The Ancel AD310 Is a Solid OBDII Scan Tool for Beginners on a Budget

A basic tool for basic needs, this scanner is a no-brainer if you don’t already have one.

byTony Markovich|
Tools photo

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The check engine light is both a friend and foe. For those who take their cars to the shop for repairs, it’s a symbol of impending treachery and rising credit card bills. But to those who shoulder the work of fixing their own cars, it’s a helpful alert that something on the vehicle has disturbed the peace. An OBD scanner works in tandem with that little light and can bring some joy in demystifying the issue or issues. 

Not everybody knows what an OBDII scanner is, what it is used for, or how to use one, so the prospect of buying this piece of technology can be frustrating and intimidating. There are hundreds of different versions out there, all of which seemingly do different things, and it’s tough to know which one to buy. Do you dive in and get the $200 unit? Is the cheap one good enough? Does brand name matter? Do I need color graphs? Do I need to relearn calculus? Should I learn to code?

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As part of our efforts to do more real-world hands-on testing of the products that live in our cars and garages, The Drive's Guides & Gear editors will be reviewing numerous OBDII scanners and sharing our thoughts on how they work and which ones do that work the best. Our first foray into the scanners starts with the Ancel AD310, an extremely basic unit with a low cost of entry. Let’s see what this thing is all about.

Ancel AD310 Specifications

  • Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Dimensions: Roughly 5 inches tall by 3 inches wide
  • Screen: 2 ¼-inch LCD
  • Included in packaging: User manual and diagnostic tool
  • Case: Not included
  • Corded or wireless: 31-inch long cord
  • Available ports: Mini-B USB
  • Computer wire: Not included
  • Smartphone integration: No
  • Compatible with: “Most 1996 U.S.-based, 2000 Europe-based and Asian cars, and newer OBD II and Canadian domestic or import vehicles.” 
  • Live data: Yes

Our Initial Reactions to the AD310

Good: Affordable price, intuitive interface, code history, sturdy cord, quick to connect/read codes

Bad: Old and unattractive black and white graphics and text, slightly slow to scroll, Mini-B USB port, feels cheap

Upon first looks at the hard-wrapped plastic packaging of the Ancel, I expected one of those annoying struggles to cut off the side or the top, leaving jagged edges and cut fingers, but the packaging is designed to pop open and lock closed with ease. It’s not sealed at all. And because it doesn’t come with a case, I could see some people keeping the plastic and using it as safe storage. 

In hand, the Ancel feels light and cheap, as you’d expect from a $40 plastic device. Its entire makeup is a few rubber buttons, the top and bottom plastic body pieces, the circuit board inside, and four screws holding it together. Durability is something we expect from our tools, and this feels like something that would break if you dropped it too much. 

It does have some texture to the body to prevent slippage, but I can’t imagine this unit would hold up too well in a box of heavy metal tools. It’d need storage elsewhere. Contrasting the hollow feel of the plastic, the thick insulated wiring feels sturdy and durable. Save for a cut in the cord or loose wiring at the base of the body or plug, this cord feels like it will last for a long time. 

Getting After It With the AD310

Getting started with the Ancel is extremely simple and straightforward. After you plug it in with the car off, it prompts you to “Turn the ignition on” and to “Press any key to continue.” Once you turn the car on and press any key, it moves to a menu list of Diagnostics, Language, Contrast, and Unit of Measure. 

After clicking the diagnostics option, it took about 10 seconds to link with the vehicle and scan for codes. The next menu that pops up, System Status, shows Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL) Status, Codes Found, Monitors N/A (not applicable), Monitors OK, and Monitors INC (incomplete). 

Once you click past the System Status menu, it brings up the Diagnostic Menu, which has options for Read Codes, Erase Codes, Live Data, View Freeze Frame, I/M Readiness, and Vehicle Info. If you click into Live Data, it brings up the following:

  • DTC_CNT: Diagnostic Trouble Codes Continued
  • FuelSYS1: Fuel System 1
  • FuelSYS2: Fuel System 2
  • LOAD_PCT (%): Load Percentage
  • ECT (degrees Fahrenheit): Engine Coolant Temperature
  • SHRTFT1 (%): Short Term Fuel Trim
  • LONGFT1 (%): Long Term Fuel Trim
  • MAP (inHg): Manifold Absolute Pressure
  • RPM (/min): Revolutions Per Minute
  • VSS (mph): Vehicle Speed Sensor
  • SPARKADV: Spark Advance
  • IAT (degrees Fahrenheit): Intake Air Temperature
  • TP (%): Throttle Position
  • O2S B1 S12--B2S----: Oxygen Sensors, Bank 1 and 2
  • O2 B1 S1 (V): Oxygen Sensor, Bank 1, Sensor 1, V style engine
  • SHRTFT B1 S1 (%): Short Term Fuel Trim Bank 1, Sensor 1
  • O2 B1 S2 (V): Oxygen Sensors, Bank 1, Sensor 2, V Style Engine

What’s Great About the AD310

I can’t start anywhere else but the price, which is cheap and affordable. At the time of purchase, it was listed for $34.99 with an extra 5 percent discount available. Just a decade ago, an OBD scanner was a purchase you had to plan for, as they likely were to cost $100 or more, no small expense. You still can’t get something this cheap from certain well-known brands like Innova, but today, these diagnostic tools are so affordable that literally every person who owns a car should own one. There are now dozens to choose from at this price point, and for those who have never purchased one, the AD310 is a solid place to start. 

