Guide: What Scan Tool Should I Buy? - Taurus Car Club of America : Ford Taurus Forum
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-10-2013, 04:23 PM Thread Starter
Sam
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Guide: What Scan Tool Should I Buy?

This thread explains what different types of scan tools there are along with their specific advantages and disadvantages. I have included my opinions, but please do your own research and choose what is best for your own situation.

A lot of good information can be found at ScanTool.net LLC - Scan Tools, PC, iPhone, & Android based OBD-II (OBD2) Interfaces, OBD diagnostic software

Thank you to many members for their help in testing these products and giving me input on their functionality.
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What is a scan tool? A scan tool is a device that connects via your cars OBD-II port (some have OBD-I support) and depending on the device, can read trouble codes and give live data (fuel trims, speed, rpm, etc).

Why should I invest in a scan tool? Scan tools play a vital roll in diagnostics of modern day vehicles. One can save you time, money, and headaches. A scan tool is only helpful if you know how to interpret the data that it tells you (why this forum is here!). They are more affordable than one would think!

What types of scan tools are there? There are three major types of scan tools - Standalone, Computer operated, and Mobile. All will be explained below.
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One thing first to note. OBD-I and OBD-II are two different protocols. ALL gasoline vehicles in the US 1996 and newer use OBD-II. Pre '96 uses OBD-I (or maybe something different if it is old enough). For vehicles equipped with OBD-I you can get the codes by using a paperclip between two pins in the OBD port. The CEL will flash the code numbers. If someone knows a link to specifics for the taurus I'll be happy to post it here.

Standalone
A standalone scan tool generally is a handheld device that can receive data for your car and display it back to you in real time on its display. These very from inexpensive tools that are able to only read trouble codes, to very advanced tools that can read abs codes, as well as live data. Pros: The advantage to these tools is that they have all this data in a small package that is easy to move around from car to car. Cons: Expensive compared to other scan tool options.

Computer Operated
A computer operated scan tool is just what it sounds like. A device is connected from the OBD-II port to the computer and uses software to interpret data from the vehicle. This is by far the best way to use because you have access to the most data at a fairly good price.

Mobile
Mobile scan tools usually use a bluetooth enabled OBD-II dongle to connect to your iOS or Android device (tablet or phone). This is a quick and easy way to get a lot of good data. Pros: You can leave the bluetooth dongle plugged in at all times and just connect to your mobil device when you need to read data. You can easily take it from car to car. Very inexpensive for android users. Cons: More expensive for iPhone users. Not as much data as the computer offers.
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Standalone tools: Ther are MANY options and brands of standalone tools, but from what I have used and what I have read it is my opinion that Actron and Innova devices seem to work well for their cost. You have a wide variaty of options when purchasing a standalone tool. You must ask questions like 'What am I going to be using this for?'.

Trouble code reading ONLY: http://www.amazon.com/Actron-CP9125-PocketScan-Code-Reader/dp/B0007LEG2K/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1362949297&sr=8-2&keywords=actron
Trouble Codes + Live data: http://www.amazon.com/Actron-CP9580AL-Enhanced-AutoScanner-Storage/dp/B009HVPV4S/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1362949297&sr=8-1&keywords=actron
ABS DTC's: http://www.amazon.com/Actron-CP9449-BrakeScan-System-Diagnostic/dp/B000YJ053O/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1362949297&sr=8-8&keywords=actron
Live Data + ABS/SRS: http://www.amazon.com/3150-Professional-CanOBD2-Diagnostic-Vehicles/dp/B001QIYAQ0/ref=sr_1_14?s=automotive&ie=UTF8&qid=1362949425&sr=1-14&keywords=actron+ABS
OBD-I support with live data: http://www.amazon.com/INNOVA-3140-Diagnostic-Scanner-Vehicles/dp/B000R3SNJU/ref=sr_1_16?s=automotive&ie=UTF8&qid=1362949425&sr=1-16&keywords=actron+ABShttp://www.amazon.com/Actron-CP9190-AutoScanner-Diagnostic-Includes/dp/B000KGCUMA/ref=sr_1_1?s=automotive&ie=UTF8&qid=1362949490&sr=1-1&keywords=snap+on+versus
OBD-I ONLY: http://www.actron.com/product_detail.php?pid=16153

The best possible standalone tool has been known as the snap on versus, but that is quite pricy and more expensive than many of the cars of people reading this are worth....


Computer Operated: This is what I use personally when I need to do more advanced diagnosis of my car. You must purchase an ELM327 compatible piece of hardware. There are three options I would recommend. Some tools are more expensive and offer connectivity over wifi or bluetooth. The OBDLink MX allows connecting to MS CAN without further modification.

