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Bluetooth engine-diagnostic scanner coming for Android phones

Consumer Reports News: August 27, 2010 01:33 PM

Photo: Courtesy of PLX Devices

The range of vehicle diagnostic tools available for mobile phones is expanding. We covered some upcoming models at last year’s Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association convention.

Now PLX, one of the device-makers we covered there, is releasing new technology for phones based on the Google Android operating system. As with other PLX Kiwi models, if your car’s check-engine comes on, you can plug the device into the on-board diagnostic (OBD II) port that has been on all cars since the 1996 model year (see your owner’s manual for the location). The device communicates with your Android phone via Bluetooth to show trouble codes, list problems, and even allow you to reset your check-engine light. (If you haven’t fixed the underlying problem, however, it will come on again.)

In addition to the Kiwi hardware, you need to download an OBD II app for your phone. Some choices include Torque, alOBD Scanner, or OBDroid. Prices range from free to about $5. The PLX Kiwi device is expected to sell for $99.

Other wireless OBD II scanners, including the OT-2 from Innovate Motorsports, are available for the iPhone and connect via WiFi.

The check-engine light indicates that there is a problem with your car’s emissions system. If it comes on, you should have the problem corrected. If you’re mechanically inclined, knowing the trouble code that triggered the light can sometimes help you fix the problem yourself (sometimes, the problem is only a loose fuel-filler cap). But even if you take the car to a mechanic, knowing the trouble code and in which system the problem is occurring can help you communicate with your mechanic and avoid potential ripoffs. Many of these scan tools can also display real-time fuel economy data and have tools to help you drive more efficiently.

Eric Evarts

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