Let me set the scene for you. As I mentioned just a short while ago, I’ve got an Audi A4. It’s an entire decade old and I’ve absolutely nailed it into the ground. I’ve not taken a great deal of care of it and have failed to service the thing for many, many years in a row. I’m continually staggered by the fact that it’s still chugging along but, somehow, it continues to do so.
Before I had a rather huge “STOP STOP STOP” warning, I had an array of pretty lights on my dashboard which I tended to ignore on a daily basis. I ignored some of them for a reason, like the brake sensor which failed after I had my brakes replaced. It shows that the pads are worn, even though they’re new. I also have a light telling me that there’s a bulb out on my number plate, but there isn’t. There’s also a few other lights that were on – one about the EGR valve, another indicating an engine management fault and so on.
To understand what these lights mean, and what the all-encompassing “engine management warning” LED is trying to tell you, then you could take a trip to your local garage and pay almost £50 just to have a “diagnostic”. Now, this “diagnostic” usually involves some dude with a laptop and a cable. He’ll plug it into your car via something called an “OBD port”. “OBD” stands for an “On-Board Diagnostic System”. You’ll have seen me reviewing tracking and alarm systems (like this CarLock review) which plug into that port to let you know if your car has been stolen. Insurance companies will also offer magical dongles which go into this port to monitor your driving.
Today we’ve got this CACAGOO Bluetooth diagnostic reader. Put simply, it plugs into your car and you connect to the thing with your phone via the magic of Bluetooth. No cables needed.
There’s an array of OBD-II apps on Google Play or the iTunes store to communicate with it and it’ll let you effectively find out what your car is doing.
Out of the box it’ll tell you to install this Mini OBD app (which is also available on the iPhone here) but, if I’m honest, you can choose from a dizzying array of apps – there’s stacks to choose from.
So, why would you need this thing? Well, for the “tinkerers” like me, you can actually find out what that error code on your car is. Depending on which app you choose, it’ll let you know what the problem is so that you can go to the garage and say, “It’s insufficient gas recirculation, I’ve had someone read the error code”. Boom, you’ve saved yourself £30-£50 instantly. If you’re an idiot like me you can also clear those error codes and then deny that anything is wrong until something goes “clunk” in the engine and all your oil dribbles out onto the road. Your choice.
OK, perhaps I should rephrase that. Let’s say that you want to service your car yourself and reset the service light. You could do that with this. You can also reset the brake warning lights and so on if you choose to swap the pads yourself.
However, your car can dish up a whole load more information too. The apps, depending on which one you get, can then display this information as you drive. You can perhaps grab an old smartphone and fix it to your dashboard and have additional information like MPG or engine temperature on display at all times. Or, if you want, you can have it showing your speed and engine revs – there’s also apps which will display dashboards to show your average speed and your driving style.
Once you’ve plugged in the CACAGOO (weird name, I know) you simply pair it with your phone and the apps you choose to download can then read OBD fault codes, car performance, sensor data and more. Add the GPS from your phone and you can then get tracker logs which, combined with the OBD engine logging, show how fast you were going, what the engine was doing at the time too.
Depending on your car, you can read the dynomometer data, horsepower, torque info, transmission temperatures, 0-60 speed timings, CO2 emissions, turbo readings and you can set alarms and warnings too.
Some apps, like Torque Pro, will let you graph data, and overlay OBDII data onto a video with GPS tagging too.
If you decide to stick an old smartphone to the top of your dashboard, you can also have a cheap HUD (Head Up Display) by grabbing data from your engine (speed and revs plus gear selection etc) and displaying it onto your windscreen so that you can see it as you drive along. Apps like DashCommand can also give you trip information, such as drive time, fuel cost, start time, average speed, average fuel consumption, number of stops, braking and acceleration data, distance travelled in each gear and so on. It’s literally like opening a can of worms – you can find out so much information.
Right, time for a couple of videos. First, lets have a look at what you can do with this cool little Bluetooth device..
Here’s a video showing that Torque Pro app I mentioned a moment ago…
You can also use apps like Carista to alter the way that your car behaves – such as changing the reverse sensor beep or whether you want the doors to automatically lock when you start driving.
Powered by your car, the CACAGOO Bluetooth diagnostic reader can remain plugged in as you drive and flashes away to show connectivity. It’s powered by your car so you really don’t need to worry about it. Get it for £19.99 on Amazon UK or $21.99 on Amazon US. It’s worked absolutely perfectly for me. It’s small, really easy to install and does the job without fuss.