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Published Oct. 14, 2021

Bluetooth OBD2 scanners transform smart devices such as Apple and Android phones and tablets into automotive diagnostic tools. Gone are the days of clunky plastic boxes with chunky wires that might be intimidating to inexperienced drivers who have never worked on their cars before.

Today, reading and checking codes is easier than ever with the help of intuitive applications and tiny dongles that plug directly into your OBD2 port. Whether you’re a hobbyist mechanic or just a driver who wants to your check engine light, these inexpensive tools belong in every garage. The biggest problem now is picking which OBD2 scanner to use. You’ll have to decide what level of diagnostics you’re aiming for, as most options go far beyond the basic code reading. With advanced diagnostics, real-time readings, suggested tips, and repair advice, these OBD2 Bluetooth scanners are great for garage newbies and DIY experts.

Best OBD2 Bluetooth Scanners Reviews & Recommendations

When using the Veepeak OBD2 scanner, the first recommendation would be to download a third-party smartphone app because Veepeak does not offer one. That could present troubleshooting issues in the future. However, certain apps will give you a software experience that’s nearly identical to the MX+. The user interface looks the same, and it offers much of the same functionality.

The Veepeak is designed to work with both iOs and Android devices, and it is compatible with many OBD2 protocols and manufacturers, though not all. For anybody looking to find basic OBD codes for their vehicles and use the device to diagnose simple issues at home, the Veepeak should do the job. We don’t know how quickly the device operates or how responsive the data is, but for the money, it’s a solid value.

Specs
  • Manufacturer Veepeak
  • Weight 2.08 ounces
  • Dimensions 1.61 x 1.97 x 0.87 inches
PROS

Significant value for the price

Works with similar software as top competitors

CONS

No exterior indicator lights

Doesn’t have its own app

Might only need standard BLE model

Bluedriver is one of the big name brands when it comes to OBD2 Bluetooth scanners. It doesn’t come from one of the well-known manufacturers, but it has made its way to many lists of top wireless scanners. Judging by the stats, it looks like an extremely capable piece of tech.

BlueDriver uses its own application for all of its services. It’s a user-friendly experience, but it also prevents more customization and functionality from other application options. In addition to the basic tools needed to check and clear codes, the BlueDriver also says it offers pro tips and suggestions for repairs, a helpful addition that’s not available on all other devices. The BlueDriver is the most expensive dongle on this list, but it does present a well-rounded package with a lot of capability.

Specs
  • Manufacturer ‎Lemur Vehicle Monitors
  • Weight 2.08 ounces
  • Dimensions 2.2 x 1.9 x 1 inches
PROS

Offers suggestions for repairs

Works with advanced diagnostic systems such as ABS

Polished proprietary application

CONS

Premium price range

Can be laggy at times

Less customizable

Best Big Name Brand

Innova is one of the most well-known code reader companies in the U.S., and it’s based in California. It has been in business for more than 30 years and works with the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) to create a database of information that is built into the Innova RepairSolutions2 app that pairs with this Bluetooth dongle. This database gives added value to the Innova. Not only can it identify codes, it can also help provide tips and suggestions for how to solve and repair the problem. It also offers the opportunity to buy parts within the app.

The app offers customizable features, includes vehicle history reports, and can help you determine if your car will pass a smog check. One downside, however, is that it’s limited to just one app. If the app doesn’t work with your car or it can’t perform the task you desire, there’s not much room for expansion with other apps.

Specs
  • Manufacturer Innova Electronics Corp
  • Weight ‎1.6 ounces
  • Dimensions 1.97 x 1.18 x 1.1 inches
PROS

Trusted brand

In-app parts purchasing

Smog checks

CONS

Locked into one app

Internet connectivity might lag

Right out of the package, the Ancel BD200 Bluetooth OBD2 scanner comes with the style of a racing stripe across the actual dongle. This style is picked up in the app as well, since Ancel provides one of the most friendly and nicest-looking user interfaces of any OBD2 app.

When paired with the proprietary app, the Ancel BD200 is compatible with nearly all vehicles made in 1996 or later, and it functions with all the major OBD2 protocols. Within the app, which can be customized to a degree, users can check codes as expected, but the device can also provide trip analysis, battery analysis, and can run several performance tests. The downside is that it requires Ancel’s application.

How We Selected OBD2 Bluetooth Scanners 

Our product selections, rankings, and awards for this story are based on research. Although we haven’t conducted real-world testing on all of these products yet, we’ve looked at consumer testimonials and data, tutorials, and general discussions on social media and in forums. We also consider price and specification in the context of the segment. And of course, we rely on our institutional knowledge of the automotive landscape to weed out weak products.

