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‘Check engine’ light is on again? You can find a problem using a very simple cheap device

Posted March 30, 2018

Check engine light – a tiny little thing that has enough power to destroy your entire day. It suddenly pops up and you have no other choice but to ignore it or do what you‘re supposed to do – go to a car repair shop and find out what is happening. However, in many cases nothing is happening at all and it is just a tiny mistake. Now you‘ve wasted your time to diagnose a problem that is not even there. But what else can you do? Diagnose it yourself, of course.

Jtron’s “ELM327 Mini” is a very simple car diagnostics device that connects to your phone of computer via Bluetooth. Image credit:

If you own a car, you know what we mean – you’ve driven all over the place with a Check engine light on. Sometimes it really does mean nothing – it can turn on because of some malfunctioning sensor or some other minor issue. However, just because your car is fine it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to pay the mechanic for checking it. But it’s ok – there are simple tools that allow you to check and turn off your Check engine light all by yourself – you don’t even need any mechanic’s skills.

This is how an OBD2 port looks like – it is typically found under the panel on the driver’s side. Image credit: Saitobesho via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

ELM327 is a protocol, which allows special diagnostic devices to read data from car’s computer. It connects to the car through an OBD2 (on-board diagnostics) port, which is installed in most cars made after 1996. Some devices with the ELM327 technology allow deleting some of the errors if they are not serious. This effectively turns off the Check engine light. Some diagnostic devices are extremely expensive – professional equipment is never cheap. However, some devices are manufactured with amateurs in mind and cost next to nothing. For example, Jtron’s “ELM327 Mini” is a very simple Bluetooth device that costs just €4.51.

ELM327 Mini is extremely easy to use. There are instructions and software included in the package, but essentially you just have to plug the device into your car’s OBD2 port and read the information on your phone or computer – you will have to pair the devices via Bluetooth. If the reason for the Check engine light is insignificant, you can simply delete that error and it will turn off immediately. Devices like this can also read vehicle’s data in real time – it can show the coolant temperature, engine RPM, speed and other parameters. It is very useful for people who like modifying their cars.

ELM327 Mini comes with instructions and the necessary software. Image credit:

You may think that ELM327 diagnostic devices are not for you because you don’t have the skills to fix your car. But you don’t really need any skills. In most cases you just have to see what is wrong with your car to make the best decision whether to ignore the warning lights, to which repair shop you should go, what parts you should order and so on.

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