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Ordinary DIY scan tools for reading engine fault codes are usually no help when it comes to reading fault codes or doing other diagnostics on antilock brake systems. It takes special software to access the ABS diagnostics, which usually means using a factory scan tool, a high end professional scan tool, a dedicated ABS tester, or a DIY scan tool with dual capabilities to read powertrain and ABS codes.

A scan tool that can read ABS codes is necessary to identify faults that can cause the ABS warning light to turn on. A code by itself does not tell you which part needs to be replaced. Further testing is usually needed to isolate and identify the fault that is causing the problem.

Some intermittent ABS problems may not set a fault code. So if there is no code, you should not assume everything is fine. You have to check the operation of the system as well as individual components to figure out why it is not functioning normally.

Factory scan tools and high end professional scan tools have bi-directional capability that allows them to run various ABS system self-tests to help detect faults. The scan tool may also cycle the ABS solenoids to make bleeding the brakes easier. Most entry level ABS scan tools have little or no bi-directional capability and cannot run these tests.

Point by point resistance and voltage checks can help you isolate problems with or without codes, but such tests can be very time-consuming and may not always reveal a problem. Dynamic tests are also impossible with this approach because you have no means of exercising or testing the operation of the ABS solenoids and valves. Such components may show the correct voltage and resistance readings, but may not be functioning correctly. So some means of testing their function may be necessary for an accurate diagnosis. That is where a bi-directional scan tool or dedicated ABS tester can make a big difference.

Equus INNOVA Scan Tools Include ABS Capability

Equus ABS scan tool

Equus offers several scan tools with software that can access antilock brake codes. The INNOVA 3150 ABS Scan Tool is for the Do-It-Yourselfer who wants more than just a basic code reader. The tool can access OBD II codes on most 1996 and newer vehicles, import and domestic, and also has ABS diagnostic capabilities for 1996 and newer GM, Ford and Chrsler models. The INNOVA 3150 ABS Scan Tool can display, define and troubleshoot ABS fault codes for most brake light warning systems such as: ABS Solenoids, ABS Pump Motors, Brake Switches, Control Modules, Speed Sensors and more. (Visit for coverage details). The scan tool plugs into the 16-pin OBD II connector, and can also be linked to a PC to record data, and for updating. The price is under $250.

The INNOVA 3160 ABS Scan Tool is for high-end DIYers or professionals who need data stream and additional test capabilities. The 3160 includes all of the features on the 3150 plus a backlit blue screen that can display enhanced live sensor data, oxygen sensor readings and numerous other PIDs. This model sells for under $300.

The INNOVA 3160 provides enhanced Live Data views, graphs, records, and plays back live PCM data streams. It is a professional OBD2 generic scan tool for all 1996 and newer cars, light trucks, and SUVs including most domestic, Asian and European Import vehicles. The tool communicates with all OBD 2 protocols: C.A.N. (Controller Area Network), ISO 9141, J1850PWM, J1850VPW and KWP 2000 ISO 14230-4. It can also display OBD2 Freeze Frame Data and turn off the Check Engine Light, ABS warning light and SRS/Airbag warning light. The tool is tri-lingual with English, Spanish and French interface menus and definitions, and can read generic powertrain fault codes (P0, P2, P3, and U0)as well as manufacturer specific codes (P1, P3, and U1).

Actron CP9449 BrakeScan ABS Scan Tool

Actron ABS Brakescan scan tool for antilock brake diagnosis

Introduced in 2008, Actron the CP9449 BrakeScan from Actron was the first affordable scan tool for basic ABS diagnostic work. The tool sells for under $300, and is a great product for the do-it-yourselfer and for basic ABS diagnostic work. The tool covers 1996 to 2008 domestic cars (GM, Ford & Chrysler), and plugs into the OBD II connector under the dash. It reads all ABS codes for these applications, displays code definitions, can erase codes, and can be updated with future applications online. The tool does not, however, perform more advanced self-diagnostic tests which may be required to test certain ABS system components such as the solenoids and pump.

The latest version of this tool, the Actron CP9450 adds bilingual capability (English/Spanish). The tool can also display airbag (SRS) codes for most 1996 to 2008 domestic vehicles.


