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Laptop Scan Tool, cheap?
05-07-2014, 11:38 AM
Post: #1
Laptop Scan Tool, cheap?
A CD loaded into my laptop with an adaptor cord and I can read OBD 2 codes and grafts, even real time with the engine running, I guess even speeding down the highway watching engine performance on the screen. Before I spend $24, anybody out there with any experience using this as a scanning tool?
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05-07-2014, 08:03 PM
Post: #2
RE: Laptop Scan Tool, cheap?
Lots of people use them because you can get some fancy features for very little money. OTOH, because there are so many features the navigation can be cumbersome, which is something you should not attempt while driving. This is why most shops shell out the big bucks (hundreds or thousands) for a hand held unit that is also sturdy enough to be abused a bit. (read: exposed to the elements in most shops) Your call.... $24 is a bargain but you lap top will need to be along for the ride.

BTW, most of what I find with a scanner is in the shop and not on the road so it could be fairly safe to go that route.
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05-10-2014, 11:34 AM
Post: #3
RE: Laptop Scan Tool, cheap?
Just an up date:

Yesterday a post from a friend threw me a curve ball which is of particular interest here. He's got an older RV with a Chevy big block and rather than purchace a scan too for OBD-1 he got the lap top harness kit for next to nothing. (like $30) Seeing as test gear for older vehicles is hard to come by I figured it was the perfect solution and him, being an engineer type, got all the bells and whistles he could ever want. Well, he was doing a project involving carb removal and converting to TBI on this 80's vintage motor home and couldn't get it to run worth a nickle only to find out that some of these harness adaptors have a built in resistor that may trigger the ECM into diagnostic mode. IOW, he spent a week of spare time chassing his tail because the idle was not right, the mix was rich, the timing was not steady and the CEL was on due to having the scanner adaptor connected while working. I think the tech guy from the TBI kit company is at his wit's end after dealing with an engineer for several weeks. Hopefully everyone has learned their lesson.

Bottom line.... read the directions and if all else fails contact the mfgr to see if your kit may trigger issues while connected!
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05-12-2014, 10:01 AM
Post: #4
RE: Laptop Scan Tool, cheap?
I have run into similar instances even with $5,000.00, full function, top of the line scanners. I think that the problem might reside in the cars computer though. We had one truck that we couldn’t get to shift right. Every mechanic in the place took it out and drove it, we would bring it back in, alter the valve body or a solenoid or something and take it back out. This went on for days. One day; near quitting time, someone jumped in and took it for a ride without the scanner hooked up & it worked just like it was supposed to. So the next morning we hooked up the scanner for a final check, went for a ride, and the problem was back?? That’s when someone put 2 & 2 together, unhooked the scanner, & went for another ride. It was fine again. Then we started watching & on other trucks the same year, make, model, etc., it would be OK. The more we checked it seemed like it was in the vehicle’s computer rather than the scanner. That is NOT confirmed, just seems that way. But we learned to test without the scanner hooked up if a problem isn’t making sense.

Thanks for using the forum,
Garner

Interested in Mining? Look here: Coal Mining, PA
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05-19-2014, 09:41 AM
Post: #5
RE: Laptop Scan Tool, cheap?
Received from ScanTool thru Amazon, $24, my ElmScan 5 Compact. ScanTool has no customer service number. Took me 4 hours to discover & download a driver for my windows 8. I can read the DTCodes but other info, maybe even a hundred item values, very complicated, without an owner's manual! I may send it back, order a similar device with better info keeping in mind to include an OBD 1 adaptor for my 1994 Ford. Thank you fellows for the advice. I'll let you know the results.
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05-19-2014, 10:38 AM (This post was last modified: 05-19-2014 11:09 AM by Rupe.)
Post: #6
RE: Laptop Scan Tool, cheap?
Yes, the amount of info you can access is quite a bit and may be a over the top for someone who has no idea what all that means. Most scan tool manuals will NOT go into details other than to tell you it's there. The rest is some serious book work on your part... and numbers may be model specific. OTOH, all of that info falls within a range rather than an exact science. For example: A good reading on an 02 sensor will not show up till the engine is warm and may vary between 250 and 750 Mv. You'd have to know the average should be around 400 - 450 for most cars on the front sensors and less than that after the cat. IOW, the numbers don't mean much unless you understand how the system works. You can get certain trouble codes for an 02 sensor that point elsewhere and the actual fault is not the 02 sensor, it's a rich or lean mix causing the sensor to read out of the normal range. A weak / tired cat can cause a p0420 code, which is an 02 sensor but a clogged cat can toss you a code for the MAF out of range. As I said, the numbers don't mean much till you understand how the system works.
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