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Any Open Source Solutions For DIY Auto Diagnostics?

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the data-more-data dept.

Hardware Hacking 270

slaxx writes "As an avid tinkerer, I really want to collect as much data about my car as possible. Using On-Board Diagnostics (OBDII) sounded great to me, but the pricetags of systems like AutoTap Scanner are a bit much for my college budget to handle. Are there any free, open source solutions available? What do Slashdotters do to tinker and record the inner workings of their own vehicles?"

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To Expensive? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32226668)

If $199 is to expensive for the hardware and software onyour Budget what do you expect to be able to fix on the car for cheaper?

Re:To Expensive? (3, Informative)

rob13572468 (788682) | more than 4 years ago | (#32226880)

Thats true: you can always get something cheap like this:

http://www.gridconnect.com/canusblight.html [gridconnect.com]

Which is like $99 and it will work fine but you lose out on getting stuff like CAN monitors, API's and programming examples with the better adapters... Your best bet is to go with something like this:

http://www.gridconnect.com/usbcanin.html [gridconnect.com]

which is a full featured adapter that you can actually do development and project work with.

Re:To Expensive? (1)

ubergeek65536 (862868) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227062)

Plenty. Scanner $20. New sensor $10 for a MAP sensor - $100 for a O2 sensor.

I bought my scanner new from ebay for $20. It handles CAN protocol connects to my laptop with USB or BT and is usable from many software apps.

There are many software apps that are easy to get have way more functionality than the handheld scanners. I can do everything from find a failing sensor to reprogram the fuel delivery curve.

Re:To Expensive? (2, Informative)

divisionbyzero (300681) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227200)

If $199 is to expensive for the hardware and software onyour Budget what do you expect to be able to fix on the car for cheaper?

Something that would be $199 cheaper having not had to pay for software and hardware.

Cleverness is free (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32227254)

IF you need a scanner, that's an amazing price.

A *really good* scanner will cost you another zero. This one looks pretty good.

However, most electrical repairs cost more than $200 because the most important tool (the diagnostician's brain) isn't working properly. It's amazing how many people replace the starter and battery for a low crank, when the real problem was a $10 battery cable. I've seen people replace the entire secondary ignition system because they didn't look for a broken ground wire.

If you failed a smog test, the most likely faults will be fixed for pennies. Like a loose wire or broken vacuum line. But you can usually diagnose a failed sniff best with the sniff results.

If you have a lot more time than money, you can diagnose the pre-OBD way. With a table of normal computer inputs and outputs (try the library -- Mitchell publishes these) and both analog and digital voltmeters, plus tach and dwell/duty cycle, you can get pretty far.

Re:To Expensive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32227456)

Doesn't say he he wants to fix anything, only to collect data..

As an engineer... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32226678)

Absolutely nothing... there's a reason equipment that hooks into safety critical systems is so damn expensive.

Re:As an engineer... (2, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#32226690)

Agreed. Open Source is not a magic bullet.

Re:As an engineer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32226924)

Please tell us what reason that is?
More important != Costs more to build

Not that you shouldn't spend money on a good device, but why does it being related to safety automatically make it cost more? That just sounds like ignorant consumer BS to me.

Re:As an engineer... (1)

theeddie55 (982783) | more than 4 years ago | (#32226986)

simple, it's the cost of rigorous testing, you can't have a safety critical system that may get things wrong sometimes.

Re:As an engineer... (2, Informative)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227018)

Not really. It's the cost of licences. All auto manufacturers have their proprietary commands in cars. Only most common things are specified by OBDII spec and you have to pay about $2k per year for licence of one manufacturer to get their proprietary specifications and implement them in your OBD tool.

Re:As an engineer... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32226990)

Because we have to be more careful and make a more robust design than regular consumer electronics like MP3s or cell phones. Because if something goes wrong and we glitched some safety system, then you consumers get hurt or killed. Is that a good enough reason for you? Safety is not ignorant consumer BS.

Re:As an engineer... (4, Insightful)

ddillman (267710) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227162)

Yeah, it still is. People have been working on, and repairing, their own safety critical equipment as long as there have been cars. Brakes are definitely safety-critical. I have done mine more than once over the years as a simple example. Just because it's safety-critical doesn't mean people can't learn how to DIY repairs, as long as the information is available. All this ODBII secrecy is just for the auto industry to extort money from the auto owners.

Re:As an engineer... (1)

mrclisdue (1321513) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227204)

...All this ODBII secrecy is just for the auto industry to extort money from the auto owners...

Exactamundo...let's not allow the industry-sponsored bias from the GP prevail over truth....

Re:As an engineer... (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227632)

brakes are easy to test safely at low speeds. Something like ABS or your AWD diff settings is not so much.

Re:As an engineer... (3, Insightful)

ddillman (267710) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227146)

Translation of GP: You're not smart enough to bother looking at this, it's way too complicated. And besides, I make my living working on this stuff, I wouldn't want to lose any income because you learned how to fix your own stuff!

Re:As an engineer... (5, Insightful)

Excelcia (906188) | more than 4 years ago | (#32226934)

Mixing high tech electronics with automotives has always struck me as the worst fusion of the old joke: "the difference between a computer salesman and a used car salesman is the used car salesman knows when he's lying". As an engineer it may seem like a good idea to you that the equipment is expensive, but how many mechanics are also engineers? Mechanics are often not even mechanics any more. They plug in the diagnostic and whatever it says is wrong, is what is wrong. Don't try and tell them that it doesn't make sense that a stretched timing belt is causing the shimmy coming from the front passenger wheel, darn it, that's what the computer says.

No, the reality is that the reason the equipment is expensive is so that dealerships have a corner on the market. Post-sales service is one of the largest sources of dealership income. Which, if you think about it, is a truly sad state of affairs. Besides politicians, what is the one thing people are often most cynical about? It's auto dealerships. Because no matter how educated the average person gets about the way a vehicle works, a clever desk manager can always tell you the mechanic in the back plugged in a diagnostic and it said the "[techspeak] board indicated the [techspeak] [techspeak] has failed which [techspeaks] your ignition, and this is caused by road salt erosion of your [techspeak] which is obviously not covered under the warranty".

