TopSpeed Tested - Lemur BlueDriver Bluetooth OBD-II Tester
We’ve all been there. You get up to head to work, or your driving down the highway when suddenly your car dings and there is a lovely check-engine light on the dash. This is soon followed by a trip to a local parts store to have the code checked for free, followed by a lengthy discussion with some mechanic somewhere about the problem with your car. Unfortunately many shops, especially dealers, don’t want to take your word for it and demand to run the codes themselves, at a cost to you.
If you are a fan of doing things yourself, and you want to put an end to annoying scenarios like this, maybe you should check out this nifty little device from Lemur. It’s called the BlueDriver, and it’s a Bluetooth-enabled OBD-II scanner that pairs to your smartphone. Not only is it a tiny tool that is always connected to your car, it lets you show your diagnostic codes to any mechanic on the spot. No more arguing about what the code reader at the parts store said. We have seen tools like this before, but Lemur thinks theirs is one of the best.
Read on to learn more about the Lemur BlueDriver OBD-II reader.
Tons of Usable Features
Tons of Usable Features
With the power of the internet at its disposal thanks to its smartphone interface, Lemur was sure to include a lot more features than a simple code reader has. The app lets you access all types of interesting and useful data that otherwise may not be available. For example, the Freeze Frame function pulls data about the car that was recorded the instant your CEL activated. It can tell you things like the speed of the car, the rpm of the engine and more. This kind of data can be crucial in diagnosing what went wrong and why.
The app even gives you access to what it calls the MIL Status. MIL is short for malfunction indicator light and it is just another term for CEL. What this function does is keep track of the CEL status and relevant data. This menu will tell you if the light is active, how long it’s been active, how many miles have been driven with the CEL active, and how long the engine has been running since it started. If you are looking to purchase a used car with a lit CEL, this could be very important information.
Mode 6 is a higher-level function that instead of spitting out codes, lets you monitor various sensors in the car like O2 sensor or knock sensor live. It can tell you what sensors are reading, what sensors are failing, and how close they are to their recommended parameters.
For states that require smog testing, BlueDriver can also prepare you for any issues that may come up. The Smog Test function looks at every emissions-related engine sensor for faults or errors. If it finds major problems it will alert you that you will likely fail emissions testing, or if there are small problems it gives you a warning that lets you know there are potential issues.
Finally, the BlueDriver will let you view and record active data. Depending on what logging functions your car supports, you can track things like engine rpm, car speed, throttle position and more. It tracks all this telemetry data in real-time, and it can be recorded for export to view later. If you really want to know just how well your car is working, or even if you just want to keep track of how a car is being driven, BlueDriver gives you the tools you need.
The BlueDriver can even recognize advanced codes for things like ABS, airbag and transmission faults, but it won’t read these on every brand. The company only claims compatibility with the U.S. Big Three of Ford, GM and Chrysler.
Ease of use
Using the BlueDriver is unbelievably simple. You plug it into your ODB, open up the app, and then hit the “read codes” button in the app. It really is that simple. If you want to access one of the myriad of other features, just click the icon for those. Lemur was even kind enough to put a QR code on the device that you can scan to download the app. The app also has the full instruction manual included so if you have any questions, you are not digging around the house or glove box for a small pamphlet of instructions.
Best yet, those instructions are all in video format that gives very quick and concise answers to what each function of the app, how it works, and how you use it. The only problem you are going to have is if you find yourself in an area with no signal. All those videos are hosted on YouTube, and the app just gives you a direct access link to them.
The device also will never be out of date unless the industry releases a new type of plug. Leveraging that internet connection, you can update the firmware on the reader itself using the app. If there is any sort of improvement, you don’t need to buy a new reader, just update the one you have.
Exportable Repair Reports
This is one of the biggest and best features of this program for me by far. This is the one tool in your arsenal that will help to prevent problems when it comes time to negotiate things with your mechanic. When you run a full diagnostic, you can export a copy of the report to your email. From there you can send it to anyone you want, or print it. No longer are you trying to convince your mechanic that the parts store said it was a code for the oxygen sensor, you’ll have a professionally formatted printout of exactly what the reader found.
This has even proved useful when trying to figure out what steps I should take to do repairs on my own car. I live almost 50 miles from my closest Volkswagen dealer, so when the car first threw a CEL right after the 100k mile mark, I was able to just pull the codes, and email the full report to the dealer for them to inspect. No diagnostic costs, no time taken out of my day to drive and drop the car off. That one trip alone would have covered the full purchase price of the BlueDriver when you account for time off from work, fuel costs and diagnostics fees.
While the device did save me more than its purchase price on its first use, it is not exactly a cheap thing to buy. With hand-held OBD-II readers available for as little as $20 on Amazon, and the free diagnostics available at most major auto parts chain stores, it can be hard to stomach the $99 asking price for the Blue Driver. There are other Bluetooth-enabled devices that promise similar functionality for less than $50.
Obnoxious Visual Design Details
I know that mentioning the exterior design of an OBD-II reader seems a little asinine, but hear me out for a second. While the actual design of the device itself is understated and compact, Lemur has added an LED to the outside to notify you of its connection status and so forth. This LED is one of the brightest and most obnoxious blue LEDs I have ever encountered on a consumer product. When you get into the car and turn the key, it flashes several times, and it’s bright enough to light up most of the driver’s side of the cabin in my Golf. While annoying in itself, imagine how disconcerting that can be to a new driver the first time they go to use your car at night. I used the BlueDriver on my friend’s car, and I forgot to remove it. Later the next evening, I actually received a call from him worried that the car was broken. Since then, I have just covered the light with electrical tape, but it seems like a problem that should have never existed to start with.
If you are familiar with many OBD-II scanners, this won’t be a huge surprise, but when you first connect the BlueDriver to a car, it takes what feels like an eternity to register and start providing information. The device needs to access all the systems, pull out the needed information, send that info to the smartphone, have the smartphone pass that information to a database, and then pull all the relevant details back down. That is a lot of steps, and it takes a lot of time. The longest it took was almost eight minutes. If you just leave the BlueDriver attached to the ODB-II port, the next time you open the app it will have most of the information you need ready to go, so its just that initial setup that takes forever. Since I was trying to find as many cars as possible to test this little device with, it became a great test of my patience.
The Lemur BlueDriver is an interesting piece of tech that leverages the widespread adoption of smartphones and the power of the internet to build a better diagnostics tool. Its small size lets is stay attached to your car so its ready to go the moment you have an issue, and its not hard to take over to a friend’s house if he has some diagnostic problems of his own. The price is a little hard to swallow, and the attached blue LED is bright enough to blind someone, but overall I think it’s a great piece of kit. The ability to run a myriad of different scan types, as well the power to pull a full set of telemetry in real-time can make it an invaluable tool compared to many classic hand-held scanners. You can update it via the app, so it’s never out of date, and the fact that I can print off or email a full report to my mechanic makes this device worth its weight in gold.
There are cheaper options our there for sure, and there are much nicer units that provide even more in-depth information and readouts, but as for a very solid middle-ground unit that can give the average shade-tree mechanic or concerned car owner all the info they need at a price that won’t destroy their wallet, I think the Lemur BlueDriver is a great option.