Its always a good idea to have an OBD2 (OBD-II) scanner or sensor on hand. They take a bit of the guessing out of working out what is wrong with a particular car and they are also incredibly useful when carrying out an inspection of a used vehicle.
There are loads of different OBD2 tools available, from wired ones to Bluetooth and more. We have already covered a few including the very popular FIXD scanner and in this review we are going to be looking at another very popular, highly reviewed OBD2 sensor, the BlueDriver Pro OBDII Scan Tool for iPhone and Android devices.
How Much Does the BlueDriver Pro OBDII Scanner Cost to Buy?
The BlueDriver Pro OBDII tool is priced at US$119, which puts it at the higher end of the market for consumer grade Bluetooth OBDII scanners (commercial/industrial grade are usually much more expensive). It is about three times the price of the FIXD sensor we tested and liked, but that one needs a very expensive “Premium” subscription if you want to unlock all the features of the app/software (however, you can use it with third party apps).
The lack of any subscriptions makes the BlueDriver Pro’s higher entry price a lot less painful and to be honest we much prefer it that way. We would prefer to pay a little bit more and have a free app as seemingly everything has a subscription attached to it these days. However, the FIXD app and the apps from other brands don’t necessarily need the subscription to provide the functionality that most users require, so that muddies the waters a bit more.
What Cars will the BlueDriver Pro OBDII Scanner Work On?
The BlueDriver sensor will work on pretty much any vehicle with an OBD2 port. OBD2 is a standardised system (a bit like USB for computers) that ensures there is one universal connector that all vehicles can use. Basically, any car built in the last 20 years will almost certainly have OBD2 functionality. If you are dealing with an older vehicle the BlueDriver product will probably not work. You can search something like “vehicle name” with “does it have an OBD2 port” to see what comes up (we also suggest that you look around and under the dash, and in the engine bay as these places are usually where the OBD2 port is located.
OBD2 was made a requirement for all cars manufactured in the USA in 1996. It was then mandated by the European Union in 2001 (2004 for diesel vehicles) and 2006 for Australia/New Zealand. In Japan OBD2 was mandated from 2008, but some manufacturers introduced it earlier (see below for more):
- Honda from 2001
- Mazda from 2001
- Mitsubishi from 2006
- Nissan from 2007
- Subaru from 2003 (engine codes only – full OBD2 from 2008)
- Suzuki from 2006
- Toyota from 2006
- Toyota Diesel from 2008
First Impressions and What’s in the Box
There isn’t too much to talk about here. The packaging is fairly nice and inside the box you get a the scanner itself, a BlueDriver sticker and some instructions. We felt that the BlueDriver scanner’s build quality is better than the FIXD one, but it really isn’t that much of a difference given how simple these devices are. The scanner is small, so it will easily fit in your vehicle’s glovebox or centre console storage area. It will also easily fit in your pocket if you want to take it to an inspection of a used car and it doesn’t stick out of the OBDII port far (handy if you want to leave it in all the time).
Setting up the Software & Using the BlueDriver Pro OBDII Sensor
The BlueDriver’s setup process is by far the easiest of all of the scanners and apps we have tested to date. It really is as simple as plugging the device in, connecting Bluetooth and then opening up the app and hitting connect (red light will go blue when everything is all setup). It got all the info from the cars we tested it on and even got the VIN correct. Other OBD2 scanners and apps we have tested, including the FIXD one, required us to go and find the VIN and/or enter the details of the vehicle (make, model, etc.). It really is the best setup process we have experienced, but what is the rest of the app like?
Like we mentioned before, the BlueDriver app is completely free, so there are no banner ads prompting you to upgrade to “Premium” or add some special feature for an additional cost. We like this as it got a bit annoying in the FIXD app after a while and is one of the reasons why we started to use a third party app with that scanner.
Before we dived into the functionality of the app, it prompted us to update the firmware of the app. BlueDriver seems to be very good at keeping its software up to date, which is a major plus in our opinion.
“Read Codes” is the first option on the BlueDriver app’s home screen. Reading codes is what most people will use the BlueDriver Pro for and we are pl eased to report that it does it very well. It is quick to scan the car and will report three different types of codes:
- Confirmed Trouble Codes
- Pending Trouble Codes
- Permanent Codes – these cannot be cleared by any OBD2 scanner according to BlueDriver and will apparently clear themselves once the vehicle determines that the issue is resolved.
The BlueDriver Pro app also provides more functionality when it comes to scanning itself. Most of Bluetooth OBD2 scanners only read engine fault codes and not codes relating to things like the ABS system, airbags, climate control, etc. The BlueDriver app can actually give you information on these extra areas, which is one of the biggest benefits of this device and sets it apart from much of the competition. However, the “Enhanced Diagnostics” are not available on all models and makes, so you may not be able to get this extra information on your particular vehicle. BlueDriver does list what vehicles Enhanced Diagnostics are available on and we have included that below:
|GM||Including Chevrolet, GMC, Cadillac, Buick, Saturn, Pontiac, etc.|
|Ford||Including Ford, Lincoln, & Mercury|
|Chrysler||Including Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, & Plymouth|
|Toyota||Including Toyota, Lexus, & Scion|
|Nissan||Including Nissan, Infiniti, & Renault|
|Subaru||(sold in the US)|
|Mitsubishi||(2008 models & newer)|
|Hyundai||Including Hyundai & Kia (2011 models & newer)|
|Mercedes||Including Mercedes & Smart (2005 models & newer)|
|BMW||(sold in North America) including BMW & Mini (2005 models & newer)|
|Honda||(sold in North America) including Honda & Acura (2003 models & newer)|
|Volkswagen||(sold in North America) including VW, Audi, Lamborghini & Bentley|
If your vehicle is supported by the enhanced features, you will notice a banner at the top of the screen stating, “Enhanced Diagnostics Supported”. It seems like North American models are more supported than other regions models, so that is something to keep in mind if you plan to get the BlueDriver Pro for this extra capability (we can confirm that our 2017 New Zealand new Honda didn’t get the Enhanced Diagnostic features).
