Car Scan Tools

Top 10 Best OBD2 Apps for 2021 for iPhone and Android

Top 10 OBD2 Apps For Your Car

Looking for the best OBD2 app for iPhone and Android? Here are our top 10 recommendations for OBD2 apps that can help you read and clear your check engine light from your smartphone.

There are hundreds of apps available for both iPhone and Android that can help you better understand and care for your car. But if you’re looking for an intuitive, easy-to-use app that lets you view live OBD2 data, read and clear diagnostic trouble codes, and much more, then these are the best OBD2 apps of 2021.

Different OBD2 apps have different features, so which one is best for you depends on your needs. But here are my top 3 picks to help you decide which one to use.

Editor’s Picks

Best OverallBudget ChoicePro Choice
FIXD OBD2 AppTorque LiteBlueDriver

For the best overall value, great features, and an easy-to-use OBD2 app that’s compatible with both iPhone and Android smartphones, FIXD takes the win. Ideal for both everyday drivers and shade tree mechanics who like to DIY repairs.

If you have an Android, the free version of the Torque app is more than adequate for basic OBD2 functions, like reading and clearing trouble codes. All you need is a $10 scanner. Plus, you can always upgrade to the Pro version later.
 
Although the most expensive, it’s also the most powerful, which is what you need if you’re a pro or avid DIYer. BlueDriver offers most of the features of FIXD, plus the ability to read codes for ABS, airbags, and other systems on many (but not all) vehicles.

Why Should You Use an OBD2 App

Since the introduction of OBD2, also referred to as onboard diagnostics or OBDII, virtually every gas-powered passenger vehicle built since 1996 can be monitored and managed through this protocol. 

While this article isn’t all about OBD2, here’s what you need to know: An OBD2 app connects to an OBD2 scanner, either by Bluetooth or WiFi, and works with this system to retrieve information from your car’s computer. Your car’s computer, also known as the ECM, can help you analyze engine performance and diagnose car repair needs. 

In simple terms? OBD2 apps help you understand what’s wrong with your vehicle when the check engine light comes on, help you start to diagnose issues before going to the repair shop, and can potentially save you thousands of dollars. 

These apps can show you not only what the check engine light means, but also potential ways to fix it. You can take this information and save with DIY repairs or simply feel more confident at the repair shop so you don’t get scammed.

Now that you know why you need an OBD2 app, here are the top 10 best OBD2 apps for 2021:

Best OBD2 Apps for 2021

1. FIXD Sensor Professional Bluetooth OBD2 Scanner

FIXD Scanner and App

FIXD was developed by 3 Georgia Tech engineering students who were sick of seeing people get ripped off at the repair shop. On a mission to help drivers better understand and better care for their cars, they designed FIXD’s state-of-the-art software in the U.S. 

I might be a little biased, but I’ve used a lot of OBD apps over the years, and I find the FIXD app both extremely versatile and easy-to-use. Whether you’re an avid DIYer or you prefer to take your car to a repair shop, the FIXD OBD2 app comes with plenty of features to help you feel in control of your car. 

It is compatible with any vehicle that has an OBD2 port and connects wirelessly with Bluetooth to both iPhone and Android. However, you must purchase the FIXD scanner for $69.99 in order to use the app. That same $59 will also buy you a one-year subscription to FIXD Premium, which includes a free sensor and many more features than the free version of FIXD.

I love that the app not only gives simplified code descriptions in plain English, but it also guides drivers to other resources, including YouTube videos, blog articles, and more. It’s also the only OBD2 app I’ve found that alerts you when it’s time for your car’s next routine maintenance service. Considering how quickly I put on the miles, it’s easy for me to miss a recommended service.

If you don’t have a check engine light, there’s a diagnostic flowchart to help you diagnose your problem based on the symptoms. The optional FIXD Premium upgrade gives you access to even more features, including the FIXD Mechanic Hotline, emissions readiness testing, and confirmed cost estimates for your specific repairs.

