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Best Bluetooth OBD2 Scanners – for Professional and Home Mechanics

You likely already know that having an OBD2 scanner is important for living peaceably with a car that is no longer brand new.

Knowing what error codes lurk behind the check engine light means lower stress and less costly car ownership. But what if your car throws a check engine light frequently? Or you’re trying to troubleshoot multiple problems?

This is where a Bluetooth-enabled OBD2 scanner really shines.

Close up of a bluetooth OBD2 scanner
Losch [CC BY 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons
A Bluetooth scanner is a block-shaped device, sometimes called a dongle, that plugs into your OBD2 port.

Many users simply leave the device plugged in all the time, which communicates with an app on your Android or iOS phone via a Bluetooth connection. Checking what’s going on with your car’s inner brain becomes as simple as opening the app on your phone.

No hauling out a corded, bulky device each time you need to pull the codes. But how to go about picking out the best Bluetooth OBD2 scanner for you?

At a Glance: Our Top Choices for Best Bluetooth OBD2 Scanner

Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon.

What is a Bluetooth OBD2 Scanner?

An OBD2 scanner can be thought of as a translator between “car language” and human languages.

All over your cars engine, mechanical and electrical systems are sensors that monitor your cars health, looks for problems and can report this information by way of codes. These codes help us to know what’s wrong and help us immensely when troubleshooting.

A Bluetooth OBD2 scanner reads your cars codes by means of an app (purchased separately) that runs on a mobile device, connecting to an OBD2 Bluetooth adapter wirelessly.

This not only eliminates the cable but often offers repair options and gives you real-time monitoring of your car’s engine management systems, features usually only available on much more expensive OBD2 scanners.

The rest of this article concentrates only on bluetooth enabled devices. However, we do also have a guide to the best OBD2 scanners for the traditional units.

Why Would You Want One?

A Bluetooth-enabled OBD2 scanner is an obvious choice for an older car with ongoing issues, prone to throwing frequent check-engine light warnings, as it can stay plugged into your car’s port.

You’ll have information available to you any time your phone is within range. It’s also a smart choice if you’re tuning or modifying your car, as real-time monitoring is critical to knowing how your modifications are affecting performance.

A less sexy reason you may want a Bluetooth OBD2 adapter is simple accessibility. If the port is hard to reach, you’ve got physical limitations that make fishing around under your steering wheel less than fun, or if the port itself is fragile due to age, a Bluetooth dongle that plugs in and stays plugged in can make life easier.

How Does a Bluetooth OBD2 Scanner Work?

A Bluetooth OBDii scan tool is, in simple terms, a very low power, short-distance radio transmitter.

When the Bluetooth is enabled on your phone, it scans for available Bluetooth transmitters. Your OBD2 diagnostic scanner answers this inquiry as an available device. Now the two devices can enable a data link, and your scanner can transmit information wirelessly from your car’s OBD2 system to your nearby phone or tablet.

You can check our guide for further detail on how to use an OBDII scanner.

Benefits of a Bluetooth OBD2 Scanner Compared to Other Types

Bluetooth OBD2 scanning has several big advantages over a corded, hand-held scanner:

It can be always on, every time you drive, allowing you to track things like coolant or transmission temperature on the fly.

It’s very portable; there’s no cord to store, and it’s easy to pop into a pocket or toolbox if you’d like to use it in a different car.

Depending on which app you choose to display information and what your car manufacturer makes available through the OBD2 port, you may be able to access advanced features beyond the emissions controls as well. For example, with the BimmerLink app and a corresponding app-builder approved Bluetooth OBD2 dongle, you can manually control the exhaust flap or the Active Sound Design on your late-model BMW.

Drawbacks of Bluetooth Scanners Compared to Other Types

Nearly all currently produced Bluetooth scanners will read (and transmit to your phone) any of the five different protocols in use by the various car manufacturers, so you don’t really need to get deep into which OBD2 protocol your car uses. Avoid the very cheapest or off-brand dongles, and you should have no problem with communication between the Bluetooth dongle and your tablet or phone.

Note that all OBD2 scanners are limited by what the automaker has decided to make available through the OBD2 port. While all emissions control information is required by law to be reported via OBD2, not all automakers will make all additional sensor information or controls available.