ELMScan 5 Compact: http://www.amazon.com/ScanTool-423001-ElmScan-Diagnostic-Software/dp/B002PYBZJO/ref=sr_1_1?s=automotive&ie=UTF8&qid=1362949709&sr=1-1&keywords=scan+5
OBDLink SX (What I personally use): http://www.amazon.com/ScanTool-425801-Interface-Diagnostic-Software/dp/B005ZWM0R4/ref=sr_1_3?s=automotive&ie=UTF8&qid=1362949709&sr=1-3&keywords=scan+5
OBDLink MX: http://www.amazon.com/ScanTool-426101-OBDLink-Bluetooth-Interface/dp/B006NZTZLQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=automotive&ie=UTF8&qid=1376366848&sr=1-1&keywords=obdlink+mx
Now you may see the $10 adaptors on amazon and eBay. I would only recommend those if you are planning to do basic things with FORScan and want to modify it to add a MS-CAN switch. If you don't know what MSCAN is, link is at the very bottom of the page with info. The clones do work well for basic things and use with FORScan software. The other tools are faster and can access more PIDs at once.

CHINA CLONE ELM327 GUIDE:
These come in 3 styles. WiFi, USB, and Bluetooth. I recommend USB for people using their device with a laptop, bluetooth if using it with an android device (or laptop that supports it), and WiFi for those using an iPhone with the FORScan app. DO NOT buy a WiFi adaptor for use with your computer. They are slower than USB and cost nearly double. Any adaptor will usually work so buy the least expensive one!

Please PM me if you would like me to modify one of these to work with MS-CAN for you.

Bluetooth: http://www.amazon.com/ELM-Bluetooth-Diagnostic-Scanner-Wireless/dp/B0076KBPNI/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1406842436&sr=8-3&keywords=elm327USB: http://www.amazon.com/ELM327-OBDII-CAN-BUS-Diagnostic-Scanner/dp/B005FEGP7I/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1406842436&sr=8-8&keywords=elm327WiFi: http://www.amazon.com/Globalebuy-ELM327-Wireless-Scanner-Adapter/dp/B00B3K2X4M/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1406842505&sr=8-2&keywords=elm327+wifi

Both tools will do the job and come with the same software which is adequate for most users. The OBDLink SX does have the advantage of speed. However if you are only using the OBDWiz program then there really is no reason to have the more expensive tool. It's good to purchase if you ever expect to expand in the future.

OBDWiz (free with OBDLink) will allow you to see all live data as well as DTC's (trouble codes). It also has support for mode $06 which can help you diagnose early misfire signs and reason why some monitors may not be completing.

Everyone that has an ELM327 compatible scan tool should download a program called FORScan. It's the best scan tool software we've used and it's free!

Other software can be purchased from scantool.net - I personally use ScanXL with Ford enhanced diagnostics. This allows me to view PID's and data that most people would NEVER need to view. It helps for advanced diagnosis. Through this software I have the ability to read ABS, Restraint (Airbag/seatbelt), GEM, and Powertrain (Engine and Transmission) codes and live data. Everything from telling me if the brake is on, to what gear the car is in, to transmission temperature to if I have the switch set on autolamps!

For newer cars it gives even more data. Things including what octane fuel you are using, the brake pressure, the steering wheel position in increments of 2 degrees, etc.

This vast amount of diagnostic knowledge and wealth is INSANE. It is enough to open a shop to service Ford Motor Company vehicles! YES the Ford enhanced diagnostics work with Mercury and Lincoln cars. Feel free to PM me with any questions or screenshots of the software.

FORScan: http://forscan.org/download.html
ScanXL: http://www.scantool.net/software/scanxl-std.html
Ford Enhanced Diagnostics supported PID's: http://www.palmerperformance.com/sup...d_enhanced.php


Mobile: This is how I started into the scan tool world. I bought a device called the GoPoint Tech BT1 and used an application called DashCommand on my iPad. For android users it will cost MUCH less than iOS users. You can buy any bluetooth ELM327 off of ebay or amazon (even the clones), and they will work just fine. Then purchase the app called 'Torque' off the Play Store for $5 and you will be into a world of live data and trouble codes (if you have any)! Android users may also use DashCommand but must purchase something like the BT1a from GoPoint Tech which will work with both iOS and Android devices.

Android:
Bluetooth ELM327: http://www.amazon.com/Soliport-Bluetooth-OBDII-Diagnostic-Scanner/dp/B004KL0I9I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1362950440&sr=8-1&keywords=elm327+bluetooth
Torque App: https://play.google.com/store/apps/d...bC50b3JxdWUiXQ..

iOS:
Go Point BT1 (GL1 with a cable is another option): BT1 - Bluetooth Diagnostics with Android, iPhone and Windows Mobile 7 | GoPoint

The BT1 has free apps you can use with it, but DashCommand works way better.
Dashcommand: Search for it in the mobile App Store.
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Info on CAN: https://www.taurusclub.com/forum/124-...scan-tool.html

Advantage to the cheap ELM327 is that it works and you can add an MSCAN switch to it without worrying about breaking your expensive scan tool. Read more from the link above.

Feel free to PM me with questions or let me know if I have inaccuracies!
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Sam

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Last edited by Sam; 03-12-2013 at 10:26 AM.
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-10-2013, 07:03 PM Thread Starter
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I will post assorted photos of some of these methods here. I'll add more as time goes on.