No, making the test equipment expensive, or otherwise keeping it out of reach of the public is not the answer to either the technical issue of vehicle "safety" or the PR issue of cynical consumers. The answer is open standards, common test equipment, and education. This just doesn't do anything for dealership income, that's all.

Re:As an engineer... (5, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227084)

Mechanics are often not even mechanics any more. They plug in the diagnostic and whatever it says is wrong, is what is wrong.

Speaking as a former mechanic, fuck you very much. OBD II codes serve to provide you a place to look, nothing more.

Say for example the code is a misfire on Cylinder 3. Great. Do you have any idea how many different things can cause a misfire? It could be the ignition coil...or the spark plug...or the throttle body being clogged...or it could be a freak-one time thing that can't be replicated...or it could be something entirely different. Same thing with an O2 sensor. Just because it says "O2 Sensor Three is reading incorrectly" doesn't necessarily mean the O2 Sensor is bad. You could have bad wiring, the air/fuel mixture could be throwing off the reading, the person could have just put bad gas in it, or again many other possibilities. Have fun diagnosing that electrical problem that keeps causing the ECU to think that your Crank Positioning Sensor is bad (causing it to throw a code and making the check engine light come on), when in fact the sensor itself is perfectly fine.

It's not as simple as just "this is broken, please replace it." Many dealerships do this, but real shops do not.

Because no matter how educated the average person gets about the way a vehicle works, a clever desk manager can always tell you the mechanic in the back plugged in a diagnostic and it said the "[techspeak] board indicated the [techspeak] [techspeak] has failed which [techspeaks] your ignition, and this is caused by road salt erosion of your [techspeak] which is obviously not covered under the warranty".

If you go somewhere in which the guy up front tells you that, you demand that they put your car back together, take it off the rack, and go somewhere else. You didn't take your car to a shop, you took it to a lie.

Re:As an engineer... (0, Troll)

ubergeek65536 (862868) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227160)

Maybe that's why you are a former mechanic. A good mechanic knows that 90% of the time on a specific car that a misfire on cylinder 3 is that leaking head gasket you have either fixed 50 times or read about in the TSB. Shitty mechanics are shitty mechanics with or without a scanner.

Re:As an engineer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32227210)

I believe you misunderstood the parent. He's bitching because he doesn't want cars to get returned to him to get fixed just because the diagnostics tool there's something to fix. And when it does, he wants to choose what he fixes (ie, $10000 rather than $100 bill).

Re:As an engineer... (4, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227292)

You're both wrong.

I'm a former mechanic because 5 years ago, I fractured my left and right ulna, as well as navicular fractures in both wrists. If you can tell me how to work on cars with injuries that won't fully heal for years in both wrists, I'll be glad to do it.

To the AC, I didn't want cars returned to me, which is why I always fixed what was wrong and not what I was told was wrong by a computer.

Re:As an engineer... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227402)

Maybe that's why you are a former mechanic. A good mechanic knows that 90% of the time on a specific car that a misfire on cylinder 3 is that leaking head gasket you have either fixed 50 times or read about in the TSB. Shitty mechanics are shitty mechanics with or without a scanner.

Did you actually read the GP's post?

Re:As an engineer... (2, Insightful)

ddillman (267710) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227198)

If you go somewhere in which the guy up front tells you that, you demand that they put your car back together, take it off the rack, and go somewhere else. You didn't take your car to a shop, you took it to a lie.

You're right on this. However, it's near impossible to tell up front whether the place you've taken your car is a shop or a lie, since most of them look basically the same, and you only find out after your car is in pieces up on the rack which one this particular establishment is. Which is where the cynicism of the poster comes in - so many 'shops' are 'lies' that the average consumer is just assuming until proved otherwise that ALL shops are lies.

Re:As an engineer... (1)

tixxit (1107127) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227514)

Make friends with a car guy. Seriously. For most car troubles, I can nail down the problem to one of a few causes pretty quickly. Last 3 problems with friends' cars I nailed the problem exactly with either just descriptions of the problem or a quick ride/inspection. I'm not going to fix their car, but I will tell my friends the most likely problems and the price range it'll cost to fix each (at a mechanic), that way they can at least tell if the mechanic is bullshitting them or overcharging.

Re:As an engineer... (2, Informative)

MarksManB (521932) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227248)

A place to look?? Let me tell you, when I had a throttle body issue that wouldn't let the engine idle less that 1000rpm (where 800 is spec) causing the O2 sensor to go crazy and throw a code. ODBII shows O2 sensor code, mechanic replaces it and viola!! Except when I get it home and it stalls out with the same symptom. Mechanic says bring it in, ODBII says O2, mechanic replaces it, wipes his hands of it and repeat. It wasn't until the throttle linkage comes apart at highway speeds that the problem was found and fixed. No stinkin' O2 sensor, it was a throttle body issue that a old timer mechanic discovered while reattaching the linkage and didn't even bother with the diagnostics computer. So Excelcia is spot on, most mechanics aren't even mechanics anymore, they like foreign tech support that reads solutions from a symptom/code flow chart and follows it religiously.

Re:As an engineer... (5, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227302)

From my original post:

Same thing with an O2 sensor. Just because it says "O2 Sensor Three is reading incorrectly" doesn't necessarily mean the O2 Sensor is bad. You could have bad wiring, the air/fuel mixture could be throwing off the reading, the person could have just put bad gas in it, or again many other possibilities.

Have a nice day!

Re:As an engineer... (5, Informative)

twistedsymphony (956982) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227194)

That's all well and dandy except that the scan equipment isn't actually expensive, the OP is simply looking in the wrong places. You can order a self-contained, portable hand scanner from Jegs or Summit (without question the de-facto shade-tree-mechanic parts and tools catalogs) for about $40, you don't even need a "fancy computer" to interface with it, just the multi-meter sized device in your hand.

And the real reason the Mechanics hate doing warranty work is because the dealership screws them over too. They get paid by the job based on the complexity, and the dealership considers the same job covered under warranty to be worth about half as much. I've got several friends who make their living as auto mechanics.

It's not different to the sales department who make their money only on commission as a percentage of the profits over invoice, so to screw over the sales people the dealership sell at barely above invoice and make their money on the financing/extended warranty/accessories/etc. I've got several relatives who make their living as auto salesmen.

Dealerships will stop being scummy when they stop treating their employees like starving dogs.

