It's always going to show up in the worst possible place at the worst possible time. Like the end of a long trail. The little yellow icon on the dash that means one thing: Something is wrong under your hood. Or with your gas tank. Or with one of a hundred other vehicle sensors. There are two things you can do to find out what the problem is: Go to your dealer and spend an hour's labor to find out or get your own check engine scanner and figure out the problem on your own. We're picking the latter, especially if you're still on the trail.

An OBDII scanner - named for the On Board Diagnostic II protocol used on every vehicle in the U.S. since 1996 - taps into the secret computer network in your Jeep. Every bit of information from air intake temperature to water pump action is sent along that network for the ECU to figure out and adjust as needed.

The right scanner can read all of that data along with standardized Diagnostic Trouble Codes. The codes that set off your check engine light. The best scanners can go beyond standardized codes to read OEM-specific codes and give you even more information. That, of course, costs more money. That’s why we asked the JeepForum.com community to tell us what OBDII scanners are worth investing in. We’ve highlighted some of your choices below.

Lead photo courtesy of LightFoot Studios/Shutterstock


1. Foxwell NT530
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The NT530 is a dual-direction scanner that can communicate with a wide range of vehicle sensors and modules. Foxwell says that it offers OEM levels of connectivity and diagnosis to help you narrow down exactly what the problem with your Jeep is and get it fixed. While the NT530 can support basic functions on all vehicles, it comes with one software module that is manufacturer-specific. You can pick which module, so for use on your Jeep you'd pick the Chrysler software. That gives you enhanced access to the modules and systems of your Jeep. Foxwell offers lifetime updates for no extra charge as well, making sure that if you upgrade to a newer car, then you can still handle all of your diagnostic needs.

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2. ScanGauge II
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ScanGauge II is more than just a diagnostic tool, it's also an add-on gauge pod for your Jeep. It works on all OBDII cars, so 1996 and newer, and like the rest of these scanners it will give you diagnostic information including showing and clearing trouble codes including both active and pending codes. But what it offers that the rest don't is the ability to show multiple trip computers, performance monitors, and other gauges on a convenient small screen. The backlit display can show you RPM and speed. It can also tell you intake air temperatures, fuel pressure, ignition timing, water temperature, oil temp, and more. Or to help you save fuel, you can see your instantaneous fuel consumption reading, average fuel economy, and even display a cost per mile based on your last tank of fuel. More vehicle-specific gauges are available, so there's a boost gauge on tap if you want to see fun data like that.

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3. Autel AutoLink AL329
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Autel makes professional-level diagnostic computer systems. Thank you to Skiteach, a Jeepforum.com community member for this suggestion. Watch any YouTube mechanic show, and this is probably the system you'll see in use. While the company makes very high-end systems, it also makes some that are much more accessible for the average DIY mechanic. That includes stand-alone tools, handy if you don't want to deal with Bluetooth or wireless phone connections and apps, and instead just want to plug and know. Its MaxiSys models can do nearly anything the factory computer can do, even reprogram advanced driver assistance systems, but that comes at a cost. For a more DIY-friendly option, we like the AL329. It has a color screen with an easy-to-read display. The 329 can retrieve generic and manufacturer-specific codes, see emissions status, and view freeze-frame data. It doesn't have all of the bells and whistles, but it gets the basics done to help you get your Jeep running right at a very affordable price.

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4. OBDLink
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OBDLink offers a wide range of scan tools, some of which were recommended by you. We like the MX+, which offers a very fast Bluetooth radio to help you get realtime live data from your engine's computer systems. While it requires you to use your phone or a tablet, OBDLink offers a free app. More importantly, it has apps for Apple's iOS as well as Android and Windows. Many low-priced Bluetooth scanners can only talk with Android devices and won't work with your iPhone or iPad. It works with all OBDII-compatible vehicles including your Jeep, and can give you basic and manufacturer-specific codes. It also offers a three-year warranty and is safe to leave plugged into your vehicle at all times.

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5. Innova 5610
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The Innova 5610 will handle basic and manufacturer-specific trouble codes like most of our list. Because that's really the bare minimum you need from one of these scanners. The 5610 has a large color screen that makes reading data and trouble codes easy, along with the ability to watch graphs of what your Jeep is doing. It scans nearly every module of your Jeep, even tire pressure sensors. What makes it a step above, though, is that it can handle bidirectional control of modules and sensors. So just like a dealer tech, you can disable a module for testing, or even command a module like an EGR valve to open and close to help test its functionality when you're diagnosing and solving problems. It's advanced stuff, but for the more advanced home wrench, it can be extremely helpful.

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6. BlueDriver Pro
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BlueDriver Pro is another highly recommended scan tool. Like all of the scanners on our list, it can read, identify, and clear all standard OBDII trouble codes. It goes beyond that and can give you freeze frame data, a look at exactly what was happening when the trouble code was triggered. It can show you live data to let you see what every sensor is saying right now. It can also let you know if your vehicle is ready for a smog or emissions test inspection. Resetting codes makes the vehicle not ready to be tested, and it can be impossible to guess when it's completed all of the internal tests to know it's ready again. Another great feature is that it can give you a repair report for each trouble code. This report lets you know likely causes, fixes reported by other owners, and other information that helps you lock down the problem.

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