How to Use Actron

by Natasha Parks

Ohio-based Actron manufactures and sells vehicle scanning equipment. Actron's auto code scanner allows you to connect it to your home computer to diagnose a variety of problems with your vehicle. The scanner displays a series of fault codes identifying problems. As of November 2010, the scanners cost between $150 and $300, depending on whether you buy a basic model or upgraded Pro Scanner.

Connect the scanner to your vehicle. Locate the OBD II connector under the steering column, remove the cover, and turn the ignition to the "ON" position, but do not start the engine. Plug the OBD II connector into the vehicle connector.

Scan the required component. The tool automatically reads codes, and monitors and displays your vehicle's data. When this is complete, press the "BACK" key to return to the main screen.

Retrieve the list of diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) and code definitions from the vehicle's computer. To read the data, press and hold the "READ" key for two seconds, then release it or select the "READ CODES" option from the main menu. If a DTC is reported, there is a potential malfunction in that part of the vehicle. Pending DTCs do not always indicate failure of the component. They show up when a non-persistent problem has been detected.

Erase codes from the vehicle computer by selecting the "ERASE" option. Confirm your choice by selecting "YES," or decline by selecting "NO." If a problem persists after erasing its code from the vehicle, the problem has not been fixed.

Freeze-frame live timing to pinpoint your vehicle's problem. Selecting this option from the menu allows you to display a snapshot of the operating conditions at the time the diagnosis was created.

Play back the timing to scrutinize the data and create a clear diagnosis. You can also find out about the emissions data by selecting "VIEW DATA." This gives details about switches, sensors, solenoids and relays.

Connect the device to the Internet or your home computer to record the results of scans and to download new scanning suites from the manufacturer.


  • check The Actron scanner operates in two languages: English and Spanish.
  • check Vehicles from North America, Asia and Europe produced from 1996 to present are compatible.


  • close Uncorrected, undetected vehicle malfunctions can cause serious injury. Actron tools may not detect every fault with your vehicle. Please read the Actron user manual before using the tool.
  • close Never leave tools on the battery of the vehicle. Battery acid is dangerous and causes burns.
  • close Do not smoke near the vehicle during testing. Gasoline and petrol vapors are explosive.
  • close Stop using the tool if it has been affected by internal moisture. Internal short circuits could cause fire.
  • close Wear safety goggles during operation.
  • close Ensure the vehicle to be tested is in park mode (automatic transmission) or neutral (manual transmission). Engage the hand brake. An unattended, moving vehicle can cause damage to passers-by and property.

Items you will need

About the Author

Natasha Parks has been a professional writer since 2001 with work published online and in book format for "Thomson Reuters," the "World Patents Index" and Her areas of expertise are varied and include physics, biology, genetics and computing, mental health, relationships, family crises and career development. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Biophysics from King's College, London.

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  • photo_camera pedometer with tape measure image by Andrew Brown from