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Actron CP9180 Review

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Review of: Actron CP9180


Reviewed by: Alex Meyer

Quality of Build

Value For Money

Ease of Use

What We Like

  • Compatible with all OBDII-compliant vehicles 1996-present
  • Easy to read backlit display
  • Diagnostic trouble code descriptions displayed with each scan

What We Don't Like

  • Small display size may be difficult to read for vision impaired users
  • Requires a Windows PC to update (cannot be synced with Apple PCs or laptops)
  • Buttons are not backlit

Every certified automotive technician and shade tree mechanic needs a reliable, pocket-sized OBD-II scanner for checking problems with as many makes and models as possible. If you work at an independent shop that services multiple types of vehicles, scanners like the Actron CP9180 are a must-have for your toolkit.  

It’s fast, easy to use and makes pulling codes, printing reports and live ECU telemetry less of a chore. Here’s some more details to consider if you think the Actron CP9180 is right for you.

Actron CP9180 Review

  • Review body
  • pros & cons
  • resources

Look and Feel

Brightly colored and made of a tough blow molded plastic, the CP9180 fits easily into your pocket for keeping close at hand around the shop. It’s bright orange color makes it easy to pick out from your multimeter and other tools of the trade when it’s resting on your toolbox or workbench, too. Best of all, despite using an LCD display as opposed to a TFT or full-color display, the monochrome screen is brightly backlit for easy reading even when you don’t have a work light handy or if you’re taking a night-time test drive.


This device includes both a USB cable for PC connectivity and an OBDII dongle for scanning and reading DTCs (Diagnostic Trouble Codes). It does not have Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, which means you’ll need to be connected up via the dongle while you can codes, freeze-frame or view live data while test-driving.


The Actron CP9180 offers many features and capabilities for its price point and compact size. Here’s a full rundown of its available features:

  • Detachable dongle cable for convenient storage
  • Soft carrying case for keeping it safe in your toolbox without fear of the display or buttons getting scratched up and unreadable.
  • All DTCs displayed on the device includes a brief explanation of the code and potential repairs that may correct this issue.
  • Live stream data during a test drive to diagnose problems that only occur while the vehicle is in motion or under specific circumstances/conditions.
  • Drive cycle mode for easier live testing
  • Freeze frame live data for review or printing
  • Reset codes, view pending codes and erase codes directly from the device
  • I/M readiness for emissions testing
  • Test O2 sensors connected to the vehicle ECU
  • DTCs direct from the manufacturer
  • CAN compatible for vehicles 1996-present
  • Keyword searchable DTC database


 As previously mentioned, this model scanner does not have the ability to wireless connect to PCs, smartphones and tablets for diagnosis or updating the code database. It’s still considered a high end feature, so it’s rare to see it on models in this product tier.


The CP9180 can diagnose and reset both ABS and ESP codes, though if you are working on a newer model car you may need to update the database before it will work correctly.

Engine Codes

You can pull engine specific codes with this scanner and get information that will help you accurately diagnose and correct any problems the device finds with your engine.

Freeze Frame: Yes, this model supports freeze-frame data.

Memory Card Support: No, this model does not have the ability to use an external memory card

Live Data Stream: Yes, this device can live stream and record live data while you are operating the vehicle.

Smog Test: Yes, you can conduct a smog test on most new models that have an internal emissions detection system. 

Wireless Keys Coding: No, this device cannot reprogram wireless car keys. 

ECU Reprogramming: No, you cannot alter your ECU programming with this device.

Check Engine Light Reset: Yes, you can clear and reset the CEL on any vehicle in the database. 

Ease of Use

If you’re like most mechanics and auto techs, you like plug-and-play devices. The Actron CP9180 fits that description to a T, and it is both durable and easy to use one handed. No complex menus to navigate, and learning the device software and capabilities has a shallow learning curve. Honestly, you can pull it out of the box, plug it in and take a reading in a matter of minutes.



While this model isn’t ideal for a comprehensive/universal auto shop scanner, it is an excellent pocket sized device that works exceptionally well and offers a plethora of useful features.

Definitely check the Actron CP9180 out when you’re in the market for a new OBDII pocket-sized scanner.

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