Re:As an engineer... (2, Informative)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227364)

That's all well and dandy except that the scan equipment isn't actually expensive, the OP is simply looking in the wrong places.

Well, I'm not a mechanic but I do like to have some idea what's going on under the hood. I have an Android phone with a bluetooth multiprotocol OBD2 interface, and I use a program (it's in the Market) called "Torque". Works very well, and does more than those handheld scanners you buy at Sears. Even allows you to log OBD info with GPS tagging, and export it. If it finds a trouble code, it will link you to a Web site that lists the possible causes for that code for many different vehicles.

It only cost two bucks.

Re:As an engineer... (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227494)

Business screws employee's in order to make increased profits, news at 11...

Are there any service industry jobs that don't screw the employee? Restaurant's typically pay server's minimum wage, make sure to only permit them to work slightly less than the lower limit to be considered full-time, give them split-shifts, make them pay for customers who skip out of paying [even if it's illegal, you complain and get your money back, and coincidentally stop getting as many/any shifts].

Re:As an engineer... (1)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 4 years ago | (#32226952)

Absolutely nothing... there's a reason equipment that hooks into safety critical systems is so damn expensive.

http://www.scantool.net/ [scantool.net] has open source drivers to go with their cheap USB / serial auto interfaces.
The protocol allows you to distinguish between read-only and read-write commands. I guess it's similar to using SNMP.

Of course, your safety is never guaranteed. I don't think you should take any risks today. Stay at home with the shutters drawn.

Re:As an engineer... (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227606)

but that risks Indoor air quality problems !!!! OMG!!!

Re:As an engineer... (4, Insightful)

Thad Zurich (1376269) | more than 4 years ago | (#32226980)

Anyone who allowed their company to build a car, in which the computer was safety-critical, with no mechanical fail-safes, needs to spend the rest of their lives in Gitmo being water-boarded. And no, there's no *good* reason that such equipment is expensive , other than proprietary protections for the vendor. The equipment used at the factory does not do anything special to ensure the product operates safely; only the engineering simulations do that.

That said, the foregoing does not mean it's a good idea for the casual mechanic to diddle with his car's computer, in part because it was probably optimized in interdependent ways that he has no chance of figuring out, because they only made sense serendipitously when being coded.

Re:As an engineer... (5, Informative)

twistedsymphony (956982) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227096)

As an Engineer who owns and "tinkers" [solid-orange.com] with many of my own cars I'd hardly consider OBDII a "safety critical system". in general it's designed to just be an output, it does accept inputs as well but unless you know what you're doing it's next to impossible to make detrimental changes to the programming.

If you're really all that concerned about making really STUPID mistakes it why not only tap into the outbound serial pin and then throw an opto-isolator on it. then you can do whatever the hell you want and not worry about damaging your engine computer.

to the OP... there are DOZENS of OBDII to Serial port adapters on eBay that sell for ~$30, I own several. You'd be hard pressed to build your own for cheaper, the hardware alone will likely cost you that much. There are dozens of free and or cheap (freediag. If you'd rather write your own SAE and ISO control the OBDII standard [wikipedia.org] .

Any engineer who is too frightened to even perform some basic research on the workings of something as simple as OBDII should be ashamed of themselves.

Re:As an engineer... (4, Informative)

twistedsymphony (956982) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227134)

forgot the links:
freediag [sourceforge.net] - Open Source for Linux
OBD-Diag [obd-diag.de] - Not open source but free
Easy OBDII [easyobdii.com] - Not open source but free (I use this most often for basic diagnostics)

You might also want to check out the MP3Car forums [mp3car.com] as they're very knowledgeable on this subject over there, and there are also several source available projects being developed there as well.

Re:As an engineer... (1)

kindbud (90044) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227118)

OK, so now it's time to earn your +2 Insightful: what is the reason?

Re:As an engineer... (1)

ubergeek65536 (862868) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227140)

Mod down. Total FUD. Anyone that knows the basics of how a modern engine works can use a cheap scan tool to help find many issues.

Mechanics don't want you to know that so they have a harder time ripping you off for a simple job. Dealers want you to buy the parts and service from them. Most mechanics are crooks, or at least the shops they work for are. Too many friends ripped off.

Re:As an engineer... (1)

mrclisdue (1321513) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227252)

this ac must have modded himself insightful...+2?...what a disgrace to everyone with mod points, and to anonymous cowards everywhere....

Re:As an engineer... (2, Informative)

minou666 (1812714) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227370)

The reason for that is not what you seem to imply. It is a question of know how. You pay for what you don't know. The security issue is something else. If you are stupid enough to change setup in the car the company is not liable for it since it can be easily proven that you are the guilty one. Most well designed cars will not allow you to do any change without proper security. You need the right codes and passwords. We have to keep coming up with cleaver ways to keep morons from screwing things up.

The reason for the high price of devices like those of Intrepid, Actia, Dearborn or Vector are that those device allow you to similate engines, ABS or transmission messages easily. If you can't do certain things common sense is that you need to pay someone who knows. Knowledge is money. If that was a larger market the prices would be much lower.
I use some of those expensive devices to test our cluster software or other devices that hooks up to the CAN (J1939, GMLAN or Ford) as well as J1850 or J1587. The price varies between $800 and $4000. When you pay $4000, about half of it is for the software.

If all you want to do is monitor things and perhaps add your own gauges or gadgets you should not attempt to go into diagnostic too often and have no need for such expensive devices. A $200 or $100 device would be sufficient, you could even create your own for cheap. Look at some STM32 with CAN or the AT32UC3C, they are quite cheap, the Atmel processor has 2 CAN.

J1850 is a pain but with most CAN protocol you can monitor faults and most information thru CAN if you know the messages. Ford, GM and Chrysler information is easily available if you know someone, it is not hidden but they don't like that data to go to Joe Blow, you have to have a legitimate reason to want the data. If you are building a device like the ones on the market you will have no problem getting them as long as you pay for them. We had to pay close to $100 for GM and it took a while while we got it free from Ford thru one of our customers. You can get the SAE specs for J1939 and J1850, it must be well over $1000 a year for a subscription.

Don't bother asking people who have those data since we are not allowed to pass those on. You want this you must pay for it.

