There are a few different ways you can get a free diagnostic test done on your car or truck.
All vehicles from 1996 and newer have an OBDII port under the dashboard that, with a scan tool, can read engine codes.
The OBDII port, along with an OBDII scan tool, is the main way to troubleshoot a vehicle and find out what problems it may be having.
Many vehicles also have built-in diagnostics for basic troubleshooting.
Below are the best options to get a free or low-cost diagnostic scan of your car or truck.
3 Ways to Get a Free Diagnostic Test for Your Car
- Auto Part Store
- Vehicles Built-in Diagnostics
- Use a Smartphone Bluetooth OBDII Dongle
Be sure to call around first, but it is common for auto part stores to do a free test as a way to bring in customers.
Auto Zone has been particularly ready to do a scan, at least in my area. Each store is likely different since they will be different employees.
Simply be sure to call the stores closest to your location before going.
For example, most Dodge vehicles will display the error codes when the key is cycled on and off three times and left in the on position.
The code will display on the dashboard, which can be looked up online.
Finding the code with the built-in diagnostics is often confusing, but with a little practice can be done.
OBDII Bluetooth dongles are very low-cost scan tools, usually less than $10-$15.
They pair with a smartphone, tablet, or laptop and display the codes as well as other features such as clearing codes.
These small OBDII adapters take all the expensive components of a classic scan-tool and let a smartphone app do all the work.
Having your own scan tool is almost a must if you plan on doing any repairs yourself.
A low-cost Bluetooth OBDII is the cheapest scan tool option available.
Standalone scan tools are also available but cost more compared to Bluetooth units.
Example Bluetooth OBDII Dongle on Amazon
OBDII OBD2 Bluetooth Car Diagnostic Scan Tool Auto OBD Scanner for Android Devices
Finding the problem with your vehicle doesn’t require an expensive scan tool with a few options to get it done free or close to it.
If you have a few dollars to spend an OBDII Bluetooth dongle is a very good option.
A vehicle’s built-in diagnostic is also good once you get used to how it works; every manufacturer has a different built-in diagnostic function.
As long as the car is still running, taking it to an auto part store and letting the employees scan it is also free.
Do you have any ideas for getting the codes on a car scanned for free? Let us know in the comments below.