Introduction: Use Your IPhone to Scan Vehicle Codes and Read Sensor Data

Picture of Use Your IPhone to Scan Vehicle Codes and Read Sensor Data

With the use of a very cheap (10$!) adapter you can use your iPhone as a diagnostic tool to figure out your vehicle's check engine light, clear the codes, or view sensors (such as temperatures, oxygen sensor readings, and vehicle speed). In this I will be demonstrating the use of 'FourStroke' iPhone App to pull data from a vehicle.


  • Your car must be 'OBD2' compatible. All cars sold in North America after 1996 should support this.
  • An OBD2 Wifi Adapter (either from eBay or use ones on Amazon linked in FourStroke's website). Most OBD2 Bluetooth adapters will not work with iPhone apps unless they specifically confirm compatibility.
  • An iPhone with iOS 7.1 or later and the free app FourStroke downloaded.

Note: There are other OBD iPhone solutions available so while this guide is limited to FourStroke the same basic steps are followed for most OBD mobile related applications. Also note that the cheaper adapters will generally work well but may have a choppy refresh rate when viewing sensor data. Other apps I suggest looking into: DashCommand and Rev

Step 1: Find Your Vehicles OBD Port

Picture of Find Your Vehicles OBD Port

Once you have an adapter and iPhone ready to go you have to track down the OBD2 port. This port is almost always located within the driver's or front passenger's footwell, under the front dash. It is often black and is roughly 2 inches by 3/4 inch. A quick Google image search for OBD2 Port Location {Vehicle} will help, such as this: OBD2 Port Location Civic 2007

When located, plug in your adapter; whether the car is on or off should not matter.

Note: The OBD Port always has power provided so it may power up immediately. Some OBD2 Adapters will remain on which can drain your battery if left for days. Some of the more expensive adapters have an auto power off built in.

Step 2: Start the Vehicle and Connect to the Wifi Access Point

Picture of Start the Vehicle and Connect to the Wifi Access Point

While the adapter is plugged in and powered it will start up a Wifi signal. Start the vehicle and then head over to your iPhone to get connected. Your iPhone needs to connect to the Wifi provided by the adapter. Check the wireless settings page and look for signals that are strong, unsecured, and have a name related to the device you purchased, or have keywords such as 'ELM', 'OBD2' or 'CLKDevices'. If you have trouble finding the wireless, try waiting a bit longer - some adapters may take longer to start up but generally most devices will have a signal in less than 10 seconds.

Step 3: Connect to the Vehicle Through FourStroke

Picture of Connect to the Vehicle Through FourStroke

Now that you are connected to the adapter's WiFi signal and the car is running, we are ready to work with the FourStroke app.

Open the app, it's default settings are common among most adapters. The connection icon will flash yellow if it's communicating with your adapter as part of its initialization. It should turn green within 10 seconds. If it refuses to turn green (fully connected) read the troubleshooting tips below.

If the WiFi icon turns green you are already connected and do not need to set up the connection settings.

Troubleshooting Tips: Adapters may have specific IP and PORT networking settings. In most cases these should be supplied with the purchase. If you have trouble connecting click the connection icon, then the wireless information symbol. Ensure that the port and IP address listed match your device. You can try to test the connection to get a better idea of what may be happening.

Step 4: Read Codes

Picture of Read Codes

Now that we have connected, it's straight forward to figure out what codes your vehicle is throwing.

To check codes:

  1. Tap Diagnostics
  2. Open Trouble Codes
  3. Wait for the vehicle to respond.
  4. Codes will be provided with an identifier and name, if any

Once you have codes, if you are not familiar with cars, you can Google the code (often in format P####) along with your vehicle make and keywords such as cost to get a general idea of what others may have been charged to fix the issue. You might come across an easy fix that can be done (such as a bad gas cap).

Stored Codes: Stored codes are active (current) codes within your system. Your check engine light will be illuminated if there are any stored codes.

Pending Codes: Pending codes are not yet confirmed and will not set off your check engine light. Your vehicle monitors for repeated errors, once past a set threshold it may either become a stored code or be removed from pending should the errors cease.

To clear codes:

You must have an existing code for the Clear codes button to enable, which will appear at the upper right corner. Tap Clear codes and then confirm that you wish to clear codes. You may want to do this if you want to see if the code goes away or if you recently had the car fixed for a certain issue.

Note: Emissions related data is reset when clearing codes, if you immediately go for an emissions test where they use the OBD system (rather than a tail pipe test) you may not pass. If you clear codes you should allow for a couple days of regular driving to reset the sensor states. The ability to check on these states is coming with the next version of the app.