For OBD2 scanners specifically, we first collected a few products, including the OBDLink MX+ and the BlueDriver. From there, we chose brands we know. As we searched through various scanners, we eliminated models that require yearly subscriptions to use the apps, and we made sure that all scanners suggested can be used with both Android and Apple smartphones. Certain products took priority over others due to features, price, compatibility with vehicles, compatibility with third-party apps, compatibility with add-ons, and whether or not it can also be used on a laptop or desktop computer.

Buying Guide/What to Look for 

Consider these points and do your research when selecting a Bluetooth OBD2 scanner.

Key Features

OEM Protocol Support

Some dongles are only compatible with certain manufacturers. Maybe one will work with Fords and Mazdas, but it won’t work with BMWs. If it is not compatible with the manufacturer, it might only provide general information that’s not catered to your specific ride, or it might not work at all. Always check compatibility to make sure you can access what you want. The compatibility will determine the features that are available to you. 

Third-party App Support

It’s possible that you won’t be able to get the information you want from your dongle until you pair it with a third-party smartphone app. Some of the most popular third-party apps include ForScan, BimmerCode, OBD Fusion, Torque, Carista OBD2, DashCommand, Dr. Prius, OBD JScan, GaragePro OBD2 Scanner, LeafSpy Pro, and TripLog.

Smog Check

Your car needs to be functioning to a certain standard in order to pass a smog check. These standards slightly vary from state to state, but overall, it focuses on emissions and codes. Many code readers today can tell you if you will fail or pass before you even drive to the shop.

Trip Logs

Sure, your smartphone can use GPS to show your current location and map directions, but can it record your trip and give you specific performance metrics about that trip? With the right dongle and smartphone application, you can record any trip you take, and the device will spit out data such as average speed, rev range, and fuel efficiency.

Live Data

A Bluetooth OBD2 scanner is great when your car is parked in your garage, but it’s also a helpful tool when you’re driving around, trying to diagnose issues. With certain devices, you can get live readings sent to your smartphone and watch it track and graph it in real time. This live data allows you to test theories out as you try to narrow down a problem or just allows you to get some fun interactive time with your car.  

Advanced Diagnostics 

Basic OBD2 scanners will almost always be able to reset your check-engine light, but there are several other warning lights that require different functionality to tap into and clear. Some notably advanced diagnostics include ABS, airbag, climate control, battery health, and hybrid diagnostics.

Tips and Tricks

To help you bridge the information gap, here’s a selection of tips and tricks we’ve learned along about wireless OBD2 scanners.

  • Some scanners or the apps they use require extra purchase or monthly fees. Make sure you get a free one. 
  • Connection is not always as simple as going to your Bluetooth settings. Make sure you read the manufacturer’s instructions and follow them closely.
  • Before you buy, check that your vehicle is compatible with the software. 
  • Make sure the device is compatible with the operating system on your smartphone.
  • Unplug your scanner after every use to prevent hitting it with your leg and/or foot.
  • Take advantage of cheap or free third-party apps that make your dongle even more useful.
  • Store the scanner in your glovebox, so it’s available at all times.

FAQs

You have the questions, we have the answers.

Q: Can OBD2 scanners clear check-engine lights?

Yes, every scanner should be able to perform the basic tasks of reading codes and clearing them, including the check-engine light.

Q: What kind of problems can an OBD2 scanner diagnose?

The OBD2 scanner can report on thousands of different codes that diagnose a variety of issues tied into the car’s computer system. If it has a sensor on it, it can probably be diagnosed with a scan tool. Modern OBD2 scanners also have several other features like real-time data, live charts, and various types of functionality for safety and new technological systems.

Q: Will an OBD2 Bluetooth scanner drain my car’s battery?

Although most Bluetooth scanners are currently designed with low-power draws or power shutoffs, we recommend removing the scanner and storing it when not in use.

Q: Are wireless OBD2 scanners functionally different from corded scanners?

In theory, for every function you could find on a corded scanner, you should be able to find a wireless scanner that could do the same, as there are both wireless and wired scanners that range from $20 basic options to thousand-dollar professional models.

Final Thoughts

Our top OBD2 Bluetooth Scanner is the OBDLink MX+. Although it’s a minor investment, it offers numerous features and is compatible with top third-party apps. It handles basic code-reading tasks and allows for DIY growth with deeper diagnostics. Our value pick is the Veepeak OBDCheck BLE+.

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