Scangauge II. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Frank Rizzuti
According to Wikipedia, OBD (On Board Diagnostics) is a technology that refers to a vehicle’s ability to self-diagnose and report health information on its various sub-systems.
OBD-I was introduced in the early eighties when on-board vehicle computers first made their debut. Starting in 1995, a new OBD-II specification was made mandatory for all cars sold in North America. This new standardization specifies the connector type, its electrical signaling protocol and the messaging format. It also specifies a list of parameters to monitor and how to encode the data. This information becomes an invaluable tool to help troubleshoot and repair the vehicles various systems.
Scangauge II. Click image to enlarge
Scanners like the $160 Scan Gauge II are an affordable way of putting this technology in the hands of consumers, enabling “home mechanics” to identify the causes of “check engine” warnings that appear from time to time. Without access to an OBD scanner, the alternative is to use the services of a dealer or local garage, and pay a fee (usually $75 and up) to scan the vehicle’s computer and retrieve the trouble codes.
The Scan Gauge II allows you to do the same (and more) and perhaps save that diagnostic fee. Simple things like a loose gas cap can generate a code, and if you like to do a lot of work yourself, this tool can point you in the right direction and replace only the parts that have failed.
Included in the Scan Gauge II box is the Scan Gauge, a six-foot OBD-II cable, velcro strips to mount the gauge, user manual and a quick start guide. The gauge plugs into the OBD-II port on your vehicle, usually located to the left of the steering column.
On my vehicle (2006 Hyundai Santa Fe) I was able to route the cable up to the dash and using the supplied velcro attached the gauge to the lower section of the instrument cluster. Alternatively, custom mounts available from the manufacturer allow the gauge to be mounted just above the rear-view mirror. Once plugged in, it takes a few minutes for the gauge to communicate with your on-board computer and at that point the gauge will display, “Home” indicating it has established communication with your vehicle.
The gauge must be set-up to provide the most accurate data for your particular vehicle. Using the function buttons you program the engine size in litres, fuel type and size of fuel tank.
The “Gauge” function can display the engine speed, engine coolant temperature, battery voltage, vehicle speed, fuel economy and throttle position. These can be displayed in imperial or metric units but only four calculations can be displayed at one time.
The “Trip” function displays information about the current trip and trips from a previous day, distance travelled, remaining fuel, maximum speed, average speed, average fuel economy, and maximum engine rpm and coolant temperatures. The “Tank” function displays fuel used since last fill, fuel remaining, time since last fill-up, and time remaining before tank is empty. The “Scan” function will scan and display any codes stored in the vehicles computer and also allows clearing of codes.
Having lived with the gauge for a few weeks now, I think it’s a terrific addition to the enthusiast’s arsenal of tools. It allows your vehicle to have the same type of trip information that only high-end vehicles have, and I especially like the real time fuel economy readout. It can show you how driving style and small things like air conditioner use can directly affect fuel economy.
The only thing that was lacking was a list of trouble codes and their meanings. These, however, are available online.
The Scan Gauge retails for $160. For more information, to see a list of retailers and to purchase online check out Scangauge.com.