Other: is a great resource for getting extra information out of codes if the app doesn't have much.

Step 5: Using Sensor Data (advanced)

Picture of Using Sensor Data (advanced)

Displaying sensor data as part of a visual gauge:

From the main page you can open Dashboard which will present an empty gauge. Tap the gauge to get a listing of available sensors. Support for certain sensors varies by vehicle, the sensors your vehicle supports will be in green. Select vehicle speed and tap back to the previous page. This will show you the vehicle's speed in an analog gauge, it should be the same as what is shown on your dash. This is great as an example to show that you get immediate response with the app and can be handy when trying to get a better idea of why a code is coming up.

For example, a code may be thrown due to low engine temperature. You could use the Coolant Temperature Sensor data to see if it adjusts at all. If it does not move at all after a cold start, it could tell you that the issue is a bad connection to the sensor or the sensor itself.

If you have a code related to an oxygen sensor, you could watch the output of the oxygen sensor to see if it fluctuates after the car is warm, between 0.1-0.9 volts which denotes a good sensor. This is a simplified example but shows that sensor readings can be used if you have an understanding of how a system works.

Freeze Frames:

If you have a code, Freeze Frames (located under Diagnostics) show the sensor readings within the car at the time the diagnostic code was thrown.


nfrith (author)2015-03-12

Great 'ible! You can save a ton of money in repairs with one of these and a simple app on your phone.

One word of caution, some of the cheaper ELM327-based devices can cause issues with your car's computer if they fail. I had one that began to fail and was causing the vehicle computer to reset and generate errors from the traction control system. Not fun when you're travelling at interstate speeds.

The OBDLink MX from ScanTool is an excellent choice though. I replaced the failing ELM327 device with the bluetooth version of the OBDLink MX, and have had 0 problems with it. You can also leave it plugged into the OBD2 port as it has a power saving mode. I would highly recommend it to anyone delving into this. The extra price is well worth it. We have 3 OBD2-equipped vehicles, and I have used it on all 3 to read/reset codes, usually for an O2 sensor or something simple to replace. Family members have also benefitted as well, and I would say it's paid for itself many times over.

Also, Torque is awesome! I bought the pro version.

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with

rickfmdj (author)2015-03-12

Nice Info!...I need a basic Bluetooth Adaptor for Android. Anyone?

UKTech (author)rickfmdj2015-03-12

EBay is your friend, from China just buy the little Bluetooth jobs and they are about £6, use 'Torque' with it, it works well.

ProblemS1 (author)rickfmdj2015-03-12

I checked out Torque's website and they offer a really detailed listing:

jf_blanco (author)2015-03-12

For Android use Torque ;-)

ProblemS1 (author)jf_blanco2015-03-12

Stickied, I've heard great things for that program on the Android side of things. Thanks, good for others to know!

strick (author)jf_blanco2015-03-12

I use Torque and love it!

agent_99 (author)jf_blanco2015-03-12

Thanks for answering my question before I even asked it!!

jf_blanco (author)agent_992015-03-12

You're welcome :-)

carnac443 (author)2017-09-22

How to enter auto make into iphone in order to show any problems.

madrasi (author)2016-04-07

I would love to have this app but I know longer have my iPhone activated. Is there an APP for a Android like a Samsung 5?

acidrain69 (author)madrasi2016-04-18

Activated like on a cellular provider? You don't need cellular for this, just wifi, so even an old iPhone would work as long as the app is installed.

Meglymoo87 (author)2016-04-18

I know this 'ible is a year old, but Instructables just recently put it back up on their Facebook and Twitter again...regardless, this is TOO COOL! Can you use this adapter and your car to run a wifi signal anywhere? Like if you're out in the boonies and need to know how to get home but are out of data and need wifi, you can plug this into your port in your car and run a wifi to run your phone on? Regardless, this is AMAZING (sooooo did not know this)!

JTracker (author)2016-04-15

Holy cow - my comment is a year old and people are still whining about what I said. Beautiful !!

Lee Wilkerson (author)2016-04-08

Nice 'able.

One word of caution: not all code readers are the same. If you have an older vehicle (e.g.2000 GMC) the cheapo generic ELM327 readers will NOT read anything because they don't have anything internally connected to the proper pin(s).

