BlueDriver deciphers your “Check Engine” light

Product Lemur

You’re driving through Banff to Fairmont Hot Springs and the dreaded Check Engine light illuminates on your car’s dashboard. Expletives come out from your mouth, followed by the onset of panic and you assume the worst. Besides the time and probably $100 or so excluding repair costs to find out what the problem might be, it also dawns on you that you and your family, just might have to spend the better part of your holiday with your new best friend – the tow-truck driver. So it’s great to know that there’s a product like BlueDriver by Lemur Vehicle Monitors touted as “Professional diagnostics for everyone”.  Now it won’t fix the problem, but it might just give you the information you need to give you peace of mind and possibly save you from unscrupulous mechanics.

More specifically, BlueDriver is an advanced diagnostic scan tool – similar to those used at car dealerships and vehicle repair outlets to troubleshoot and diagnose car trouble and demystify the dreaded Check Engine light. Read more… AT CANOE TECH BLOG.

Plugs in to OBD-II Port

It plugs into a socket or OBD-II port, typically located under your driver’s console. It pairs wirelessly via Bluetooth and can scan and send codes right to your iOS or Android device using the free Scan Tool App. Even better, assuming you have cell coverage or Wi-Fi and it’s not Sunday at 3AM, you can share real time data, captured while you’re driving with your favourite mechanic back home even in another time zone. The good news is, that he or she doesn’t even need to know exactly when it happened, thanks to its Freeze Frame feature, a snapshot of car’s data at the moment the Check Engine light came on – so there’s no guessing on your part.

In addition to Freeze Frame, the main menu gives you eight other options, including the ability to enter your car’s VIN number of giving the system a better idea as to what it’s dealing with. Optionally you can simply manually select the year and model of your car.

The main feature of course is to read DTC’s (Diagnostic Trouble Codes) that generate a check engine light. Sadly, for testing purposes I was not able to generate one on my car – but maybe that’s a good thing for my car.

You also have an option to clear those codes although some manufacturers may have proprietary system that doesn’t allow you to do so. You can also perform a smog readiness check, if it’s compatible with your car, which can perform a number of checks on your vehicle to see whether or not it would pass the smog test – which is required in some provinces. The test provides a list of about 20 functions, which include common monitors like engine misfire, spark engine monitors like a catalyst check and your evaporative system; compression engine monitors like your boost pressure system, just to name a few.

Blue Driver can also read and clear ABS trouble codes for domestic vehicles but are typically limited to Chrysler, Ford and GM vehicles. If you have a vehicle like a Honda or a Toyota, you’re likely out of luck. According to Lemur founder and CEO Maurice Tuff the ABS feature likely won’t work because those manufacturers have custom ways of implementing that feature.

The MIL status function keeps track of some of the statistics since the check engine light went on. This includes things like how it’s been on, how far have you’ve since driven and how long it’s been since the engine was started. It can also track distance and time since the check engine code was last cleared. It’s important to note that Blue Driver may not be able to reset codes on some vehicles since some manufacturers have their own proprietary technology that may not allow it.  There’s also a flashlight that basically turns your screen white, creating some illumination. For mechanics and advanced techies there are also advanced test results for on-board diagnostic reporting called Mode 6,which admittedly is not something in my area of expertise.

The Repair Reports are probably one of the most useful features Blue Driver can provide. It can decipher the codes (manufacturer and generic) and suggest a list of possible causes – since sometimes a symptom may not be able to pinpoint a specific cause. It searches a database of over 4.5 million entries, which offers the top reported fixes based on the given code, the most frequently reported fixes plus additional reported fixes. This can help you and/or your mechanic narrowed down possible scenarios based on what others have encountered.