FIXD Premium OBD2 App home screen

Who It’s Best For: Everyone from the mom in the school pick-up line to experienced DIYers to owners of fleet vehicles can all benefit from this multi-functional OBD scan tool and app with a long list of helpful features and small, easy-to-use design. Priced at just $69.99 for the scanner and free app, it’s also a great value for budget-conscious drivers.

Key Features:

  • Plain English check engine diagnostics
  • Reads and clears the check engine light
  • Issue severity warnings
  • Automated maintenance alerts
  • Live data display
  • Multi-vehicle monitoring
  • Real-time health monitoring
  • Wireless Bluetooth connection
  • Easy-to-use smartphone app for iOS and Android

FIXD Premium includes all this, plus:

  • Confirmed Fix & Cost: Get the specific fix for your check engine light and know how much it will cost before taking it into the shop. This is also backed up by our RepairPal Fair Price Guarantee, so you can be sure the price you see in the app for your repair is the price you’ll pay at the shop IF you schedule repairs through the app (another free feature we offer).
  • Issue Forecast: Know what issues your specific make/model is most likely to have in the future. You can use this information to plan ahead and hopefully prevent some of them (or at least have it budgeted) or you can use the information to avoid certain used cars you’re considering purchasing.
  • Vehicle Incident History: Be informed before buying a used car. Get accident history, previous owner info, and more for free on as many cars as you want to scan.
  • Emissions Precheck: Know if your car will pass emissions before wasting time and money at a crowded emissions testing facility
  • FIXD Mechanic Hotline: Available M-F 8a-8p for all your car questions, troubleshooting problems, walking you through DIY repairs and maintenance, literally anything you want to call about, they’re here for you and your car.
PROSCONS
Easy to set up and simple enough for anyone to use

Monitors up to 5 vehicles’ health simultaneously so you can take care of the whole family fleet

Maintenance alerts make it easy to stay up to date on oil changes and prevent breakdowns

Delivers “plain English” diagnostics in seconds directly to your phone

Comes with detailed articles and YouTube videos to help you fix car problems yourself
More expensive than some competitors

Can’t read all codes (such as ABS & airbag)

Doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles that some other apps do

Advanced features (FIXD Mechanic Hotline, cost estimates, and more) are only available with a FIXD Premium subscription, which you can try for free with purchase of a sensor.

2. Torque

Torque App

This is one of the most popular OBD2 apps for Android. Unfortunately for iOS users, it’s only available for Android, which is too bad because it has excellent features, graphics, and customization capabilities.

There are actually two versions of Torque: Lite and Pro. Torque Lite is free and will perform all basic OBD2 code reader functions. It’ll scan your car, give you the codes and the standard description (which may or may not make sense in plain English), and clear your codes and turn off the check engine light.

For just $5, Torque Pro will do all of this, plus support proprietary trouble codes for Nissan, Chrysler, Subaru, and others. The Pro version will also read sensors beyond standard OBD2 on many cars, such as ABS, transmission, etc.

Both versions of Torque have excellent graphics, with attractive displays showing you information in a way that’s easy to understand. Torque has an active user community that enjoys creating customized graphics that displays data from Torque in new and interesting ways. For example, I once used a custom display that resembles the dashboard of KITT from Knight Rider. It looked just like the futuristic dashboard of the car in the show. It also displayed live data for speed, RPM, and other parameters, so the display was actually useful, too!

Another feature of Torque Pro is a “track recorder.” Intended for use at autocrosses and track days, it will record video from your camera and overlay live data displays on top of it. That way you can watch your track video later and compare your entry speed into turn 3 throughout the day, or observe your lateral Gs to see where you could go faster next time.

One great feature for the track is the ability to set alarms and warnings if certain parameters are exceeded. For example, you could set an alarm to alert you if your oil temperature gets too hot, or your oil pressure gets too low. Either of these could be a problem on the track, and you may be too busy driving fast to notice. Alerts like these will make sure you’re aware of any unusual condition that you choose.

