You could save money and time with one of several affordable automotive diagnostic apps for mobile devices

The advent of smart phones, tablets and increasingly advanced apps has left many a costly bespoke device drifting by the wayside.

Take, for example, the sat-nav. A few years ago you’d see aftermarket devices adhered to windscreens left right and centre; now most people just fire up Google maps on their phone and go on their merry way.

A similar trend is being repeated in the automotive diagnostic world. Previously, if you wanted to read fault codes from a car, you’d have to buy some very specific and expensive hardware. Nowadays, though, you can buy an inexpensive app that offers you as much functionality as you’re ever likely to need.

Several are offered but Torque Pro, which costs £2.95 on the Google play store, is one of the most highly recommended – although currently not available for iOS devices.

You’ll also need an onboard diagnostic Bluetooth dongle, but they only cost around £8. All you then have to do is to plug the dongle into the OBD port – which is usually located somewhere underneath the steering wheel – and sync it with the device you’ve installed the app on.

This will grant you the ability to interrogate the car about any faults, clear stored codes, and view readouts from a whole host of sensors – all of which can help you to quickly identify and resolve problems. The sensors themselves can even be used to drive custom digital dashboards, via the app, that are viewable on your device.

You can also set audible and visual alarms to alert you if any of the readings exceeding what you set to be the limit, among myriad other useful functions – including a 0-60mph timing system and a data logging facility.

Even if the problem transpires to be something that you can't fix yourself, the ability to identify fault codes will at least give you the option of going into a dealership or independent garage and being able to better describe what's at fault.

The app and dongle might not be suitable for every application, or able to offer as much insight as the full-on manufacturer's hardware, but overall, they can be a useful and inexpensive addition to any modern toolbox.

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