her $150 so she is depleting my inheritance rather quickly I guess). Maybe I can convince her buy me this for my birthday or something.

    1. Hello Bertfrog,

      What you wrote is EXACTLY why we started Borrow My Scan Tool (borrowmyscantool.com).

      For example, I have a 2016 WRX and misplaced a key last year. Luckily I was able to get a blank off of eBay for around $30 (bought 3 just for good measure), went to the local locksmith to have them cut for $3 each, and then programmed them in using a Launch scan tool (The Autel probably would have done it also, but it was out on loan at the time)

      It is a two step process because the keyless entry and immobilizer are two separate modules, however, the scan tool walked me through it.

      The funny part is that I called a couple locksmiths to get a quote just for kicks to do the whole job, but they all refused because I have remote start!

      Having access to a scan tool once again saved the day. (And of course I located the misplaced key a few months later)

      Feel free to use “Autopian10” for $10 off your first rental at borrowmyscantool.com.



  7. Considering I don’t own anything European my $35 generic scanner has done me pretty proud… but no scanner, even an $800 one can tell me where my ‘73 Dodges transmission fluid keeps going!

    1. For that, you need a RootWyrm scanner. Way, way more expensive.
      Step 1: Did you check your coolant?
      Step 2: Did you remember to actually put fluid in?
      Step 3: You have another A904 on hand, right?

      1. Coolant seemed ok at last check but I’ll look again. I checked the level on the transmission fluid and it was spot-on when I left the house and 8 miles later low enough for the truck to hardly move. I know the thing has some leaks but they’re not thattttt bad.

  8. How is it not a sponsored article of they sent an $800 tool for free on the hopes of you writing an article on it and drumming up more business for Autel?

    I like your writing Mercedes but that comment doesn’t seem right.

  9. When I worked at a Community College, our Auto Shop had these Autel tablets and they were very slick and could do a lot. They had manufacturers of cars you’ve never heard of (mostly European). They are just rugged Android tablets with some special hardware baked in. The licensing was kinda a pain though – I had to update and renew the subscriptions on these each year. Like it is said above, it works without the license but when we had them you couldn’t get software (security and bug fixes) without a license, not just the new car content. So they kinda get you there. Expensive, but good quality. None of our students killed one, and they usually killed several laptops a year. If you every find one on sale, you have multiple cars, and do work yourself, these are totally worth it.

  10. Good article. If you’re messing around with late model cars (especially German ones?) some kind of scan tool is critical.

    It’s a good way to evaluate independent shops as well-just ask them if they have OEM tooling for the type of car you’re bringing in. If they say no, keep moving.

  11. So does it work on BMWs? That’s one reason I’m sticking with Audi over BMW: Rosstech VCDS. It’s paid for itself many times over. I wonder how much the stealership would charge to reset an airbag light after I disconnect the passenger airbag indicator when routing dashcam wiring.

  12. The proliferation of affordable scanners is a great thing for DIYers. Just keep in the back of your mind that there a good chance it’s not going to be an exhaustive tool. Having had opportunity to use numerous scan tools from OEM, Snap On, Autel, J2534 pass thru devices, to harbor freight scanners. It’s a good habit to double check the code definitions your scanner gives you, I’ve been burned before because the scanner code was right but the description was wrong. Learn the difference between circuit faults (oxygen sensor heater circuit) and logic faults (lean mixture bank 1) to avoid just hanging a part because it’s in the code description ( oxygen sensor stuck lean could be a band sensor or it could be an actual mixture problem). And you’ll never know what data you don’t have or functional test you cant do if you never used and OEM tool, data that can make the difference in accurately diagnosing the problem. A scanner can save you money over a repair shop, but it can also cost you a lot in unneeded parts if you don’t learn how to properly use it and actually diagnose a problem. Relying on a forum post that had the same problem may work, cars have a lot of pattern failures, but be prepared to spend money on parts you didn’t actually need.

    1. Forgot, if you do get a scanner with a subscription update you can usually skip a year or two and save some money. It’s worthwhile considering the updates as they often patch problems and add functionality, such as functional tests, to older vehicles already covered.

  13. I use a Foxwell on my 1991 BMW 850 OBD one of the few that will handle some of the OBD I.

    Other than that its a laptop with a real serial port running INPA and a hacked version of DIS which is the BMW Dealer software in a virtual machine. $600 if you want to buy it from some one.