OBDWiz Screenshot (Mode $06):


Dash Command video I made:

Torque via ELM327 bluetooth on a Samsung Captivate (Galaxy S I, AT&T). This is 2001 SES's setup. He mounted the old phone he had in the visor and ran a wire through it down to a charger that was installed on the headlight switch (so it charges when you pull for what would normally be fog lights on a Sable). You could run one just to the cigar lighter or to the ashtray light to make it easier, or just get a 12v to USB adaptor and use the vanity mirror light wires to charge it. He just connects it via bluetooth to the ELM327 and always leaves it plugged in. Good for when the CEL comes on randomly or some other odd symptom happens. I'm guessing most men don't use the vanity mirrors anyways!

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2000 Sable LS Premium Duratec
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Last edited by Sam; 03-12-2013 at 10:33 AM.
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 09-25-2015, 10:38 AM
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hello, I would like to know what kinda code reader I should buy to read the codes when my check engine light comes on ???? do I need one that shows live data, ie, oxygen sensor info .... I need to start to learn how to fix my own car, since a friend of mine who owns a garage raped my wallet by charging me 197.00 just to tell me I needed plugs and wires. now my check engine lite came on again , and im being told its a P0420 and I might need to replace o2 sensor bank 1 to fix it so I can go thru inspection in oct.. can I get something in the 50.00 price range from amazon ????
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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-07-2016, 04:16 PM
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Any updates on the scanners themselves. The op is from 2013 and would love to see recent recommendations.

I have a 2003 with 3.0l duratec if it makes a difference.
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-08-2016, 07:51 AM
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Forscan with an ELM327 is still the preferred for cost(software is free) and function......... unless you care to spend $$$$$$

John
2007 Pontiac Torrent, 2013 Hyundai Sonata GLS
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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-08-2016, 11:45 AM
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Oh my gosh!! I posted another thread just yesterday with a potentially big issue regarding my Taurus and the Scan Tool was brought up....didn't have a clue about them. So i looked thru the list of threads and found your's! Thank you so much for posting this information....now at least I have an inkling of what I might be able to do! Thank you!!!
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-10-2016, 04:50 PM
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Looks like forscan isn't free anymore. $4.61 isn't bad though if it works. I got the Scanner so will put it in and check the forscan demo before making the purchase. The forscan software won't connect saying no elm device found, the torque app connected fine.

Last edited by okinhim; 01-10-2016 at 06:41 PM.
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-03-2016, 02:16 PM
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Sam, thank you for this excellent and important thread.

We purchased the Scantool MXII Bluetooth for $72.oo. It took
about 20 minutes to get the torque app and the unit to finally
work together.

Regarding the Red Chinese clones ELM327 2.1 and even others,
many of them do not work and can cause other issues
for your vehicle.

Attention! "Bad" Bluetooth adapters! - Bluetooth / WiFi OBD-II adapters - OBD Car Doctor Forum: ELM327 WiFi adapter, ELM327

More information is also directly available from the supplier ELM
Electronics. Press the OBD tab and it will also bring up a software
tab as well.

http://elmelectronics.com/help.html

We spent more because we wanted a reliable vendor and a
product that worked out of the box. Heck, I remember just some
twenty years ago, when your local car tech would bring out a rolling
cabinet with an electronic box on it and charge you $70 bucks.

This item is well worth having in one's tool box or garage.

I can not wait for their next product which will also work on my
spouse. Don't leave home without!
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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-24-2017, 09:40 AM
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Amazon sells a BAFX 34T5 bluetooth for androids that works very well, I use it with my Samsung Galaxy S5. Nice thing is that it's easy to set up and comes with printed directions. I'm using Torque Pro and some Torque addons. Torque pro is $4.99, addons are free, and the BAFX is $21.95.

I don't know if they make one for Iphones.

2001 SES Wagon. 210k and strong running.
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-10-2017, 04:17 PM
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So Bezos-azon (Amazon) has OBD2 devices from $7 (shipped believe it or not) up to (and likely over) $1,300. I'm not a tuner guy but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express (not last night, it was back in 2007). I'm just a regular guy with a 2016 Taurus 3.5L Flexfuel I purchased (July 2017) with 8,800 miles and no scars (was a trade in at a BMW dealer). I am only interested in a code reader because I'm getting ~21 combined MPG (published is 18/27) and I want to know what, if anything, is negatively impacting my MPG. I don't really know the car's history other than clear CarFax and no signs of damage outside or underneath - and I broke a wheel stud but that is another story. I use hi-grade 93 fuel. I did a stealership's "The Works" $40 rotate & oil package, only cause Ford had a $10 rebate - so for $30 I'll stay clean and cool and let them have a look-see if anything is an obvious error (none reported). I reset the in-car MPG monitoring immediately thereafter so the 21 is likely as good as it will get. I have dreams of getting 25 MPG, somewhere over the rainbow perhaps, cause it is August in Florida.

I am likely to unplug the thing when not trouble shooting something and I like the idea of using apps (Android) on my smart-ish phone or tablet.

So what do I get for ordering a BluDriver @$100 vs. one of the numerous @ $12-$20 4.5-star rated devices?
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