Some dongles will power down the device after a certain time of inactivity. Not all Bluetooth dongles do this, though, so choose a device that will if you’re not driving the vehicle daily. Although the power usage of these devices is minimal, the potential exists for draining a battery if they’re left in a car that isn’ driven regularly.

What Issues Can a Scanner Find With Your Car?

OBD2 codes are divided into several categories designated by a letter:

  • B = Body
  • C = Chassis
  • P = Powertrain
  • U = Undefined/Other

These letters are followed by four digits which correspond to specific faults.

Codes which are a letter followed by a 0 are generic trouble codes common to all manufacturers. Codes which are a letter followed by a 1 are specific to a particular manufacturer.

The third character in the sequence indicates the subsystem the fault is in, as follows:

  • 1 = Emission Management
  • 2 = Injector Circuit
  • 3 = Misfire or Ignition
  • 4 = Emission Control
  • 5 = Idle Control & Vehicle Speed
  • 6 = Output Circuit & Computer
  • 7 = Transmission
  • 8 = Transmission
  • 9 = (Reserved) 0 = (Reserved)

As you can see, there are a vast number of car systems covered by onboard diagnostics. OBD2 does not, however, cover everything that can fail on a car, so the absence of a check-engine light should never substitute for routine car maintenance and safety checks.

Note that simply having the error code may not provide you with a perfect solution. A check engine light can have several causes, ones that you’ll want to get to the bottom of before trying to reset the check engine light. It usually takes some experience to decipher the cause of a particular code. Fortunately, with a Bluetooth OBD2 scanner, help is usually right at hand in your accompanying app.

What to Look for When Buying a Bluetooth OBD2 Scanner

We’ve prepared a collection of important questions to consider as you begin shopping for a Bluetooth OBD2 scanner. Following our buying guide are mini-reviews of our top five picks for best Bluetooth scanner.

Read on and discover what device will best meet your needs.

Is the Scanner Compatible With Your Car?

It’s important to read the manufacturer specifications carefully to be sure your car is included.

Most common makes of car will be covered by most mass-market Bluetooth scanners, but it’s important to double check this. It’s especially important if you own something unusual, like a grey-market import or a car not originally sold in the US domestic market.

Is the Scanner Compatible With Your Phone or Tablet?

There are two main phone operating systems in common use, Android and Apple iOS.

Some Bluetooth devices will work with both operating systems, but sometimes you’ll need to buy the scanner that works with the operating system of the device you’ll use to display information, with one version of the device designed for Android and one designed for iOS.

If you have a Windows-based phone, read specifications carefully, because not all dongles and apps for Bluetooth scanning will work in a Windows phone environment.

Is the App or Software to Use With Your Scanner Free?

Some Bluetooth scanner purchases include access or download rights to a proprietary or recommended app designed to work with that particular dongle. Others will work with a wide range of apps available for sale in the Google Play or Apple app stores.

Some apps have a free basic version but a paid version which offers more features, such as additional data logging.

Is Reading the OBD2 Codes Enough? What About ABS, SRS, And VSC Codes?

What do you need to be able to access with your OBD2 car diagnostic scanner? Do you just need basic reporting on emissions control information or would you like to be able to read anti-lock braking system, supplemental restraint system (airbag) and vehicle stability control codes?

Not all scanner and app combinations give you access to these advanced features, although all will allow you to simply clear codes presented.

Features a Useful Bluetooth OBD2 Scanner Must Have

  • It must reliably connect with your phone, or it will be frustrating to use.
  • It must be designed to work with the same operating system your phone uses.
  • It must have good customer support, in case you do have problems.
  • It must be a quality, genuine product, preferably with a warranty. In the Bluetooth device world, there are an awful lot of fakes and cheap knock-off products available online. These will often not perform well and may even damage your car’s electronics. If a device’s price seems too cheap to be believed, it is likely a fake.

Possible Extra Features…do You Need Them?

Important here is whether the dongle you’re considering works across all operating systems. No need for Bluetooth scanner that operates on both Android and iOS devices if you’re a dedicated iPhone user!

Another thing to consider is “Mode 6 functionality.”

