Applications to Diagnose Check Engine Lights

Applications to Diagnose Check Engine Lights

Android and iPad applications that diagnose automotive engine lights via a Bluetooth wireless connection is an exciting and quickly expanding marketplace. Unfortunately some of these applications deliver a sub-par user experience. Here we’ll talk about some of the popular applications and what they can and cannot deliver.

Wireless Engine Light Diagnosis

In a recent article I discussed car repair online resources that help gather information about your automotive problems. I avoided the topic of tools used for diagnosing check engine lights, because this subject deserved its own discussion. In fact, in this article we will only talk about android and iOS applications that utilize a Bluetooth wireless connection.

The Connected Automobile

As the automotive world embraces the Internet of everything, we see companies look to the capabilities of the standard OBDII data link connector. The goal is to do a better job of harnessing the information available from this diagnostic port. With the speed, flexibility and accuracy of a Bluetooth wireless connection, extracting and analyzing this data has reached a new level of efficiency. Here we’ll discuss the tools that plug into the OBDII port transmitting the data and cover the applications that receive this information, so it can be analyzed by the end user.

OBDII Bluetooth Adapters

The first tool we need to view information available from the data link connector on a phone or tablet is an OBDII Bluetooth adapter. These are designed to connect to automobiles built from 1996 and newer. Unfortunately picking the right adapter for your needs can become quite complicated. The tool you choose will have no bearing on the depth of displayable information as these functions are based on the vehicle’s capabilities. Choosing the right Bluetooth adapter for your needs, boils down to the physical size, features and benefits.As an example, if you plan to leave the OBDII Bluetooth adapter plugged in all the time, the physical size of the device will become a concern. The cheaper tools are often much larger than the more expensive ones. Another deciding factor in the physical size is the location of the automobiles diagnostic connector. These are on the left side of the steering column and sometimes can interfere with driver comfort.All diagnostic connectors are self powered. The Current flows even with the key off and out of the ignition. Some Bluetooth adapters have a smart sleep feature that stops transmitting data when the ignition is off. If you purchase a cheaper tool and leave it plugged in, it can kill the battery. Finally, another consideration is upgradable firmware. Programming used to convert automotive information transmitted via a Bluetooth signal is built into the adapter. Some tools offer upgradable firmware. This can solve problems, increase the speed and efficiency as technology advances.

OBDII Diagnostic Applications

There is more than a handful of applications that diagnose check engine lights in the Google play store. In fact, when I searched for OBDII apps, more than 150 different choices are currently available for download. The bulk of the offerings breaks down into two categories. Vehicle specific applications that cater to a certain brand, make or model and general tools that offer the flexibility of scanning any OBDII equipped automobile. Two applications I have used personally and have found to be stable are the Torque Pro and the Carista applications.Both products offer a free version for users to try out. The Carista OBD2 product offers cross-platform generic code diagnosis. Optional paid access to manufacturer specific codes, airbag and anti lock brake system information is available on some models. On Audi, Scion, Toyota and Lexis cars 2005 and newer the Carista OBD2 application also offers the ability to change automated personalized settings. The additional features are available through in app purchases that range from $5-$20.The torque application heads in a different direction. It’s available for cross-platform generic code diagnosis like most of their competition. In addition the company offers paid plug-ins that brings additional capabilities to the applications dashboard. Some of the most popular plug-ins are related to automotive performance. Tools measuring horsepower, 0 to 60 times, a track recorder and quarter-mile times use GPS information correlated with the vehicles data stream.

Wireless Automotive Diagnosis Tips

An important thing to mention in closing, is the newer the vehicle, the more in-depth capabilities will be available on the applications dashboard. This is thanks to faster communication speeds of the newer automotive controllers. When you are selecting a wireless Bluetooth adapter, it should mention that it’s CAN (controlled area network) bus capable and elm 327 compliant. Simply put, this means it speaks the same language as your automobile. When it comes time to choose an application to analyze the data, invest in a provider with plenty of positive reviews and a recently updated version as proof they have not abandoned product support.