If a scan doesn’t find anything the app will display a page stating the following:
- 0 Confirmed Trouble Codes
- 0 Pending Trouble Codes
- 0 Permanent Trouble Codes
On the other hand, if you do a scan and there is an issue it will display some information about the fault, including the code that the fault relates to, a descriptive title of the fault (power steering control module code for example), and a description of the code. You can get more information and advice by clicking the arrow to the right of the description. If you simply want to clear the code you can tap the rubbish bin icon at the bottom of the section about that particular fault/code.
If there are multiple fault codes they will be displayed one after the other and you can minimise them so that just the title shows. You can also clear all the codes at once selecting the “Clear Codes” option on the home page.
The BlueDriver app doesn’t just give you the codes and leave it at that. It also offers information on suggested fixes and parts for the particular problem, which is something that can come in handy when it comes to more dishonest mechanics or sellers. We didn’t have much experience with this particular feature ourselves, but plenty of other reviewers state that it works quite well. We will also continue to use the BlueDriver and if we get more of a chance to try this out we will update this review accordingly.
Once you have completed a successful scan that finds some fault codes, you can then create a report in the “Saved Reports” section. From here you are able to create a PDF version of the report, for further viewing or if you want to pass on the information to another person. This is a really handy feature to have and is something that we feel will be quite useful during an inspection of a used car. You can create the report and then send the information to your trusted mechanic or somebody who is knowledgeable about the particular vehicle you are interested in buying.
Along with reading and clearing codes, the BlueDriver Pro device and app offers some other useful features. You can get live information about the vehicle and then create a report on it for later viewing. The live data monitoring ability is arguably one of the best available on any consumer Bluetooth OBD2 scanner, which is a big selling point if you need those sorts of capabilities.
You can also do things like a “Smog Check” to make sure that your vehicle complies with emissions regulations. This check will test things such as the fault codes, misfires, fuel system and more.
The “MIL Status” section of the app will report information such as how long the car has been run with the Check Engine Light (CEL) on, run time since the codes were cleared, distance since the codes were cleared and more.
Unfortunately, while this is useful it doesn’t actually tell you what the cleared codes were, just how long ago they were cleared. This makes the BlueDriver Pro a bit less useful during used car inspections where you want to check when the codes were last cleared and what those codes were. However, it is important to note that the vast majority of OBD2 scanners cannot see what past cleared codes were, so this isn’t a major negative against the BlueDriver Pro. A lot of cheaper Bluetooth OBD2 scanners can’t even see if codes have been cleared in the past, which still makes the BlueDriver better than those.
“Freeze Frame” is another useful feature, which can take a snapshot of the vehicle’s current status. The data included in this includes information such as the engine coolant temperature, engine rpm, vehicle speed, intake temperature, throttle position and much more. This seemed to work pretty well on most cars we tested the BlueDriver on, but on some vehicles it didn’t record all of the data.
Using the BlueDriver Pro with Third Party Apps
Unlike the some of the other OBD2 scanners we have tested, the BlueDriver Pro doesn’t seem to be compatible with third-party apps like ELM OBD2. We couldn’t get the BlueDriver Pro to show up at all, whereas something like the FIXD appeared immediately.
This is a bit of a bummer as it is always nice to have a second option when doing a scan, even if the BlueDriver app is one of the best when it comes to Bluetooth OBD2 scanners.
Being able to use third-party apps also changes the value proposition of other scanners. For example, the FIXD’s standard app is okay, but you can unlock a lot more functionality by switching to ELM OBD2. This makes it a bit harder to justify the BlueDriver Pro’s much higher product cost.
However, there is no getting past the fact that the BlueDriver app is the easiest to setup and use of any OBD2 apps we have tested. It just seems to work consistently, which is a major benefit in our eyes.
Conclusion – Is the BlueDriver Pro Bluetooth OBD-II Scanner Worth a Buy?
Without a doubt the BlueDriver Pro is the best out of the box experience from any Bluetooth OBD2 scanner we have tested. The setup is as easy as can be, it reads codes quickly and accurately, and provides plenty of data while doing so. The live monitoring is useful, along with the other checks such as “MIL Status” and “Freeze Frame”.
The biggest downside of the BlueDriver is its cost. It is just a lot more expensive than many of the other options out there. This is balanced out somewhat by having a free, very feature rich app, but the fact that you can often use ELM OBD2 and other third-party apps with cheaper options brings the value proposition back in favour with lower cost products like the FIXD sensor.
The lack of third-party app support is another downside of the BlueDriver as it is sometimes nice to have a second, backup option when doing a check (although, the BlueDriver app is very good and we have had no problems with it).
Overall, we think the BlueDriver is definitely worth a buy if you are looking for one of the best “out of the box” Bluetooth OBD2 scanners out there. It may be more expensive, but the ease of use, reliability and lack of a subscription to unlock all features is really something to be commended. Going forward this will be our Bluetooth OBD2 sensor of choice, and we will continue to update this review with any further information on our experiences with the product.