What reports are available in Mode 6 varies from automaker to automaker, and the results reported through this feature of a scanner will likely be fairly opaque to all but professional techs.

If you’re a professional, you likely have access to professional scan tools at work, and if you’re a DIYer, you’re not likely to need this depth of information.

Price Considerations

There are scanners available at a wide range of price points. A more expensive scanner may offer access to additional features, but be sure you’ll actually use those features before you shell out for the best.

Also, take a look in your app store and think about which app you may want to use. Some apps have a recommended set of OBD2 dongles that work best, and others that are only partially compatible.

Don’t forget to consider any possible cost (if any) of the app or software along with your purchase of the scanner itself.

Best Bluetooth OBD2 Scanner – Our Top 5 Choices in 2019

We’ve looked at the specs for many widely-available Bluetooth OBD2 scanners and picked the top five available today, to present to you in the list below.

After reading through our reviews you should be all set to make your pick and get started on more knowledgeable and comprehensive car ownership.

Bluedriver Bluetooth Professional OBD2 Scan Tool for Iphone, Ipad, And Android

High quality and a full range of features meet in this pro-level Bluetooth dongle. Marry it to the free BlueDriver app built by the same company for the most comprehensive set of functions available through a Bluetooth scanner.

BlueDriver LSB2 Bluetooth Pro OBDII Scan Tool for iPhone & Android

First Impressions and What’s in the Box?

BlueDriver’s small black dongle fits nearly every car and toolbox easily, and the curved front panel forms a handy grip for pulling it out of your OBD2 port.

Specifications

  • Warranty: 100% money back guarantee, 1-year manufacturer warranty
  • Operating systems: Android, iOS. Windows phones are not supported.
  • Dimensions:2 x 1.9 x 1 inches
  • Apps supported: BlueDriver app only
  • Automatic off/power saver: Yes
  • Cars supported/excluded: 1996+ US-sold domestic, Asian, and European cars supported. Hybrid vehicles and diesels are excluded.
  • Enhanced features: Mode 6 diagnostics (if supported by car maker), ABS, Airbag, Transmission, etc for GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan, BMW, VW, and 2003+ Honda.

This Model is for You if

If you want the largest array of features and the most similarity to a pro-level scanner, choose the BlueDriver and matching BlueDriver app.

Another Model is for You if

If you’re on a tight budget and don’t need to worry about advanced features like Mode 6 accessibility or clearing ABS codes, choose a less expensive, less feature-rich scanner.

Or, if you have an app in mind that you’d like to use, choose a different scanner, as the BlueDriver OBD2 dongle is designed to work only with the BlueDriver app.

What We Like

A money-back guarantee and excellent online customer support make BlueDriver a top-notch pick. The BlueDriver app will also offer a Repair Report with mechanic-vetted fixes for your car’s particular trouble codes.

What We Don’t Like

The BlueDriver Bluetooth scanner isn’t compatible with Windows phones. It’s also not the least expensive option out there. And it can only be used with the BlueDriver-branded app.

In Conclusion

If you’re not on a tight budget and want to skip the rest of the heavy thinking over which Bluetooth scanner to get, just choose the BlueDriver. It does everything well. Get yours below.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

BAFX Products Bluetooth Diagnostic OBD2 Reader/Scanner for Android Devices

BAFX’s very first Bluetooth OBD2 scanners are still in use today, a testament to their longevity and good design.

Bafx Products - Wireless Bluetooth OBD2 / OBDII Diagnostic Car Scanner & Reader Tool for Android Devices - Read/Clear Your Check Engine Light & Much More

First Impressions and What’s in the Box?

With a sedate black exterior, the BAFX Bluetooth scanner will blend with your car’s interior while providing you with critical information about your car’s operation, such as coolant temp, oil temp, fuel pressure, and more.

Specifications

  • Warranty: 2-year warranty, with US-based customer support
  • Operating systems: Android & Windows phones. iOS not supported
  • Dimensions:8 x 1.5 x 1 inches
  • Apps supported: Many, including Torque, DashCommand, Carista, ScanMaster, Piston, and others. Contact BAFX for a complete list.
  • Automatic off/power saver: yes
  • Cars supported/excluded: ALL conventionally powered and hybrid 1996+ US-market cars with OBD2. Some electric-only vehicles will not have full support.
  • Enhanced features: Note that this device will not read SRS (airbag), ABS, TPMS or reset oil-change lights.