For those who cannot afford the price of the documentation or hardware for these you have to rely on information that is published on the net and hope that it is correct or monitor the CAN for yourself and do some reverse engineering. GM, Ford and Chrysler have their own protocol in standard CAN at 500k. You must make sure that you do not create bus off conditions and that if you do, you recover quickly. Do not attempt to hook up anything on a moving vehicle unless you know for sure that the hardware is designed correctly. J1850 is still available on some vehicle but both Ford and GM have phased them out. J1850 is very tricky as it is very easy to crash the engine or transmission if you broadcast physical message when someone is broadcasting physical messages. With J1850 you must request all messages. This is not true for GMLAN or Ford which have messages that are sent on a regular basis. The GM transmission has a bug that if you try to communicate with a message that is not supported the transmission communication will crash. Do not mess with J1850 on GM engines unless you know exactly what you are doing.

For non Ford or GM trucks or RV there is J1939 (CAN 250k) and J1587 (RS485 9600 baud). J1587 is still available on all recent Allison Transmission and Wabco or Bendix ABS. It is available on most engines even though it is meant to be obsoleted. It will be around for many years because the military still use it for diagnostic. Normally when J1939 is available we use that. Allison has now J2012 for diagnostic on J1939, this is rather new, it has codes similar to OBD. Cummins and CAT are likely to follow the trend with their engine in a few years, I think that Cummins will have them in 2013 or 2014. All data is in metric on J1939 and english in J1587.

bad idea (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32226680)

I'm all for tinkering, and tinkering with cars used to be a great hobby. But tinkering with proprietary chip sets - with consequences not only your driving experience, but on the safety of others around you - without the proper equipment strikes me as a uniquely bad idea.

Re:bad idea (1)

Bugamn (1769722) | more than 4 years ago | (#32226716)

C'mon, what's the worst that could happen?

Re:bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32226782)

He bought a Toyota?

Re:bad idea (3, Informative)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227032)

I guess the unimaginative trolls are out in force on a Sunday morning. Here's some inspiration:

http://www.mbworld.org/forums/off-topic/260385-awesome-mr2-carputer.html [mbworld.org]

http://www.carobd.com/ [carobd.com]

But yeah, agreed, the future is a dangerous place. Not everyone should dare tread there ;-)

Re:bad idea (4, Informative)

nhtshot (198470) | more than 4 years ago | (#32226882)

http://diyefi.org/ [diyefi.org]

Get rid of the proprietary crap and tinkering can be just as much fun!

Re:bad idea (2, Informative)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 4 years ago | (#32226902)

Who cares about the proprietary chipsets when there are ISO standards for gathering data from them?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On-board_diagnostics#Standard_interfaces [wikipedia.org]

There have been mandatory standards for over 10 years, if only to make emissions testing faster by allowing the VEIP to plug directly into the OBD-II / CAN port under your dash to get emissions readings right from your engine instead of having to hook up that chemical analyzer to your exhaust.

Re:bad idea (1)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227034)

Yes, but OBD standard only specifies some common elements, every car manufacturer now has extended proprietary commands along with standard one but you need to buy expensive licenses to obtain specs and use them in yur tool. This is main reason why those simple OBD plugs are so expensive, hardware costs about $20.

Re:bad idea (2, Insightful)

kiwieater (1799016) | more than 4 years ago | (#32226938)

Tinkering? The whole point of these scanners is to read information and help diagnose problems.

He could do more harm to the "safety of others around" him by advancing the ignition curve, leaning out the mixture, and melting the piston crowns. Or - if he had less sense and went about it the wrong way - working on the assumption that more fuel = more pwer, thereby flooding the followers on the road with a stream of unburnt fuel.

Re:bad idea (1)

quickOnTheUptake (1450889) | more than 4 years ago | (#32226944)

He is talking about diagnostics, which shouldn't really be too dangerous in itself.
Also, the chips might be propriety but the connection and the codes/protocol are standard.
I guess he could screw up and read the code for brake-system-will-not-maintain-pressure as gas-cap-loose but in general I don't see how it could pose much of a threat to anyone.

1. Complete nonsense; 2. google ELM327 (2, Insightful)

name_already_taken (540581) | more than 4 years ago | (#32226978)

I'm all for tinkering, and tinkering with cars used to be a great hobby. But tinkering with proprietary chip sets - with consequences not only your driving experience, but on the safety of others around you - without the proper equipment strikes me as a uniquely bad idea.

You've apparently got no understanding of what the OBD II interface lets you do.

OBD II lets you read trouble codes and operational data (sensor values, fuel integrator, ignition timing, etc.), and lets you clear trouble codes.

That's it. There's no danger at all. You can't alter anything other than clearing trouble codes.

To the original poster, google for "ELM327" to find the hardware, and "ELM327 software" to find software, including many free apps that will use the ELM interface to talk to OBD II.

I use a free app on an old Palm with an ELM327 adapter I bought off of eBay for OBD II work. Works great. I paid a little more for one that works over Bluetooth; the less expensive varieties can be plugged into an RS232 port on a laptop (old, cheap laptops are powerful enough and are more likely to have an RS232 port).

The ELM 327 is fully documented and you can write your own software to talk to it. The datasheet is here: http://www.elmelectronics.com/DSheets/ELM327DS.pdf [elmelectronics.com] , ELM's OBD product page is here: http://www.elmelectronics.com/obdic.html [elmelectronics.com] .

Re:1. Complete nonsense; 2. google ELM327 (4, Informative)

rrossman2 (844318) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227174)

WRONG. OBD-II can do a lot more than that. For example in GM's, pin 2 at the ODB-II connetor will allow you to read tach signals, turn on heated accessories, control the OEM alarm and door locks, bypass the Passkey 3, etc. That's where remote start/alarm interface modules for GM cars tap into the CANbus (j1850).

The radio in GM's (2001+) also don't have an accessory wire, it uses data as well which appears to also be tagged into the same CANbus. You must use a module to keep the factory chimes and create an accessory for you (you could just run your own ACC line but you lose all the features controlled via the radio over the data link). I've heard numerous times from other installers where an idatalink rem start/alarm module wouldn't program to a GM correctly with the aftermarket radio/adaptor installed. Unplug the adaptor, plug the factory radio in, and everything programs fine. So on some makes/models there's a lot more running over that CAN interface than you have any idea about.

