Diagnose Your Car’s Check Engine Light Using an Android Phone « Android Hacks

Diagnose Your Car’s Check Engine Light Using an Android Phone

Whether you’re a professional mechanic, a hobbyist, or someone who just wants to know why their check engine light came on, your Android device and an OBD-II adapter can provide insight as to what’s going on with your car. Most adapters sell for less than $10, and once you plug it into your vehicle, you’ll just need a good app to help you make sense of all the data it can gather.

The trouble is, while there are many free OBD-scanning apps on the Play Store, few are actually good. In addition to that, it can be hard to find the right OBD-II adapter for your particular phone and vehicle model. So to help clear everything up, we’ll show you how to find a good Bluetooth-enabled OBD scanner, then cover the two best OBD-scanning apps below.

Connecting an OBD-II Adapter to Your Car

OBD-II is a standardized protocol in all vehicles made since 1996, and it’s used to transmit information from your car’s computer to code readers and other diagnostic tools. With the right adapter, data from your car’s OBD-II port can be transferred to your phone over Bluetooth.

Such adapters can be purchased for around $10 from Amazon, though, I went with an ELM327 from eBay, as it only cost $3.58. You don’t have to use a specific model, so you can easily find something comparable by googling “OBD Bluetooth” or “Bluetooth OBD-II.” Just make sure that whatever adapter you purchase supports both OBD-II and Bluetooth.

Once you’ve got your adapter, all you’ll need to do is plug it into your car’s diagnostic port, though finding this connection is tricky sometimes. It should be somewhere underneath your steering wheel on the driver’s side, but if you can’t seem to locate the port, CarMD will help you find it.

The location for these ports vary, but it’s usually somewhere scummy — mine is behind the console near the gas pedal. Image by Nick Epson/Gadget Hacks

Pairing the Adapter with Your Phone

Once you’ve got the adapter hooked up to your car’s OBD-II port, it’s time to pair the device with your phone. So open the Bluetooth settings menu on your phone and begin to scan for devices, then quickly unplug the OBD-II adapter from your car for a few seconds before plugging it right back in. Once you’ve done that, turn your key forward to the “On” position.

At this point, your OBD-II adapter should appear in the list of nearby Bluetooth devices. So on your phone, select the OBD-II adapter, then enter the PIN when prompted, which is normally “0000” or “1234” (if neither of these work, refer to the paperwork that came with your adapter). The device should now be connected to your smartphone.

(1) In most cases, it will be the only new device found. (2) My PIN ended up being 1234.

After pairing the OBD-II adapter, you may need to open whatever app you choose and go through the connection process for that specific application as well. Note that some will have a limited time…

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