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How to Read OBDII Codes with an iPhone

Do check engine lights freak you out? Want to know what’s going on before you bring you car into the shop?

Some folks get extremely upset when the Check Engine light comes on in their car. Sometimes it’s a big deal. Sometimes it’s not. What gets people riled up is that they think they have to go back to the dealer to get those codes read. And you know what? That’s not true anymore.

If your car is getting lousy gas mileage and there’s an engine light lit up on the dashboard, take note. Your car may be trying to tell you something. A quick scan can tell you exactly what’s wrong.

Reading error codes is no big deal these days, thankfully. Every vehicle manufactured after 1998 has an On Board Diagnostic (OBD) port under the dash. Anyone can access their vehicle’s OBDII port with the right gear. There’s no need to rely on the dealer or repair shop for a quick scan.

The first option is your local auto parts store. Many have started offering free OBD scans. If you have a good auto parts store and you trust them, have them run a scan. (It’s a smart move on their part. They want to sell you the parts to fix whatever engine codes might appear.)

You can also read OBD codes with an app and an iPhone or an Android device. (I have an older iPhone.) You also need a way to get the information from the OBD port under the dash into your device. I use a GoPoint GL-1 cable.

You don’t have to hard wire. There are WiFi dongles and Bluetooth dongles. There’s a bunch of stuff out there … if you look around you can find some things that are aren’t too pricey. (Be careful when you look on eBay, as many of these device auctions are based in Asia.)

I like Carbonga as an app, because it doesn’t just show you the codes, it shows you what the codes mean.

A lot of devices will just tell you it’s a 1753241 and you have to go to the Internet and look it up and that can be kind of a pain in the neck.

Carbonga will show you the code number and tells you exactly what’s going on with your vehicle.

The video shows how I hooked up the Battlewagon to find out exactly what was going on.

You’ll see the dash lit up like a Christmas tree.

There are One Hundred and Seventy Something miles on the big green beast …

Suffice to say, it wasn’t pretty.

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2 comments ↓

#1 G. on 01.25.12 at 3:00 pm

Great addition, I’m old school although this really helps in figuring out the issues.

G.

#2 Linda Kim Duong on 01.31.12 at 7:41 pm

Things like this makes me really want to invest into an iphone. And I so would now, after having attended Macworld 2012.

But I’ll hold out for the iphone 5

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