This Model is for You if

If you’re unsure about using a Bluetooth scanner or this is your first such device, choose the BAFX for its US-based customer service and tech support. No difficult-to-understand overseas helpline here.

Another Model is for You if

If you really need access to non-OBD2 systems like ABS, SRS, VSC, or oil change required lights, you’ll want to pick a different OBD2 scanner.

What We Like

  • Excellent reported longevity means the BAFX will survive being tossed in your toolbox.
  • Fast read speed means quick and timely updating of info on your phone display while driving.

What We Don’t Like

  • At nearly 3” long, the BAFX device is a little large. It may be at risk of getting hit with a knee while entering and exiting the car. Double check your OBD2 port location before purchase.

In Conclusion

If you mostly need on-the-fly monitoring and want to be able to experiment with different third-party apps, to see what you like best, give the BAFX Bluetooth OBD2 scanner a look at the link below.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Scantool Obdlink MX Bluetooth: Professional-Grade OBD2 Automotive Scan Tool for Windows And Android

The only hacker-resistant Bluetooth scanner we looked at, the OBDLink MX includes access to powerful diagnostic software by Scantool.net

OBDLink 426101 ScanTool MX Bluetooth: Professional Grade OBD-II Automotive Scan Tool for Windows and Android – DIY Car and Truck Data and Diagnostics

First Impressions and What’s in the Box?

The OBDLink MX is certainly the most fun-looking of the various scanners we’ve looked at, with its multiple colored lights across the front.

Notably, it requires the press of a physical button for Bluetooth pairing, which prevents anyone walking through a parking lot from linking up to your car’s OBD2 scanner.

Specifications

  • Warranty: 90-day money back guarantee; 3-year manufacturer warranty
  • Operating systems: Android phones and Windows-based laptops. iOS not supported
  • Dimensions:8 x 0.9 x 2 inches
  • Apps supported: Many, including Torque and DashCommand. Includes OBDLink Android app and OBDwiz software license for Windows laptops.
  • Automatic off/power saver: yes
  • Cars supported/excluded: Supports 1996+ cars and light trucks sold in the US. Hybrid vehicles are excluded.
  • Enhanced features: Can read and clear enhanced codes for ABS, SRS, Transmission modules on some cars, e. GM, Ford, Toyota, Mazda, and Nissan.

This Model is for You if

If you’ve got a car which provides lots of data through OBD2, you’ll love the OBDLink MX, as its considerably faster than its competitors at getting data to your device. That means a faster refresh rate on any gauges you’ve got displayed on your phone while driving.

Another Model is for You if

If you’ve got a hybrid or an electric car, you’ll need to pick out a different Bluetooth OBD2 scanner, as only conventionally-fueled cars and light trucks are supported.

What We Like

  • The provided access to diagnostic software is a huge bonus, allowing you to use this Bluetooth scanner with a laptop, too.

What We Don’t Like

  • Although the device is compatible with a Windows-based phone, the app built specifically for the device, OBDLink, only works on the Android operating system. (The device does work with other third-party apps, however.)

In Conclusion

For the widest array of software options of all the scanners we’ve looked at, check out the OBDLink MX Bluetooth at our link below.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Kitbest Bluetooth OBD2 Scanner Adapter for Android

Kitbest proves you don’t have to be expensive to get a basic job done well with their affordable OBD2 dongle.

Kitbest Bluetooth OBD2 Scanner Mini OBD Car Diagnostic Code Reader for Android & Windows, Check Engine Light Scan Reader. Supports Torque Pro & Lite, OBD Fusion, DashCommand

First Impressions and What’s in the Box?

The Kitbest Bluetooth scanner is both bright blue and very tiny, one of the smallest dongles we’ve seen. It’s also one of the most budget-friendly.

