Bluedriver Bidirectional

Bluedriver Bidirectional

Bluedriver Bidirectional

Best Bluetooth Scanner: Lemur – Bluedriver

Lemur Vehicle Monitors is a tiny company located on the tiny island of Newfoundland off the eastern shore of Canada, but their BlueDriver app and Bluetooth adapter is one of the biggest things that’s happened to automotive diagnostics in decades.

It’s not that BlueDriver is a revolutionary idea; plenty of other companies are selling Bluetooth adapters that work with a specific smartphone app. Many of these other options offer similar functionality. What’s big about BlueDriver is how simple and well-integrated it is.

Where other companies will sell a limited app with add-on modules that open up enhanced diagnostics, or a subscription-based app that means you’ll pay over and over again to keep using the hardware you’ve bought, BlueDriver is a one-time hardware purchase. You can install the app for free on as many devices as you want, and the adapter will unlock all the functionality, service bulletin and recall databases and vehicle-specific modes.

It’s a solid adapter, too. The new Bluetooth 4.0 protocol is used in this system, making it compatible with Android as well as Apple’s iOS devices. As long they run Android 4,0 and iOS 7,0 or higher. This covers almost every device that has been made after 2012.

The fact that this is a one-app adapter is a disappointment since there are some other apps like Carista and Torque that have interesting features BlueDriver doesn’t cover, but the disappointment fades when you see that the app and adapter connect right away and work seamlessly with each other.

Top Pick: Lemur – BlueDriver

The feature list for BlueDriver is truly impressive. BlueDriver can scan your vehicle to find the most obscure trouble codes, and even reset them if it is one of the many models that are supported. The live display and report sharing functions are best-in-class, too. There’s even a flashlight button!

Lemur provides detailed information about what Lemur’s app is able to see and not see regarding a vehicle that is on the compatibility list. We love this kind of information. Before you buy a compatibility tool, make sure you check your vehicle on it. This will help you determine what features you’ll get. The only thing that was not on the list were the Chevrolet tire-pressure compatibility and airbag compatibility.

Although it won’t replace an expensive scan tool that costs $5,000, this might be a good alternative to one that would cost $500. It doesn’t include a tablet, so if you don’t already own or want one then a tablet-style scanner from Autel or Launch might be a better purchase for serious diagnostic work. It’s possible that you already have a compatible device.

The scanner was able to find and set every code on the 2007 Toyota Corolla that we attempted, which is quite impressive. It is notoriously hard to reset airbag codes. All you have to do is unplug the seatbelt sensors or occupant sensor cables from your front seats and they will be activated. This app is great if you are a car stereo or upholstery technician.

We were also impressed to see the way BlueDriver keeps a record of every car you connect it with and logs the date, time and any trouble codes it finds.

The one feature of the better stand-alone scanners that didn’t show up in BlueDriver is a trigger for the mode $08 evaporative system test. This isn’t an essential feature, since it’s a test your car will do automatically after a certain amount of time (specific conditions to trigger the test vary), but it would make this a more valuable tool for someone fixing a problem right before taking a car in for emissions testing.

Lemur’s updates are the best feature of the system. BlueDriver is likely to be supported by any new mode or feature that they add to the extended compatibility list.

The key takeaways

  • BlueDriver turns any smartphone into an excellent scan tool that provides a wide range of diagnostic tools.
  • Extended diagnostic functions for many popular cars make the price tag easier to swallow. Not every car is included, but for $99 it’s an impressive list.
  • It is very useful to have a flashlight on the main screen.
  • There are a few features we’d ask for, and compatibility with universal-adapter apps like Carista or Lap Timer would also be nice.
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    Smartphone Connected Scanners

    This is a fairly new type of OBD scanner, but they’re becoming very popular. Most Wi-Fi or Bluetooth scanners are based on an integrated circuit made by Elm Electronics, called the ELM327. An adapter is a device that acts as an intermediary between your vehicle and your smartphone. The display, logging and reset of diagnostic data are handled by the app.

    Adapters come in different shapes and sizes.

    On the bargain side of things, there are cheap adapters all over Amazon, eBay and pretty much everywhere else you can find cheap electronics. Most of these adapters are Bluetooth and only compatible with Android or Windows, but there are also USB- and WiFi-connected options.

