OBD-II Device Compatibility FAQ

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OBD-II Device Compatibility FAQ

Postby RaceRender LLC » Mon Apr 21, 2014 11:26 pm

There has been a lot of interest in making the most of TrackAddict, which often includes its optional capability to communicate with a vehicle using a compatible OBD-II interface. This is largely covered by several parts of the User Guide, but I'm also going to include a quick FAQ here for increased visibility...

First, as a reminder, OBD-II communication is entirely optional, and is just for users who wish to enhance their app experience and data further. TrackAddict can work quite well with just the iPhone's own hardware (if it has a good GPS signal), but add-on devices are a powerful option for users who want to do even more.

Q: What is OBD-II or OBD-2?

A: On Board Diagnostics version 2. OBD-II represents a standardized data port and protocols available on most cars sold in the USA for 1996 and newer model years. This allows automotive scanning tools to connect to the vehicle and collect certain diagnostic codes and sensor data. It's basically an emissions regulation that happens to be very useful for motorsports and automotive enthusiasts. Other countries around the world have also adopted similar standards that may be compatible, and that is generally found in their newer cars. While the proper written name is "OBD-II", it is spoken as "OBD 2", so it's commonly found written either way.

Q: Why do I want to connect TrackAddict to my car via OBD-II?

A: When successfully connected to your vehicle via a compatible OBD-II interface device, TrackAddict can then log and display additional data channels, such as engine RPM, throttle position, and various sensors. What's available, and how well it performs, will vary depending on your vehicle and interface device. You can select up to 12 channels, but the more you have selected, the lower the sampling rate and responsiveness will likely be. If you have Live Streaming enabled (Pro edition), it's also possible to stream your selected OBD-II data channels along with your other telemetry, at your option. Additionally, for most 2002 and newer vehicles (and older GM vehicles in some cases), this app can usually at least determine the year and make of the vehicle, and then use that to tag your recorded session data and your online live streaming (if you have enabled streaming).

Q: What about Check Engine Light codes? That's the only thing that my iPhone OBD-II device seems to advertise?

A: That's commonly advertised, but is often not the only capability of these devices. With the compatible OBD-II devices that TrackAddict supports, it can do more than just scan Check Engine Light codes, and it can get some actual data streams as described above. TrackAddict also does include a simple CEL scan and reset capability for added value and convenience, even though that is not the main focus of this app. Other diagnostic-centric apps might be able to do a bit more in that particular area.

Q: My car uses CAN. Will that work?

A: This is typical for 2008 and newer vehicles, as well as some from before that. If it's the standard, federally-mandated, OBD-II version of CAN-11 or CAN-29, and your compatible OBD-II device supports it (most do), then it should work with TrackAddict. When you're able to connect to OBD-II over a CAN protocol, you may also see somewhat increased data sampling rates and responsiveness.

Q: My car uses OBD-I, OBD-0, or is pre-1996... What can I do?
Q: I have a motorcycle or kart... What can I do?

A: You vehicle probably wont be able to communicate over standard OBD-II protocols, so there's no easy solution for getting that kind of data within the iPhone app at this time, but certain possibilities are being investigated for the future... Fortunately, TrackAddict can still work very nicely without OBD-II data; you just wont have RPM and other engine or vehicle data.

Alternatively, you could use some traditional standalone datalogging hardware to capture things like RPM, throttle, temperatures, etc., and then use RaceRender to overlay that data onto your TrackAddict video, along with any other video (ie GoPro and similar), and with your TrackAddict data overlays as well. See RaceRender's compatibility information for known compatible dataloggers; most that can export into CSV format will usually work.

Q: Which OBD-II interface devices will work?

A: Please see the list of compatible OBD-II devices

Q: Should I buy an inexpensive off-brand or clone "ELM327" OBD-II device?

A: No. Some can work, but problems with these devices are very common, and they are the root cause for the vast majority of user e-mails about OBD-II functionality problems. More on this is explained further below...

Q: Which OBD-II interface devices will not work?

  • Anything that doesn't fit the list. Specifically, we presently cannot support Innovative Motorsports, Lemur BlueDriver, or other proprietary devices. Also, any inexpensive, clone / knock-off, or off-brand devices can be a gamble, and may function unreliably. The other points below explain more...

  • If you are using iOS, most Bluetooth devices will not work. The GoPoint BT1 / BT1A is the only Bluetooth device that will currently work on iOS (other compatible devices are WiFi-based), because we had support from the manufacturer in doing so. Bluetooth devices on iOS are generally restricted through Apple's MFi program, so supporting them often requires manufacturer support, as well a good amount of additional code, and some jumping through hoops with Apple. Note that we do not have this limitation on Android and can use many Bluetooth ELM327 devices there.

  • Devices that do not use the ELM327 protocol. Even if it's a WiFi-based device and uses an IP and port that the app is trying to connect to, if it wont talk to the app using the ELM327 command set, then we're out of luck. Supported GoPoint devices for iOS are the only exception to this.

  • Devices that don't communicate on an IP and Port that this app expects (these are noted on the list of compatible OBD-II devices).

  • Devices that are not fully ELM327 compatible. Knockoff, clone, off-brand, and Chinese-brand devices commonly advertise as being "ELM327", but have been known to be problematic with this app and others. Some units seem to work right out of the box, although often a bit slowly, while others can be nothing but problems. There would seem to be issues with quality control and/or with their compatibility with certain vehicles, along with possibly incomplete ELM327 compatibility. In some cases, the app can start connecting to them, but may fail during the connection sequence, due to incorrect command responses from these devices. TrackAddict does attempt to accommodate several of those situations, but there's only so much that it can plan for when dealing with various incomplete or broken hardware implementations.

    The authentic ELM327 chip has an advertised price of $23.50 for just the chip alone (as of April 21, 2014), so if you buy a complete and packaged "ELM327" WiFi device for $20 or $30 on Amazon (or sometimes more), it's probably an unauthorized clone coming out of China and may not work well. There are also legitimate ELM327-compatible chips like the STN11xx series, which can work well, but those don't seem to be found in these super cheap devices either.

Q: The app can't seem to connect to my OBD-II device or vehicle. What should I do?

A: It may take a minute or two for the app to find your OBD-II interface and establish a connection, especially for the first time. Ensure that your vehicle's ignition is on, or the engine is running, and that your iOS or Android device is either on your OBD-II device's WiFi network or is paired with it over Bluetooth.

Make sure that other apps are not using the OBD-II device, otherwise we may not be able to connect to it. Some apps have been known to keep using it in the background, so make sure they are not still running. Android users should also ensure that such apps are not running as a service, as may be indicated by the status bar.

For example, if you are an Android user who also has the Torque app, it may be holding an OBD connection in the background, even if that app does not appear to be running. This can be visible to the user by Torque's "OBD" icon showing in the Android status bar, and your OBD device's activity or link light may indicate a connection. You should be able to disconnect it by launching the Torque app, tapping the gear icon in the bottom left corner, and then selecting Quit. TrackAddict should then be able to connect. You would need to repeat those steps after any time you use the Torque app, or if you restart the phone.
Last edited by RaceRender LLC on Thu Mar 26, 2015 5:20 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: Updated
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