Who It’s Best For: Torque Lite, combined with an inexpensive ELM327 OBD2 scanner, is the most affordable way to connect to your car and get basic diagnostic information, making it the top choice for those on a budget. Torque Pro is extremely powerful and customizable, making it a good choice for “Power Users” who want to create custom displays to monitor live data. Track day enthusiasts may find Torque Pro especially useful.

Key Features:

  • Diagnose and reset the check engine light
  • Real-time vehicle health monitoring
  • Reads most engine codes
  • Wireless Bluetooth connectivity
  • Android compatibility only
PROSCONS
Affordable

Works with any OBD2 scanner

Can set alarms and warnings if certain parameters are exceeded

Combine recorded video with car telemetry overlay

Active user community making their own customizations and plugins
Android only

Can’t read all codes (such as ABS & airbag)

Can be complicated to fully utilize all of its features

3. DashCommand

DashCommand App

DashCommand is another one of the most popular OBD2 apps, available for Android, iOS, and even Windows. Its customization features aren’t as extensive as Torque, but it does allow for attractive, informative custom gauges. And the built-in displays and features are excellent.

You must connect the app to your OBD2 scanner manually. On Android devices, this is a simple push of the “Connect” button on the main screen. While DashCommand supports iOS, it requires the use of a WiFi scanner, not Bluetooth, in order to connect. (Other scanners, such as FIXD, connect to iOS devices by Bluetooth with no problem.) Before starting the app, you must manually connect your iPhone or iPad to your OBD2 scanner’s WiFi network, then start DashCommand and connect there. It works about 75% of the time in my experience. It may take a few tries to actually make a connection.

Functionally, DashCommand has many similar features to Torque. It has several preconfigured dashboards to provide information about performance, fuel economy, trip statistics, your engine, fuel fill-ups. 

For driving enthusiasts, there is a Race Track feature similar to Torque, except instead of overlaying telemetry on video, it displays it on an overhead view of a Google Map satellite view of where you’re driving. This means it should work whether you’re driving on a real race track or simply autocrossing in a parking lot. DashCommand can also display a large G-force meter to help you take full advantage of your tires’ grip. Off-road enthusiasts may enjoy the inclinometer, which tells you the angle you’re leaning to the side or forward and back.

The diagnostics page is pretty basic. DashCommand will read standard and proprietary codes, but only provide a basic description for standard codes, and none at all for manufacturer-specific ones. You can clear codes and reset the check engine light, of course. You can also check emission system readiness, which is useful if you live in a state that tests emissions. This way, you know your car is ready for the test before you bring it in for inspection only to get turned away.

Where DashCommand redeems itself for the DIY mechanic is the gauges and live data displays. The excellent displays and ease of configuring custom gauges is a tremendous help to the home hobbyist trying to track down a problem beyond just reading codes.

Who It’s Best For: This is another app for the “Power User,” the advanced home DIY mechanic who can take full advantage of DashCommand’s vast array of features and live data displays. The Performance and Race Track features may also be useful to a driving enthusiast.

Key Features:

  • Reads and clears the check engine light
  • Real-time health monitoring
  • Customizable live data displays
  • Wireless Bluetooth or WiFi connection
  • Easy-to-use smartphone app for iOS and Android
PROSCONS
Supports all OBD2-compliant vehicles

Monitors multiple vehicles

Well-designed dashboards for diagnostics, fuel economy, performance, etc.

Highly customizable data inputs and displays
Inclinometer, useful for off-roading
Sophisticated displays could be confusing to less technical users

Can be tricky to manually connect to iOS devices using WiFi

Reads but does not explain proprietary manufacturer trouble codes

4. BlueDriver OBD2 App

BlueDriver App

Based out of Canada, BlueDriver is a top-selling OBD2 scan tool and app on Amazon and a popular choice among DIYers. This is likely due to its ability to read a wide variety of OBD2 codes, including ABS, airbag, transmission, and more.

Like FIXD, it offers a wide variety of scanning capabilities, but it must be used with its proprietary OBD2 scan tool. 

The main drawback of BlueDriver is a high starting price of $99.99 for the scanner and app, not including shipping.

