Why do you need a bidirectional scan tool? The simple answer is that they make it much faster and easier to diagnose problems with your engine. With a bidirectional scanner, you can run tests beyond the codes and data produced by an OBD2 code reader.
We’ve picked out the best bidirectional scanners available now and reviewed them here. Read through our tips and suggestions to help you pick the right one for your needs.
Best Bidirectional Scan Tools: Comparison Chart
|BEST OVERALL||RUNNER UP||GREAT PICK|
LAUNCH X431 V+
LAUNCH X431 DIAGUN V
4.4 / 5
4.7 / 5
4.5 / 5
|Item Weight||13.23 pounds||14.85 pounds||10.23 pounds|
|Product Dimensions||13.78 x 5.91 x 9.84 inches||9.4 x 5.9 x 1.4 inches||16.7 x 14 x 5 inches|
|Summary||This professional bidirectional scan tool has broad compatibility and advanced features but also comes with a professional price tag that may be out of the budget of DIYers.||Along with wide protocol support, the Autel MP808K includes a range of adapters. Even so, its service functions aren’t supported for all vehicles, and it’s missing some coding features professionals need.||A streamlined version of the X431 V+, this mid-range bidirectional scan tool performs most of the active tests and service functions a home mechanic needs.|
|Pros||All-system diagnostics and bi-directional control. Over 30 service functions, including ECU coding capability and Wi-Fi enabled. Broad vehicle compatibility||Diagnosis and bi-directional control for all systems. Support 25 service functions. Provide a wide vehicle compatibility with 11 included adapters. Automatic updates through Wi-Fi. All makes it an excellent value for DIYers.||Full-system data reading with bidirectional control. Offer 30 service functions with some coding and programming capability. Easy to use with convenient diagnostic report Also includes a range of adapters for a broad vehicle compatibility.|
|Cons||Highest cost bidirectional scanner with the most complex interface.||Limited coding and programming capabilities. Need updates cost money after the first year.||Advanced features aren’t available for all vehicles. You have to pay to update after the first 2 years.|
Table of Contents
- 1 Benefits of Bidirectional Scan Tools
- 2 Types of Bidirectional Scan Tools
- 3 Top Brands of Bidirectional Scan Tools
- 4 Price Range of Bidirectional Scan Tools
- 5 Tips & Buying Guide
- 6 Best Bidirectional Scan Tools Reviews
- 6.1 LAUNCH X431 V+ Bi-Directional OBD2 Scanner
- 6.2 Autel MP808K Bi-Directional OBD2 Scan Tool
- 6.3 LAUNCH X431 DIAGUN V Bi-Directional Scan Tool
- 6.4 Autel AL619 Bidirectional Diagnostic Tool
- 6.5 LAUNCH X431 V PRO Bidirectional Scan Tool
- 6.6 Autel MaxiPRO MP808TS Bi Directional Scanner
- 6.7 Autel MS906 Bi-Directional Scan Tool
- 6.8 INNOVA CarScan Pro 5610 Bi Directional Scanner
- 6.9 FOXWELL NT510 Elite Bi Directional OBD2 Scan Tool
- 6.10 FOXWELL NT630 Plus Bi-Directional Scan Tool
- 7 Recommendation: Top 3 Bi-directional Scanners
- 8 FAQs
- 9 Final Thoughts
Benefits of Bidirectional Scan Tools
- Access more data and information. Many hand-held scan tools stop at engine data. Bidirectional automotive scan tools are more likely to support multi-system or even all-system diagnosis, giving you a complete picture of your engine’s health.
- Faster troubleshooting of engine issues. Taking active control of actuators, valves, and other components let you identify the specific point of failure causing trouble codes. This is a huge time-saver compared to manually testing.
- Make repairs at home. For DIYers, the range of service functions included in bidirectional automotive scanners enable you to take charge of your vehicle maintenance. You can do more without needing a professional, and that can save you a ton of money in the long run.