Re:1. Complete nonsense; 2. google ELM327 (1)

rrossman2 (844318) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227216)

ah forgot a link:

idatalink list for 2010 Chevy Colbolt [idatalink.com]

This is just using the features they provide for a remote start install. But you can really muck things up using just pin 2 of the OBD-II port on GMs. In fact you can make the whole car either A> not run properly or B> cause the car to shut down fairly easily via the CANbus.

Re:1. Complete nonsense; 2. google ELM327 (1)

MentlFlos (7345) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227506)

You've apparently got no understanding of what the OBD II interface lets you do.

OBD II lets you read trouble codes and operational data (sensor values, fuel integrator, ignition timing, etc.), and lets you clear trouble codes.

That's it. There's no danger at all. You can't alter anything other than clearing trouble codes.

I do not think that means what you think that means...

I could very easily use open source software to write out new code to the ECU in my subaru. There was no way (to my knowledge) to have it effect safety systems but you could pop the engine if the wrong bits were flicked.

Re:bad idea (1)

Thad Zurich (1376269) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227022)

Why do some people try to equate cars with fly-by-wire airplanes? They are not the same thing, and computers in any vehicle should be safety-critical only by necessity, not by choice. Any safety-critical software should be hard-coded and not subject to tinkering without replacing the entire module.

Re:bad idea (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227484)

I'm all for tinkering, and tinkering with cars used to be a great hobby. But tinkering with proprietary chip sets - with consequences not only your driving experience, but on the safety of others around you - without the proper equipment strikes me as a uniquely bad idea.

And OBD2 port is just a serial port. Actually, there are several different types of OBD2 hardware interfaces, but they all follow the same basic protocol [wikipedia.org] from a software perspective. I understand we have Congress to thank for that much. The proprietary parts are the PIDs that manufacturers add for specific product lines but the basics are pretty consistent. Besides ... querying your vehicle's ECU in the precise manner in which it was designed to be queried hardly constitutes tinkering with a proprietary chipset. It's not like we're talking about modifying the ECU's firmware, only polling it for specific data items. That's just not a big deal, and in fact is exactly what OBD2 was designed to do.

I use my Android phone with a bluetooth ELM 327-based interface all the time: the logging and trending features are really helpful. The only potentially negative consequence that I can think of would be watching all the pretty real-time dials on the phone's display rather than paying attention to the road, but that's a different story.

Re:bad idea (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227612)

How is this different from fixing your own breaks, steering or even tires? Even A blowout can be dangerous. And doing all of that is quite legal in every country i have lived.

Get a CAN bus analyzer. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32226682)

It's the underlying protocol of OBD II.

Re:Get a CAN bus analyzer. (1)

carvell (764574) | more than 4 years ago | (#32226984)

Not necessarily. There are a number of protocol that may be used, CAN is just one of them. See here [wikipedia.org] for a list.

OBD (2, Informative)

capebretonsux (758684) | more than 4 years ago | (#32226684)

Just do a quick search on hackaday, there's been several projects in the past which may be helpful to you.

Have an arduino board? (4, Interesting)

mystik (38627) | more than 4 years ago | (#32226692)

When I have the time, i've been meaning to try something like this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OBDuino [wikipedia.org]

Into my Car so I can get additional performance gagues + graphs. I have the Arduino board, and can solder things here and there, I've just never gotten around to it ....

two things (1)

Sir_Real (179104) | more than 4 years ago | (#32226734)

Re:two things (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32226764)

What's PyoDB2? The closest thing I can find is PyDB2, an interface to DB2 databases..?!

Re:two things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32227036)

google "PyODB OBD-II"
link #4, directs you to
http://www.obdtester.com/pyobd

go to autozone and have them read it for free (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32226736)

go to autozone and have them read it for free. Some of the stores may not and would require you to rent it. But either way it is cheaper than buying one outright.

Got Subaru? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32226762)

Romraider is awesome.. if you are lucky enough to own a subaru.

License: http://www.romraider.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=51

FAQ: http://www.romraider.com/Documentation/TuningFAQ

From the FAQ

What is the worse case scenario if something goes wrong?
The problems that have the potential to occur include, but are not limited to:

- An unreadable/unusable ECU.

- A blown motor and its subsequent damage.

- Unexpected behavior on the road or track that may cause injury or death to the user as well as others.

- Violation of local and/or federal laws due to the modification of the factory ECU.

Re:Got Subaru? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32226794)

Best part about romraider is that you can set it up to log to CSV by pushing the rear defrost button which is exactly 1 finger length away from the shifter and it will log a timestamped csv file for later analysis. This is how I entertain myself to and from work every day.

ELM-USB OBD2 Interface (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32226766)

http://www.obdtester.com/elm-usb

Elektor OBD-II project (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32226796)

If you're electronically inclined, there are a few resources for rolling your own OBD circuits:

Software for controlling can be run through a serial port

Project design for a stand-alone unit:
http://www.elektor.com/magazines/2007/june/stand-alone-obd-2-analyser.91904.lynkx

Chips for making your own OBD II. Datasheets have schematics.

http://www.elmelectronics.com/obdic.html

scantool (4, Informative)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 4 years ago | (#32226800)

Look at http://www.scantool.net/ [scantool.net] . I use a Scangauge II. I went through this same thing; in the end I decided that buying a scangauge gave me 90% of what I wanted, out of the box, without having a computer clutter up the driving area, and without spending weeks hacking up something that might work but then again might not.

Re:scantool (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32226922)

Thanks for sharing.

Now, here's my story: I grew up in a Christian home as a Christian of course. But these last three years I kind of took on the title of an Atheist. Being a Bio-Major in college most of what science explains about life all seemed to make more sense then what the bible was telling me. Lately I have been finding myself under some really bad luck. I first got into a fist fight with my mom and then she kicked me out. My car was in her name so she called and canceled my registration. They cut back my hours at work while i was in school and now there is no way for me to get them back. So working 20 hours a week and homeless wasn't a pretty site. My bf let me stay with him and his dad, but while Im there I started noticing pregnancy symptoms. I told him and he want me to get an abortion. I am highly opposed to abortions but he insist that im not gonna mess up his life. Then he starts getting sick. And i mean extremely sick sore throat, body aches, fever, chills, swollen gums and canker sores and pain in his mouth.

