Top 10 Best Car Code Readers for Smartphones
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Top 10 Best Car Code Readers for Smartphones

engine code reader, car code reader, obd2 scanner, obdii scanner, scan tool, torque pro, obd fusion

There are two main occurrences that will cause the average car owner to panic. The first one, the appearance of the check engine light on the dashboard, often leads to the second one, the appearance of a large bill at the shop. For the most part, lights on the dashboard are a mystery to most people, and can generate considerable anxiety. What could possibly have changed in your car to prompt this seemingly-foreboding message? And since the light invariably turns on when funds in your bank account are at their lowest, as if it somehow knows, it’s not uncommon to ignore it for months and maybe even years. If the vehicle seems to be running fine, why rush to investigate? Investigating, after all, is often expensive.

When the check engine light comes on in your car, that means the car’s computer has encountered an error of some kind. This could be anything from a loose fuel cap to a dead oxygen sensor. That error is logged as a code, and remains in the computer’s memory until it is cleared, either with a special tool or a predetermined reset of so many engine starts without the condition recurring. The system in a car responsible for generating these code is called on-board diagnostics, or OBD, and as of 1996, the OBDII protocol was made mandatory for all cars to be sold in the United States. In Europe, they have EOBD, in Japan JOBD, and ADR in Australia.

These codes are checked with what’s called a scan tool, which is a standard piece of automotive technician hardware. They typically range from the relatively simple to rather more involved, but the premise is the same: a small piece of hardware with a spartan LCD screen, a few buttons, and a primitive operating system. They’re pre-loaded with the trouble codes for a variety of manufacturers and help quickly assess engine performance.

The trouble is, that requires bringing your car to the shop. Not only do you have to make time for this, but it all but ensures that you’ll end up hearing that your car needs work and that a large bill is forthcoming. Aside from that, unless you’re working with a shop you really trust, you never quite know if what they’re telling you is totally true, or the urgency of the issue. While it’s true that you can go to some auto parts stores to get the code read and even cleared, there could be some pressure to buy the parts right then. That’s why they do it, after all. It’s a good service, but they need to sell parts at the end of the day.

Fortunately, a number of professional-grade, wireless OBDII scan tools for smartphones have entered the market. These are small modules that connect to the serial port inside your car, transmit data either over wifi or Bluetooth, and interact with any number of apps to let you read codes, clear them, and get a straight answer about what’s going on. These tools offer considerable convenience on a platform with which you are familiar. They won’t make you into a mechanic and they won’t solve all your car woes, but they will give you greater insight and help you communicate better with the folks who actually work on your car. And if you are a mechanic, or at least a weekend warrior, these handy little devices will make your life easier.

Another problem that can be expensive to fix but can easily be remedied by yourself is a dead battery. Check our list of the top ten best portable jumpstarters, too.

If you want the ability to diagnose your car’s check engine light from the convenience of a smartphone, here’s our list of the top ten best wireless engine code readers:


1. BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDII Scan Tool

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(Lemur Vehicle Monitors)

We previously featured the BlueDriver on our gifts for car guys post, and it’s still among the nicest on the market in terms of overall design and presentation. Unlike some of the others on this list, BlueDriver has its own app, so there won’t be any confusion between the tool and a third-party app. Updates are free, and you can save data and read live data during a trip, which can further help to diagnose under what conditions error codes appear. The included database of fixes is a nice bonus, if you’re inclined to get under the hood and solve the problem yourself. CEL codes are included for all makes, while enhanced codes are available for GM, Ford, Chrysler, and Toyota. If you live in a state with emissions testing, this will also tell you if your car is ready for a smog test.

Need more options? Browse more code readers and scan tools here.

Price: $99.95

Buy the BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDII Scan Tool here.



Pros:

  • Companion app for both iOS and Android
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Free repair guides
  • Full OBDII support

Cons:

  • Code availability may be limited in some cases
  • Live data not available for all makes and models
  • Expensive
  • Some connectivity problems at times

Find more BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDII Scan Tool information and reviews here.



2. ScanTool OBDLink MX

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(ScanTool)

This ScanTool option is a close competitor to the BlueDrive. It offers full OBDII support in addition to GM SW-CAN and Ford MS-CAN proprietary protocols. The selling point of this one is speed. It’s meant to be far faster than competitors, designed to have excellent data throughput, which also means more data points. They also bill it as “hacker proof,” using an encrypted connection to connect to your device. We don’t believe anything is hacker proof in this world, but it’s nice to know they put in the extra effort to safeguard your data. You can use the companion app, but if you prefer one of the other apps on the market for your Android or Windows device, it’s made to work with those, as well. It includes a three-year warranty, as well as lifetime software and firmware upgrades.

Need more options? Browse more code readers and scan tools here.

Price: $79.95

Buy the ScanTool OBDLink MX here.



