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Teach me about OBD II Scanners before buying one

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So, since I lost my Job after Fourteen Years, due to political reasons, (and I am Not a political person), I've been helping more people to Fix their Cars' problems, not only old-school Subarus, and as the Newer models has OBD / OBD II systems, I am really in Need to obtain a Good Scan Tool for these cars, because I don't want to bother a friend who has one, each time I need to use it.

 

So, which one is considered as the "Best Option" balanced between price and usefulness?

 

Somehow I am some sort of "Newbie" with this scan tools ... :) ... so please share with me your Knowledge, any advice will be greatly appreciated.

 

Kind Regards.

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Hi Jeszek:

 

Before I begin to try offering something that might help you out a bit, let me say a big thanks to you for everything you have posted on USMB. You do a great job presenting the vast amount of knowledge you have on the older Subarus. Like you, I have an '85 GL dual range wagon. I owned an '82 and an '83 (both GL dual range); however, I owned them back before the internet was widely used so USMB was not a resource for me when I owned them. I purchased my '85 this past July with 71,000 miles, and it is in great mechanical and cosmetic shape. It is suffering some minor hiccups from being 29 years old... I currently have the front axles out and have genuine Subaru remans on the way. Many of my dash lights are out - I will be replacing with LEDs, as per the instructions you provided. I am also planning to add a Bluetooth hands-free car kit to connect my smart phone to the Subaru OEM radio so I can take calls hands-free and listen to my MP3 files.

 

Some of the more "elective" work may be on hold for awhile as I live in northwestern Ontario, Canada. As a result, the climate here is much colder than where you live. Winter has arrived and I don't have a garage - last week our morning temperatures were -23 Celcius with the windchill. Fortunately it has warmed up a bit this week, but this morning we had freezing rain and it took awhile to scrape the ice from my van windows. I hope the weather will not get cold again before I get a chance to get the reman axles in.

 

About the OBD/OBD II systems... coincidentally, over the past weekend I started looking into this on my own - trying to explore options for reading codes on the old EA82s. In the process of doing this I got diverted to the OBD II readers and  discovered there are code readers available that transmit the data via Bluetooth to an app that can be run on a smart phone that reports the output from the reader. There are plenty of YouTube videos available that discuss these - one that you might consider looking at is

. These Bluetooth OBD analyzers are surprisingly inexpensive ($15 for the one in the YouTube video I referenced). The smart phone app used in the video is called Torque - you can find a free version on Google Play, and a Pro version is available for $4.95 (the person who put the video together mentions the PRO version might not be necessary). I expect there must be a version of this app or something similar available for iPhone and perhaps even Blackberry. This seems to be a much less expensive route compared to some of the dedicated analyzers I have seen and I will try to explore this further sometime.

 

Hope this helps!

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Hi Jeszek ...

 

Hi!

 

 

... big thanks to you for everything you have posted on USMB. You do a great job presenting the vast amount of knowledge you have on the older Subarus. ...

 

You're Welcome!

 

Thank you for your Kind Words, which I really appreciate.

 

 

... Like you, I have an '85 GL ... I purchased my '85 this past July with 71,000 miles, and it is in great mechanical and cosmetic shape ...

 

Awesome! ... Don't forget to share some Photos with us.

 

 

... Many of my dash lights are out - I will be replacing with LEDs, as per the instructions you provided. ...

 

Great! ... also don't forget to share photos of that, on ~► the LED retrofit Thread.

 

 

... I live in northwestern Ontario, Canada. As a result, the climate here is much colder than where you live. ...

 

Yes, here in the Caribbean, winter -usually- never gets below + 15º C over zero...

 

WhereintheWorldisHonduras.jpg

 

...so many US and Canadian citizens comes visit us during winter times.

 

 

... About the OBD/OBD II systems... coincidentally, over the past weekend I started looking into this on my own - trying to explore options for reading codes on the old EA82s. ...

 

You do Not need an OBD / OBD-II Reader for the Older Generation of Subarus, powered by the good old EA engines, such like your '85 GL, and my '85 "BumbleBeast", because those older subies are from the Pre OBD Era; instead a port, they have a Red LED light, blinking under the Steering Wheel's Column, right inside the ECU, which gives to you the Codes by the number and space between blinks; see the Following document to find out the Meaning of the Codes on your Subaru GL, you'll only need your Eyes to catch them:

 

~► http://www.ultimatesubaru.org/forum/topic/47526-subaru-ecu-codes-for-1983-1988/

 

Kind Regards.