Who It’s Best For: Professionals and everyday drivers alike, although the more advanced features offer the most value to the highly experienced DIYer.

Key Features:

  • Diagnose and reset the check engine light
  • Real-time vehicle health monitoring
  • DIY repair guidance
  • Wireless Bluetooth connectivity
  • Reads most engine codes
  • Android & iOS compatibility
PROSCONS
Highly versatile and well-made code reader that reads more than just engine codes (ABS, airbags, etc.)

Comes with Enhanced Diagnostics ideal for experienced DIYers

Generates Repair Reports which can easily be shared with your mechanic

Confirmed Fix & Smog Check available for free in the app
Does not currently support Enhanced Diagnostics (ABS, SRS, etc.) for all vehicles

Does not track routine maintenance and wear items like FIXD does

Only monitors one vehicle at a time

Higher priced at $99.99 

5. OBD Auto Doctor

OBD2 Doctor App

Based in Finland, OBD Auto Doctor is a vehicle diagnostics app developed for PC, Mac, and Linux computers as well as Apple and Android smartphones. OBD Auto Doctor is a software that was developed for use with a number of compatible ELM 327 scan tools, which means you still have to buy a scanner to plug into your OBD2 port. This might be helpful for DIYers or shops that already have a scanner and want different software, but it adds to the overall cost of diagnosing check engine light issues.

The most notable downside of this OBD2 software is that there are three different pricing points ranging from $39,95 up to $119.95, but the website doesn’t make it clear what the specific advantages are with each option.

Who It’s Best For: DIYers and repair shops, especially those that might have multiple OBD2 scan tools

Key Features:

  • Diagnose and reset the check engine light
  • Ability to show real time and freeze frame data (with paid version)
  • Supports numerous scan tools
  • Emissions systems test capabilities 
  • Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity
  • PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android compatible
  • Available in multiple languages
PROSCONS
Software can work with other OBD2 scanners

Viewable on PC, Linux, and Mac computers as well as Apple and Android smartphones

Free app download can show DTCs
Free app download can’t clear DTCs or show live data

No maintenance reminders

Expensive/confusing pricing options

You still need to purchase a separate scan tool

6. Carly OBD2 App

Carly App

Carly is an OBD2 diagnostic scanner and app that allows users to understand and clear the check engine light. With the full paid version of Carly, users can also custom code their vehicles to fit their needs. This includes adjusting lighting and mirrors, deactivating the seatbelt warning, and more.

It is a European-based app, and some American users complain about customer support and verbiage used in the app. The biggest complaint about Carly is its subscription-based model. This makes it a much more expensive option compared to FIXD’s car scanner and free OBD2 app. 

Who It’s Best For: Hands-on drivers of foreign makes who like to tinker and custom code their vehicle to fit their needs.

Key Features:

  • Diagnose and reset the check engine light
  • Issue severity warnings
  • Real-time vehicle health monitoring
  • Reads most engine codes
  • Custom encoding option available
  • Wireless Bluetooth connectivity
  • Android & iOS compatibility
PROSCONS
Designed for car enthusiasts who want the ability to custom encode their vehicle to fit their needs

Free app lets you monitor your car’s health, tells the severity of your issue, clears engine codes, and more

Shows recommended service intervals for your car

Compatible with iOS & Android
Difficult to understand what features are available for your specific vehicle

Unclear pricing. Users must purchase the adapter first, then download the Lite app to find out which specific features are supported for their vehicle and how much they will cost.

Advanced features & coding are only available on Audi, BMW, Lexus, Mercedes, Mini, Porsche, Renault, Seat, Skoda, Toyota, and VW

Vehicle coding and parameters reading functions require a monthly subscription

Unable to monitor multiple vehicles at once in the app

7. OBD Fusion

OBD Fusion App

OBD Fusion is an affordable OBD2 app developed by California-based OCTech that can be paired with a generic plug-in ELM 327 scan tool. This app can do a number of tasks that range from reading and clearing trouble codes to providing live vehicle monitoring and tracking. The customizable dashboard essentially transforms the smartphone into a head-up display (HUD) unit.

