I know very little about how cars work; if my mechanic were to tell me I needed the fluid in my flux capacitor flushed, I’d be only about 75% certain that he wasn’t telling me the truth (luckily I have a mechanic I can trust). One thing my mechanic has taught me is that much of the work he and his team do to diagnose my car’s troubles actually starts with a funny looking plug on the driver side dashboard: the OBD II port. Lemur Monitors‘ BlueDriver is a Bluetooth-enabled OBD II scanner which connects to an iPhone app, allowing you to see information about your car, diagnose the problems, and keep an eye on your car’s data.
Your car’s various components and subsystems all have sensors monitoring their performance (basically embedded computers, a topic on which I’m more fluent). These systems funnel their data through the OBD II port, where scan tools can identify malfunctioning components. The BlueDriver takes all that data and transmits it via Bluetooth, so you can get access to all this information on your iPhone or iPad, and it does it for a lot less than professional scan tools usually cost.
The BlueDriver is capable in two major data categories: report generation and real-time data logging. You can use the accompanying app to both read and clear stored error codes related to the check engine light, emissions, and braking systems, which I found useful in two scenarios. First, I could check things out before taking my vehicle in to the mechanic (a little trust but verify exercise), and second, if I were to attempt any maintenance myself I could see that my fixes truly resolved the issue.
The real time data gathering is definitely the more exciting part of the BlueDriver experience. All vehicles gather telemetry data regarding their current operations, such as vehicle speed, engine RPM, coolant temperature, electric current coming from the battery, etc. Due to the standardization of the OBD II protocol, most cars now make that data available through the port, and the BlueDriver app lets you view a combined real time graph of as many data points as you car provides. You can also pull up an individual gauge and graph for one particular data point, so car enthusiasts can easily display relevant information rather than instal individual gauges to show additional info. You can also log and export a .CSV file of all your graph data for your driving session.
BlueDriver’s hardware is actually very simple; it’s a small box with the OBD II connector on one end and an integrated status light/handle on the other. Plugging it in is simple enough, though depending on where your vehicle’s manufacturer put the OBD II port you may need to be a little flexible. The BlueDriver app’s built in flashlight is a big help for this purpose, as most manufacturers put the port at the very bottom of the dashboard.
Lemur deserves kudos for their consideration of the full user experience. There’s a convenient QR code on the BlueDriver module itself which links directly to the App Store, and the full user manual is also contained in the app. This is great if you’re a typical guy who wouldn’t be caught dead reading a manual; it looks like you know exactly what you’re doing and are reading extremely important information in the app, rather than reading the manual trying to figure out which end is up.
There is a bit of room for improvement in the app itself. For one thing, it automatically launches when your device pairs with the BlueDriver. For one-off diagnostics this is fine, but I left the BlueDriver plugged in constantly; the auto-launching app frequently interrupted me trying to choose music/do other stuff before I hit the road. The live data display is also a bit tough to use. In order to bring up the individual data gauge you have to tap a small, non obvious area of the graphing screen, which left me scratching my head.
Buy the Lemur Monitors BlueDriver
Provides: Bluetooth enabled OBD II information display from most cars manufactured after 1996
Developer: Lemur Monitors
Minimum Requirements: iOS device with Bluetooth, most vehicles manufactured after 1996 (not all data is available on all vehicles)