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Basically IMO it comes down to these 2 general categories.

 

1) Generic OBD I and OBD II series scan tools. These will give you GENERIC access to trouble codes and data, OBD health checks, etc. Some will also give you code definitions and some troubleshooting which is very helpful (IE the more the better IMO) Usually these come with a few adapters and the generic 16 pin OBD II adapter. This can be anything from a USB adapter for your laptop, bluetooth widget for your smartphone, etc.

 

2) Scan tools with vehicle specific or manufacturer specific access to the different onboard controllers via the make, model, and VIN # entry offer advantages in the amount of information available to you for diagnosis and troubleshooting. Any of these will cover all of the generic PIDs with the addition of being able to access the manufacurers PIDS in the ECU, TCU, BCM, SIR, ABS, HVAC, modules. More expensive kits will include additional connectors and software for Europeanvehicles, adapters for older ODB I vehicles, etc. The downside with these is price. All the extra software and adapters give you a lot more capabilites and it all costs more too. The detailed troubleshooting software included with my scan tools has helped me more times than I can count over the years as I work alone most of the time.

 

One specific reproducable example I can think of right off is a 2001 Ford Ranger with a 4.0 SOHC V-6 engine. Pull off the connector for the cam sensor on the left valve cover and start the engine. The generic scan tool connected to the 16 pin OBD II port does not read a code P0340 for quite a while, perhaps miles. With a scan tool connected using vehicle specific (VIN) entry you will see that code P0340 instantly (the second the engine starts).

 

Lastly, search out the code setting parameters and the information available in generic mode $06. It helps to brush up on hex a bit, but you can actually use this data to verify repair effectiveness.  Again, both methods provide valuable information and in my opinion are both needed. Most issues can be resolved with a good generic OBD scanner, but as you see the more you learn, the more toys you seem to want. Good Luck!   My diagnostic kit also contains a Lab Scope, Logic Probe, and DVOM too. These are my ramblings. You are free to form your own. ;)

Edited by Crazyeights
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Hi Jeszek:

 

Thanks for your reply and encouraging words!

 

From reading the forums I was aware of how the light flashes can be used to determine error codes on an EA engine. I was looking online over the weekend to determine if there was a way to read the EA codes using a code reader, but I was not certain if our EAs were equipped for this. Like you, I try to do most of my own car repairs myself. My wife drives a 2005 Honda Odyssey van, and over the past few years I have considered purchasing a code reader to help out with maintenance/repairs on that vehicle. I believe a tool like that could both save money and help identify problems more quickly; however, the cost of these items makes it difficult to commit to purchasing one.

 

When I read about the Bluetooth OBD and OBD II readers and their use with smart phone apps I thought this combination makes code reading technology much more affordable.This got me wondering if there might be an affordable similar type of gadget available for use with our EA engines. I also like the idea of using something like the Bluetooth code readers to expand the use of technology I already have (smart phone) by purchasing an inexpensive add-on instead of purchasing a more expensive single-purpose gadget (like a dedicated code reader) that costs more and will one day eventually become electronic waste. Admittedly, smart phones eventually will become waste too, but much of the technology they contain are being taken advantage of by creative people who are engineering new ways to use them. With this approach the amount of electronic waste can be reduced somewhat.

 

Thanks again!

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Hi Jeszek:

 

Thanks for your reply and encouraging words!

 

When I read about the Bluetooth OBD and OBD II readers and their use with smart phone apps I thought this combination makes code reading technology much more affordable.This got me wondering if there might be an affordable similar type of gadget available for use with our EA engines.

 

Thanks again!

Perhaps something like this might work? It's early Legacy though I think. The Subaru Select Monitor turns up now and again but it usually commands $$$

 

http://www.weidefamily.net/vanagon/Files/B10ScanTool/b10scan.html

Edited by Crazyeights
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I like my Innova 3100- it's kinda old-school handheld but it also reads freezeframe data.

 

another option lies along the lines of FreeSSM and/or Romraider with a laptop and special cable;

 

read here; http://www.subaruoutback.org/forums/65-parts-accessories-performance/39426-freessm-complete-access-your-ecm-tcu.html

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Basically IMO it comes down to these 2 general categories.

 

1) Generic OBD I and OBD II series scan tools. ...

 

2) Scan tools with vehicle specific or manufacturer specific access.  ...