- Customize your vehicle. If you want to upgrade vehicle components or tune the engine, many bidirectional scan tools will let you do so.
Types of Bidirectional Scan Tools
- Hand-held OBD2 scanners. The most common type of bidirectional scan tool. These devices have an electronic controller with a screen and keypad connected to an OBD2 adapter. They’re easy to use and don’t require charging or outside power.
- Tablet-based diagnostic tools. Similar in design to hand-held scanners, these devices use a full tablet rather than a hand-held tool. This gives them touchscreen navigation as well as a more powerful processor with a larger memory.
- Wireless scanners. These tools have built-in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth design. They still connect to the vehicle via the OBD2 port but aren’t restricted by a cable, allowing you to use the tool from outside your car. Wireless support also makes updating the tool and printing data easier.
Top Brands of Bidirectional Scan Tools
You’ll see the same brand names coming up over and over in discussions of the best bidirectional scanner—and with good reason. These 3 brands have a reputation for both innovation and quality.
Sold in more than 50 countries, Autel tools are innovative, emphasizing intelligent automotive diagnosis. With more than 10 years in the industry, they’re a trusted name among repair professionals.
FOXWELL diagnostic equipment ranges from basic code readers to full professional diagnostic tools. Their devices are user-friendly and priced to be affordable for DIYers.
Founded in 1992, this Chinese producer of advanced diagnostic equipment has been an industry leader for more than 25 years. Their tools are used worldwide and have a reputation for accuracy and efficiency.
Price Range of Bidirectional Scan Tools
- Under $400. Affordable bidirectional scan tool range, they offer a comprehensive vehicle diagnosis. However, their service functions and active testing capability will be more limited. They may only support bidirectional control for specific systems, or be compatible with vehicles from a few manufacturers.
- $400-$800. These mid-range tools strike an excellent balance between functionality and value. Their active testing capabilities extend to more systems, and they’ll usually include a good range of service functions, though they may be missing professional features like coding or key programming. Hence, they are the best choice for DIY mechanics
- $800 and Up. Professional mechanics will be looking for tools in this price range. They offer both the most features and the broadest vehicle coverage. Along with that, you can expect to get customization and coding options that facilitate more advanced repairs and car tuning.
Tips & Buying Guide
When you’re buying a bidirectional OBD2 scanner, its manual control capabilities are just one of the features to look for. Let’s go through the main factors that should play a role in your decision.
Key Features: What to Look for in Bidirectional Scan Tools
- Vehicle compatibility. This is the first thing you should check. While the OBD2 system is standardized, diagnostic protocols for other systems aren’t. As a result, some scan tools work better with one manufacturer than another. Verify the features you need are available for your car or truck before you buy any scan tool.
- Diagnostic capability. Some scan tools will only read engine data. On the other extreme, all-system scan tools can gather data from any module in the vehicle. Generally, the more systems a tool can scan, the more you should expect it to cost.
- Repair functions. Many tools with bidirectional control can also affect the engine in other ways, like manually controlling the EPB calipers or running automatic brake bleeding cycles. These features will mostly be of interest to those planning to repair or maintain vehicles, instead of everyday drivers who only want to learn about issues.
- Data speed and accuracy. Regardless of what else the tool does, it’s only of value to you if you can trust the data it gives. This is why we recommend buying from a trusted brand, like the three listed above.
- What kind of tech support does the company offer? If your tool has an issue, strong tech support can save you lots of frustration. Consider how responsive the company is to customer issues and whether they offer repair advice or other helpful services.
- Do you have to pay for updates? Some companies make their scanner upgrades free for the lifetime of the tool. Others require a subscription or payment after 1 or 2 years.
- Do you have experience with diagnostic equipment? Tools with more functions are aimed at professionals and can be overwhelming for beginners. A more straightforward tool can be a better place to start.
