Under $600 OBDII scan tools. Are they worth it?

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#1
I did a search, but all it turned up a thread about the Auterra Dyno-Scan Tool which gets hooked up to a Laptop.

The under $600 (or so) stand alone OBDII scan tools (not just code readers), are they buying one for occasional troubleshooting use (non mechanic use). As in from Auto XRay and Actron for example.
I have a OBDI scanner from Auto XRay which seemed nice that did come in handy a couple of times. Given what shops charge just to connect their equipment up to your car seems to make purchasing one a decent investment, especially if there is more than one car in the household.
I was told that these cheaper 'tools' only read PCM DTCs'. Any further input here? IOWs' what can't they do that the multi thousand dollar tools can?
 
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#2
A am afraid that a under 600$ obd11 scanner is just that. :)
OBD11 only.
To get into the good stuff like engine or transmission specic or ABS or SIR or GEM or havac or air ride or body and anti theft you will have to get up into the 5-25K range. To get the good stuff.
Go to upper part of bat auto and open articles.
Lot of info on scanners.
Crunch
 

autodr

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#3
AutoEnginuity offers Enhanced coverage under $600.

http://autoenginuity.com/order.html

The generic part of it is $250.00. After you have the generic side of the tool, you can then opt. for the enhanced releases. AE offers a growing body control coverage. For Some GM's that I've hooked to, I've gotten ABS, air bag, and body controls. Ford has total vehicle coverage in AE enhanced. Toyota is growing too... as well as other makes.


If you buy everything they have, you'll have over $1400.00 in it.... but you just need GM right? You'd had $400.00 in AE with GM enhanced only, and here is what they currently have coverage for on GM for that $400.00

http://www.autoenginuity.com/GM-All-Systems-List.html

But, just remember that this list is a total make-wide list. Not every model has all of those things yet, and some never will because the car doesn't support every single thing listed, for example, your car you mention in Domestics obviously doesn't have "transfer case sensors" that are mentioned on the page I linked you to.
 
P

peteP

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#4
videobruce said:
I did a search, but all it turned up a thread about the Auterra Dyno-Scan Tool which gets hooked up to a Laptop.

The under $600 (or so) stand alone OBDII scan tools (not just code readers), are they buying one for occasional troubleshooting use (non mechanic use). As in from Auto XRay and Actron for example.
I have a OBDI scanner from Auto XRay which seemed nice that did come in handy a couple of times. Given what shops charge just to connect their equipment up to your car seems to make purchasing one a decent investment, especially if there is more than one car in the household.
I was told that these cheaper 'tools' only read PCM DTCs'. Any further input here? IOWs' what can't they do that the multi thousand dollar tools can?
I'm not trying to sell any product, nor have any affiliation with the site, but I think this product is exceptional. If I violated any rules please remove the post, but this product is so exciting.

Not a handheld, but www.carcode.com has an amazing product. The interface may not be that flashy but not any worse (much better) than say an MT-2500. The price varies between 122-240 depending on what you need to scan. I read ABS codes with this thing, replaced a bad wheel sensor, and it saved me more than what I paid in one shot. I believe it reads airbag and other systems, you can check his site. There is a money back guarantee.

It reads all ford specific codes, for example I can look at misfire counts. It even read ford GEM codes! KOER, Command Fans on... The graphing is unreal, you can leave in in the back seat and it can record parameters for hours on a long trip. It even accurately calculates your miles per gallon and engine horsepower from the OBD parameters.

I bought a $50 older compact laptop on ebay for this thing, and I feel confident to troubleshoot anything.
 