Pros:

  • Companion app for Android and Windows
  • Compatible with other apps including Torque and DashCommand
  • Claims to be four times faster than closest competitor
  • Full OBDII support

Cons:

  • Not compatible with iOS
  • Still somewhat pricey
  • On some makes and models, there may be a conflict with the ECU which will require disconnecting the battery to reset
  • Information discovery with included app may be difficult

Find more ScanTool OBDLink MX information and reviews here.



3. Carista Bluetooth OBD2 Adapter

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(Carista)

The focus of this scanner is a little different than the rest on this list. While it still does OBDII error code scanning as you’d expect, this one also allows you to control vehicle settings for some models made by Audi, BMW, Lexus, Mini, Scion, Toyota, and Volkswagen. You can use the app to unlock your doors, roll down your windows, and other customizations. Considering that, it’s far cheaper than the first two options, but about mid-pack overall on our list. If that certain all-white iGadget look is for you, this is one to consider. If you own a car by one of the supported makers, this also might weight more heavily than the average scan tool.

Need more options? Browse more code readers and scan tools here.

Price: $39.99

Buy the Carista Bluetooth OBD2 Adapter here.



Pros:

  • Also allows you to control automatic doors, windows, and locks
  • Companion app on Android and iOS
  • Compatible with other ELM327-based apps
  • Full OBDII support

Cons:

  • Doesn’t work on iPad 2
  • Enhanced codes require additional in-app purchase
  • Paid codes limited to certain models from Audi, BMW, Lexus, Mini, Scion, Toyota, and Volkswagen
  • Paid add-ons are on a yearly subscription model

Find more Carista Bluetooth OBD2 Adapter information and reviews here.



4. iSaddle Super Mini Bluetooth OBDII Scan Tool

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(iSaddle)

If you don’t need anything in the way of special features, this ultra-cheap model might be the one for you. The only special feature on this inexpensive unit is the choice of three different colors. Other than that, you get a standard-issue ODBII Bluetooth scanner that will work with Android, Windows Mobile, Symbian, and PC machines.

Need more options? Browse more code readers and scan tools here.

Price: $11.99

Buy the iSaddle Super Mini Bluetooth OBDII Scan Tool here.



Pros:

  • Available in three colors — black, orange, and blue
  • Compatible with Torque, OBDscope, ScanMaster, and other apps
  • Cheap
  • Full OBDII support

Cons:

  • No companion app for smartphones (includes CD for computers)
  • Some defective units
  • Not compatible with iOS
  • May have some trouble with cars older than 2008

Find more iSaddle Super Mini Bluetooth OBDII Scan Tool information and reviews here.



5. AstroAI Bluetooth OBD2 Smart Car Diagnostic Scanner Tool

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(AstroAI)

This option is very similar to the one above, but somehow even cheaper. Of course, you’ll still be able to perform the core operation of reading and clearing engine trouble codes, but this will also handle real-time sensor data for things like O2 sensor readings, fuel trim, and emissions testing. Compatible apps for this unit include Torque, DashCommand, OBDFusion, and OBD Car Doctor.

Need more options? Browse more code readers and scan tools here.

Price: $11.38 (55 percent off MSRP)

Buy the AstroAI Bluetooth OBD2 Smart Car Diagnostic Scanner Tool here.


Pros:

  • Very cheap
  • Includes some manufacturer-specific codes
  • Live graph readings
  • Full OBDII support

Cons:

  • Not compatible with iOS
  • No companion app for smartphones (includes CD for computers)
  • Limited reviews at the time of this writing

Find more AstroAI Bluetooth OBD2 Smart Car Diagnostic Scanner Tool information and reviews here.



6. Veepeak OBDCheck Pro WiFi OBDII Scanner

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(Veepeak)

Apple can be a little cagey about what it lets connect to iOS devices using the Bluetooth protocol, so to get around that limitation, some of these scanners use wifi for broad compatibility. This is still a relatively inexpensive unit, so it’s likely to be somewhat slower than the expensive ones on this list. Still, you get trouble code reading and clearing, real-time performance monitoring, and sensor data that can include things like coolant temperature, air flow rate, oxygen sensor voltages, and more, depending on your car’s setup. There’s no specific app with this one, but it is compatible with most of the bigger third-party apps out there like Torque, OBDFusion, Dash Command, OBD Car Doctor, and more. They have a basic model for a little less, as well as a Bluetooth option for Android devices.

Need more options? Browse more code readers and scan tools here.

Price: $26.99 (10 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Veepeak OBDCheck Pro WiFi OBDII Scanner here.



Pros:

  • Compatible with iOS and Android
  • Power switch
  • Compatible with Torque, DashCommand, OBDFusion and other apps
  • Full OBDII support

Cons:

  • No companion app
  • May not work on hybrid or electric vehicles
  • Wifi solves iOS issue, but not as convenient as Bluetooth
  • Available information may be limited

Find more Veepeak OBDCheck Pro WiFi OBDII Scanner information and reviews here.



