Yongtek ELM 327 OBD-II Bluetooth Scanner

Mechanic using an OBD-II scanner
Juice Images / Cultera / Getty

What We Like

  • Easy to use and pair with Android devices.

  • Reads and clears trouble codes.

  • Provides access to real-time sensor data.

What We Don't Like

  • Length may cause issues in some vehicles.

  • Not for use with iOS devices.

  • Will drain your battery if you leave it plugged in.

Yongtek's ELM 327 OBD-II Bluetooth adapter isn't in the same class as the scan tool your mechanic uses, but it could very well turn out to be the most valuable player in your own toolbox. The downside, in comparison to more expensive scan tools, is that it isn't a standalone device. Like all ELM 327 scanners, what it does is provide a connection between your car and a smartphone, tablet or laptop, which does the actual heavy lifting.

The good news is that most people already own some type of hardware that's compatible with the Yongtek ELM 327 scanner, and if you fall into that category, the device will provide you with on-demand access to the trouble codes and PIDs you need to diagnose all types of problems.

Yongtek's ELM 327 Bluetooth Dongle is the Cheapest Scan Tool You'll Ever Own

Good scan tools can run into the thousands of dollars, and even inexpensive code readers are often in the $100 range, but you can pick up an ELM 327 interface for right around $20. If you own a laptop or an Android device, it's almost a no-brainer.

The Yongtek ELM 327 Bluetooth scanner includes a small dongle that you plug into your OBD-II socket and interface software that you can install on a PC. However, the device is also compatible with other OBD-II software, and there are even free Android apps that can read the data.

The scanner/transmitter device is also equipped with several LEDs, which show when communication is taking place. It doesn't include any documentation as to what the flashing LEDs signify, but it does provide a visual cue that the device is working.

The Good

There are a lot of OBD-II interface devices out there that use the ELM327 microcontroller, but they don't all have the same build quality. Some of these devices are notorious for failing to pair via Bluetooth, but the Yongtek ELM327 Bluetooth scanner seems to have a pretty solid build quality. It's still a good idea to buy from a reputable seller just in case, but you probably won't have any issues if you go with the Yongtek.

The device itself is easy to use, and data transfer is snappy after you have it paired. It's probably the cheapest way you'll find to read and clear trouble codes, and it also provides access to a wealth of sensor data. You can use that to perform your own diagnostics, but it's also fun to play around with.

If you have an Android phone or tablet, there are a number of apps that can read and display OBD-II sensor data. That can allow you to use your tablet as a replacement instrument cluster if you want, or you can zero in on one data stream to help with a sticky diagnosis.

The Bad

If you're looking for an OBD-II interface that will work with your iOS device, you're probably out of luck. Apple is very particular about what Bluetooth devices can pair with iPhones and iPads, and this one isn't on their approved list. You'll either have to go with an expensive Wi-Fi interface or an even more expensive unit that uses a dock connector. The exception is jailbroken devices, which should work just fine with the Yongtek ELM327 Bluetooth interface.

It's also worth noting that the device continues to draw power even when the vehicle is shut off. It's not enough to drain a good battery overnight, but it may be a problem if you have an older battery or don't drive your vehicle very often.

Before you buy one of these, you should also check the location of your OBD-II jack. If there isn't about four inches of clearance there, the Yongtek ELM327 device might not fit.

The Bottom Line

Whether you want to turn off a pesky check engine light or turn your phone into an infotainment system, the Yongtek ELM327 OBD-II Bluetooth scanner is probably the cheapest option you'll find. Free software doesn't provide the same level of diagnostic expertise that you get from expensive scan tools, but that's not something you should expect for a price tag of about $20.

The Yongtek ELM327 Bluetooth transmitter is perfect for the backyard hobbyist, shade tree mechanic, or anyone who wants to play around with OBD-II apps on an Android tablet or phone.