OTC 3416 ABS scan tool

OTC's ABS Reader II features the latest technology for servicing ABS and air bag systems. Designed for the professional automotive technician, the 3416 ABS Reader II is based on OTC's Genisys platform and comes loaded with Genisys ABS/Air Bag and Global OBD II software. The ABS software also includes system codes and data for Domestic and Asian vehicles through model year 2005 (NOTE: A 2008 update kit is now available from OTC).

The 3416 Reader II kit includes: the ABS Reader II tool; System Smart Inserts; cables and adapters necessary to support Domestic, Asian and European coverage; ScanMate ABS PC software; operations manual, and carrying case. This tool sells for around $1500 and comes with a three year warranty.

The ABS Reader II can read and erase ABS fault codes, display ABS system data (including wheel speed sensor outputs), and perform bi-directional tests (including over 900 diagnostic tests on Delco, Bosch and Teves ABS systems. You can use it to "rehome" the pistons on a Delco IV ABS system (a necessary step when bleeding the brakes), and perform a variety of ABS solenoid and relay tests.

The software that comes with this tool includes OTC's Repair-Trac Tech-Tips to help you diagnose faults, as well as OTC's ABS Pathfinder� troubleshooting tips. Domestic models covered include GM, Chrysler, and Jeep through 2004, Fords to 2005, Volvo from 1993 through 2004, Volkswagen from 1990 through 2004. Audi from 1992 through 2003, also Toyota, Lexus, Honda, Acura, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Infiniti and Isuzu to 2004/2005. Check the OTC website for the latest vehicle coverage and updates.


OTC antilock brake system and air bag scan tool

The 3762 tool was OTC's first-generation ABS reader, and was discontinued in 2005 (though you might still find a used one for sale on ebay. The 3762 was scan tool for reading ABS and Airbag codes, as well as OBD II engine codes. This tool was designed for professional technicians and body shops, and originally sold for around $1500. It covered 1996 to 2005 vehicles including most Audi, Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda, Isuzu, Jeep, Mazda, Nissan, Saturn, Toyota and VW models.

The tool displays codes, code descriptions, and data stream for most 1987 and newer ABS systems and vehicles. You can display data values and perform bi-directional tests on many ABS applications, including GM Delco IV and Delco III. That means you can activate solenoids, relays, and motors to verify proper operation.

The Air Bag/ABS scan tool also allows bi-directional testing and brake bleeding to further enhance your diagnostic capabilities. These include motor rehome test, manual and hydraulic control test, EMB test and motor test, gear tension relief, enable relay test, voltage load test, lamp test, system ID test and brake bleed.

Waekon 20480 Wheel Speed Sensor Tester for ABS Systems

Waekon wheel speed sensor tester

Got an ABS warning light and a wheel speed sensor code? The Waekon 20480 Wheel Speed Sensor Tester is a handy tool for checking wheel speed sensors. The manufacturer says you can check all four WSS sensors in less than 10 minutes, and that you can detect WSS problems that can be easily missed when using an ohmmeter. It can find shorts and opens, and erratic signals caused by bad tone rings, excessive air gaps or debris buildup on the WSS sensor tip.

This tester can be used on all foreign and domestic light duty vehicles. The tool comes with a comprehensive instruction manual, vehicle specific lookup tables, and adapters for all foreign and domestic passenger cars and light trucks. The price is under $100, and includes a 13-month warranty.

antilock brake tester More Antilock Brake Articles:

Antilock Brakes (ABS)

ABS System Application Chart (by vehicle year, make & model)

ABS Systems Come Under Fire

Pulling ABS Diagnostic Codes

Diagnosing ABS Wheel Speed Sensors

Honda Antilock Brakes

Chrysler Dodge Plymouth Minivan Bendix 10 Antilock Brakes

GM Delphi DBC-7 ABS Antilock Brakes

Jeep Bendix 9 Antilock Brakes

Kelsey-Hayes RWAL Rear Wheel Antilock Brakes

Kelsey-Hayes 4WAL Antilock Brakes

Teves Mark 20 Antilock Brakes

Electronic Stability Control



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