Which diagnostic device is the best for your BMW E87?


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Are you the owner of a BMW E87? Want to learn more about your vehicle? Want to save money, run vehicle diagnostics yourself, or even personalize certain aspects of your car? You don’t have to go to the repair shop every time a warning light comes on. Instead, you can purchase a diagnostic device for your BMW E87 and do everything yourself. There is a wide market for diagnostic equipment and in this article we want to help you choose the best one for your BMW E87.

Which is the right diagnostic device for your BMW E87? There is a wide range of devices available for your BMW E87 in different functional scopes and therefore prices. For example, you can find a passable scanner that allows you to read error codes for only 30 €, as well as professional devices with a variety of functions that cost thousands of euros. A good and inexpensive option is the Carly app and scanner. The Carly app costs between €21 and €80 per year and the Carly Universal OBD Scanner is available for €59.90 (one-time purchase).

This article will give you a deeper insight and show you what to look for when buying a diagnostic device for your BMW E87.

Basic knowledge

Before we recommend you a diagnostic device for BMW E87, we would like to introduce you to the basics of vehicle diagnostics.

Types of diagnostic equipment

To be able to perform a vehicle diagnosis, you need the appropriate diagnostic device. There are three different types on the market: external standalone diagnostic devices, software for laptops, and apps for smartphones. Each of these types has its advantages and disadvantages. From our point of view, the smartphone app is the best solution, as it offers numerous advantages that far outweigh the relatively few disadvantages.

External diagnostic devices usually have a small screen and are suitable for simple diagnostics, unless you opt for a garage-level device, but that costs thousands of dollars and limits portability. Portable external diagnostic devices can be very inexpensive, but offer limited features and small screens that only display fault codes. After that, you’ll have to do a lot of research to find out what the codes actually mean. If you’re frequently on the go and want to have your device with you, you’ll have to carry it around, which adds to the hassle.

Software for laptops is also largely impractical for the average driver or even car enthusiast, as it requires carrying the laptop and associated adapter cable with you at all times. In addition, the software for the laptop must be purchased and may not be updated regularly. Finally, even if there are updates, you may have to pay for them, which increases the overall cost of this solution over time. However, the software for laptops can provide comprehensive diagnostic solutions. In addition, the large screen of the computer can display a lot of data.

Overall, smartphone apps are by far the most practical. After all, you always have your smartphone with you. Smartphone apps are user-friendly, offer a wide range of features and are usually updated free of charge. Our clear recommendation is the Carly app. In addition to comprehensive diagnostics, Carly offers a wealth of features that we will explain in more detail later in this article.


Error codes

Dozens or even hundreds of control units are installed in every vehicle. Each is responsible for a different system. Fixed parameters are entered within these control units. In case of deviations, error codes are generated and stored. There are tens of thousands of error codes, also called DTC (Data Trouble Codes), which are divided into two different types: international standardized codes and manufacturer-specific codes. Virtually all of the aforementioned diagnostic devices can read the generic fault codes, but only the scanners and smartphone apps specialized for individual manufacturers can also understand the manufacturer-specific fault codes.

However, all codes have the same structure. They consist of 5 characters. The first letter refers to the rough area where an error occurred. B stands for body, C for chassis, P for drive (engine and transmission) and U for the network (OBD interface). With the second character you can see if it is a standard error (“1”) or a manufacturer specific error code (“2”). In the third place, there are digits from 1 to 8, which describe the affected system in more detail. Finally, the 4. and 5th digit (digits 00 to 99) indicates the actual error.

The simple diagnostic devices will show you the raw error code, such as P1588 or U0463. In this case, you need to do some research on the Internet to find out what these codes mean, what causes them and what needs to be fixed. Better devices will also give you a description. The best apps, such as Carly, actually evaluate the errors and inform you which ones are of the utmost importance, which ones can be fixed later, and which ones you can even safely ignore.

Control units

Each ECU is its own little computer and is responsible for a single system in the vehicle. For example, one control unit controls the air conditioning, another controls the engine, and so on. Therefore, there are dozens or even hundreds of them in the vehicle. The ECUs, connected systems and OBD2 interface are all linked via a data bus that forms the car’s communication backbone.