Best Bidirectional Scan Tools Reviews
|Editor's Picks||Products||Our Rating|
|Best Overall||LAUNCH X431 V+||9.5/10|
|Runner Up||Autel MP808K||9.5/10|
|Great Pick||LAUNCH X431 DIAGUN V||9/10|
|Best Budget Buy||Autel AL619||8.5/10|
|Also Good||LAUNCH X431 V PRO||8.5/10|
LAUNCH X431 V+ Bi-Directional OBD2 Scanner
The LAUNCH X431 V+ puts a repair shop in your pocket, with a wide range of professional features that let you go beyond basic diagnostics. Its active control is as broad as its diagnostic power. You can read data and test components from any system in the vehicle with this bidirectional automotive scanner. Once you have the data, it’s easy to record, playback, or print, with large on-board memory and built-in Wi-Fi connectivity.
You’ll get a full array of maintenance and reset functions with the LAUNCH X431 V+, as well. Its 30+ service functions include standard options like SAS calibration and oil reset along with less common features, such as key programming and injector coding. Since it also includes ECU coding capabilities, you can even use it to tune and customize your vehicle.
LAUNCH X431 V+ can be a bit complex for everyday drivers. For professionals and advanced DIYers, though, it’s worth the investment, with an intuitive menu system and dealership-level functionality.
The LAUNCH X431 V+ Bi-Directional OBD2 Scanner is the ideal bidirectional scanner for professional, dealer-level diagnostics and repair functions.
- Powerful Lenovo tablet with touchscreen interface and 32GB memory
- All-system diagnostics
- 30+ maintenance functions, including adaptation and initialization options
- Supports ECU coding and key programming
- Conducts active tests on components from all systems
- Wi-Fi enabled for easy updates and data printing
- Compatible with most vehicles, including heavy trucks
- Highest cost
- More complex operation than simpler scan tools
Autel MP808K Bi-Directional OBD2 Scan Tool
The main advantage of the Autel MP808K is the number of service functions you get for the price. It’s capable of performing advanced repairs like programming new keys, throttle and transmission adaptation, and calibration functions—more than two dozen repair functions in all.
You’ll get the same dealership-level performance on the diagnostic side. It’s not limited to a few systems like other scan tools. In fact, you can both read data and conduct active tests of components in all on-board systems.
The Autel MP808K also offers broad vehicle compatibility. Since it comes with 11 different adapters, it will work with vehicles other OBD2 scanners won’t. The only caveat here is that not all service functions are supported for all vehicles, so you’ll want to verify its compatibility for your car or truck before buying it.
With 25 service functions and all-system diagnosis, Autel MP808K Bi-Directional OBD2 Scan Tool is one of the most comprehensive bidirectional scan tools on the market.
- OE-level all-system diagnosis
- Conducts active tests on components from all systems
- 25 service functions, including key programming
- Broad vehicle compatibility (80+ makes and models)
- Updates are automatic through Wi-Fi
- Comes with 11 adapters and connectors included
- Service functions may not work on all compatible vehicles
- Updates are only free for the first year
LAUNCH X431 DIAGUN V Bi-Directional Scan Tool
The LAUNCH X431 DIAGUN V is a great mid-range option for those who need professional functionality on a DIYers budget. This bidirectional OBD2 scan tool will perform active tests of all valves and solenoids, along with reading module data and error codes from any system in the vehicle.
Not all vehicles allow coding and adaptation to happen through the OBD2 port. Fortunately, the LAUNCH X431 DIAGUN V comes with connectors for other diagnostic ports, expanding its advanced features’ compatibility. And those features are robust, including functions like buzz tests and IMMO service.
We also appreciate how easy the X431 DIAGUN V is to use, especially considering the breadth of its features. The Lenovo touchscreen tablet comes with an Android operating system that’s intuitive to navigate. It also allows you to download 3rd party diagnostic apps, adding to its diagnostic power.
Full bi-directional control, along with coding and reset functions, make LAUNCH X431 DIAGUN V Bi-Directional Scan Tool one of the most powerful scan tools in the mid-range price point.