Specifications

  • Warranty: 5-year warranty with a 100% money back guarantee.
  • Operating systems: Android and Windows phones.
  • Dimensions:9 x 1.0 x 1.3 inches
  • Apps supported: OBD Car Doctor, Torque Lite, Torque Pro, OBD Fusion, DashCommand for Android, and OBD Auto Doctor are recommended.
  • Automatic off/power saver: no
  • Cars supported/excluded: 100% compatibility on all 1996+ vehicles and light trucks. Diesel cars and trucks are excluded.
  • Enhanced features: This scanner will only read and clear OBD2 codes.

This Model is for You if

When budget is of utmost concern, consider the Kitbest Bluetooth OBD2 scanner. It provides the basic features you’ll need most without the frills that drive up costs.

Another Model is for You if

The Kitbest is very basic. It won’t help you out if you’ve got a diesel truck. Although Kitbest claims the power draw is very low, the device doesn’t have a way to power down or sleep so it may not be the best choice for a vehicle that spends some time sitting, like a project car or weekend car.

What We Like

  • The Kitbest is competitively priced, which is great.
  • It works with a wide range of third-party apps, giving you a lot of flexibility.

What We Don’t Like

  • According to some users, sometimes there are hiccups in setting up the Kitbest scanner, although the manufacturer stands behind their product and is responsive to customer issues.

In Conclusion

If you’d like to try out a Bluetooth OBD2 scanner but aren’t sure if you really need a feature-rich device with a big buy-in price, trying the Kitbest OBD2 scanner at the link below can give you a taste of what wireless engine monitoring is like, without a huge upfront cost.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Veepeak Obdcheck BLE OBD2 Bluetooth Scanner Diagnostic Tool, Compatible Ios & Android

Finally, we present the Veepeak BLE OBD2 scanner. With low power consumption and a modest price, it offers some advanced diagnostics on some cars and full support for electric cars.

Veepeak OBDCheck BLE OBD2 Bluetooth Scanner Auto OBD II Diagnostic Scan Tool for iOS & Android, Bluetooth 4.0 Car Check Engine Light Code Reader Supports Torque, OBD Fusion app

First Impressions and What’s in the Box?

Like the BlueDriver, the Veepeak has a clever front design which gives you a good grip on the dongle, so that you can pull it straight out of your port without rocking it side to side, avoiding damage.

Specifications

  • Warranty: 30-day money back guarantee, 1-year replacement warranty.
  • Operating systems: iOS, Android, and Windows phones.
  • Dimensions:6 x 2 x 0.9 inches
  • Apps supported: OBDFusion, DashCommand, BimmerCode, OBD Auto Doctor, Torque Pro, others.
  • Automatic off/power saver: No, but uses low-power Bluetooth 4.0
  • Cars supported/excluded: All 1996+ cars and light trucks, including electrics and hybrids.
  • Enhanced features: On some cars, advanced features may be available, depending on the app you’re using.

This Model is for You if

If you have a BMW or MINI, Veepeak is one of the several models of OBD2 dongles specifically mentioned by BimmerCode, the most popular BMW coding app. If you’ve got a later model BMW or MINI, you’ll have access to many additional controls and features not available from within the car itself.

Another Model is for You if

If you’ve got an Android head unit in your car, choose a different OBD2 dongle, as the Veepeak sometimes has issues pairing with one. (It does well with Android phones and tablets, though.)

What We Like

  • The Veepeak works with all operating systems
  • Pairs automatically with iOS/Apple devices, no set-up required.

What We Don’t Like

  • Some users observe that the Veepeak isn’t very fast at reporting to your app.
  • It may have some hiccups pairing with an Android-based head unit in your car.

In Conclusion

For iOS users and BMW owners, the Veepeak is an obvious choice. Get started with yours at our link below.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

How to Use a Bluetooth OBD2 Scanner

  • Locate your car’s OBD2 port and plug in your scanner. It will be somewhere within reach of the driver’s seat. Often it’s located in the lower dash, to the side of your steering wheel, but some cars have the port located in the center console or in a storage cubby.
  • Turn your ignition to the “on” position, where your accessories and dash are powered. Do not start your car.
  • From your Android device, smartphone or tablet, go to your settings and then to your Bluetooth settings. Turn on your phone’s Bluetooth, and then scan for nearby devices.
  • Some scanners may require key code or PIN, which will be included in your device’s documentation. For many, the default PIN is 1234, 12345, or 0000. Some OBD2 Bluetooth scanners, such as the OBDLink MX Bluetooth discussed above, use a physical button on the device itself to pair with your phone instead of a PIN.
  • Open your preferred OBD2 app. Go to the Settings page and pair the app to your Bluetooth scanner. Make sure it’s connected, and you should be good to go. Check your chosen app’s ‘Read Me’ file or FAQs in the Google Play or Apple Store for help with the app itself.

