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This useful scanner can solve one of the biggest car mysteries

Modern cars need modern repair tools, and when that dreaded "check engine" warning light comes on, this tool can help you get to the root of the problem.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributing Writer
Innova SDS43 car scanner
Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

There are few things that strike fear into the hearts of drivers like a "check engine" light making an appearance on your dashboard -- and with good reason, given that within the trade it's called the "money light".

While most people will take their car to a mechanic, those who are into DIY might want to have a go at a repair. Or at the very least, find out what caused the check engine light to illuminate. 

Also: You'll never guess how many tech repair tools this little bag can fit

But modern cars are complicated. They're filled with computers and communication networks, and you need high-end tools to talk to the modules and figure out what's going on.

For the past few weeks, I've been testing Innova's new SDS43 scanner, which offers high-end diagnostics for professionals and advanced home DIYers.

View at Autozone

Featuring a 4.3-inch display, and a durable drop-tested rubber build that's designed for one-handed use, the SDS43 works on vehicles from 1996 to the present, including battery electric vehicles, hybrid electric vehicles, and plug-in hybrids, which means you need one scanner for all the vehicles you're likely to encounter.

These scanners connect to the vehicle's OBD (on-board diagnostics) port

The scanner connects to the vehicle's on-board diagnostics port.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Using this scanner, you can read and clear OBD2 (on-board diagnostics), and OEM fault codes (the mechanism that sets the warning lights, although just clearing the code is unlikely to solve the problem).

Also: How to strip wires like a pro (and my must-have tools)

The scanner also gives you access to advanced diagnostics, with pre- and post-diagnostic reporting to make sure the issue at hand is actually fixed. 

The SDS43 also features an advanced array of workshop tools that can carry out routine functions, such as battery reset, EPB (electronic parking brake) reset, oil maintenance reset, TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) relearn, ABS (anti-lock braking system) bleeding, transmission reset, and more.

The Innova SDS43 is packed with features

The Innova SDS43 is packed with features.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

To help get to the root casue of the problem, the SDS43 has a detailed database of issues that can trigger a check engine light, which can be accessed through the companion app, powered by RepairSolutionsPRO. The app gives users access to a comprehensive automotive repair database with verified fixes, repair tips, parts and tools, schedule maintenance, and much more.

Also: Anker just launched its most powerful portable battery

At $320, the Innova SDS43 is competitively priced and a great way to get into advanced car diagnostics, and you can pick one up from AutoZone and O'Reilly Auto Parts

The Innova SDS43 can also chart multiple data points to speed up diagnostics

The Innova SDS43 can also chart multiple data points to speed up diagnostics.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

If you think that cost is a bit high, then maybe something like the Innova 6200P or Foxwell NT624, or even the smartphone-based BlueDriver scanner, might be a better, more affordable solution.

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And if you want even more power, then one of the best professional-grade scanners that I've used is the Launch X431 V+ Pro scanner. This tool is expensive, but it can do pretty much everything. 

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