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What is ELM327 Scanner and How to Use It

What is an ELM327 scanner?

ELM327 is familiar to many car owners. ELM 327 is an automotive scanner or adapter that connects to the machine's onboard computer through the OBD-II connector. This useful device is commonly used for diagnosing malfunctions, reading performance indicators, and zeroing errors of an ECU (electronic control unit).

ELM 327 car code reader got its name from the microcontroller's name, which connects the link between the diagnostic bus of the car and a computer or smartphone. This chip, developed by a Canadian company, fell into Chinese electronics manufacturers, who did not miss the chance to copy it.

What can the ELM327 scanner do?

The functionality of the ELM327 is quite extensive. It may vary by a specific version of the adapter, the machine's computer, and the software used for diagnostics.

In addition to reading, decoding, and cleaning diagnostic error codes, the scanner can display the engine speed and car speed in real-time, the temperature of all fluids, current fuel and air consumption, throttle position, and pressure in the fuel system, and much more.

Using the ELM327 adapter in some cars, you can unlock and reconfigure automatic locking of locks and folding mirrors, the gas pedal's responsiveness, and dashboard data.

Main features of ELM327 scanner

  • Read engine data
  • Check Engine Light
  • Report error codes
  • Clear error codes
  • Display current sensor data
  • Turn on/off additional features

How to choose the right ELM327 scanner

Because of the many different quality clones, there is a risk of running into a device with truncated functionality that will not work correctly or will not start at all. When buying, you need to consider three important points:

  1. Type of connection

There are several versions of ELM327 with different connection interfaces. The most common are adapters with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and USB. They differ not only in connectivity but also in compatibility with smartphones and computers. Otherwise, the functions are identical.

  • Bluetooth is the cheapest car code scanner that only works with Android smartphones.
  • Wi-Fi - is a more expensive version that is compatible with smartphones on Android and iOS and computers.
  • USB is a bit cheaper than Wi-Fi scanners. They work only with computers, but reliable communications distinguish them.

It does not matter what type of connection you select, but the WI-FI and Bluetooth scanners are more comfortable.

  1. Firmware version

The adapter software is continuously updated. On the original ELM327, the current version is already 2.2. Chinese clones are sold with firmware 1.5 and 2.1. Oddly enough, a more recent version is worse.

The chip that came to the Chinese was with firmware version 1.5. All clones with this firmware have the original ELM327 software. Later, copies of scanners version 2.1 appeared. The latter is only a modified firmware 1.5, and not for the better - to reduce the cost of production, the Chinese have removed many communication protocols. Besides, there are regular adapters with version 1.5, which are sold under the guise of 2.1.

Three variants of ELM327 clones are now available for sale:

  • ELM327 1.5 - old, but original firmware;
  • ELM327 2.1 - stripped-down original firmware under the guise of a newer one;
  • ELM327 2.1 - original firmware disguised as new, but unchanged.

It is worth buying an adapter with the original firmware version 1.5.

  1. Type of auto diagnostic connector

On some machines, especially before 2000, the diagnostic connector has pads of other standards. Connecting a scanner to them will not work. For such cases, special adapters are used: on the one hand, they have a compatible connector for a specific car model, and on the other, a standard OBD-II.

Proprietary pads can have a different shape and number of contacts. Therefore, before buying a car code scanner, specify which connector standard is used on your car, and if necessary, purchase the appropriate adapter. Proprietary pads can have a different shape and number of contacts. Therefore, before buying a scanner, specify which connector standard is used on your car, and if necessary, purchase the appropriate adapter.

How to use ELM327

  1. Install the diagnostic application

Various programs are used to connect to the machine ECU. There are both free and paid versions for Android, iOS, and Windows.

Best apps to connect ELM327 for Android

  • Torque Lite
  • Torque Pro
  • Dash
  • OpenDiag Mobile
  • OBD Fusion
  • OBD Car Doctor
  • Carista OBD2

Best apps to connect ELM327 for iOS

  • OBD Fusion (iOS and Android)
  • OBD Car Doctor (iOS and Android)
  • OBD Auto Doctor (iOS and Windows)
  • Car Scanner ELM OBD2 (iOS and Windows)

Best apps to connect ELM327 for Windows

  • OBD Auto Doctor (iOS and Windows)
  • Car Scanner ELM OBD2 (iOS and Windows)
  • OpenDiag

As you can see, there are tons of apps to connect the ELM327 scanner. We presented only the best of them.

  1. Plug-In ELM327 into the car

The connector for connecting the ELM327 adapter in cars is located differently. Usually, somewhere under the wheel or in the glove compartment, it may be under the hood in some older models. Find out how in your car and connect the scanner.

  1. Pair ELM327 and the device

Next, you need to turn on the ignition and establish a connection between the scanner and a smartphone or laptop. If the adapter has a start button, do not forget to press it.

Activate Bluetooth or Wi-Fi in the gadget's settings and wait until the devices nearby are found. Choose an ELM327 adapter: usually called an OBDII. Connect to it. To pair, use the code 0000 or 1234.

  1. Diagnose your car

Run the installed diagnostic application. Typically, the type of adapter is detected automatically. If this does not happen, open the application settings, specify the connection (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or USB), and select an available scanner from the list.

How to use the ELM 327 car code reader?

After tuning, if everything is done correctly, information about the car will be displayed on the screen, and sensors and indicators will work. Depending on the application, you may need to create an auto profile. To do this, select your model from the list and specify the technical specifications.

Now you can view the engine's performance and various systems, read ECU errors, and reset them. For each function in applications, there are corresponding buttons. For example, in the most popular Torque utility, these are Dashboard, Error Reading, Charts, and others.