How do you find the perfect diagnostic tool for your BMW F90?


Check the exact pricing of Carly for your car brand.

Are you the proud owner of a BMW F90 and want to delve deeper into the technology of your car? Maybe you want to do it yourself to save money, make custom adjustments, or run diagnostics on your own? It is not always necessary to rush straight to the mechanic for every warning. You can buy your own diagnostic tool for your BMW F90 and do many things yourself. There exists a large number of such devices on the market. With the content of this article, we want to help you identify the ideal diagnostic tool for your BMW F90.

Which BMW F90 diagnostic tool suits you best? The selection is large and the price range correspondingly wide. For example, simple scanners for error code detection are available for as little as 30 euros, while specialized devices with advanced functions can cost several thousand euros. An excellent and cost-effective alternative is offered by the Carly package, consisting of the Carly app and the Carly scanner. The app costs between €21 and €80 per year, while the one-time purchase of the Carly Universal OBD scanner is €59.90.

With this article, we would like to offer you a comprehensive insight and show you what is important when purchasing a diagnostic tool for your BMW F90.

Things to know in advance

Before we turn our attention to the right diagnostic tool for your BMW F90, let’s first explain the basic principles of vehicle diagnostics to give you a better understanding of the subject. If you are already familiar with these basics, we still advise you to read on carefully, as you will certainly receive information about this topic that is still unknown to you.

Types of diagnostic tools

To perform a vehicle diagnosis, you need the right tools. Basically, three different types exist: external, stand-alone devices, laptop software, and smartphone apps. Each type has its own strengths and weaknesses, but we consider the smartphone app to be the optimal solution, as it more than makes up for its minor drawbacks with numerous advantages.

External diagnostic tools are usually equipped with a small screen and are suitable for simple diagnostic tasks. There are exceptions, however, such as professional workshop equipment, which has a high cost but limits mobility. Portable external diagnostic tools may be cost effective, but they offer limited functionality and small displays that only show error codes. To interpret the meaning of the codes, you’ll have to do your own research and always carry the device with you when needed, which requires extra organization.

Laptop software can be inconvenient for the average car owner or car enthusiast, as you need to carry both the laptop and the associated adapter cable. The software must be purchased and may not be constantly updated. When updates do occur, they are often chargeable, which increases the overall cost in the long run. Nevertheless, laptop solutions offer extensive diagnostic capabilities and the large computer screen can display a lot of data.

In general, smartphone apps prove to be particularly user-friendly, as the smartphone is always at hand. The apps offer a wide range of features and are usually updated regularly and free of charge. Our top recommendation is the Carly app. In addition to extensive diagnostic functions, it offers a wealth of other features, which we will take a closer look at in the course of this article.

The error code system

Modern vehicles are equipped with many control units, each responsible for a specific system. Within these control units, fixed parameters are defined within which the connected systems should function. In case of deviations, error codes are created and stored. There are tens of thousands of such error codes, also called DTC (Data Trouble Codes) which are divided into general and manufacturer-specific codes. While almost all diagnostic tools can read general fault codes, only specific scanners and smartphone apps are able to interpret manufacturer-specific fault codes.

The error codes consist of five characters and follow a certain structure. The first character indicates the area of the fault: B for body, C for chassis, P for powertrain (engine and transmission) and U for the network (OBD interface). The second character indicates whether the error is a standard error (“1”) or a manufacturer-specific error code (“2”). The third character identifies the affected system more precisely, while the fourth and fifth characters (digits 00 to 99) describe the specific error.

Simple diagnostic tools only provide the rough error code, e.g. P1588 or U0463. You will then have to do your own research to find out what these codes mean, what causes them, and what corrections are needed. Higher quality devices also provide a description. The best apps, such as Carly, even analyze the errors and let you know which ones can be fixed urgently, which ones can be worked on later, or which ones can be ignored.

BMW F90 – image by manfredkrammer0 on Pixabay

Vehicle control units at a glance

In your BMW F90, various control units act as mini-computers, each responsible for a specific system. Whether the air conditioning or engine monitoring, each system has its own control unit. The totality of these devices forms an extensive network that extends throughout the vehicle and serves as the central communication unit.

Many of these control units are capable of regulating small inconsistencies in the systems themselves. If there are major deviations that cannot be corrected internally, this will be visible to you as the driver and may cause a significant warning or error message. The Carly app serves you as an intelligent analysis tool and prioritizes fault codes to provide you with a clearly structured overview and generate a condition report of your BMW F90.

Insight into the OBD2 interface

The OBD2 port of your BMW F90 allows connection to an external diagnostic device and is located under the dashboard near the brake pedal. The use of a high quality OBD2 scanner is essential to ensure the integrity of the ECUs and enable effective communication. This scanner translates commands into a vehicle-compatible language.

A diagnostic device or corresponding software connects via cable, while apps like the Carly app use a wireless OBD2 scanner, such as the Carly 20-pin scanner. This connection is made with the help of Bluetooth or WLAN. The scanner can be used flexibly and even remain permanently connected to the vehicle to provide real-time data.

Background knowledge about OBD

OBD stands for on-board diagnostics and was introduced in the U.S. more than 40 years ago to control emissions data. It helps the driver to be warned in good time in the event of high exhaust gas values. An OBD3 standard still under development could in future report faults directly to competent authorities and require mandatory repair within a set period.

Deepening into the CAN bus

The communication network in your vehicle is also called CAN bus. Data packets move continuously through this system, enabling fast and efficient communication between the vehicle’s various systems. As soon as a new command is given by the app, it is received by the OBD2 adapter and translated by the ELM 27 chip into a vehicle-compatible language.