LIVE MENU – real-time data

The second menu is a Live menu. When connected to Blue Driver it offers real time data as to what’s really going on under the hood. You can pick and choose which ones you want to see. You can look at those that are supported as not all vehicles support all functions, you can look at those that are active or you can simply select them all. For many functions you can also customize the range of operation that you would like to look at. On the display you can see the data logging in real time. Rev up your engine and you can see the RPM change right in front of you. Turn your device into landscape mode and you can watch multi-data interactive waveform graphing happening in real time in a sliding window – like watching an oscilloscope.

Alternately, you can select a single function disputed as a gauge. You can then print the information, save the information (in .csv format), put it in a DropBox and even share it on Twitter, Facebook or via email.

The More menu, offers a number of options, including a User Manual. Instead of lots of text you have access to a series of short YouTube videos. You can also buy a Blue Driver right from the app (as you can manually input your VIN and trouble code if you know what they are and use the app for free), update your sensor’s firmware as well as select whether or not you wish to use metric or imperial measurements.

Lemur Vehicle Monitors makes it easy for tech support, allowing you nine different ways to connect, including via toll-free phone number, email, a number of social media methods and even a live chat right through the app.

Some features will require an Internet connection.


Vehicle manufactures typically design their cars to CanBus standards and Blue Driver was designed to conform to those standards. So in theory, BlueDriver should work for most foreign and domestic cars and light trucks sold (but not necessarily built) in North America, since 1996. You can look up your vehicle on Lemur’s homepage to check compatibility. Chances are that the newer the car the more advanced the technology is in it making more useful data available to the app. In fact I tested Blue Driver with both 1997 and 2006 3-series BMW with an iPhone, iPod touch and iPad Air.  It worked nicely with both, but as expected more features were supported in the later model car. (For the techies out there, Blue Driver supports all OBD-II protocols: ISO 15765-4 (CAN), ISO 9141-2, ISO 14230-4 (KWP2000) and SAE J1850 (VPW & PWM)).

Changes of note

For those of you who may have looked at this product in the past, you may have noted the price is now higher – and it is. The company decided to increase the price but include all features and tests and do away with the myriad of additional in-app purchases. They’ve recently added a new feature called PRO Tips. These are little tips that pop up as reminders. For example, when looking at live data in portrait mode, PRO tip will remind you to turn you device on its side for graphing.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re a techie or wannabe mechanic or someone who avoid technology like the plague and knowledge of cars is limited to putting gas in the tank – as long as you low how to operate a smartphone and an app, then you can use Blue Driver.  It has a simple interface but it still functions like a traditional scan tool with the ability to log the information, give you live feedback and, if needed, the send the data to your mechanic. Plus, the benefit of getting both authoritative and crowd-sourced information can help you better pinpoint your problem.

It’s valuable time-wise, since it can left plugged in while driving and freeze the data when the check engine light first went on instead of having to plug it in and guess what happened after the fact. Furthermore, having it integrated with an app is much more practical instead of having to read a one line display on a traditional scanner.

To be frank, this type of device is something that I would not have ever thought of, given I typically leave most work on my car to the experts, but for a small investment it will likely more than pay for itself the first time you need to use it. And like insurance, it’s something that could give you peace of mind.

The only thing I found amiss is its inability to scan, read and save the car’s VIN. You have to manually enter it each time and if you change vehicles, you need to do it again. It would also be nice if it could clear a number of the other idiotic lights that show up on your car’s dashboard – but I guess that would be asking way too much.

Blue Driver is manufactured offshore but it was conceived and designed in Canada, so you know it will also withstand our blistering cold winters. It retails for $99.99 and is available directly from Lemur or Amazon.   The app is free but requires an iOS device running 7.0 or Android running 4.0.

It makes for a great little stocking stuffer. In fact the company is offering free express shipping until December 19th, 2014, so you can hopefully get it in time to put under your tree.

RATING: 4.75 / 5

Select Photos Courtesy Lemur Vehicle Monitors.


Greg Gazin is the Real Canadian Gadget Guy.

Follow me on Twitter @gadgetgreg or Empire Avenue (e)GADGET1.


Mac OS Lion little known Wi-Fi diagnostic tool

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