About five days into him getting sick and seeing his condition not getting any better, I started to pray. I felt so bad praying and furthermore i felt like no one was listening. But two days later his condition got better. No more body aches, no more sore throat, or fever... but the swollen gums, and ccanker sores were still there. It was so painful he refused to eat. So i prayed some more but nttn happened. i figured the first time it was just a coincidence and there was still no God.

Yesterday while we were at work, my boyfriend texted me about the abortion and I told him yes I would get one if Im pregnant.(we still arent sure dr. appt monday). He also texted me and told me while he was at a grocery store with his cousins a weird crazy guy shouted "LIAR" in his face. Which was weird but where im from alot of crazy ppl do crazy things so i didnt really think anything of it. After he told me that I poured my heart out to him about how I been praying for him, my bf a somewhat Atheist too was shocked. He said he would pray with me tonight about his health. At that moment I realized if there was a God us praying is so unfair. We came back to him when everything started going wrong but when things start to go right will we walk away again.

When i left work it started raining extra heavy. Like as soon as I left out the door and once I got in shelter under the bus station it stopped. Again didnt think anything of it because it was raining on and off for about a hour while i was at work. I caught the bus to my BF apartment and while i was walking home it began to lightening. And anybody who knows me Know that I am afraid of lightening. As a kid you couldn't put me near a window during a thunderstorm. Now that I am older its easier to compose myself but im still scared. So im walking extra fast to get to my BF apartment complex. Then a loud thunder cloud clapped. I asked in my head "God are you mad at me?" and this big lightening bolt came down and struck the electrical pole. Next thing I knew it was pitch black outside. It scared the living daylights out of me and I ran to my BF apartment.

Of all this stuff happening, do you think its just a coincidence or are these signs? And believe me this is a true story. everything that i said happen really did happen. I am not a christian trying to change the beliefs of Atheists or any one I just want to know if you were in my position and all this happened would you take it as being God or merely a coincidence?

Re:scantool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32226942)

Just coincidence. Next.

obdii hw, sw (2, Informative)

Thng (457255) | more than 4 years ago | (#32226818)

First, get the hardware interface: http://www.scantool.net/scan-tools/pc-based/elmscan5-compact.html [scantool.net] with some OK software, $60 http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.28528 [dealextreme.com] $29 shipped from hong kong. Hardware isn't free unless you really do want to build your own. ELM327 is a common OBDII interface chip, and they're probably nearly identical internally Then go to scantool.net, software downloads, and find the source. Hack away. Or, go to sourceforge and look at some of the linux based obdii software.

Freediag (1)

cblguy2 (1796986) | more than 4 years ago | (#32226820)

I've never used it, but here it is:

http://freediag.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

You can always get a cheap OBDII interface from somewhere like Multiplex-Engineering and write your own. Or Scantool.net... or any other number of sub-$100 sources. Even Alex's tools at OBD-2.com are good enough. No need to reinvent the wheel though.

Once you start talking about hacking in to your PCM and changing things though, that's a whole other can of worms. People hold the keys to the kingdom on those VERY tightly.

Buy an oldtimer or get a Matlab license (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32226850)

Why don't you get rid of your current car and buy a vehicle which is old enough to be (mostly) free of microelectronics? Then you could not only
easily tinker with pretty common tools but also fix mechanical defects as they occur. If I were in your place that would leave me much more satisfied
than frying expensive chipsets or disentangling kilometers worth of bus cable. Also: There are books about embedded systems for automotive applications.
Perhaps you could start your "hi-tech" tinkering with something practical and down to earth as a Matlab/Simulink model of an anti braking lock system etc.
That's a challenging albeit self contained exercise with a very high probability of learning something "useful" (i.e. compatible with procedures used in industrial
design shops). Something for all geeks from ages 1x to 9x. ;-)

Re:Buy an oldtimer or get a Matlab license (2, Informative)

ddillman (267710) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227282)

Why don't you get rid of your current car and buy a vehicle which is old enough to be (mostly) free of microelectronics?

Easier said than done, sir. Even my '79 aircooled VW bus had a computer in it. Cars that old were much more prone to rust than current ones. The government was recently paying cash for those clunkers. They're getting rare. Not impossible, but not as easy as you make it sound to buy an old car in any kind of good shape. And not cheap if you find one in seriously good condition.

Sourceforge is your friend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32226852)

Off the top of my Google search:

1. http://sourceforge.net/projects/br3-obd2/
2. http://sourceforge.net/projects/obdtoolbox/
3. http://sourceforge.net/projects/scantool/
4. http://freediag.sourceforge.net/ .... but you will have to buy/build your own J1850/ISO9141-2 connector to serial (DB-9/USB/etc.) cable, and that can end up being just as expensive as a low-end hardware/software shrinkwrap combination. Also note that you likely will not have access to the manufacturer specific functions (ABS, transmission, A/C, etc.) if you "roll your own" solution.

Honestly, the $250-$500 solutions out there end up paying for themselves once you compare the functionality of a basic OBD-II spec reader to one that includes the manufacturer codes. I guess the real question is whether you intend to "play around" or "do real work"... if the latter, invest in a real handheld reader/laptop-and-a-cable solution instead of trying to destroy your car with your own design.

Re:Sourceforge is your friend (1)

Seta (934439) | more than 4 years ago | (#32226996)

Your cheap scanners still give you the manufacturer codes (or rather, can read them), they just don't automatically turn them into something useful like they can with standard codes so you have to rely on either a mechanics manual or a quick google search to find the meaning of the code. If he's asking for help on Slashdot then I'm sure he can manage that. If he's specifically looking for fancy sensor readouts though, he might be better off buying a prepackaged solution anyway, sadly.

OBD Sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32226870)

Simple, don't tinker with OBD cars. Pre-90 Is where it's at. Then I don't need any diagnostic computers.

telecommute (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 4 years ago | (#32226904)

Slashdotters telecommute, so the only vehicle is the comp..

Beware of fakes (1)

carvell (764574) | more than 4 years ago | (#32226910)

I've looked into this a fair amount and one thing I will say is beware of fake ELM ICs.

The ELM327 IC is what the vast majority of these scanners will be based on. The ones at www.scantool.net will use genuine ELM ICs, but the ones like this one [amazon.com] and this one [dealextreme.com] will almost certainly use non-genuine ELM ICs.