This software is viewable on most Apple devices including iPhone, iPad, and even the Apple Watch, but according to reviews on Amazon, this app seems to have questionable connectivity with Android devices such as Kindle tablets. The bigger downfall of this app, though, is that while it’s extremely affordable, some of the app’s functions are not available without spending more money on expansion packs. 

Who It’s Best For: DIYers looking for a low-cost, multi-functional OBD2 app 

Key Features:

  • Diagnose and reset the check engine light
  • Customizable dashboard can act as a head-up display tool
  • GPS tracking and map display
  • Freeze frame data
  • Real-time data logging
  • Android and iOS compatibility
PROSCONS
Downloadable diagnostic report can be saved and shared

Affordable app priced at just $4.99

Easily customizable screen displays

Emission monitoring

GPS vehicle location is helpful if you lose your car in a parking lot
Not compatible with all mobile devices and OBD2 scan tools

Some functions are not available without expansion packs

8. GoFar

GoFar App

Developed as a mileage-tracking tool in Australia, GoFar can also perform diagnostic checks including the ability to read and clear check engine lights. Like FIXD, GoFar offers a wide variety of scanning capabilities, and it must be used with its matching OBD2 scan tool. 

The major downfall of GoFar is its price. The Unlimited plan costs $79 for the scanner and $8.25 per month for the advanced features, but even if you don’t need this setup, the Basic plan still costs $99 for the scanning device.

Who It’s Best For:  Drivers and businesses that want to properly maintain their vehicles/fleets and keep tabs on vehicle mileage

Key Features:

  • Diagnose and reset the check engine light
  • Mileage tracking for tax write-offs and business purposes
  • Speed alerts
  • GPS map tracking
  • Driving logs
  • Optional GoFar Ray device helps maximize fuel efficiency
PROSCONS
Mileage tracker for tax and business purposes

Can help drivers maximize fuel economy and save money at the pump

Keeps track of vehicle health with service reminders and check engine light diagnostics

Able to accommodate single vehicles or large fleets
Expensive pricing options

GoFar Ray device is extra

GPS tracking capabilities might seem intrusive for some individuals
Engine Link App

Engine Link is a quick and easy way to read and clear check engine lights as well as check other vehicle data including speed, fuel consumption, and more. Paired with compatible ELM 327 devices via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, Engine Link is available for just $5.99.

With a variety of functions offered, Engine Link is a perfect choice for DIYers on a budget, but the key downside is that this app is only available for download on iOS devices. Engine Link is just one of many apps marketed by Outdoor-Apps.com with a homepage that is lacking detailed information and support contact info, which could explain the low rating (just 2.8 out of 5 stars) listed on the Apple Store download page. 

Who It’s Best For:  DIYers on a tight budget 

Key Features:

  • Diagnose and reset the check engine light
  • View live data
  • Track emissions and fuel consumption data
  • Customizable display acts as a HUD unit
  • Low purchase price
  • Fully configurable graphic user interface
  • iPhone, iPod Touch, and Mac compatible
PROSCONS
$5.99 purchase price

No additional purchases or subscriptions required

Configurable graphic user interface makes it easier to read and understand

0-60 and ¼ mile timer
Only downloadable for iOS devices

Doesn’t show all sensors and trouble codes

Low rating (2.8/5) on Apple Store

10. Carista

Carista App

While most of these apps are focused on diagnostics or displaying OBD2 data in an attractive, useful way, Carista’s main focus is on customizing your car’s features, similar to Carly. It has basic OBD2 diagnostic capabilities, but it feels like a side benefit to what Carista is really for, which is custom coding.

How much you can unlock depends on how much Carista supports your particular car. I used it with my 2014 Subaru BRZ, which is not on its supported list of vehicles. However, my BRZ was mechanically identical to a Scion FR-S, which is compatible with Carista. (This indicates that not even Carista’s compatibility list is complete.) 

For this car, Carista offers advanced diagnostics, including manufacturer codes and reading the ABS and airbag systems, registering new tire pressure sensors, and putting the traction and stability control systems into “inspection mode” (a racer’s trick to fully disable these systems). 