    Cheap adapters are almost all based on the ELM327 design, but Elm charges $15 just for the chip in bulk, so it shouldn’t be surprising if a $9 buy-it-now-bargain doesn’t use a genuine chip.

    Specialized designs from companies like Carista, PLX Devices, and OBDLink are designing circuits around new, 100% legitimate versions of Elm’s chip, which means lower power draw and a larger buffer for data transmission, along with a few new commands. This adapter is more likely to be compatible with the Bluetooth Low Energy or Bluetooth 4.0 standards. You will need to use an older iPhone adapter in order to establish a Wi Fi network. This means that you cannot simultaneously use both your OBD adapter AND a Wi Fi internet connection.

    Other manufacturers, like Lemur, Bosch and OBDEleven use their own proprietary chip (so they don’t work with universal apps like OBD Fusion or Carista) that reads extra codes like the airbag systems, ABS, central locking and security controls, and whatever else these wizards can coax out of your car’s systems. The adapters can also be used to unlock the respective apps. This makes the app more costly and less free.

    Compatibility and feature sets run a huge gamut in the smartphone world. For example, Carista and FORScan are Android only apps. They will allow you to have a tremendous amount of control over specific cars if you use a universal adapter. Some apps, such as Automatic and Verizon’s Hum focus on adding value features, such Asstar-style roadside support services. Others, such as OBDEleven will provide a specific set of features only for a particular brand of car and you’ll need to purchase both a proprietary adapter or software in order to unlock these features.
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    You can access engine diagnostics codes and emissions readiness with almost any app/adapter combination, much like an excellent standalone scanner.

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    Innova – 3310 G2

    The Innova software suite, which connects to the 30-30g2 (often called “3030g”). has the most complex workflow of all the ones we tried. Sadly, that also means it’s the most tied to an internet connection and a Windows computer (sorry Mac users.)

    RepairSolutions is Innova’s computer software. After you have completed the code check with the handheld scanner that will take place, this is where most of the magic takes place. This is a web service, so you’ll need a PC with internet access to do anything more than a basic code check.

    After you have created an RepairSolutions Account and downloaded the drivers, Innova lets you do basic paperwork. You can print and view reports on vehicles that you’ve scan and you can access technical bulletins and recalls. If you purchase a scanner to scan vehicles that you care for, this allows you to log the miles and provides some recommendations for preventative maintenance based on age.

    Upgraded subscription accounts ($9.99/car, $39.99 for five cars), give you access to Innova’s recommended repair and diagnostic instructions. (Pro accounts even let you print itemized repair costs.) This is less than the cost of a subscription on or buying a hard copy of a manual, and having repairs matched to specific codes is a real plus. It’s still going to cost more than using a library subscription to a Haynes or Chilton database and using to look up codes and fixes, though.

    The fact that Innova ties the diagnostics to VIN instead of car type also means that you can’t double up your investment the way you can when buying a service manual and sharing with a friend who owns the same car.

    Our biggest problem with the 3030g2 is that it didn’t scan for ABS codes in our tests. ABS features are expensive and usually only show up in tools that cost $150+. Our car was compatible with the Innova compatibility tester. If you get lucky and this tool can scan an ABS code for you, its value goes up, but without a live readout, the diagnostic utility is still less than it should be at this price.
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    For maintenance workers who need to be able to create organized, neat reports using their own tools, the 3030g2 is a good choice. Paying extra for repair walkthroughs doesn’t make this a great value, but it does make it more like an entry-level shop computer than just a diagnostic reader.

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    Smartphone Extras

    You might find some hacks and tricks in an older car’s electronic controls system. These can be achieved with the correct combination of software and adapter hardware.

    Take, for example, the Volkswagen “hatchpop mod”. With parts purchased from enthusiast parts suppliers like ECS tuning, the Carista, or OBDeleven, you can add an open hatch remote to any VW Golf without that feature being included by default.

    This type of non-diagnostic programming will only be possible with software that runs on a smartphone, tablet or laptop connected via Bluetooth or USB adapter. There is software available for almost every type of modern vehicle (as the dealer must program it when it starts up). However, the price and complexity vary.