What does vehicle diagnostics offer?

At the core of vehicle diagnostics is the reading and analysis of fault codes. A simple diagnostic tool can display and clear these codes, but for a deeper understanding you need more advanced features. For example, error code B0115 provides an indication of a short circuit in the area of the side airbag lines. In addition to a textual description of the error, a high-quality diagnostic device will also provide you with information on the urgency and further procedure.

How much does it cost to diagnose a vehicle?

There are two main factors that go into the cost of a vehicle diagnostic: The direct cost of the diagnosis itself and the potential to save money by identifying and fixing problems early, before they lead to more serious, costly damage.

The cost of a simple vehicle inspection in a workshop ranges from 25 to 60 euros, depending on the model, brand and workshop. If you have a quarterly checkup and the average price per visit is 40 euros, the annual cost adds up to about 160 euros. There is also the cost and time of making appointments, bringing and picking up the vehicle, and any additional transportation costs during the inspection.

The Carly app is available for your BMW F90 for about 6 euros per month. In addition, the one-time purchase of the Carly Universal OBD scanner for 59.90 euros. A high quality external adapter like the Carly scanner is absolutely necessary for all external diagnostics, including BMW F90 diagnostics. All functions of the Carly app are included in the price, which avoids additional direct costs of several hundred euros. You can find more details at the end of this post.

The follow-up costs saved are difficult to quantify, but could be in the range of several hundred to a thousand euros per year. With a diagnostic device, you can run the check as often as you like, even several times a month. A good BMW F90 diagnostic tool will help you identify and fix minor problems and faults early on, before they lead to larger and more expensive repairs.

Which BMW F90 diagnostic device is the best choice for you?

Our goal is to make you understand that the Carly app is the best solution for you. It offers a number of additional features, which we will discuss just below. It is also available for download from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. The Carly app already has over 1 million downloads, and you can get started with the free version of the app, which gives you access to a limited yet impressive range of features. Next, we’ll introduce you to the main features of the Carly app.

BMW F90 – image by Mike on Pixabay

BMW F90 diagnosis and condition assessment

The Carly app is able to read and interpret not only general fault codes, but also manufacturer-specific codes that are specifically relevant to BMW and the BMW F90. The Carly BMW F90 diagnostic tool provides detailed explanations of the identified faults, thus does not leave you in the dark. Moreover, Carly shows you the health status of your car by classifying the faults according to their urgency. A traffic light system is used here: If the light programmed for this purpose lights up green , it is in good condition and no action is required. An orange light indicates that you should consider further diagnostics, as there are errors that should be fixed. A flashing red light, on the other hand, indicates serious problems that require immediate action.

Carly Smart Mechanic

Carly Smart Mechanic answers the central question of every motorist: “How severe is the problem and what do I need to do to fix it?” The app gives you specific details on the severity of the problem and how easy it is to fix, along with handy repair instructions written by expert mechanics.

We combine the misinformation of your specific problem with our extensive database of repair manuals and vehicle system descriptions. This gives you a deeper understanding of your car’s fault codes and detailed repair tips. The Carly OBD scanner combines real-time data with extensive mechanical know-how and translates this into practical advice that will help you improve your repair skills and perform more repairs yourself.

Carly used car check: your trusted companion

Carly offers an exclusive feature that is extremely useful, especially when choosing a used car, such as a BMW F90. The trick is to find a vehicle you can rely on. Unfortunately, even the most appealing car can have manipulated mileage. Speedometer manipulation is widespread, and it is estimated that up to one third of all used cars are affected. The Carly Used Car Check is a unique service that checks all relevant ECUs for traces of tampering and provides a comprehensive report. This way you can judge whether you can trust the seller or not. You can potentially save thousands of dollars with our BMW F90 diagnostic tool!

Individual vehicle customization

Coding sounds technical and complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. It is the possibility of modifying the functions of your BMW F90 according to your personal preferences. You have the possibility to change various parameters, such as daytime running lights, turn signals, brake lights, ambient lighting, comfort settings, parking aids (PDC), seat adjustments, power windows, power tailgate, welcome lights, air conditioning, start-stop system and much more. With hundreds of customizable options, you can personalize your vehicle. In a workshop, these adjustments would cost you between 30 and 50 € per change. With Carly you have the freedom to make as many settings as you want and test and switch between different options.

Real-time monitoring

Have you ever wished you could monitor parameters like fuel consumption, exact speed, engine temperature or other values in real time while driving? With Carly’s real-time monitoring this is possible. You can select the respective parameter and stay up to date.

Are we saying goodbye to the workshop?

Regrettably, this does not mean that we can completely say goodbye to workshop visits. With Carly, you can reduce the number of workshop visits you make and the associated costs, but you can’t do it completely without. No app can handle all workshop tasks. There will always be minor and major repairs that need to be done by a professional, as well as more complex problems that can only be identified by experts. However, you can perform minor diagnostics, coding and service resets yourself, saving time and money.

In conclusion

After reading this detailed article about the best diagnostic tool for your BMW F90, we are confident that we have successfully introduced you to the benefits of the Carly App. The Carly app allows you to use a variety of features: Read trouble codes, perform basic maintenance yourself, optimize your fuel economy by monitoring real-time parameters, custom code your car, and much more.

Cover image: Image by Darko Stojanovic on Pixabay

Keep in mind, that every car has different software and modules built-in. Therefore specific features will vary with every model.

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