- All-system diagnosis with full bi-directional control
- Includes multiple connection options to work with more vehicles
- Performs 30 adaptation, coding, reset, and matching functions
- Vehicle Health Report makes diagnosis and troubleshooting easy
- Covered by a 5-year warranty (2 years of free updates)
- Easy to update through Wi-Fi
- Matching and coding functions aren’t compatible with all vehicles
- Will need to pay for updates after 2 years
Autel AL619 Bidirectional Diagnostic Tool
It’s rare to find active testing offered by any scanner in the $100 or less price range, so that alone makes the Autel AL619 worth consideration. This impressive hand-held scanner can also read codes from the ABS and SRS systems and give access to all 10 modes of the OBD2 protocol.
One thing to note is that its bidirectional control is more limited than other options on the list. You can use it to run EVAP leak tests and other component tests supported by OBD2, but it can’t perform active tests on other systems. Certain vehicles also won’t support active testing, so you’ll want to check compatibility before deciding.
With that said, the diagnostic compatibility of Autel AL619 is broad, with coverage for more than 80 manufacturers worldwide. If you want a bidirectional scan tool that’s both a great value and easy to use, this is an excellent option.
The low price and wide vehicle compatibility of the Autel AL619 Bidirectional Diagnostic Tool make it the best bidirectional scan tool for beginning DIYers.
- Full OBD2 diagnostic modes
- Reads and clears codes from the engine, ABS, and SRS
- Fast access option for smog checks and other OBD2 data
- Supports more than 80 brands from US, Europe, and Asia
- Free software updates for life
- Most affordable bidirectional scan tool option
- Bidirectional control limited to OBD2 component tests
- No repair or maintenance functions
LAUNCH X431 V PRO Bidirectional Scan Tool
The LAUNCH X431 V Pro includes all-system diagnostics, active testing for all on-board components, and more than 30 reset and repair features. You can use it to make new keys, code injectors, bleed the ABS, or anything else you can think of related to your vehicle.
Even more impressive, X431 V Pro is lighter and more compact than the V+, weighing about 2 pounds less, so it’s easier to carry around. The 8” touchscreen tablet is still easy to read and navigate. It even includes a camera on the back, giving you a visual assessment of components in hard to see areas.
You’re probably wondering—what’s the catch? Mainly that the LAUNCH X431 V Pro has more limited vehicle compatibility. It won’t work with heavy trucks, first of all. The compatibility of its service functions is also more limited compared to the LAUNCH X431 V+. That’s why we call it a better choice for advanced DIYers than professionals.
The LAUNCH X431 V PRO Bidirectional Scan Tool matches the functionality of the V+ at a lower cost, though its more limited compatibility may be an issue for professional mechanics.
- Bi-directional control and data reading available for all systems
- Includes over 30 reset and programming functions
- Intuitive Android 7.1 operating system
- Supports both online and offline coding
- Lightweight and compact design
- Built-in 5 megapixel rear camera
- Not compatible with heavy-duty trucks
- Updates require a paid subscription after 2 years
Autel MaxiPRO MP808TS Bi Directional Scanner
The Autel MP808TS combines the diagnostic power of the DS808 with the TPMS functionality of the TS601. This gives you a tool to diagnose and repair nearly any vehicle system, with fast and accurate data you can trust.
From a design standpoint, the touchscreen tablet of the Autel MP808TS is similar to other professional-level tools. It’s intuitive for mechanics, though it may be overwhelming to beginners. Among its helpful features is Bluetooth connectivity, which frees you from the passenger seat while making diagnostics and enables better updates.
The only potential drawback of the Autel MP808TS from a professional standpoint is that all vehicle types don’t universally support its bidirectional control. However, it does have wide compatibility for its all-system diagnosis and TPMS features, with support for more than 80 manufacturers from the US, Europe, and Asia.
With full TPMS functionality and advanced diagnostic power, the Autel MaxiPRO MP808TS Bi Directional Scanner is a tool suitable for repair professionals.