 

Thank you.

 

Since I am in "Low Budget Mode" I will start obtaining a Good "Generic" Scan Tool.

 

Which one is Best, the Hand Held version, or the USB / Software combo for my Laptop?

 

Somehow I think that would prefer to use my Laptop,

 

because I believe that the Software could be Upgraded easier...

 

Please let me know the Pros / Cons of those options,

 

and which one you Prefer, and why.

 

Kind Regards.

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I like my Innova 3100- it's kinda old-school handheld but it also reads freezeframe data.

 

another option lies along the lines of FreeSSM and/or Romraider with a laptop and special cable;

 

read here; http://www.subaruoutback.org/forums/65-parts-accessories-performance/39426-freessm-complete-access-your-ecm-tcu.html

 

Thank You.

 

I was "Lost in Translation" about "Freeze frame data"

 

Then I found this:

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mt9fNSm83xs

 

 

Right now, I'll follow your Links and read the information...

 

Kind Regards.

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if you will be helping friends/family members, there's a certain ease with the handheld units. They are easy to haul around or loan out, less concern about theft or damage.

 

elm327 device and Torque or similar app on a smartphone might be the next most convenient.

 

A laptop is not really convenient - but it's powerful and the software available like Romraider and FreeSSM of course have almost the ultimate range of utility.

 

anything wired can be a little 'fiddly' and there;s the risk of kicking it or getting tangled.

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if you will be helping friends/family members, there's a certain ease with the handheld units...

 

Yes, somehow I Agree...

 

After I wrote that post above, I realized that takin' my laptop with me, along the cables and thinking that some days the weather is rainy, could be a bad idea, especially for helping for free... so maybe I will search for a Handheld option now.

 

But since I am in "Low Budget Mode" the relation between Price and Usefulness will take my decision for sure.

 

Which one of the Handheld options is your Favourite and Why:confused: 

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I've heard that the Cheapo units might damage the ECU, 

 

even I read some threads with horror stories, such like:

 


 


 


 

What do you think about that? ... Any advice is greatly welcome!

 

Kind Regards.

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my only experience is with my old Innova (maybe also called Equus ?) 3100a (there are several models - likely soime much better ones nowadays.

 

the 3100a connects to all 4 OBD2 protocols and canbus. It has yet to fail to connect to what I've tried - including a Mercedes that would NOT connect to another co-worker's laptop.  It was about $100 USD way back when I bought it. maybe you could find a  working used one?

 

?hqdefault.jpg

Edited by 1 Lucky Texan

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Thank you for the Suggestion. thumbsup-1.jpg


 


The Equus innova 3100a is out of production, also the b, c, ...


 


they're now making the 3100g, and as far I've read,


 


~► http://www.obd2scannerreviews.com/equus-3100-innova-canobd2-diagnostic-tool-review


 


(I spent online reading about those OBD II scanners, almost all Sunday)


 


 eJincreible.gif


 


seems like that tool is awesome in almost every single aspect...


 


except in one:


 


innova3100g.jpg


 


 


The Price = $ 148.ºº US Dollars + Shippin' & Handlin' to Honduras...


 


~► http://www.ebay.com/itm/Scan-Tool-Diagnostic-Abs-And-U-Vehicle-Cen-Tech-Obd11-Eobd-Can-INNOVA-3100/131364666257?_trksid=p2047675.c100011.m1850&_trkparms=aid%3D222007%26algo%3DSIC.MBE%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D27538%26meid%3De1e8a53e22cd49f59f5e4de0fab37954%26pid%3D100011%26prg%3D11353%26rk%3D1%26rkt%3D10%26sd%3D271638087938


 


I simply can not pay that.


 


disgustedgu9-1.gif


 


I was lookin' for something around $ 30.ºº US Dollars, and I found this one:


 


 


maxiscan.png


 


But this thing might be a Cheap Crappy problem :(  


 


I rather choose the innova, if I could pay for it.


 


I will continue searchin' ... 


 


Kind Regards.


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Jeszek,

 

First off I am very sorry to hear you lost your job. You have been a great resource here on USMB and I thank you for that. I will just offer my experience with ODBII and what I discovered that in many situations you do not need the reader. What follows is a bit long winded, sorry.

