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Prying eyes: Low-cost OBD-II Bluetooth adapter

03 Sep 2013  | Michael Dunn

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I'm not into cars to such an extent that I keep an OBD-II analyser in my toolkit. However, when I learned about Chinese sources for $9-$20 USB and Bluetooth adapters, I couldn't say no.

Actually, my search for OBD capability was inspired by a persistent check-engine idiot light (spoiler: it was only a cylinder misfire – something I could have already told you before the light ever came on!). I found that the usual Chinese sources carried many wired & wireless adapters, and I ended up getting this one from the wonderfully named Banggood site. I knew it might not work, but it had good reviews, and I wasn't risking much.

Sure enough, it did work – well enough at least to report the misfire code and let me turn off the engine light. Then, curiosity got the better of me, and I had to see what was inside. I'll leave it to an enterprising reader to figure out the BOM cost. How can they make it so cheaply?

Here's the dongle – it doesn't know what's about to hit it. The LEDs do activate when the device is in use, but it's not clear if they have specific meanings. LEDless dongles of about 1/3 the size are also available.

I thought it might have one of those easy-to-snap-together, hard-to-unsnap cases, but no, I found the screws.

A look at the guts – the overall quality is surprisingly high.

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