If you have trouble with Bluetooth pairing, try these tips.

  • Unpair any previously used Bluetooth devices, such as a headset or speaker.
  • Make sure the app is not running in the background and close the app before pairing your device to your phone.
  • And do try the classic fix: turn off the Bluetooth, turn it back on again, and try rescanning for the device.
  • Finally, check the website of the manufacturer of your device. Often there are some manufacturer tips or a firmware upgrade available that will clear up any connection issues you may have.

Understanding Your Bluetooth OBD2 Scanner’s Codes

Most commonly, the trouble codes you’ll see are P0xxx codes. These are universal codes common to all cars.

Keep in mind that just knowing what the code means doesn’t always suggest an immediate fix. Codes can have multiple causes!

Many OBD2 apps have diagnostic help built into the app or include access to online databases of suggested fixes. If yours doesn’t, you’ll want to consult owner forums for your year, make, and model of car, or consult a repair manual, such as those published by Haynes, Chilton, or Bentley, to research the possible causes of the code your car is presenting.

Remember: when attempting a repair, for your sanity, start with the simplest and cheapest possible fix and then escalate to more complex possibilities!

Your Bluetooth scanner will throw anything your car makes available to the OBD2 port to your phone. This means it’s limited by what your car’s manufacturer has decided to make available to be read through the OBD2 port.

Be aware that not all cars deliver all information from every sensor to the OBD2 port. The information available to you is also somewhat dependent on the app you’ve chosen to read the information coming off your Bluetooth OBD2 scanner.

Many of the OBD2 scanner apps are free, but a purchased app may be a better choice for you as some of the more pro-level apps or apps developed to work best with a particular Bluetooth OBD2 device offer a better interface or make more information available to you.

Also important to know: the amount of information coming through your Bluetooth scanner may slow down the refresh rate on your app.

Faster devices can “throw” more information to your phone at once and will display updates on your app more frequently. This is especially important to be aware of if you’re using a Bluetooth OBD2 scanner for live updates or real-time monitoring of your car’s systems.

Resources to Find the Codes and How to Interpret Them.

The app you’re using with your OBD2 scanner likely has repair help built right into it. But if it doesn’t, try some of our suggested options.

Many different sites offer code lookup, often including the app you’re using with your Bluetooth scanner, but two websites we’ve found helpful are https://www.obd-codes.com/trouble_codes/ and https://repairpal.com/obd-ii-code-chart

Other useful resources are any make-specific online forums or Facebook groups which may exist for your specific car. You can often find these with a Google or Facebook search such as, “Dodge Challenger owner forums.”

And finally, check any repair manual or factory service manual you may have on hand for your car. Published in paper or online, these often have suggested fixes for common trouble codes.

In Conclusion

We hope we’ve provided you with some solid help sorting through the range of Bluetooth OBD2 scanners available.

Now you’re well-prepared to keep your car on the road for many happy years of motoring, and with a dongle in your toolbox, you’ll be ready to help out a friend or family member when they run into car problems as well.

If you have any questions, suggestions or feedback on the topic of Bluetooth OBD2 scanners, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below, we’ll answer every one!

 

Product image credits: © Amazon.com

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Jennifer Jordan

In the mix of a male dominated industry, Jennifer is our go-to gal for all your car related questions. Besides all the valuable work and insights she contributes to VehicleScene.com, Jennifer runs a website - and an active Facebook community - called 'Ask Jenny About Cars' where she helps many people with their car-buying and car ownership decisions – providing advice, reassurance and research help to friends, family, and clients on all topics concerning cars. She has a wealth of knowledge and you can rely on her to explain everything in simple language that even a novice can understand.

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