    Going back to our Volkswagen example, Rosstech LLC sells the famous VCDS software and USB interfaces that unlock all kinds of programming control, but at a $199 starting price, it’s definitely not an impulse buy. Carista is a brand new type of modification software for enthusiasts, which uses a smartphone interface with low-cost Bluetooth adapter equipment.

    We tested the Carista app on a recent-model Toyota minivan and found that it gives an interesting array of programming options for things like lights, key remotes, and climate control. Carista didn’t do anything beyond basic OBD-II reporting on our primary test car, a 2007 Corolla. Only the Carista Bluetooth adapter (branded Carista) worked with Carista.

    From online comments, it looks like Carista is blocking compatibility with adapters like those from Veepeak because of possible problems with a non-genuine ELM327 interface chip; the fact that the less expensive BAFX adapter is not blocked makes the situation a bit baffling. The Carista-branded adapter is the only one we tested, then, that offers both iPhone compatibility and the extended Carista “mod” functions. Other adapters are very good for OBD-II diagnostics in apps such as OBD Fusion.

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    Extended Diagnostics And Compatibility

    If you’re working on a project car or if you want to avoid trips to the dealer at all costs, you may want a way to read codes for other systems that aren’t covered by the OBD standard.

    Anti-lock brake, tire pressure monitoring, and airbag are just a few of the other systems. These systems almost always use the same network for communication as OBD, but with different protocols and proprietary codes that won’t show up on a generic scanner. You will have an additional menu option available if you purchase a scanner that can read Ford’s brake system diagnostics.

    Three of the scanners we tested included some extended diagnostic access. BlueDriver has a comprehensive compatibility list. OBD Fusion only supports certain Ford, Mazda and Toyota/Lexus models and requires you to purchase in-app for every model year that you wish to scan. The Innova 3030g2 lists ABS support for some models, but in our tests, it didn’t read one of the popular cars it was supposed to support.

    Compatibility is the trickiest part of picking a tool for extended diagnostics. Shop tools that your mechanic purchases are usually more expensive as they ensure compatibility. A repair shop will probably have tools like a Snap-On Verus or OTC Genisys, and those manufacturers make their money on specific compatibility modules and updates for new cars every year.

    PC software is typically the cheapest way to get access to all the hidden programming the manufacturer codes in the various networks and controllers. The realm of brand-specific control and diagnostic software is a scary place, though, full of eBay-sourced USB cables and (often) pirated software. There’s some good software and quality equipment out there for many brands of cars, but be careful, and don’t expect miracles to be cheap.
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    Important Features To Consider

    These were the most important features we tested and checked on every scanner.

    You can save data. This option allows you to record, playback and replay a graph or readout. This is useful if you have an intermittent problem that doesn’t generate a code. The option to save data also comes with ways to print, download, or otherwise share the data your scanner finds. On a smartphone diagnostic app, this feature is almost always available with a GPS overlay, so you can see what’s happening at specific locations in a test drive.

    Mode 6 is often called mode $06, or “Onboard monitor” and it’s one of ten modes that your car has programmed. Mode 6 functions relate to live data readingouts. However, these internal tests are what your car uses to determine if things are OK or should alert you with the check engine lights. This system wasn’t originally designed to be readable by humans, but some scanners include a translated readout of the hexadecimal-coded values. This is a common way to determine if there are any compression or misfire problems in a specific cylinder. It also provides data that may indicate other issues but not enough to cause a check engine warning.

    The Evap test is a $08 mode command. It tells your vehicle to run a “evaporative emissions control system” test. This prevents any fuel from evaporate out of your tank, causing smog. Triggering this test won’t fix anything by itself, but once you do fix a problem with the fuel system it’s nice to be able to manually trigger a test. This way you can verify your fix right away, without waiting a few days (or longer) for your car to run it automatically.

    Troubleshooter functions: These give you a set of recommended fixes for problems detected by the scanner. It is difficult to score this feature because the information is not specific enough to identify a problem. The Innova scanner was awarded a score of half because it only searches Innova’s database for fixes if you have a paid subscription.