In most cases, deviations from the specifications stored in the control units are directly regulated by them and the connected systems can continue to operate. An error code is generated, but it is of little significance. However, if there are major deviations that cannot be controlled internally, the driver may be warned or a significant error generated. The Carly app evaluates the error codes and shows you the most important ones in descending order. You will also receive a vehicle health report, but more on that later.

OBD2 interface

The aforementioned OBD2 interface is accessed via a socket located under the dashboard of your BMW E87 to the left of the brake pedal. This interface is used to connect an external diagnostic device to the vehicle. It is advisable to use a good OBD2 scanner to ensure proper communication, as poorly designed devices can misinterpret errors or even cause damage to the ECUs. With this scanner, the commands are translated into a language that the vehicle understands. If you use an external diagnostic device or software on a laptop, the connection is usually made by cable. When using a mobile app, such as the Carly 20-pin scanner, the connection is wireless to the smartphone. Bluetooth or WLAN are usually used for the connection. The scanner can remain permanently in the socket if required, as in the case of real-time monitoring, or it can be stowed in the glove compartment or similar.

For those who want to know more: OBD stands for on-board diagnostics. This standard was developed in the USA more than 40 years ago in order to be able to monitor all exhaust-related values of a vehicle. To protect the environment, the driver should be notified if, for example, the exhaust gas values are too high. However, it is up to the driver whether he wants to change something or not. This will change with the OBD3 standard currently under development. With this new standard, faults in the exhaust systems are reported directly to the relevant authorities via SIM card or satellite. In such cases, the driver may have to have the system repaired within a certain period of time, otherwise penalties could be imposed. It is still unclear whether this new standard will also be introduced in Europe, and if so, it could take some time before it becomes mandatory.

The CAN bus

We talked about the information superhighway above. A CAN bus system is used in a vehicle. Data “buses” constantly travel from station to station on the data highway, taking data packets as they become available. For example, when you make a new setting in the app, this command is transmitted to the OBD2 adapter via BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy). The ELM 27 chip inside translates the command into a language that the vehicle understands. The data is then transmitted via the data bus from the OBD2 socket to the corresponding control unit and converted there. The confirmation is in turn brought back to the interface in the form of a data packet via bus, translated and transmitted wirelessly to the app. All of this happens within a fraction of a second, so it feels like you get confirmation of the change almost immediately after you enter it.


What is vehicle diagnostics?

When we look at the actual vehicle diagnostics, it’s all about reading and analyzing fault codes. The simple and inexpensive devices – such as a cheap BMW E87 diagnostic device – can only read the codes and display them in code form. Some can also delete codes, but no more. If you use one of these devices, you’ll need to do research on the Internet to understand each result you read. Better options give you a description in understandable text of what the error code refers to.

B0115 means, for example, that a short circuit has occurred in the area of the side airbag lines (controlled by the SRS control unit). Some simple diagnostic devices only display B0115. Maybe a better unit will show “B0115: Side airbag leads short”. With the best diagnostic tools, you’ll not only get a description, but also an indication of the severity of the error and whether you need to fix it immediately, can deal with it later, or can ignore it.

What is the cost of a diagnosis?

There are two types of costs associated with a diagnosis. One is the direct cost of diagnostics and the other is the cost that can be saved if faults are detected early and the corresponding fault conditions are corrected before they develop into serious problems.

A simple vehicle diagnosis in a workshop costs between 25 € and 60 €, depending on the model, manufacturer and the workshop. So if you have a diagnosis done once a quarter, you’ll spend about €160 if it costs an average of €40 per visit. There’s also the cost and hassle of making an appointment, the time it takes to bring and pick up the vehicle, and additional transportation costs if you need to get something done while you’re at it.

The Carly app is available for your BMW E87 for about 6 € per month. In addition, there is a one-time purchase of the Carly Universal OBD Scanner for €59.90. A decent external adapter like the Carly scanner is essential for all external diagnostics, including a BMW E87 diagnostic device. The price includes the full functionality of the Carly app. Additional direct costs of several hundred euros can be saved here. You can find out more at the end of this article.

The secondary costs saved can hardly be quantified, but are certainly in the range of several hundred or even thousand euros per year. You can run a diagnostic as often as you like, even once or twice a month. This way, you can identify and fix minor faults and underlying issues before they get worse and lead to significant, expensive repairs – all thanks to a good BMW E87 diagnostic tool.