- Fast, accurate diagnosis of all vehicle systems
- Includes advanced TPMS diagnostics and testing
- 30+ service functions, including ABS bleed and SAS calibration
- Full Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity
- Built-in data manager for storing, reviewing, and printing files
- 12-month warranty coverage with free lifetime updates
- Active testing isn’t supported on all vehicles
- No included adapters for non-standard diagnostic ports
Autel MS906 Bi-Directional Scan Tool
The 6-core processor used in the Autel MaxiSys MS906 is up to 50% faster than other scan tools. It also ensures real-time live data readings are as accurate as possible. You can take those data readings from any system in the vehicle, and its bidirectional testing capabilities are equally comprehensive.
The Autel MS906 also has more service functions than other tools. You can calibrate a range of sensors, relearn the idle or crankshaft position, and much more. Besides, it has ECU coding capabilities, so you can use it to tune engines, make new keys, and perform other dealer-level repairs and maintenance.
Like other Autel scanners, the MS906 includes a data manager for storing data and a Wi-Fi connection for updating and printing. It also has wide compatibility, with diagnostic coverage for any OBD2-compliant vehicle. Our only complaint against the Autel MS906 is its cost. Not only is it a higher initial investment, but you’ll also have to pay for updates after the first year.
With a faster processor and more service functions than most bidirectional scan tools, the Autel MS906 Bi-Directional Scan Tool is designed with professional mechanics in mind.
- Full system diagnosis and active testing
- Exynos 5260 processor reads data faster
- 30+ service and reset functions
- Capable of coding the ECU
- Free software updates through Wi-Fi
- Global coverage for OBD2 functions
- Higher cost than other scan tools
- Updates are expensive after first year ($500/year)
INNOVA CarScan Pro 5610 Bi Directional Scanner
The INNOVA CarScan Pro 5610 reads data and codes from the 4 major systems (engine, transmission, ABS, and SRS). Along with that, you can read sensor data from the TPMS. Its bidirectional control extends slightly, allowing you to manually control the EBP system, clutch, and a wide range of other components.
It also includes the service functions most used by home mechanics. Incredibly helpful is its support for battery tests and reset, which is supported for hybrid batteries and traditional styles. It can also regenerate the DPF, reset the steering angle, and perform other relearn functions for many vehicles. Keep in mind the support for these features varies and won’t be available for all vehicles.
The design of the INNOVA 5610 makes it an ideal choice for home mechanics. It’s easy to use, with helpful features like an at-a-glance smog check that everyday drivers will appreciate. You’ll even get repair suggestions tailored to your vehicle through the RepairSolutions 2 app.
The INNOVA CarScan Pro 5610 Bi Directional Scanner is an ideal choice for DIYers, with a wide range of functions and a user-friendly design.
- 4-system diagnosis with TPMS data
- BMS functions supported for both traditional and hybrid batteries
- Service functions including ABS bleeding and EPB retracting
- 3LED display for checking emissions quickly
- Easy to navigate with helpful hotkeys
- Certified repair suggestions through RepairSolutions 2 app
- Compatible with both OBD2 and OBD1 vehicles
- OBD1 diagnostics require an adapter (not included)
- Support for service functions isn’t universal
FOXWELL NT510 Elite Bi Directional OBD2 Scan Tool
FOXWELL NT510 Elite is a great affordable bidirectional scan tool. It can read codes and data from all the major systems and allows you to take manual control of sensors, actuators, and other electronic components. Since it also includes oil reset, it’s a great way to make repairs and turn off any dash warning light.
Along with this, you’ll get a good array of service functions. You can use it to register a new battery, bleed the brakes after repairs, or make adjustments to the idle speed or throttle body. While it stops short of programming and coding functions, that’s still a lot of power for the price.
The catch is it’s not compatible with all vehicles. These advanced features will only work on vehicles made by BMW, Rolls Royce, or Mini. For any other vehicle, it will only perform basic OBD2 functions. Still, it’s a smart buy if you own a car made by one of those manufacturers.
