Bosch OBD 150 review

Posted on December 1st, 2015 by Rob Marshall

GEM’s technical department fields many questions from members, querying the significance of the sudden illumination of a dashboard warning lamp. In some cases, the light could mean anything, especially in relation to the engine management system, which can indicate a problem that ranges from the inlet and ignition to the exhaust, plus everything in-between.

To interpret specifically to which component the glowing lamp refers, one has to access a fault code inside the main engine control unit (ECU). Independent garage charges can vary for the service, although £40-£70 is typical to both read and erase the code, which will extinguish the fascia lamp – although the code will appear again, sometimes immediately, if the underlying fault is not addressed.

Therefore, reading, identifying and erasing a fault code at home can be a useful money saver, especially as modern On Board Diagnostic (OBD) sockets and codes were standardised across all cars from 2001 (2004 for diesels). This explains why we were interested, when Bosch’s latest OBD 150 (RRP: £129) fault code reader/eraser arrived for us to review (a cheaper model, the OBD 100, which does not feature more in-depth live data reading is available for £89 RRP). To find out if it is any good, not only did we test it ourselves but we also sought the views of an amateur DIY-er, an apprentice mechanic and an experienced technician.

Our and their verdicts
All of us liked the build quality of the unit – it looks and feels tough enough to survive not only an accidental drop but also the rigours of living in a typical tool-box. We also appreciate that its software can be updated online (at no charge), via a USB connection, although we felt that the unit’s socket would benefit from a rubber flap, to protect the delicate internal connection.

That the unit did not require any setting up and worked immediately on all cars that we plugged the tool into, was most beneficial. Our amateur DIY-er commented positively on the comprehensive instructions and appreciated that the fault codes could be read and erased easily and quickly. Although the dot-matrix display looks old-fashioned, at least it is back-lit and the fonts used are large and clear, although the screen is a little too small for some of the live read-outs and our experienced technician commented that one cannot view several graphs simultaneously.

Our young apprentice also found the unit to be very intuitive to use but he also compared it with ELM Electronics’ ELM327, an inexpensive unit that uses Bluetooth wireless technology to display the information more neatly on a colour Smartphone screen, or a tablet computer. The cost of both the Internet-sourced part and the app software was under £20.00; considerably cheaper than the Bosch unit. While he reported that the ELM327 appeared to do everything that the OBD 150 could perform, he lamented the lack of an instruction manual and the vendors that we found did not match Bosch’s two year guarantee. We also were concerned at the numbers of cloned ELM327 units on the market, which increases the risk of a poor quality copy tool damaging the car’s electronics.

The main gripe, on which we all agreed, is that the Bosch’s lead, between the screen and socket, is too short. This is more of a problem, when viewing the OBD 150’s live data, while the car is being driven. As it is illegal for the driver to be distracted, a passenger would find it difficult to read the data close-up, when belted into the passenger seat, on cars with an OBD socket situated on the driver’s side. We hope that Bosch will address this shortfall.

GEM’s recommendation
Despite our gripes, we can recommend Bosch’s OBD 150, despite feeling that the cheaper OBD 100 is better suited to DIY owners that simply wish to read and erase fault codes alone. More advanced customers may feel that the OBD 150’s extra features are worth the price premium. While cheaper alternatives are available, buyers must be wary. While some people might view Bosch’s price as high, the company supplies many mainstream carmakers with electronic components, which provides a degree of reassurance as to its quality.