Tired of your “check engine” light coming on and not knowing what it could be? Although mechanics would love you to take your car in for service so they can sell you on some headlight fluid, the truth is that you can probably find out what’s going on yourself with a simple OBD2 (On-Board Diagnostics) reader. Modern cars have the brain capacity of several computers and will contain tons of valuable data and insights into your car’s performance. This information can be accessed with an external hardware device that you plug into the diagnostic link connector located under the dashboard.
In fact, cars manufactured after 1995 have standardized interfaces which can connect to a OBD2 reader and even connect to your phone. That’s right, there’s no need for a fancy OBD2 code reader, all you need is a OBD2 bluetooth reader and a smartphone. Not only that, but you can even use your phone to monitor driving conditions, such as torque output, RPMs, you name it. While most of the OBD2 bluetooth dongles are the same, and can be found on Amazon or any other online retailer, the difference lies with the app used to work with the dongle.
With that in mind, let’s review the best three OBD interface apps you can find to troubleshoot or gauge the performance of your car.
1. On the go diagnostics with Torque Pro
Perhaps the most well-known app is Torque Pro. Torque Pro allows you to see what your car is doing in realtime, get OBD fault codes, view your car performance, sensor data and more. The reason why Torque is our number one choice, is that it not only allows you to measure your car while stationary, but it also allows you to measure performance while driving. In this way, you can see how your car is working as you drive. You can even create widgets and gauges to customize the display screen so that the relevant information is immediately available as you are driving.
Torque Pro connects to your GPS, so that you can see how your car was performing at any point in time.
Finally, one of the best features is the ability to reset any DTC / CEL / fault codes, so you can see whether the issue was a real one or just a false positive.
2. Offline diagnostics with Car Fault Diagnosis
Imagine that you’re driving on the highway with no cell reception, and the check engine light comes on. The cause may be as innocuous as a bad catalytic converter reading, or something much more serious such as an issue with your engine. For these situations, we recommend Car Fault Diagnosis. Unlike most apps that require an internet connection, Car Fault Diagnosis allows you to check error codes while offline so that you can repair your vehicle even when your cell phone has no signal. Although Car Fault Diagnosis is not as feature-rich as Torque Pro, it will help you troubleshoot your car in a pinch, in particular when you need to troubleshoot a fault and you don’t need the additional features of Torque Pro.
3. Go Pro with BlueDriver OBD2 Scan Tool
BlueDriver allows you to scan for fault codes, clear them and even offers enhanced diagnostics for ABS, airbags and transmissions. You can even check the smog readiness of your car through the app. In addition, BlueDriver allows you to generate, print and share reports so that you can keep records for yourself or your customers. While these features may seem like overkill for most DIYers, the additional investment might be worth it if you work on cars regularly.
So whether you want to do it yourself, or get a second opinion, or just get a new toy for your smartphone, try downloading one of these apps and getting an OBD2 scanner. You’ll learn a lot about how your vehicle lives and breathes!
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