Owners of BMW, Rolls Royce, or Mini vehicles will get the most bang for their buck with the FOXWELL NT510 Elite Bi Directional OBD2 Scan Tool.
- Read and clear codes from all major systems
- Supports bi-directional testing for electronic components
- Includes service functions for 8 systems
- Allows calibration, configuration, and adaptation of components
- Updates are free for life
- Limited compatibility (BMW, Mini, and Rolls Royce only)
- No coding capabilities
FOXWELL NT630 Plus Bi-Directional Scan Tool
Another affordable bidirectional scan tool, the FOXWELL NT630 Plus is a powerful hand-held scanner, first and foremost. It reads and clears fault codes from 4 vehicle systems, and shows live data from associated sensor modules. Best of all, it will do so for most vehicles on the road. You can run OBD2 diagnostics on any car, truck, or SUV compliant with those protocols, and ABS/SRS codes and data are supported for more than 60 manufacturers.
Where the FOXWELL NT630 Plus shines is its advanced diagnosis and repair features for the ABS and SRS systems. It offers active testing of switches, actuators, and other manual components in these systems, first of all.
Along with that, you’ll get helpful maintenance features like ABS bleeding that are relatively rare on scan tools at this price point. If you’re looking for an affordable bidirectional scan tool, the FOXWELL NT630 Plus is your top option.
To diagnose and repair ABS/SRS issues, the FOXWELL NT630 Plus Bi-Directional Scan Tool gets the job done on a budget.
- Professional 4-system diagnosis (engine, ABS, SRS, SAS)
- Includes maintenance functions like ABS bleeding and SAS calibration
- Wide vehicle compatibility (SAS/ABS coverage for 60+ models)
- Easy to update through FoxAssist app
- Excellent value
- SAS calibration not offered for all compatible vehicles
- Manual control is limited to the ABS
Recommendation: Top 3 Bi-directional Scanners
For professional mechanics, the LAUNCH X431 V+ is the best bidirectional automotive scan tool you can buy. It has the full functionality a professional needs, including advanced coding capabilities and full-system active testing.
Home mechanics will want to look for a tool more in the mid-range price point. Both the Autel MP808K and the LAUNCH X431 DIAGUN V are excellent options, with a plethora of service functions, all-system diagnosis, and included adapters, so they work with more vehicles. Which one is right for you will depend on your vehicle’s compatibility and which one offers the most features for your car or truck.
❓ What is bidirectional control?
💡 Also called “active testing”, means that the tool can both send and receive information. Many scan tools only receive data but can’t request information or send commands to the engine. A bidirectional automotive scanner can conduct this kind of 2-way conversation with your car or truck.
❓ Is bidirectional control the same thing as ECU programming?
💡 No. The process of coding or programming the ECU changes the parameters or settings of the engine computer. With active testing, you’re taking temporary manual control of a test, actuator, or other components, not making any permanent changes.
❓ How can I check whether a bidirectional scanner is compatible with my vehicle?
💡 The easiest way is to reach out to the manufacturer via e-mail address. Some companies have a self-serve compatibility checker online, such as the INNOVA compatibility checker, which can be a faster way to get that information.
❓ Do I need to register or update these bidirectional scan tools before I use them?
💡 No. All of these tools are designed to be used right out of the box. You will need to register your tool to download any associated apps, like FoxAssist or RepairSolutions2, but you can start diagnosing issues as soon as you receive them.
❓ How can I update my bidirectional automotive scan tool?
💡 The specific process differs between manufacturers, so your first step should be to check the manual that came with your tool.
With wired scanners, you’ll typically need to connect the device to a PC using a USB cable. After you download the update onto the PC from the company’s website, the device will prompt you to install it. Wireless scanners can often be updated directly through the device as long as you’re in the range of a Wi-Fi network.
Choosing a bidirectional scan tool doesn’t have to be a complicated process. Start by figuring out which features you need, then check which tools offer those for your vehicle. Once you see what these bidirectional scanners can accomplish, you’ll be glad you decided to add one to your automotive diagnostic arsenal.