 

Earlier this year I took my 2002 Dodge Ram 1500 out off-roading with JJ421 (who took his Loyal wagon). We had a great time banging around the mountains. About two days after I got back, my Doge Ram 1500 instrument cluster stopped working. No tach, no speedo the lights were on all the time until you turned off the key. This is what is known as a canbus system. All major engine systems have their own ECU unlike our simple OBDI 1 Loyales which have a single  ECU to run the engine. Think of the newer cars as a computer network, which really they are. Each network node controls something specific.

 

In my case, the Dodge Ram Truck would start and the engine ran just fine, the automatic transmission shifted fine. I just had no instrument cluster functionality and the overhead trip computer was reading wrong as well. I felt a big hit coming into my wallet as research online showed the dealer repair costs to start at $800 if they are cracker jack good and honest and perhaps $3000 if they were incompetent and dishonest. :eek:

 

In my experience over the year, most types of car issue are not unique random occurrences. What I mean is that if you have experience an issue, most likely so has someone else. A good example is how the screw can fall off the rotor in the Loyale and make the car seem totally dead. Using this theory I googled and searched the Dodge forums for answers about my Dodge Ram 1500.  What I learned was very informative.

 

In the OBDII canbus systems, each function is a node on the network. Just like we network together our computers on the internet, modern cars network the ECU's that control the major functions, I learned that in the Dodge, there is an ECU for the automatic transmission, the engine, the fender (light and electrical) and even the trip computer. You need to keep this in mind when working on newer OBDII cars. The design reason for this is that it supposedly reduces wiring.

 

One other thing I learned too is that each computer (in general) has a way to trigger on-board diagnostics WITHOUT AN OBDII SCANNER! Yes, for basic trouble shooing, you do not always need an OBDII scanner.

 

You need to know that there are different levels of diagnostics. For extremely data rich intensive brand specific troubleshooting, each brand has their king of the hill proprietary factory scanner that costs thousands of dollars. But if you apply some good logic, in many cases you can get by with the on-board diagnostics. Since I do not have an OBDII Subaru, I cannot tell you what the trigger sequence is so I will tell of  my Dodge Ram1500 experience.

 

In my Dodge Ram 1500, I learned that you trigger the general diagnostics by putting the key in and cycling to the ign (without starting ) and back three times. One, two three. It displays the errors in the odometer lcd readout. Also the Dodge has an instrument cluster test (remember it too is an ECU). To trigger that test, you hold down the trip reset stick and turn the key to on while holding and the instrument cluster diagnostic will begin. It sweeps the tach and speedo needles as well as performs checks of the instrument cluster itself.  I told this to my neighbor, who owns a Dodge Durango of the same year. He researched an found his OBDII Toyota Camry also has this capability.

 

Here is a video showing this for a Dodge:

 

 

Long story short, my instrument cluster diagnostic reported all sorts of error codes, one of which said the network was down. Applying some logic I reasoned that the network could not all be down as the engine ran and the transmission worked and you could drive the truck so there was obviously communication between the engine and transmission. Turns out the transmission knows the speed (it is an automatic and has to know this for the shift points). The instrument cluster simple makes a network request to the transmission for the value of the speed and points the needle accordingly. So I reasoned that if the instrument cluster thought the network was bad, perhaps its network driver circuits were the bad thing and the cluster needed replacing.  I found out later that the reason the lights were always on when you started the truck was the "FAIL MODE" of the vehicle. The fender module (modules = computer and that is why they are so expensive) was not able to communicate with the cluster (to which the on/off switch for the lights is connected) so it went into the fail mode which kept the lights on. It makes sense because if it was at night and you needed lights, you would have at least something.

 

 

I found a nearby junkyard advertising the exact same cluster for $80. It was 8 screws to pull the cluster and it fixed the issue. New cars keep the odometer reading in the cluster so my Dodge Ram 1500 went from 38,000 miles on the ODO to 203K. Luckily I had it to the dealer before the problem so I had proof of the original ODO reading and I can send it to the only place in the US that can legally reprogram the ODO reading (Advance Auto Electronics). 

 

My main point is that there are many helpful on-board diagnostics that do not require an OBDII scanner.  I would always start with those first. There is a sequence for triggering them (a key jiggle, trip reset stick etc). They can be helpful in diagnosing the problems without a scanner. You may want to get just an inexpensive generic scanner a first because each manufacturer has a brand specific tool that is prohibitively expensive.

 

Hope this helps my friend.

Edited by MR_Loyale
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Hi Jeszek:

 

Thanks for your reply and encouraging words!