7. BAFX Products 34t5 Bluetooth OBDII Scan Tool

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(BAFX Products)

If you have no need for iOS support, you could try this model, which is the best-selling product in the Code Readers & Scan Tools category on Amazon. Out of nearly 7,300 reviews, it maintains a 4.5 out of five rating, which says something for its reliability. As with the others on this list, it’s compatible with a wide variety of third-party apps, will pull and clear trouble codes, and can present data on any sensors configured to render them. It has a two year warranty, and even a handful of uses will pretty much pay for it.

Need more options? Browse more code readers and scan tools here.

Price: $21.99 (8 percent off MSRP)

Buy the BAFX Products 34t5 Bluetooth OBDII Scan Tool here.



Pros:

  • Compatible with third-party apps
  • Best seller on Amazon
  • Read outs for 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, and 1 mile times
  • Full OBDII support

Cons:

  • Not compatible with iOS
  • No enhanced code reading
  • No companion app for smartphones (includes CD for computers)
  • Some defective units (customer support appears to be good, however)

Find more BAFX Products 34t5 Bluetooth OBDII Scan Tool information and reviews here.



8. Panlong WiFi OBD2 for Android and iOS

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(Panlong)

As with the one above, this is the best seller in the tangentially-related Fuel Pressure Testers category. It’s a little cheaper than the Veepeak one, but lacks the power switch of that model. Other than that, it’s a straightforward unit, boasting all the same functionality, including OBDII support for a wide range of cars. They specifically call out Nissan as not being supported, so for you Versa and Rogue owners out there, pick another one from this list.

Need more options? Browse more code readers and scan tools here.

Price: $16.99

Buy the Panlong WiFi OBD2 for Android and iOS here.



Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Compatible with iOS and Android
  • Good customer service
  • Full OBDII support

Cons:

  • Wifi solves iOS issue, but not as convenient as Bluetooth
  • Does not work on Nissan vehicles
  • Relatively flimsy build
  • Some connectivity issues

Find more Panlong WiFi OBD2 for Android and iOS information and reviews here.



9. PLX Devices Kiwi 3 Bluetooth OBDII Diagnostic Scan Tool

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(PLX Devices)

If you’re wary of the ultra-cheap devices, but have no need for the apps that come with the pricier models on this list, consider this option. It adds status lights to the front panel of the module to let you know what’s connected at any given time. It’s a Bluetooth option with full compatibility across all platforms. This is an evolution of previous versions of this device, made to be both smaller and faster than its predecessors. If you’re partial to a third-party app already, regardless of your device, give this option a try.

Need more options? Browse more code readers and scan tools here.

Price: $99.99

Buy the PLX Devices Kiwi 3 Bluetooth OBDII Diagnostic Scan Tool here.



Pros:

  • Compatible with iOS and Android
  • Connection status lights
  • Speedy processing and data transfer
  • Full OBDII support

Cons:

  • Some defective units
  • Connection the first time may be difficult
  • No companion app
  • Expensive

Find more PLX Devices Kiwi 3 Bluetooth OBDII Diagnostic Scan Tool information and reviews here.



10. LELink Bluetooth Low Energy OBD-II Car Diagnostic Tool For iPhone/iPod/iPad

engine code reader, car code reader, obd2 scanner, obdii scanner, scan tool, torque pro, obd fusion

(LELink)

Until this point on the list, Apple fans have had to choose between expensive solutions or wifi-based modules. The trouble with wifi connectivity is that when you’re reading from the module, you can’t be connected to anything else, like the internet, via wifi. That can be annoying in some circumstances. This option is a low energy Bluetooth adapter specifically for iOS devices. It won’t work on anything else, but if you’ve got an iPhone 4S, iPad 3, iPad Mini, or iPod Touch 5th generation or newer, this is the inexpensive option for you. Apps supported by this device include EngineLink (which is what you must use to connect it the first time), OBDFusion, ezOBD, LeafSpy Pro, Mode6, and Dyno Chart. It also includes some proprietary libraries for GM, Ford, and the Toyota Prius.

Need more options? Browse more code readers and scan tools here.

Price: $35 (42 percent off MSRP)

Buy the LELink Bluetooth Low Energy OBD-II Car Diagnostic Tool For iPhone/iPod/iPad here.


Pros:

  • Better than wifi options for iOS
  • Compatible with third-party apps
  • Live data capture
  • Full OBDII support

Cons:

  • No Android or Windows compatibility
  • No manual
  • EngineLink app is required to connect
  • Some longevity concerns

Find more LELink Bluetooth Low Energy OBD-II Car Diagnostic Tool For iPhone/iPod/iPad information and reviews here.


Heavy, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon. Our product recommendations are guided solely by our editors. We have no relationship with manufacturers.
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