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I am an automotive gadget addict and love to try out new tools if funds permit.  I have a traditional corded OBD II code reader but when I found a $30 ELM327 WIFI dongle that could connect to my iPhone I figured I would give it a try.  There are a plethora of apps that work with the dongle but one that stood out from the pack was Carista.  It not only allows you to read codes but also allows you to change features and settings on supported vehicles.

Many of the settings that Carista allows you to change were previously reserved for dealer only diagnostic computers but now we can change them on our own for less than the price of 1 dealer visit.  The Carista app is free to download and use for code reading but costs $20 if you want to use to make changes to your car.  The dongle I chose is the iKKEGOL Vgate on Amazon due to the mostly positive reviews it received.  This dongle works over WIFI as the iPhone will not work with Bluetooth type ELM327 dongles.
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As luck would have it, while the dongle was in the mail, my wife’s car illuminated the check engine and ABS lights.  The dongle arrived in a white box resembling something you might find a knockoff iPhone in and included a translated instruction sheet along with a small CD.  Checking the CD I found some instructions, pictures, and something my antivirus software considered spyware so I recommend that you just throw the CD out as soon as you open the package.
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I plugged the dongle into my wife’s car, set the ignition to on and went into the WIFI menu on my iPhone and connected to the V-LINK network.  Once I was connected, I launched the Carista app and selected the “CHECK FAULTS” option.  After processing for a few seconds, the screen popped up with 3 codes.  The first code was an ABS code and directed me to a faulty front left ABS sensor, the other 2 codes were related to the camshaft actuators.  I clicked the email button and sent the codes to myself and then cleared them.  I was happy to be able to read the ABS code as my old corded reader did not support this.
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My wife’s car was not on the list of supported vehicles for customizing but luckily I have a Lexus RC350 that I am testing at the time which is supported.  I took the dongle over to the RC350 and plugged it in.  Once I was connected I launched Carista and selected the “CUSTOMIZE” option.  The app took about 40-50 seconds to connect but then it popped up with all kinds of options for lights, HVAC, instruments, and doors.  Clicking through the menus I can see lots of useful settings that can be changed.  You can change things like the turn signal click volume or recalibrate the ambient temperature sensor.  This can be useful in many ways and allow you to customize the car to your preferences.
Overall, both the device and the app worked well in my limited use and since the dongle is so small you can put it in your glovebox or even carry it in your pocket.  The dongle is quite handy if you are going out to look at potential cars for purchase as you can check codes and emissions readiness quickly.  What kind of gadgets do you use with your car?
Images: ©2015 Hooniverse/Bozi Tatarevic, All Rights Reserved