Customization options for this car include dings and warnings, interior and exterior light control, and automatic locking features, including the trunk and panic button. I disabled the panic button for my car because other keys in my pocket kept setting it off by accident. However, you’ll have to look up your particular car (or equivalent, like my BRZ/FR-S) on Carista’s website to find out what features it supports on your car, if any.

Carista currently offers an OBD scanner that includes a one-month free subscription to its app. Plus, the Carista scanner supports several different apps, including many others described here. So unlike FIXD, where the matching app and scanner must be used together, you have the flexibility to use either one or both. You can download the Carista app on Google Play or the iOS App Store.

One big drawback of Carista is that there is no free version, not even a trial, unless you also buy the Carista scanner. Definitely do your research on the website to make sure your car is even supported before spending any money on it. Fortunately, unlike some other apps on this list, Carista makes it easy to find out how much (or how little) customization is available for your particular car. If you like changing your settings regularly, a subscription may be worth it. Personally, I just set my car up the way I wanted and left it that way, so for me it wasn’t worth subscribing past the first month.

Who It’s Best For:  Hands-on drivers of specific supported vehicles who like to tinker and custom code their vehicle to fit their needs.

Key Features:

  • Diagnose and reset the check engine light
  • Reads most engine codes
  • Live data available for some cars
  • Custom encoding option available for some cars
  • Wireless Bluetooth connectivity
  • Android & iOS compatibility
PROSCONS
Powerful customization features if your car is supported

Compatible with iOS and Android
No free trial

Not obvious what features are supported in what cars

Confusing scanner/subscription model

What to Look for in an OBD2 App

Compatibility

While there are many affordable car scanner apps available, not all are created equal. Make sure the one you pick is compatible with your vehicle make and model year. Most generic OBD apps should work with all gas-powered vehicles built in 1996 or after because they are using the same OBD2 system. Some apps offer advanced features for certain cars, but not others. Make sure you know an app offers those features for your specific vehicle before shelling out the cash for it.

Price

A quick Google search will reveal hundreds of OBD2 apps at various price points. These range from free apps like Torque Lite, to expensive app/scanner combos like BlueDriver. In some cases you get what you pay for, but only to a point. Do your research and make sure you get an app that fits your specific needs.

Features

Diagnose and Reset CEL

At minimum, your OBD2 app should be able to read most engine fault codes and reset the check engine light. This feature alone can save you $100+ by avoiding a diagnostic service fee and hard reset at the repair shop.

Issue Severity Warnings

Ever been scared to drive with a check engine light? Some OBD2 apps not only tell you what your check engine light means in simple terms, but also how severe the issue is so you know if it’s safe to drive.

Real-Time Health Monitoring

To get the most value from your car scanner, look for an app that will monitor vehicle health 24/7 and get real-time feedback on your car. 

Multi-Vehicle Monitoring

Some wireless scan tools with smartphone apps, such as FIXD, enable you to connect multiple vehicles to the app with multiple sensors. This way, you can monitor your whole fleet simultaneously from one phone.

Live Data Readings

Ideally, your OBD2 app should give you the option to view live vehicle data, such as oxygen sensor voltage, fuel trims, vehicle speed, and more while you drive. This makes it easy to check car performance and further diagnose issues when they arise.

DIY Repair Guidance

If you’re a hands-on driver interested in saving money with at-home repairs, you’ll need an app that accurately diagnoses engine problems and suggests possible fixes with helpful blogs and videos to walk you through repairs.

Automated Maintenance Alerts

This is a rare feature with OBD2 apps, but extremely helpful in extending the lifespan of your vehicle. Look for a scan tool that sends automated maintenance alerts based on your specific make, model, and mileage so you never miss an important oil change or other service.

FAQs 

What is an OBD2 scanner?

An OBD2 scanner, also known as a car scanner or check engine light scanner, is a device that plugs into your car’s OBD2 (onboard diagnostics) port to tell you what’s going on with your car. Combined with an OBD2 app, you can use this device to read the code that’s triggering your check engine light and understand the problem so that you can further diagnose and fix the problem or go to a repair shop with clear, accurate information.

