We are all familiar with the dreaded “check engine” light. Most people take their cars to their dealers or a local mechanic to get them to read the engine codes and tell them what has gone wrong.

Almost every car made after 1996 has a port under the dashboard to connect diagnostic systems. This port is called the OBD-II port (on-board diagnostics).

It used to be that only dealers and mechanics had access to the computers and cables that could connect to the port, but technology advances have brought products that let people read their own engine codes.

The OBDLink MX+ from Scantool.net uses a wireless dongle to connect your car to your smartphone, tablet or Windows PC via Bluetooth.

There are all kinds of engine statistics you can access if you have a device like the OBDLink MX+. Not all manufacturers make the same information available, but you will be surprised at what you can find out about your car when you connect the OBDLink MX+.

The OBDLink MX+ has apps for iOS, Android and Windows that can display all the information. The app lets the user completely customize information screens called dashboards that consist of digital or analog gauges that can be set up in different sizes and shapes. You can have multiple dashboards for different situations.

You can set up one for fuel mileage information, one for engine performance, one for acceleration rates and so on.

One very cool feature of the OBDLink app is that you can put the dashboards into “heads up display” mode, which flips the screen so you can place your phone on your dashboard to see the display reflected on your windshield as you drive. It’s a slick feature.

If you have your own favorite car app that uses OBD-II data, chances are the OBDLink MX+ will work with it.

The OBDLink MX+ can read engine error codes to let you know exactly why your check engine light is on. The included app has information on thousands of codes so you are presented with a clear explanation of what’s happening. Cheaper OBD-II dongles just give a code number and make you look up the error.

A con: Documentation is lacking for a device with so many features.

Yet once you figure out how to use it, this is a very powerful OBD-II dongle that will read all the data your car can provide.

Dallas Morning News