Scan tools have become all the rage these days with vehicles, as more and more people wish to track their vehicles’ ECUs. You may wish to find yourself a bi-directional computer that has programming capabilities to give you greater control over your vehicle’s readings, or be content with basic a ccan tool that can read the codes efficiently, while being capable of programming within a certain limit. The choice often depends on one’s own DIY capabilities.
The OBDLink Bluetooth Scan Tool is one such tool: basic, but a very efficient gadget that can prove to be just the thing you need to monitor and have a certain measure of control over your new car’s performance. Our team received a unit a while ago, and we have a review ready for potential users to base their decision on. So, is this the scan tool to have or should you go for something more expensive that has more features? Does it actually offer everything that it promises to do? Join us after the break to find out.
OBDLink is available on many online retailers for prices starting $129.95, and comes with its own proprietary software to install into your PC’s. It promises to provide all the useful information directly from your vehicle’s onboard computer, and lets you monitor your vehicle’s performance to ensure that it stays seamless for the entire duration that it’s in your ownership.
Let’s have a look at the key features of this nifty tool, and find out whether they are “just the thing” that an average user would need.
- Very compact at just (93 mm x 43 mm)
- An intuitive USB interface
- Bluetooth (Class 1, up to 100 m/330 ft range) and Wi-Fi (802.11b/g)
- Baud rates ranging from 9600 up to 2M baud
- Offers support for all legislated OBD protocols. Here’s a list:
- ISO15765-4 (CAN)
- ISO14230-4 (Keyword Protocol 2000)
- ISO9141-2 (Asian, European, Chrysler vehicles)
- J1850 VPW (GM vehicles)
- J1850 PWM (Ford vehicles)
- Compatible with diversified diagnostic software.
- Enhanced diagnostics can be performed by addition software available separately.
- Receives regular updates that can be installed by the user and are free of additional charges.
- It can be powered from OBD and USB, facilitating firmware updates further.
- Faster screen updates and more graph points available through the increased data throughput.
- More optimized and efficient algorithms for automatic protocol detection.
- The CAN memory buffer ensures that your data limit is not reached easily.
- A keep-alive algorithm allows you to have a stable connection on ISO and KWP vehicles.
Available in the United States, it focuses its list of compatible vehicles on vehicles manufactured in the United States as well. OBDLink is targeted at a very broad audience, being compatible with all major makes including Ford, GM, Mazda and more. Availability has now been expanded, and so has compatibility. It is now compatible with many European and Asian vehicles too. The list, however, is still monitored by the OBD legislation, which varies from country to country. Therefore, before you whip out your credit card (or cash), it would be best to check whether the manufacturer and model you intend to buy this little scan tool for is compatible with it or not. To do this, all you need to do is to enquire with the manufacturer whether the vehicle is OBD-2 compliant.
In case you got late reading this, you may still have time to return the product for a full refund if you’ve chosen a retailer that offers return policies.
What’s in the box?
The OBDLink scan tool comes with a rather “no-nonsense” box that includes, in addition to the unit itself, a couple of cables (USB and OBD-II, both 6 feet (1.8m) long), a quick-start guide and a CD-ROM with all the necessary software. One nice touch was the 3 year warranty that many are bound to welcome; though of course, the card supplied and the evidence of purchase has to be kept safe for all those years to claim it. Bad luck?
Our experience with the Scan Tool
Upon receiving our unit, we delayed no more, and inserted the CD-ROM into a laptop to get it up and running on it. There were no problems in installation and even the most amateur users will find their way around the installer by a few clicks. If you find yourself stuck somewhere, you can always grab the Quick-Start Guide that comes bundled with the unit itself to find out how to install the supplied proprietary software.
Now, what if you don’t have a laptop? You can’t carry your desktop computer around after all. To address this issue, OBDLink has made available software for iPhone and Android that can enable you to read all the data directly from your vehicle’s on-board computer on your handheld device. With a few tweaks and extra installations, we were able to run the software on both an iPhone and an Android device, with no complaints whatsoever.
The vehicles we tested included one from General Motors and a Ford, and the experience was seamless on both of them, with graphs and codes appearing on our screens without any visible lag or distortion. However, compatibility issues have been reported on many forums with Nissan cars, despite the claims of widespread compatibility. We ran it on a Nissan X-Trail and it certainly showed certain issues like the occasional stutter and lack of clarity in the graphs here and there. This doesn’t quite make it a negative point for the OBDLink, as additional software can be made available online like it is available for Ford, GM and Mazda, but for a little extra charge nevertheless. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth for certain Nissan users certainly, but the issue can still be addressed. Our hopes are quite high.
The small tool leaves us quite optimistic with its overall great and intuitive user interface. The desktop software has split-screen viewing enabled, with tabs on the left. Details are displayed for each of them when you click them. There is diagnostics, logs and a dashboard which is customizable to suit your needs. It is very easy to operate, and even an amateur can set up and monitor the vehicle’s readings easily.
For some extra cost, you can get the Pro version of the ScanXL software, or ScanMaster, among other proprietary software made available for the tool online, which enables additional features like access to many of the sensors installed in vehicles; like the ABS, BCM, TCS and PCM modules. Keep in mind that sensors are manufacturer-specific and that’s the reason for the several manufacturer-specific add-ons rather than a one-for-all solution. So regardless of the make and model you use, for around $350, OBDLink can provide a near professional system in your car to monitor its performance, receive data from the on-board computer, and view diagnostics and graphs among a lot of other stuff.
The three options of connectivity that it comes with ensure that you’re never out of touch with your car’s performance, regardless of your monitoring device. The scan tool supports Wi-Fi connectivity, the latest Bluetooth standards (reverse compatible with the previous versions as well) as well as standard and usually more preferred, USB connectivity.
After using the Scantool OBDLink for some time and exploring most of its features, we have come to the conclusion that even though it has its fair share of inconveniences, it will prove to be a very handy tool for anyone who picks it up to monitor their vehicle’s performance. With all connectivity options duly covered, and a wide range of additional software available for the scan tool itself, it is not something that can go unnoticed by the masses. One might want to reconsider for older Nissan models, but otherwise, the tool will be handy addition to your collection of gadgets for your car, as monitoring your car’s performance is important to ensure the smooth functioning of it. It earns extra points for its software support too. Even if the price appears too high to some, the software is promising and delivers what it promises to, so you’re unlikely to regret your purchase.