 

From reading the forums I was aware of how the light flashes can be used to determine error codes on an EA engine. I was looking online over the weekend to determine if there was a way to read the EA codes using a code reader, but I was not certain if our EAs were equipped for this. Like you, I try to do most of my own car repairs myself. My wife drives a 2005 Honda Odyssey van, and over the past few years I have considered purchasing a code reader to help out with maintenance/repairs on that vehicle. I believe a tool like that could both save money and help identify problems more quickly; however, the cost of these items makes it difficult to commit to purchasing one.

 

When I read about the Bluetooth OBD and OBD II readers and their use with smart phone apps I thought this combination makes code reading technology much more affordable.This got me wondering if there might be an affordable similar type of gadget available for use with our EA engines. I also like the idea of using something like the Bluetooth code readers to expand the use of technology I already have (smart phone) by purchasing an inexpensive add-on instead of purchasing a more expensive single-purpose gadget (like a dedicated code reader) that costs more and will one day eventually become electronic waste. Admittedly, smart phones eventually will become waste too, but much of the technology they contain are being taken advantage of by creative people who are engineering new ways to use them. With this approach the amount of electronic waste can be reduced somewhat.

 

Thanks again!

 

Just a note, car parts places like Autozone (which I believe you have in Ontario) will scan your car for free. They will not reset codes but will plug their scanner in so you can know what they are. Not sure if they are in Honduras or not but Jeszek may want to look into hat option as well.

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Jeszek, 

 

... You have been a great resource here on USMB and I thank you for that. ...

 

Thank you for your Kind words, which I really appreciate. thhappysignthankspinIPB.gif

 

 

 

... I will just offer my experience with ODBII and what I discovered that in many situations you do not need the reader. ... there are many helpful on-board diagnostics that do not require an OBDII scanner.  I would always start with those first. There is a sequence for triggering them (a key jiggle, trip reset stick etc). They can be helpful in diagnosing the problems without a scanner. ...

 

That is New for me, I'll research more on the Subject... 

 

Thank you for sharing that info. Thumbup.jpg

 

 

 

... You may want to get just an inexpensive generic scanner a first because each manufacturer has a brand specific tool that is prohibitively expensive...

 

Yes...

 

I was about to buy one online, because local aftermarket stores which sells such devices are few, and the ones that has them, are asking sky high prices for them; in example, one "Average" Scanner apparatus, which could cost online between $ 100.ºº and $ 140.ºº US Dollars, they're asking around $ 800.ºº US Dollars for them ... thshock1.gif ... 

 

But something bursted my bubble: My wife and I spent much money purchasing brand new C.V. Joints and other parts, so I can fix her car, the inFamous "KiaStein" as you can read ~► Here; so I must wait for a while 'till we could reunite enough money for such apparatus, once again.

 

Seems like I must continue building custom wooden Speakers' Enclosures for sale...

 

 

 

... Hope this helps my friend.

 

Of course it does, Thank you again. 

 

Kind Regards.

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Today, this Box arrived to Honduras, came from USA


 


BoxonKiaSteinsHood.jpg


 


Here you can see it on the "KiaStein" hood, after my Wife went to pick it up.


 


 




 


Here is the Content of that Box...


 


BoxonBumbleBeastsSeat.jpg


 


...inside my Subaru "BumbleBeast:D 


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I've sent different stuff to various countries, to many USMB members, also I've Purchased stuff from some USMB members in the past, as you can read & see photos, ~► Here

 


 

 

But this is the very first time, I receive such an Awesome,

 

Useful thing, as a GiftCompletely Free!!!  happy0158.gif

 

Thank you, MR_Loyale, I Really appreciate your kind will of helping us, happysignthankspinIPB.gif

 

My small family and I are very thankful thumbsup-1.jpg

 

Kind Regards & Blessings.

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I've received Gifts from other USMB Members as well, all of them are appreciated;

 

I posted photos & details on the Link above. 

 

But I never received a Tool that will help us to make an extra income.  :) 

 


 

Here are more details about the CEN-TECH Can & OBD II Scanner:

 

~► http://www.amazon.com/Cen-Tech-Scan-Tool-item-60794/dp/B00GKOQA3G

 

Kind Regards.

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I am glad it finally arrived. I sent it out on Dec 23rd. Looking forward to your threads on CANBUS and OBDII troubleshooting adventures. Lots of learning ahead!

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