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#5
I purchased the software code and plug direct from Autoenguinity, to diagnose faults on my Porsche Boxster 98 year. This was to give me extra features especially for this car. The first time I tried to use the software it crashed. I tried updating it and reloading it and again it crashed each time I tried to use it. After complaining they sent me another version of the software, with most of the additional features removed. This did not crash but was of little use for diagnostic work, as the extra features I had paid for were no longer usuable. I complained again and they eventually told me the software would not work as the car was not a North American OBD or European model EODB (only available from 2002) , and was not compliant with the protocols they use. This has been disputed by several other experts I have spoken to who have said that the company is trying to cover up for software which is not properly tested. (they have only been offering these enhanced features since November 2007). Nowhere on their website does it say this, and they knew when they shipped the software, that it was going to be used on a car outisde US/Europe. I made that clear to them.
The support is pathetic, I ended up dealing direct with owner, Jay Horak. He refused to give me a refund and even found it slightly amusing that they had managed to sell me something which would not work! He said it was my fault as I should have known this before I bought it. (how?).
 
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#6
Hi I just got my Chinese OBD-II Scanner. It only took 9 days to arrive, pretty fast for international shipping. I got it from EBay a guy named Jessie Huang at honeylead08@gmail.com. $27.20 incl ship. So far it has worked. First you have to load the serial-usb driver then find an ELM program you would like to use. Using PCMScanner program it shows pid's like fuel trim( I am a DIY'er) etc. The weather is too hot in the garage to play with it for too long, I just know it's functional. I am using it with an Acer Aspire One notebook WinXP Home.The cable is long enough to go out the window but they sell a blutooth one that may be more convenient. As far as making adjustments to pid's(I have seen in manuals this is possible) I doubt this unit is that sophisticated but it shows things like being in closed loop, and O2 voltages and rpm and MPH etc. I have a feeling this unit only reads info, I am not sure yet but I don't think it allows you to input info to control the PCM. I think this is possible with some more expensive scanners.
 

autodr

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#7
Sounds like OBDII generic scanner. Generic access will only give you about 15 different PIDs. O2 voltages, RPMs, engine coolant temp, fuel trims, air temp, throttle angle, air flow rate, not much more.

OBDII generic level access can be used for some diagnostics, although it is NOT really intended for diagnostic work. OBDII generic access is really just intended for emissions testing stations to be able to scan enough of your system to determine if it passes or fails emissions... that's about it. But, can be used for some things. Foe example... lets say you get a vacuum leak and it sets a P0171 (bank 1 lean). You now have enough access to read the code, see that it set a lean code, then view the fuel trims to see if it is at +20% at idle versus 2000 rpms. If at idle only, and 2000 rpms is near 0%, you know that it is because of a vacuum leak. You then can watch fuel trims as you spray around the intake with carb cleaner to see where you can spray to lower the trims. That would be your leak.

You can also use it for aid in diagnostics and repair of an over heat condition by watching the engine coolant temp and feeling the radiator hose to see when the T-stat opens, and watch to see that fans come on at the programmed range of between 220 and 226 degrees.

It has lots of useful uses, but is still very limited for what you can do with a more capable tool.

Will it let you see Mode $6 data? Mode $6 data is generic protocal, but many scanners can access it. Mode $6 is where the PCM's test results are stored. You can use the test results to actually predict some problems before they set a check engine light by seeing how close to pass/fail status something is... like the catalytic converter.

The only other thing you have to be concerned with it accuracy. The software in the tool has to translate digital code info coming from the PCM to translate that into the PIDs you see. Mistakes are sometimes made in the highest priced tools. The cheaper ones have little to no product testing behind them.

Still... it is better than nothing and for that price, you can't go wrong hardly at all. Especially if you are just DIY'r on the family car wanting to have something that you might be able to use to save you some $$ in that 2 or 3 times the check engine ever haunts you on the car... good find.

Can you upload any screen shots of it? Here is few from another low cost PCM based scan tool.

You'll also be missing an entire world on your car as well. There is a much more than can be unlocked with a tool that only costs a few hundred more.