The AD310 is set up in a manner that inexperienced teens and battered old wrenchers alike could figure it out. You have two up and down buttons, an exit button, and an enter button. Inside certain menus, the enter button means go forward while the exit button means go back. Because it lacks the complex capabilities of pricier upper-tier scanners, it’s nearly impossible to get lost within the menus, and everything intuitively feeds into or out of one another. The only thing that is unclear in the menus is when there might be additional text to scroll through beyond the initial list seen within the small screen.

Once again comparing to the OBD readers of the past, the user previously would have to find the code on the OBD scanner, then go to a massive booklet or the internet to look that code up and find out what it means. That’s no longer the case. Even scanners like this AD310 explain what the code is and what it means right there within the reader. That’s extremely helpful when working in a garage that has no internet or signal or is far away from access. Without the interruption of needing to look up the code, you can get right into the work. 

Further encouraging in-the-moment readings and diagnosis, the AD310 does provide the option for live data. It doesn’t graph the information out, like some other competitors, but it does have the ability to display live data in the form of letters and numbers.

What’s Not About the AD310

Despite what the AD310’s material makeup suggests about its durability (or lack thereof), I only had the AD310 for a few weeks, so I really can't comment on how it actually holds up to tough usage. I can, however, complain about things I noticed and experienced while I ran it through its paces.

The most noticeable difference between the AD310 and competitors at a similar price point is the screen quality. The AD310 has a 128 by 64 pixel LCD screen that displays blackish-blue text over a white background. For comparison, the Autel AutoLink AL319, the Motopower MP69035, the OBDScar OS601 and several other options feature color screens with better definition for similar costs. This in no way affects how the machine operates, and it’s still very easy to read, but some people might prefer a device that doesn’t have TI-83 vibes.

What does affect using the AD310 is its operating speed, which also seems slightly dated. When quickly scrolling through the menu options, the AD310 lagged a second or two, which forced a brief pause before continuing to scroll. You’d also be stuck in your slow scroll looking for ways to check for ABS, SRS, transmission, or other codes, as the AD310 does not support these features, so you’d have to upgrade to get that into the mix.

The final complaint about the AD310 is that Ancel went the Apple route and did not include a cord for the Mini-B USB port at the bottom. Oddly, there’s not even a mention of the fact that it can plug into the computer in any of the listed features on the packaging or in the owner’s manual. The feature is there, but the company wants to act like it doesn’t exist for some reason. To make matters worse, the plug is an outdated Mini-B USB type—so outdated, in fact, that I couldn’t even find a cord that I already owned to test it out.

Our Verdict on the AD310

With its low price point, there’s little to no risk in buying the Ancel AD310. If the main mission a customer has in mind when purchasing an OBD2 scanner is reading, viewing, and deleting codes, then this does all of those with ease and clarity. Plus, it offers live data, EVAP leak testing, vehicle data, and a few other features that add value. 

However, low prices can still be beaten. There are several competitors, like the aforementioned Autel AutoLink AL319, Motopower MP69035, and OBDScar OS601, available that offer more or nicer features for similar money, or the same features for a lower price. We have yet to test those units, but to go back to what I said at the beginning, at this price point you're paying for wires, a circuit board, a plastic case and a screen. There's not much to these things. 

After spending time with the AD310, I couldn’t help but think of it as one of those modern brick phones. It does the job, does it well, and doesn’t have any of the extras to distract from its core purpose. And thankfully, the Ancel AD310 doesn’t require any subscriptions or monthly fees. 

With its low price point, there’s little to no risk of buying the Ancel AD310.

FAQs About the Ancel AD310

You’ve got questions, The Drive has answers!

Q. Does the Ancel AD310 require batteries?

A. No, the AD310 plugs directly into the car and pulls power that way.

Q. So how do you clear codes with the Ancel AD310?

A. Once you connect to the Ancel, you will need to run the diagnostic on your car. Once that is complete, you will see a menu to read codes or delete codes. Press Delete Codes, and they will temporarily clear. If you do this without fixing the problem, however, it might just return. 

Q. Will the check engine light reset itself?

A. Once you clear the codes with the OBDII diagnostic tool, the check engine light should turn off. But again, it will come back on if you don't address the underlying issue.

Q. Why is my code reader not working?

A. What did you do? Honestly, though, there are a number of reasons why your reader is not working. You might have a blown fuse, the reader might not be plugged in all the way, the reader’s wiring could be damaged or broken, the actual reader might be broken, or your vehicle might not be compatible with the reader. 

Q. Are cordless OBDII readers better than corded?

A. Better is a subjective term depending on the wants and needs of the user, but in general, there is no major advantage of a cordless OBDII scanner other than the fact that it is cordless. Everything you find in a cordless tool, you can also find with a corded tool. However, some people might prefer the ease of a cordless tool due to its pairing with a smartphone.

Q. Where does the AD310 sit in Ancel’s lineup?

A. The bottom end of Ancel’s handheld OBDII scanners start AD210, AD310, AD410, so the AD310 is nearly the cheapest variant you can get from Ancel. The AD210, which is about $10 cheaper, is an even more basic version of the AD310, while the AD410 is about $10-15 more expensive and does bring a color screen, graphing, and more advanced features.

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