Which BMW E87 diagnostic device is the best for you?

We want to convince you that the Carly app is your best option. It offers a variety of additional features, which we will discuss in a moment. It is also available for download from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. The Carly app has already been downloaded over 1 million times. You can start with the free version of the app, which gives you a limited, yet impressive feature set. These are the main features of the Carly app.

Vehicle diagnosis and health status

The Carly app can not only read and understand standard fault codes, but also manufacturer-specific codes for BMW and the BMW E87. The Carly BMW E87 diagnostic tool will not let you down, but will give you detailed explanations about the detected errors. But that’s not all. Carly goes a step further and shows you the health of your vehicle by rating faults according to their severity. A traffic light system is used for this – if your car gets a green light, it is “healthy” and you don’t have to do anything. If an orange light is displayed, you should perform further diagnostics, as there are errors that need attention. At a red light, your car is seriously “sick” and immediate action becomes necessary.


Coding sounds technical, doesn’t it? But it doesn’t have to be. It’s about setting your personal preferences for many features in your BMW E87. You can set different parameters related to a variety of areas, such as cornering lights, turn signals, brake lights, corona rings, comfort functions, park sensing (PDC), entry assist, power windows, power tailgate, welcome lights, air conditioning, start/stop function and much more. There are hundreds of ways to customize your vehicle. If you had this done in a workshop, each individual adjustment would cost between €30 and €50. However, with Carly you can make as many settings as you want, try different ones and switch between them.

Carly used car check – a safety rope

Only Carly has this function! When you buy a used car like a BMW E87, the biggest difficulty is finding a good one. Unfortunately, even the best looking car can have a manipulated mileage. Odometer manipulation is a serious problem and statistics show that up to one-third of used cars may be affected. The Carly Used Car Check is a unique feature that queries all relevant ECUs and can detect indications of mileage manipulation. A report on this is then displayed. You can then decide whether the seller is trustworthy or not. Thanks to our BMW E87 diagnostic tool, you can save thousands of dollars.

Service reset

There are some tasks that an avid vehicle owner can do themselves, such as an oil change (read below for what to look for in this task). After the oil change, you will need to update the ECU and reset the service interval so the system knows that the oil has been changed and no more service warnings will be displayed. Carly can easily take care of that for you. You can also register a new battery or do other maintenance yourself with Carly’s help and save money again.

A little incentive: change the oil yourself

Oil change intervals vary between 15,000 and 60,000 km. You can easily change the oil yourself, but you need to pay attention to a few things. First, make sure you’re using high-quality oil that meets the manufacturer’s specifications. You’ll also need a way to lift your vehicle, as well as a catch basin for the used oil – spilling it on the ground would be pollution. The best place to do this is in a properly equipped self-help workshop. By the way, the seller who sells you the new oil must take back your used oil free of charge; alternatively, you can dispose of it at a properly equipped recycling facility. Never pour it down the drain or dispose of it with household waste.

Retrieve vehicle data in real time

Do you want to monitor parameters like fuel consumption, exact driving speed, oil temperature or other values in real time while driving? Carly offers a real-time feature that lets you do this. You simply call the corresponding parameter and can observe it.

More functions

In addition to the above functions, there are many more, such as emission tests, automatic transmission reset, digital garage (here you can save all the values and save or forward them as a PDF or e-mail), diesel particulate filter check and so on.

Just download the free Carly Lite version in advance and see what’s possible with your model.

Goodbye workshop?

So is it goodbye to the workshop? Unfortunately no. It’s true, you can use Carly to reduce your garage visits and the associated costs, but they can’t be completely avoided. No app can do that. There will always be minor and major repairs that need to be done by a workshop, as well as complex problems that only a professional can identify. However, you can perform minor diagnostics, coding and service resets yourself, saving time and money.

A final conclusion

After reading this article about which diagnostic device is best for your BMW E87, we hope we’ve shown you that the Carly app is an ideal solution. From now on, you’ll be able to read fault codes, perform simple maintenance tasks, optimize your fuel consumption by watching live parameters, code your car to your liking and much more. All this is worthwhile and, above all, will help you save hundreds or even thousands of euros. Your expectations are definitely exceeded.

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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