  14. These things really are a game-changer for automotive DIYers. There are plenty of options for those on a budget as well. I picked up a FoxWell NT360 for after combing through a bunch of reviews for just $100, mainly as it could do ABS brake bleeding and I needed that for my old E-150 parts chaser. It seems to do a bunch of other things as well, including access various systems on my Chevy VOLT, although I haven’t dug too deeply into that yet.

    A note about old, out-of-date scanners used on newer cars. Apparently there can be hazards. Around 2000 I bought an “Auto X-ray” scanner for $300. It seemed pricey back then but quickly became my new favorite tool and was quite helpful when needed for a number of years. Many years later I tried to use it to do a quick CEL check on my sister’s 2012 Buick Enclave, and the vehicle went into freak-out mode. Various idiot lights flashed on and off and the engine revved up to what sounded like red line. We shut it down, and then it wouldn’t start back up at all. Thankfully after disconnecting the battery for 30 minutes everything was fine (well, except the CEL was still on). That was the last time I bothered using the Auto X-ray on anything even remotely “newish”.

  15. Good article!

    While Autel is the gold standard, I’ve also heard good things about Xtool scanners. They have one, called the A30M, which is a Bluetooth bidirectionel scanner, which means it has another, even more useful way of testing components, by directly triggering them on and off…

    It’s easy enough to test things that would otherwise be hard to do manually, like the aforementioned window example, but you can directly test both sides of the components, i.e. the switch and motor, independent of one another.

    The A30M is about $220 with free lifetime updates. Xtool has more powerful tools, such as the D7 and D8 which also come with 3 years of free updates. I’m a mechanic, I’ll personally be buying the D7 very soon.

    One more thing, with the software updates, they’re more often than not only for new vehicles, so if you have vehicles that are older, you’re not generally losing much by not paying for the new updates. The software that’s already installed will keep working, even if you’re not paying anymore, you just won’t get new updates.

  16. That editor’s comment reminded me that David sold his best and only recent car that would have had an OBD II port.

    I can only assume it commited the sin of challenging his Jeep-centric world-view, and that, rather than face the trauma of that reckoning he banished the Toyota from his kingdom, declaring it a false prophet. “Do not speak to me of your reliability! Thy head gasket is the work of the devil! Thy engine is not bulletproof or fuel efficient in the way of an AMC 4.0, such statements are FOUL LIES. Begone from this land, demon LEXUS! Take your temptations of luxury and reassuringly dependable operation and get thee hence!”

  17. I really appreciate all your insights into the various tools of the trade–I’m a big fan of owning the right tools for the right jobs, and have slowly expanded my repetoire for a lot of various indoor/outdoor work. For some reason though, automotive maintenance is something that’s just passed me by? Not sure what it is, but I’ve always struggled to get into it. I love learning about the various systems in my car, and others, and how to diagnose problems, but actually doing the work on my own vehicle is something I regularly outsource.

    It might have to do with the fact that I live in an apartment, and don’t have much space to work, but there’s always a nearby parking lot or something. I think it might be that vehicles require a more comprehensive set of tools to work effectively? It feels like such an insurmountable cost barrier to be equipped to actually do the work needed, even if in the long run it’s cheaper.

    For example, I do my own bicycle maintenance and have all the tools needed to strip it down to the frame and rebuild it, but total outlay for those tools was definitely under $500 all included. That’s just not going to cover it for anything more complicated than oil and tire rotations on a vehicle–especially to do it safely and without making problems worse. I kind of wish there were more collective spaces for this sort of thing. Where I live, I’m surrounded by car shops and dealerships, but there’s no spaces to go for free. By the time I’ve rented garage space and tools, it’s costing what it would have to just get my shop to do it for me, let alone buying my own tools.

    I guess it makes sense when you have a double-digit fleet though–my little Hyundai just doesn’t seem to be worth it.

    1. It tends to be a long process of buying tools as you need them so you never realize how much you’ve spent unless you itemize everything. But $500 can definitely get you the tools for more than basic maintenance even on a newer vehicle. Especially if you only plan on using it on a particular vehicle so you can eliminate stuff you’ll likely never use. Just do the research to make sure you’re not overpaying. Lots of YouTubers do tool testing and I’ve found they’re usually pretty good at weeding out the garbage. What gets expensive is specialty tools with one use where nothing else works, power equipment and diagnostic stuff like this scanner.

