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I recently took my car in for the engine light. It turned out to be a minor problem (crack in gas cap let water in). It would be nice to have a low-cost ODB-II reader to be able to find out for myself and either go to service immediately or delay it until tomorrow. The specific vehicle is a 2003 Honda Odyssey.

What features should I look for in an ODB-II reader for this purpose?


After reading some more:

  • A unit that can reset the light is a must
  • Unless you plan to always have a PC available, one with a screen that can display the numbers and what they mean
  • Some people may wish one that works with an Android or iPhone. Some of those apps are wireless. But these ones seem to be more expensive.
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3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

For checking codes, any off the shelf obd2 reader will do.

If you want to have fun, ELM327 based OBD2 readers are all the rage right now. You can pick up a bluetooth version for ~$40 on amazon or ebay. Several iOS and android apps (like Torque) exist that can read a signal from these adapters and do full on data-logging. This will let you read/clear codes (some will even tell you what the codes mean) as well as display/log other handy data streams such as timing, RPM, coolant temp, etc etc.

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This sounds awesome. I'm doing a quick google search and finding "clones". Have you got a link to the right one? I'd love to hook something like this up to my iPad. –  Chase Florell Mar 15 '11 at 16:27
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Also wondering what App is used with Bluetooth... all I'm finding is Wifi - which totally sucks. If I use wifi, then I can't use 3G to listen to radio or navigation. –  Chase Florell Mar 15 '11 at 17:08
    
I was looking at ODB2 readers too, and some had really abysmal reviews, but I don't know if that was just incorrect exceptions. For example some were saying to took too long to return the code. –  Jim McKeeth Jul 26 '11 at 2:17
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I purchased and was very happy with this product:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001LHVOVK/ref=pe_175190_21431760_M3T1_ST1_dp_2

It was $20 when I bought it; as of my writing, it's even cheaper now, $17.

Basically, the criteria I'd look for are:

  • Low price. Don't get ripped off by the ridiculous stuff that sells for $60-300 at retail stores. It doesn't do anything useful that a basic unit won't do.
  • Ability to reset. You might check that your specific make/model doesn't have anything preventing a basic universal reader from resetting it; I'm not sure but some might require specialty tools.
  • Ability to operate without a PC connected. Who wants to expose a computer to the conditions (dust, dirt, oil, grease, etc.) in a garage??
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You can buy a bluetooth or wifi OBD2 transmitter on Ebay for a few bucks. I have such a one for my Astra. PLUS there's an app called Torque for Android phones that goes for $3. It does everything you want and it looks much nicer than an OBD2 reader and will cost you much less. There are similar apps for iPhone and Windows Phone 8 (not 7.5 or 7.8).

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