For example, you will likely only get to read and translate generic codes. That is, fault codes beginning in "0". Codes beginning in 1, 2, or 3 you will either not get to see at all, or you will see the code but no description... It'll say something like "undocumented code" or "manufacturer specific" So in the earlier example, if the PCM reached for a P0171, you'd see what that is (Bank 1 lean)... but if the pcm decides to reach for a P1133 (Bank 1 fuel control shifted lean... or Bank1 biased lean)... you'd have to have to find out what that code is first.

You also will not get any PIDs for your EGR system or EVAP system. If you have variable cam timing... you'll get nmo PIDs for that... and so on. Better than nothing though.

[attachment lost in server move]
 
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#8
The most valuable thing so far is the ability to record pid info as I test drive the car. Right now I have found that the O2 sensor gets pegged at rich sometimes and how the pcm goes in and out of openloop and closedloop. I am planning to change the fuel injectors because of the rich condition. I get 48 PID's out of 237. But no mode $6. Thanks
 

autodr

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#9
Intermittent pegging rich, as well as intermittent open/closed loop switching is normal operation under various driving conditions.

Is the engine giving you a running problem?
 
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#10
Hi, it's a 1996 Ford Aspire. I get code P0300 random Misfire consistently with A/C on, hot day and going up some hills.The acceleration is very weak with A/C on, like theres something wrong with it. Then right before it codes, it gets really sluggish and bogs unless I floor it. I am hoping new injectors fixes it. It has high HC and NOx.

That's interesting to know that it goes in and out of closed loop normally. I have been trying to understand fuel trims on this. The EGR seems to be ok. Fuel pressure was to spec. But I forgot to really test if the pressure leaks alot like after 5 minutes. I think my injectors are not closing all the way and making it too rich. I really don't know if this is possible or not but I am trying to understand it. Thanks
 

autodr

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#11
Rich can cause high HC, but will also cause a high CO. NOx should be low with a rich condition.

Try this. dowload this freeware. http://www.webtree.ca/newlife/printkey_info.htm

Use it to grab a screen capture of the 02, short term fuel trim, long term fuel trim, and throttle position PIDs graphed and post them here. Grab them while the rich condition is happening.

How many PIDs can it graph at once?

Just a shot in the dark here though. Seems to me that if you are looking at a running problem that only occurs when the AC is on, then you are most likely looking for either a bad ground, or a bad suppression diode for the AC compressor. Either could cause interference with the PCM with the AC on.
 
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#12
Here it is, tell me if you need different view. The additional red line is throttle position. Thanks

 
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#14
It would be really great if I could share my logfile with you. After installing new fuel injectors the problem, code P0300 Random Mis still comes up, Rats!. Thanks
 

autodr

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#15
Yes. Send me the log file. autodrglen@yahoo.com Depending on how the log file is written, I my not need to download the scan tool to view it. Like with AutoEnginuity, you can open the log file and see the PID values, then if you wanna get fancy you can copy and paste them into a spreadsheet and view them on a spread sheet's graph.

But what you can see from this screen capture that you grabbed is that this is a commanded rich condition by the PCM. You can see it in the long term fuel trim PID. The short term fuel trim PID is a "request" from one part of the PCM to the other that may not occur. The STFT is "requesting" a leaner condition in reaction to the high o2 voltage, but the PCM is commanding a rich condition anyway.

This is likely due to something like a MAF of temp sensor issue.

Can you recapture it all, but this time give me throttle position, air flow rate (in grams if possible), air temp, engine temp, LTFT, and STFT.

After grabbing that screen shot, then look inside the air flow sensor with a flashlight and look at the wires you see that are exposed to the air flow. Look for crud build up on the wires. If they have crud... or even a dead bug... clean them off gently. You can use brake cleaner spray. If you have a gentle hand you can use a Q-tip.... but you must be very gentle to not break or bend the wires. if you have a shaky hand, don't touch them... just spray.

Then disconnect the battery for a couple of minutes (to clear the keep alive memory) and drive it again. Grab a second capture with those PIDs and post them both as a "before" and "after" cleaning the MAF sensor.