      The space issue is a hard one. In my area even the places that rent bays seem to struggle even though they’re a bit pricey. I’ve worked in parking lots and on the side of the road but either out of necessity or cheapness, not for fun. I’d probably get thrown out of an apartment, not for working on my car in the lot but for the yelling, cursing and occasional smashing of a noncompliant tool/part that accompanies the process.

    2. You could check your local Maker network: some do big enough mechanical projects to merit garage space.

      Wrenched for a guy who rented a storage space as a garage for his Cabriolet. Obviously, you’ll want to talk to the owners about your use plans

      1. If your apt. complex is strict about carrying out any auto maintenance in their lot/garage another option is to join a car club / forum. Often there will be regular GTGs (Get ToGethers) where club members will meet up to do maintenance together usually at a members home garage. Often times the car work that will be carried out will be stuff that people are reluctant to tackle completely themselves b/c they have never done this particular work before.
        Personal example… (Many) years ago (either pre-youtube or youtube very early days…), I went to a “TDIClub” GTG b/c it was time to replace my timing belt and I wanted to make sure I had people around that had (successfully) completed many t-belt jobs themselves since it is an interference engine, i.e. if I F*%k up my timing belt job my engine would “go boom” (or at minimum some valves )

  18. I see a couple recs in the comments already, but what’s the best choice for someone who doesn’t want to spend more than $200? $100 even. I have one of those shitty old ScanGauges that’s useful for reading simple OBDII codes, but I suspect there’s an upgrade that might unlock a little bit more.

    I currently have a ’15 Sorento and an ’09 328xi. If I don’t want to spend $500+, should I just carry on with my ScanGauge and save my pennies?

      1. I just went to their website. They seem to have 10,000 product variants with incredibly vague descriptions of their actual abilities and limitations versus the other models in their lineup.

        I think I got a similar bunch of less than clear information when I was considering buying TPMS tools when I replaced the sensors in my tires last year. In the end I wasted (Is research time really wasted, even if it doesn’t lead where you intended?) hours looking for the right product. In the end the shop I go to charged me about $30 to program the sensors when I had the tires mounted.

        There are a few jobs I’m willing to hand off to the pros because I just will not have the equipment. Tire mounting is one of those jobs so I just lumped the programming in with tire mounting and balancing to let myself off the hook for not doing it at home.

    1. I can’t speak to the Sorento, but BimmerLink and BimmerCode have been indispensable for customizing settings and diagnosing & clearing codes and Service Reminders on my 2017 i3. They’re $25 – $30 apps that connect to the ODBII port via a Bluetooth or WiFi dongle. You can find them at https://bimmerlink.app and https://bimmercode.app. They have a list of the compatible dongles on the sites; IRCC, they range in price from $30 – $50. All-in with both apps and a dongle, it can be under or right around your desired $100 cost. Perhaps you can find an app somewhere to work with the same dongle on your Kia, too.

      I have no affiliation with the sites or products; just a satisfied user making a recommendation.

    2. For BMW, old laptop and serial cable with some downloaded software is ideal. Short of that, a Creator C310+ is around $60 and works great.

    1. I understand these newfangled scanner things can be used without the engine running, so they sound more like proper static timing lights instead of those suspiciously complicated dynamic timing lights that are out there.

  19. I ended up getting a Foxwell 510 Elite which is a bit more brand specific with BMW/RR/Mini for in depth stuff, it still reads codes on anything.
    So, you don’t quite need a universal one at the price if you aren’t doing such a wide variety of cars, get the high level functions for under $200.

  20. When building a garage you should go bigger than you think you need; when buying tools, same. I bought a lower-end Autel (I think in the $200) range a year ago, and I wish I’d gone with something like this. The big bite at first always gets paid back the longer you have it…

    1. Yeah, I think sometimes the outlay is worth it for diagnosis tools or for the big ones, like lifts. For things like wrenches or hand tools, I like going cheap until it breaks, and then upgrading. Hard to tell what will and won’t be worth it though sometimes.

    2. When I got a gen 10 civic I got one of those cheap BT OBD2 plugs that you connect your phone to, just to retract the rear brakes. That worked very poorly, so last black Friday I got one of these Autel scanner, even though it would’ve been nicer to spend that money on a new laptop.

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