Seeed Studio (author)2016-04-08

It's cool. BTW, if you guys want use an Arduino to get data from your car, you can use CAN BUS Shield as well.

esg.827 (author)2015-08-03

i make routine services outside on my own but i cant for the life of me, get rid of the "service required soon" dashboard announcement, could this solve my problem? we own hondas, oddysey civic and accord all new models


LexA5 (author)esg.8272016-04-07

There's a way to do this with just using the little knob/button in your instrument cluster. Google "Reset maintenence codes without scanner" or somehtign like that. Pretty easy to do.

JTracker (author)2015-03-12

Is this really an Instructable or a marketing exercise from "FourStroke"?

I guess I was looking for somebody that wrote their own OBD application - not simply being shown how to follow instructions from a retail website.

CJLullham (author)JTracker2015-05-27

What matter does it have. Either you like it and use it, or not. It's your choice at the end of the day

mjohnson82 (author)2015-03-12

The App is not on the apple app store any more. A search for FourStroke turns up a engine component identification app.

It's still available on the Australian App store.

bonnyjishop (author)2015-03-15

will this work with any smartphone?

maniacse (author)2015-03-13

First I think, that this ible is no worthy to read, but as I read reactions of folks down here, it is still not so good known. So I will add some info too: you can use bluetooth adapters with android devices using torque or scanmaster (both free or premium versions) and any other sw available on market. Also here are apps for Windows 8(.1), but working just for ELM chips. For general OBDII and EOBD is ELM based diagnostics working well, for older cars, especially in Europe, it is not so easy. But again, here comes eBay! For VW group and Fiat group we have KKL interfaces, and apps like VCDS (lite and full - VW group), multiecuscan (lite and full - Fiat group). Mentioned apps I used previously, so I can tell, they are fine also with cheap eBay interfaces. There are bunch of apps on web, you can try whatever you want. Take a care with plugin' older EU cars with universla interfaces (ELM for example): use you brain, if shown errors and readings are correct. Allways is better to use for given car special tool, not universal (I mean app in this case). I've got readings of 300 Celsius degrees on intake air and no fault codes on Fiat Stillo (year 2000-2005 I think) with ELM and scanmaster sw (windows based PC), but with multiecuscan and KKL interface there was intake on 30 Celsius degrees and many DTC's. Also, shown DTC should be realy general, not exact: remember, you have not sensor on each part. So shown fault should be not reason, but result of some other fault, which cannot be write to memory simply because it is not monitored. All and all, if you are not so sure about what is under your hood, go to find pricy service guys, they are trained to find faults not only according to some DTC written on screen on PC/tab/phone. But still, it is nice to dig in car electronic and finding possibilities of you vehicle!

captainzero (author)2015-03-12

I use DashCMD AND OBD Fusion for my iPhone app and a ELM 327 adapter exactly like the one pictured. Works well once you get your ip configured properly. You will need to add Proxy settings if you want the cell data service to work while connected to the device.

Philbert D (author)2015-03-12

Torque Pro isn't available from Amazon, but I've read positive reviews. I've had very good results with TouchScan software for Android with an ELM327-type BAFX OBD reader using Bluetooth. Make sure your OBD adapter/transmitter is listed as "by" and "sold by" BAFX (has an orange and blue label) to assure compatibility/lifespan.

fdea (author)2015-03-12

Is there any chance to reprogram motor by this way? In order to get more power or better fuel consumption.
I mean, an easy way.

ProblemS1 (author)fdea2015-03-12

Someone will likely be able to answer this better than me but I don't think so. I believe the port can actually be used to modify the spark timing and fuel inputs but with much more specialized software.

MrHoudini (author)2015-03-12

"OBD2 Bluetooth adapters will not work with iPhone apps!"

There are a number of bluetooth adapters that work well with Apple products. Just because you haven't experienced something doesn't mean it doesn't exist. What you could have said is that not all Bluetooth adapters work with Apple products.

ProblemS1 (author)MrHoudini2015-03-12

Cool thanks, learn something everyday. I'll update the text regarding that.

cadams29 (author)2015-03-12

IPhone version uses wifi signal, you'll have to disconnect from any other wifi to use. But the information that they provide is amazing.
Amazon sells the units fairly cheep, around $20 bucks.

Treknology (author)2015-03-12

I dedicated a laptop to this :(

cmarcum2 (author)2015-03-11

I luv this !!!

asdadeel (author)2015-03-11

thank you

ashleyjlong (author)2015-03-10

So good to know! Thanks for sharing!

alexander.zacharov.3 (author)2015-03-10

this is very cool! I will try it out!

jug24 (author)2015-03-10

There are also bluetooth OBD adapters.

seamster (author)2015-03-10

Brilliant stuff. Thank you for sharing this.

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