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Borescopes are also known as endoscopes, and while they may not be your favorite thing, early detection and prevention are the best tools we have in fighting all sorts of ailments. Including your car. What is essentially a camera on a stick, a borescope lets you see into places your head can't fit, and they are invaluable for working on cars, but also have countless uses around the house.
Although there are literally hundreds of devices on the market, these two will do everything you need. You can spend far more money and not really get any more utility than what you see here. The big question is, do you need a screen or do you want to use a device you already have? So let's keep this one simple and take a look at our two best choices, that definitely fit any budget.
DEPSTECH 5.0mp USB Endoscope
- Waterproof 0.3 inch camera with 16 foot lead will get just about anywhere
- Great image quality and LED lights are dimmable
- When you need one, you need one and it'll be the best sub-$50 tool you ever bought
- It works with Apple Laptops but not iOS devices
- Comes with a magnet, hook and mirror attachment that I wouldn't trust inside an engine
Teslong 3 Lens Borescope with 5" Monitor
- Great picture and video quality from any of the 3 cameras
- Rechargeable battery gives 5 hours of operation
- Entire unit is IP67 rated for water resistance and screen is hardened glass
- The screen can be tough to see in direct sunlight
- The probe lead can be tough to feed around extra tight radius bends
I've tested a handful of borescopes and done research on dozens, at the time of writing this, these are the two best choices that will do 95% of what units costing ten times more will accomplish. Of course, new products are constantly hitting the market, so I reserve the right to change my mind and this will be updated if I do find better products. If you're a company that makes borescopes, and you feel yours is better, reach out.
My first priority when assembling this guide was functionality. Does the Borescope do what the average mechanic or home DIYer is trying to accomplish? Both tools you see here will give you eyes in places your head won't reach. These will get you inside your engine so you can check for carbon build-up on valves, get down a spark plug hole to check your pistons, or let you get into places to see why you can't get the wrench on the head of the bolt that's on top of the transmission. These will also work around the house for checking dryer vents, looking into drains, or trying to find wiring inside walls. Budget was also a big concern and both of these are well within the range of what DIY tools go for.
Best Borescopes: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: DEPSTECH 5.0mp USB Endoscope
This is a lifesaver tool that costs less than a tank of gas
Not only can you see live images but you can take photos and video
The adjustable LED lights along with a quality camera provide good images
It won't work with an iPhone
The focal range of the camera is less than 6 inches
Back when I first started working on cars, the price of borescopes made them unattainable for home mechanics. Then, even professional mechanics had to try and find used equipment from the medical industry – and that option was unappealing for obvious reasons. A decade later and pro mechanics could justify having a scope in their box thanks to pricing in the hundreds of dollars instead of thousands. Now that units like this are available for under 50 bucks, everyone should have one. Even if it's to check brake pads without removing a wheel.
This USB endoscope from DEPSTECH has allowed our testers to check piston crowns, as you can see in the GIF, as well as look for countless dropped fasteners that didn't hit the floor. It connects to Android phones, but not iPhones, which may be this thing's big flaw. It will still work with your laptop, connected through USB-A, -C, or Micro.
The image quality is great. The dimmable lights and the focal length are set up for close work—6 inches or less—so don't expect to be able to slip this under a door and look around a room. But, when used as designed, it will give you good live footage as well as let you record video or take still images. The stiffness of the lead is always going to be a compromise between not being flexible enough to get around corners to so flexible, that it bunches up on itself when getting pushed in. This is pretty good, but it's not getting from your throttle body to the top of an intake valve.
Best With Screen: Teslong Triple Lens Borescope with 5inch HD Monitor
Three cameras all with their own lighting and different focal lengths
Rechargeable battery provides 5 hours of use and microSD card for storage
Great image quality and the 3 cameras give versatility to look around
Replacing the probe will cost you more than the entire USB scope above
The screen tends to wash out in direct sunlight
This borescope from Teslong does pretty much everything you will ever need and at a price comparable to most power tools. The NTS500 uses three cameras on the tip of the 16.5-foot lead. The straight-ahead camera with a depth of field of 1.2. - 4.0 inches with 6 dimmable LED lights. One side camera has a depth of field of 0. - 2.4 inches and the other, 0.6 - 1.2 inches and both use single LEDs. You view the footage on a high-quality, 5-inch screen, that could be brighter for outside use.
The whole thing is IP67 water-resistant and the probe can be submerged, if needed. The unit is rechargeable with a battery life of about 5 hours. With a micro SD card for recording images and video, the whole thing is a standalone unit that can be taken and used anywhere, it even comes with a hard case.
Yes, you can spend a lot more on a borescope, especially if you start looking at well-known tool brands. You might get a better warranty, but you likely won't get better, and in a lot of cases, as good of performance. As with all electronics, these are likely to get better every few years, so something in the price range of a couple of hundred dollars, like this one, won't be painful to replace when the next generation comes out.
Our Verdict on the Best Borescopes
Having hands-on experience made our choice pretty easy for this buyer's guide. The DEPSTECH 5.0MP USB Endoscope did everything we expected it to do at a price I never would have dreamed of not that long ago. If I were looking for an all-in-one solution with a screen and self-contained memory, the Teslong Triple Lens Borescope is an obvious choice. But like I said above, in electronics like these the market changes rapidly. So if you check back in a few months, there may be better even better choices.
You've got questions, The Drive has answers
What's the difference between a borescope and an endoscope?
They are the same thing. The term endoscope is used in both medical and industrial fields, while borescope is just the latter.
What is the main use of a borescope?
Short answer, a borescope allows you to see in places your head won't fit. It's a camera on a long flexible lead that can be fed into tight spaces.
How do I choose a borescope?
Decide if you need a screen or want to use a separate device. Then, how far away are you trying to see? There's a big difference between looking at pistons through a spark plug hole and trying to get down a three-story dryer vent.