The ELM327 chip is just a PIC with some custom firmware on it. A few years ago someone managed to get the firmware off one of these PICs and since then the fake ones have really taken off. Whereas the genuine ELMs have frequent updates, the fake ones obviously don't.

Actually (1)

DramaGeek (806258) | more than 4 years ago | (#32226940)

I've just been looking at this for the past week or so, too! I've been looking at doing something like this for a while, and finally decided to order one of the cheap ELM327 clones off ebay for ~$20. I've been having a terrible time finding anything as far as decent free software for it. Scantool does offer a free version, but I can't get it to compile. The only thing that I've heard consistently good comments about is GPSDrive, but I haven't had time to fight to get that to compile either.

In the 'Stuff to watch' category though, I've found this developer working on hacking his GM HSCAN bus to the point that he can remote start his car from his Android phone with a bluetooth OBDII dongle. He's working on releasing a couple of Android apps, but everything looks good so far. Website http://gtosoft.webs.com/ [webs.com] and Blog http://gtosoft.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]

number of shareware / freeware options (1)

yuanti (1390949) | more than 4 years ago | (#32226960)

I'm not so sure about open source options but I've done this before using customized configurations for my '96 Chevy Impala. The PCM was from a '94 and was an ODB1 unit (more programable than the ODBII based PCM), hooking up a laptop with a custom built ODBII to Serial cable I was able to use various shareware / freeware to flash and monitor the PCM. It has been a while so I'm not sure what software was the best. There are a number of people (i.e. http://www.pcmforless.com/ [pcmforless.com] (who I used)) that offer tuning services online because they know what the correct settings are for various vehicle configurations. It is not a good idea for a novice to just jump in and start changing fuel mixture ratios or shift points on the transmission ;)

They're out there, but... (1)

Sepultura (150245) | more than 4 years ago | (#32226988)

Some of top comments thus far seem to be saying "Oh noes if you touch their special stuff your carz will splode!" Well, that's not true...

Vehicle manufacturers have been required in most places for quite some time to provide OBD standards-compliant diagnostic info. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Board_Diagnostics#Standard_interfaces [wikipedia.org] for some info on the OBD standards...

OK, so that sounds good. But then you have the first snag... the communications protocol.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Board_Diagnostics#OBD-II_Signal_Protocols [wikipedia.org]

So there are a number of "standards" that could be used, depending on what your manufacturer chooses. You need an interface that will work with the standard for your vehicle. You can google your vehicle make and "OBD protocol" and probably find it. Some use (or have used) multiples, though. VW, for example, historically support ISO 9141, but some vehicles supported ISO14230, and most now have completely transitioned to ISO 15765. Depending on your interface it may work with all those protocols, some of them, or none of them.

OK, but you know your protocol and you want an interface. OK, good, there are a number of open source diagnostics suites that work to varying degrees. Your question leads me to believe that you never even bothered googling for an answer, but anyway, take as examples:
http://www.opendiag.org/ [opendiag.org] (dead in the water??)
http://freediag.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]
http://www.obdtester.com/pyobd [obdtester.com]

The first 2 of those links include links to hardware info where you can build an interface yourself.

Also, some commercial software will work with those interfaces, and some (such as older versions of VAG-COM) will support some basic OBD functionality without paying anything.

But wait, what do I mean basic OBD functionality? Isn't OBD the end-all be-all of diagnostic tools? No, they're actually largely POS's with anything remotely modern. The reason for this is fairly simple - vehicle manufacturers for a long time have only had to implement basic OBD functionality, like reading/clearing codes, and even which codes are implemented (or what they mean) has been largely left to them to decide. So guess what? Most chose to basically give you no info, or misleading info, so that any real problem required a trip to the dealer for them to see the "real" codes which are much more specific and helpful.

As an example, there's a popular interfaces for VW's called vag-com. It emulates VW official diagnostics tools such as VAG1551/1552, etc., which (now that they've been forced to make available) sell for a small fortune. The protocol has been reverse engineered, and in fact the data for the various functions of the scan tool is constantly being updated as new things are discovered. The difference between an interface like this and a generic OBD scan tool is like the difference between an abacus and your computer. I'll leave it to you to look at ross-tech's site to see some examples of what it can do beyond the "generic OBD" functions it also supports.

It's similar with Toyota. Generic scan tools exist, along with some with "modules" that can emulate some of the special functionality of Toyota's mastertech, but to truly be able to do what Toyota can you need to build/buy a (compatible) J2534 interface and use Toyota's techstream.

And yes, I've built interfaces, and bought interfaces, for all sorts of vehicles, including generic units. After learning from my mistakes I only buy interfaces that will emulate the manufacturer's hardware. Of course this means that if I have 3 makes that I need to work on I need 3 separate scantools. It adds up.

If you want the best bang for your buck you can get some pretty good functionality (as well as, in some cases, the ability to "unlock" proprietary software like VAG-COM) from the interfaces available at www.dealextreme.com or www.dealexcel.com

HTH.

RomRaider (1)

_aa_ (63092) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227002)

RomRaider [romraider.com] is available for Subaru vehicles.

Re:RomRaider (1)

rrossman2 (844318) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227230)

There's also a Cobb Tuner for Subi's if you have $500 to blow lol

Consider a code-reader only (1)

jgeorger (209990) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227126)

I bought an overpriced OTC/SPX code reader and scanner for $300 many years ago. I've never used more than the code reader portion of it to effect repairs. You can buy hand held code readers for ~$100 now. Skip the scanning/data logging.

When I was into modifying/tuning cars I did have Autotap, but for straight up repair work, read the code and follow the troubleshooting procedure in the factory service manual.

Here's a few informational links (1)

rrossman2 (844318) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227186)

First off, there's a few different variants of CAN. For the basic OBD-II set they are mostly the same.

Here is a link to a forum thread with links to basic/starter info: http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/hardware-development/51772-class-2-data-bus-j1850.html [mp3car.com]

I know GM uses j1850 for their OBD-II/CAN setup. Some of the things that can be read off of pin 2 at the OBD-II connector include Tach signal, bypass the chip-in-key, control door locks (mostly on 2001 and up though some older ones apply as well), control OEM alarm, turn on heated accessories, etc as well as getting diag codes from port as normal.

