Topdon Vs Autel

I’m a mechanic for over twenty-five years and I’ve been using OBD code readers for most of my professional career. I like to think I know a good model from a complete lemon. Some of the early models were clunky bits of kit, it’s hard to believe how small yet powerful the latest generation readers are. 

Both the Topdon and Autel OBD code readers have almost identical functionality. The Topdon code reader is easier to use, less expensive, and is the perfect size tool for the glove box of a car.

In this post, you’ll learn a little more about both the Topdon and the Autel and why I think the Topdon is better suited to most DIYers.

Topdon OBD Features

The Topdon does exactly what you expect a code reader to do, it reads and clears fault codes. But there are few other features I wasn’t expecting to find on a code reader at this price point.

Some of the features include I/M readiness, Live data stream, Freeze frame data, VIN lookup, and Fault code lookup.

  • I/M readiness – Inspection and maintenance readiness runs emission system checks and quickly diagnoses system health. Checks O2 sensors performance, O2 sensor heated circuits, EGR valves.
  • Live Data – Live data is a really neat feature, helps the mechanic track problems in real time. Observing data such as MAF readings, Baro, Fuel trims, Oxygen sensor readings can help a techie figure out poor engine performance when no check engine light is present.
  • Freeze Frame – Freeze frame feature allows the techie access a snapshot of the engine’s vitals when a fault occurs. This type feature can save a ton of time especially when chasing an intermittent problem.
  • O2 Sensor Test – Oxygen sensors are crucial to how an engine performs a slow sensor will cause poor performance, emission issues and poor gas mileage. Checking sensor health is easy with the O2 sensor test feature.
  • EVAP test – If your vehicle supports this test the Topdon has you covered. Evap leaks are a common problem and an emission failure. 
  • Fault code lookup – Look up feature allows the user to gather more detail about the fault code logged.
  • Vin look up – Checks the vin of your vehicle, useful in all sorts of occasions, from ordering parts to pre purchase vin match check.

Ease of use

The little Topdon is super easy to use, it’s plug and play. Plugging it into the OBD port with the ignition on powers it up. Less is more, with just four control buttons it’s easy to navigate through the menu. 

On startup you are offered four options: Diagnose, Lookup, Setup, or Help.

Inside the diagnose option – is the business end of diagnosing your car’s PCM. At the very top of this menu, you’ll find “Read codes” and below that “Clear codes”. These are the two most commonly used functions. 

But this little tool has a ton of other features to explore. Further down the diagnoses menu, you’ll find other great features like I/M readiness, Datastream Freeze frame, etc.

Functionality

The Topdon has all a DIY mechanic needs to make emission system health checks, interrogate check engine lights.

The features that are most useful include the cylinder misfire detector, the fuel trims, Oxygen sensor performance, Throttle position, Coolant temperature, MAF sensor readings, Baro readings, etc.

Sum up

The Topdon may be small but it’s powerful. It’s the correct code reader for the DIYer, it’s size, price point, functionality, and ease of use mean it is the perfect tool for the glove box.

Autel OBD Features

I’ve used Autel products for years and they are durable. The Al419 has pretty much the same functionality as the little Topdon but in bulkier packaging and with more buttons. More buttons mean it’s not quite as easy to navigate.

My Al419 is a few years old now and seems a little clunky when compared to the Topdon. I like the sturdiness of the Autel which for me is important, I use a code reader many times a day.

The screen is larger, but then the whole tool is larger and defo not a tool you can practically store in the glovebox. But to be fair to the Autel, I believe it’s aimed at a more regular user and that’s why it’s bulkier.

Ease of use

The Autel has a graphing function and also sports a port to connect a printer. Useful if you need printouts, but I have never used either feature. The graph function is not really useful as the screen is too small to catch glitching. 

It’s not a difficult tool to use and mine has performed well, I have no complaints.

Sum up

The Autel is strong, if not a little clunky. I like the durability though, and I’ve dropped mine more than once. I use it in the workshop to run a fast diagnostic test on engines. The larger computers in the workshop have a ton more functionality but are obviously bulky.

If I could change anything about the Autel, I would make it a little smaller. The Autel is a good tool, but not entirely suited to the DIYer mechanic.

How To Use A Code Reader

Using a code reader is easy. Code readers have gotten smaller, more powerful, and easier to use. Early code readers were huge black boxes, with small screens. They were slower than a trickle and required navigating a ton of menus just to read codes. Horrible!

Today they are plug and play and are powered by the cars onboard the OBD port power supply. If you don’t have power in your code reader, check out this post “OBD won’t turn on”.

So here’s how you use a code reader, in six easy steps:

  1. Locate the OBD port
  2. Plug in the Code reader
  3. Select the “Diagnoses” menu
  4. Now select the “Read codes” menu
  5. Press “OK”
  6. Read codes

To clear codes, the process is similar:

  1. Locate the OBD port
  2. Plug in the Code reader
  3. Select the “Diagnoses” menu
  4. Now select the “Clear codes” menu
  5. Press “OK”

Check out price and delivery of the mighty Topdon ArtiLink 300 right here on Amazon.com.