Where is my OBD2 port located?

Your car’s OBD2 port is typically located under the dash behind the steering wheel. This image shows the 3 most common OBD2 port locations:

most common locations for OBD2 port in car

Read this article for more info: How to find your car’s OBD2 port

Are cheap OBD2 apps any good?

That depends on what you need an OBD2 app for. If you own an independent repair shop and need a more robust OBD2 scan tool for diagnosing customer’s vehicles, a cheap app probably won’t be the right fit. However, for most drivers and even experienced DIYers, a cheap, versatile OBD2 app and scan tool can get the job done without costing an arm and a leg.

Just make sure you choose an OBD2 app that’s the right mix of features and value, since not all apps are created equal.

Are OBD2 apps easy to use?

Many of the car scanner apps on the market today are built with everyday drivers in mind and extremely user friendly. Wireless scanners with OBD2 apps are typically easier to use than handheld scanners and provide more support. I’ve found that the FIXD Sensor and app and Torque Pro app reviewed above are the easiest ones to use for basic check engine diagnostics and live data.

Can an OBD2 scan tool really tell me what’s wrong with my car?

Absolutely. As long as your car is compatible, an OBD2 app can instantly tell you the meaning of 10,000+ codes your check engine light gives you. It only takes a couple minutes to install, and once it’s set up, you’ll have up-to-date information about your car at your fingertips on your smartphone.You can use this information to be more informed, knowledgeable, and confident at the auto shop so you don’t get ripped off or end up paying for repairs you don’t need.

Will an OBD2 app work with my car?

Most gas-powered vehicles built in 1996 or newer come equipped with an OBD2 port and are compatible with an OBD2 scanner.

To check your car’s compatibility with the FIXD Sensor, enter your information here.

What are the different types of OBD2 devices?

Devices that plug into your OBD2 port typically fall into one of two categories: code readers and scan tools.  A code reader is a simple device that plugs in, displays trouble code information, lets you reset the check engine light, and not much else. This is the type of device the auto parts store will plug in and read your codes for free. Many consumer grade OBD2 scanners, such as FIXD, also fall into this category. While they may not fix your car, the data they read and display is invaluable when it comes to repairing and maintaining your vehicle.

A scan tool is a much more sophisticated device, and far more expensive. It gives a professional mechanic full access to all of the car’s diagnostic data, systems, and features. A mechanic can use a scan tool to manually turn on the hybrid battery fan on a Toyota Prius, for example, to test whether it’s working or not. It can also read proprietary trouble codes that are not part of the OBD2 standard, but used by a manufacturer for additional sensors and data. Scan tools can also access the automatic transmission, anti-lock brakes, and other electronic systems. These are typically quite expensive, and not cost-effective for the average owner or DIY home mechanic to buy.

There are a few unique devices that fall outside either of these categories. The Cobb Accessport, for example, functions as a code reader, but its primary function is to install custom engine programming software to improve power and performance. It uses the OBD2 port to do this, but its main purpose is to soup up the engine, not fix your car. Other devices, such as the VCDS software and cable available for Volkswagens, give the owner similar programming capabilities as the dealer. You can do anything from setting how long the interior lights stay on after closing the door to coding new keys to work with your car.

For more information, check out our article on OBD2 Scanners: What Are They and What Do They Do?

What is the difference between OBD1 and OBD2?

As the names imply, OBD1 was the first version of an electronic on-board diagnostic system for cars, and OBD2 is the second. OBD1 was a loose set of standards the California Air Resources Board (CARB) established in 1988. It required all cars sold in California to have some sort of electronic on-board diagnostic system. 

Manufacturers complied with this requirement, but everyone did it a little bit differently. You couldn’t take a scan tool for a Honda and plug it into a Chevrolet. At the time, CARB did not specify any standards for this system, though the Society of Automotive Engineers did suggest that the best way to accomplish CARB’s goal was to use a standard port and a standard set of electronic communication protocols across all manufacturers. In the mid-1990s, CARB saw the wisdom of this proposal, and incorporated it into a second on-board diagnostics requirement for all cars and trucks as of 1996. This standardized system is what we know today as OBD2. 