There are other locations for the CAN interface in other makes/models as well. For example, in Hyundai cars one can find a low speed CAN in the drivers kick panel. IIRC it's a Red/Black & Blue twisted pair (in around the 2006-2007 model years) that will control door locks and OEM alarm. There's a high speed CAN that's an Orange & blue twisted pair that controls significantly more within the car.

Via the CAN on newer Honda's (2008+ typically) you can control the door locks, factory alarm, read if the brake pedal is pushed or not, hood pin status if there's an OEM hood pin, when a door is opened, tach signal, e-brake status, VSS, etc.

Even reading Wikipedia or googling for how CAN works is a good start. Also check out Socketcan [wikipedia.org] that according to the Wiki entry VW Research released to the Linux Kernel and can be found in 2.6.25 and up. The concept extends the Berkley sockets API that adds a new protocol family that coexists with other families such as IP. Here's a quote from the article:

The SocketCAN concept extends the Berkeley sockets API in Linux by introducing a new protocol family PF_CAN that coexists with other protocol families like PF_INET for the Internet Protocol. The communication with the CAN bus is done analogue to the use of the Internet Protocol via Sockets. Fundamental components of SocketCAN are the network device drivers for different CAN controllers and the implementation of the CAN protocol family. The protocol family PF_CAN provide the structures to enable different protocols on the bus: Raw sockets for direct CAN communication and transport protocols for point-to-point connections. Moreover the broadcast manager which is part of the CAN protocol family provides functions e.g. for sending CAN messages periodically or realize complex message filters.

One more link for you: Canbus [wikipedia.org]

For an idea on where various CANs are located within a car and what features may be possible, look at the different companies that make utilities and/or interfaces for that car. For example, idatalink [idatalink.com] allows you to look up which of their modules work for which car, which features they have been able to implement (using different "platforms" after loading the correct firmware), and in the installation directions it shows where they tagged into the CANbus at.

Re:Here's a few informational links (1)

rrossman2 (844318) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227244)

sorry for replying to my own, but in the Thread link above they talk about his company which has a USB -> CAN adapter for $395

http://www.intrepidcs.com/ [intrepidcs.com]

Go to Autozone (2, Informative)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227202)

They'll read your ODB unit at no charge. Reason is, of course, they hope that you will then elect to buy the part(s) you need from them to fix it. Just go in and ask, they'll bring out a portable unit that reads the diag codes. They'll take that back to a computer, upload the results, and give you a printout.

autozone (1)

netsavior (627338) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227246)

If you are looking to read codes/reset codes then autozone will do it for free.. or sell you a scanner for 79.

but as has been said... if 99-199 is too much, then don't even think about trying to enter into this very expensive hobby.

even ultra low budget and open source solutions are more than $99, even if you build the ecu yourself like with older megasquirt systems [msefi.com]

Just go to Schucks/Checkers/O'Reilly (1)

neile (139369) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227266)

Most local auto part supply stores will happily loan you an OBDII diagnostic tool for free. I've done this many times to read fault codes out of my car. It may not be as sexy as rolling your own, but it meets your price requirement.

Neil

When (2)

JustOK (667959) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227308)

When will it be the Year of Linux on the blacktop?

Here's a cheap and easy solution... (1)

wtfbill (1408123) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227330)

I use OBD Guage on a lifedrive and on my laptop for basic stuff; it's easier than pulling out my "real" scanner with all the cables. It's a nice basic program that does data stream, snapshots, acceleration tests, reads and clears codes, and some other stuff. For hardware, I have a cheap ODB2 bluetooth dongle I got off ebay for 30 bucks that talks to the palm and lappy. It has about 25 feet of range, which is great when you have to work under the hood while watching the data. Best part--no cables to drag around. It won't talk to ABS or airbag computers, though. Still, for engine control diagnostics, it's about all most folks would ever need, as it does read all the popular protocols. The have a pocket pc version too. Since most folks here already have a pda or smartphone or laptop, the final cost is about 30 bucks and a 2-week wait as they ship from China. http://www.qcontinuum.org/obdgauge/ [qcontinuum.org]

$200 isn't so bad (1)

rubmytummy (677080) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227358)

When I was an "avid tinkerer" (in my case, backyard mechanic), $200 took some scrimping but it was a good price for good tools. It compares pretty favorably with the price of a good-quality torque wrench, and very favorably with that of an air compressor and set of air tools, even cheap ones.

I personally use an ELMSCAN 5 (1)

Cprossu (736997) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227406)

Just as long as all you want is 96+ (and possibly a few 95's thrown in) I've had an older serial based scantool.net ELMSCAN 5 kicking around since 2003. One of the reasons I was excited when netbooks first hit was that I could buy one just to use with it just to use with it. I paid $120 for the tool back in the day, and it was well worth it then, but I think the newer usb elmscans are only going for like $60... The free software is limited, but will give you just about everything you need and is still much more.. if you need anything more, I've been really happy with the scanmaster xl software, which although not free, gives you a bunch of functionality that you don't even see in $900+ scan tools.. As far as linux based software for the elm327

if you want cheaper, there are schematics online somewhere you can use and I think there's somewhere you can pick up an ELM327 chip, you should be looking at somewhere around $25 in parts+ your time to put it together. Stay with a reputable manufacturer and/or reseller though, as the multiple clones on ebay are usually somehow made incorrectly (Sadly), even though it's such a simple design....

good luck!

Maemo, Nokia web pad, Carman software (1)

oob (131174) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227470)

I went with Carman [indt.org] for Nokia's Maemo platform and a generic Bluetooth scantool. The advantage of this setup is that the Nokia webpad serves as an in-car media player, GPS unit and car computer, providing me with real-time diagnostics, positioning and entertainment.

For fault diagnostics, I gave up in the end. At least for my car, (an Audi S8) it seems there are error codes that are manufacturer specific. Without a translation table, the error codes aren't particularly useful and I couldn't find any software package that included them or, indeed, just the Audi S8 code table. Happy to be proved wrong here if someone else knows better than I do..

$60 will get you one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32227474)

You can get a basic OBDII scanner for around $60 at major autoparts stores.

single time just go to Autozone. (1)

lazn (202878) | more than 4 years ago | (#32227526)

Autozone will read and clear trouble codes for free. So if you just have a one time need, do that.

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