What is CAN Bus?

CAN is an acronym for Controller Area Network. This is a data network that runs throughout your car allowing different electronic controllers to communicate with each other and work together. A simple example of this in action would be your traction control system. The computer that runs the anti-lock brakes constantly monitors the speed of each wheel independently. If it sees a single wheel’s speed drop to zero, it briefly releases the brake on that wheel to allow it to spin again. 

These same sensors can also detect if one of the drive wheels is spinning faster than the others, indicating a wheelspin condition. The anti-lock system can automatically apply the brake to this wheel to slow it down. It can also talk to the engine management system and have it automatically reduce power, the same as if you’d lifted your foot off the gas pedal. These sensors and computers detect and react to such conditions faster than a human driver, and can correct the problem before you’ve even noticed it was there.

CAN Bus can get far more sophisticated, too. In many modern cars, the infotainment system controls not only the music and navigation, but also climate control and other features. The infotainment system must communicate with the climate control to tell it to set the temperature to 68, or to turn on the driver’s heated seat. CAN Bus allows an unprecedented amount of interoperability between the car’s various subsystems.

How do I connect my iPhone or Android smartphone to an OBD2 scanner?

To connect your wireless Bluetooth OBD2 scanner and app:

1. Select an OBD2 scan tool that works with a smartphone app. 

2. Download your preferred scan tool’s app to your phone and register your account.

3. Plug your car scanner into the OBD2 port usually located below the dash on the driver’s side.

4. Turn on your car.

5. Use the app to scan your car for error codes.

I like to DIY some repairs and go to the repair shop for bigger repairs. Which OBD2 app is best for me?

For people who like to do simple maintenance and repairs at home while going to the repair shop for other issues, I definitely recommend FIXD. Not only is it a great value ($59.99 retail), it was originally designed for everyday drivers, not mechanics and gearheads. 

As a dedicated scanner/app combo, you know the app will connect to the scanner automatically each and every time. The app is extremely easy to set up and use. It also provides much more detailed information than other scanners, such as articles and videos on different diagnostic trouble codes and how to fix them, which comes in handy when you like to DIY some projects. 

It also tracks maintenance and wear items such as wipers and tires for you so that you’ll know when it’s time to replace or perform a routine service.

Summary

If you own a car, then having an OBD2 app for your iPhone or Android is a must for easy check engine diagnostics, DIY repairs, and simply peace of mind. The right OBD2 app for you ultimately depends on how you plan to use it and what features are important to you.

To conclude this buying guide for the best OBD2 apps in 2021 for iPhone and Android, here are our top picks for the best OBD2 app overall, best budget choice, and the best OBD2 app for advanced DIYers and shadetree mechanics:

Best OverallBudget ChoicePro Choice
FIXD OBD2 AppTorque LiteBlueDriver

For the best overall value, great features, and an easy-to-use OBD2 app that’s compatible with both iPhone and Android smartphones , FIXD takes the win. Ideal for both everyday drivers and shade tree mechanics who like to DIY repairs.

If you have an Android, the free version of the Torque app is more than adequate for basic OBD2 functions, like reading and clearing trouble codes. All you need is a $10 scanner. Plus, you can always upgrade to the Pro version later.
 
Although the most expensive, it’s also the most powerful, which is what you need if you’re a pro or avid DIYer. BlueDriver offers most of the features of FIXD, plus the ability to read codes for ABS, airbags, and other systems on many (but not all) vehicles.
Justin-Hughes

Recovering autocross and track day enthusiast. Once turned a VW Jetta into a pickup truck. Lives in a van down by the river. Dream car: 2001 Subaru WRC rally car.

Justin Hughes
Recovering autocross and track day enthusiast. Once turned a VW Jetta into a pickup truck. Lives in a van down by the river. Dream car: 2001 Subaru WRC rally car.

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