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Finding a Non-pirated OBDII Scan Tool for your Volt

20929 Views 39 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  BeachVolt
Using the Android app Torque Pro with a scan tool plugged into the driver-side OBDII port of your Volt, you can access a great deal of real-time information about what’s going on in your Volt. You can even make a dash-cam .mp3 movie with information like state-of-charge, drive RPM, speed, distance traveled, energy used, torsion battery voltage and current, various temperatures, etc., displayed at the borders of the movie frame. You only have to download Torque Pro from Google Play Store (price $5), download its Record plug-in, buy an OBDII Scan Tool dongle from Amazon, and you’re ready to go. This was recently discussed in a thread initiated by Dutch that can be viewed here.

The problem with this procedure lies in the OBDII dongle. A Canadian company called Elm Electronics originally developed the ELM327 chip that was used for dongles in early OBDII car-interface applications that cost around $60. However, Chinese hackers pirated the firmware from that chip, and they have flooded the market with pirated knock-off dongles with prices as low as $5.99. There is a discussion of this on Wikipedia here. The problem with these pirated clones are that (1) there were some bugs in the pirated Version 1.0 ELM327 firmware that they use, and (2) a Chinese rewrite of that firmware intended for use on a cheaper processor had introduced many more bugs and produced non-functional dongles. The units fail on certain codes, will not interface to some cars, and in some cases have created floods of OBDII error codes when plugged in.

With Torque Pro, if you interrogate the Adapter (i.e., dongle), a pirated unit will usually tell you that you have either “Version 1.5” or “Version 2.1”. Elm Electronics never made an ELM327 chip that was Version 1.5. They jumped directly from v.14b to v.2.1. The newer pirated dongles that use the rewritten software originally reported that they were “Version 2.1”. However, when word spread amoung purchasers that the so-called 2.1 units were failing and should be avoided, the pirated chips were modified to report as “Version 1.5”. You can read a discussion of the construction of a 2.1 dongle unit by an engineer that dissected one here.

If you have already bought an ELM327 dongle, how can you tell if it’s pirated? You can test it using an app called ELM327 Identifier that can be downloaded from the Google Play Store here. The app tries 103 codes, reports which ones are OK, and shows which version of the ELM327 firmware is actually implemented, based on this information. The “enhanced” ELM327 dongle that I bought through Amazon from MESatr outdoor for $10.99 claims to be a v.1.5 unit, but it passes the code test only up to v.1.4. It seems to work OK in my 2015 Volt, but it will not connect to my 2002 Dodge Grand Caravan.

Which OBDII dongles use the authentic ELM327 v.2.2 chip? The only one that I have been able to find is made in Romania and sold by for 49.00 € ($57.82 US) plus shipping. I can’t guarantee that they are selling what they claim, but they do show a photograph of their circuit board containing an authentic Elm Electronics chip. The other OBDII dongle that is interesting is the BAFX Products 34t5 Bluetooth OBDII Scan Tool for Android Devices, which costs $21.99 and claims: “ONLY the BAFX Products® OBD Reader REALLY works on ALL vehicles located in the USA 1996 & Newer! Many cheaper versions have trouble with the J1850 & CAN protocols even though they SAY they work. Many people buy cheap first but always end up buying ours, because ours works!” It isn’t clear if this dongle uses an ELM327 chip at all, but it claims wide coverage and is unlikely to use a pirated ELM327. I have ordered one, and I will report how it works and how it tests when it arrives.
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BAFX Fails the Test

OK, the BAFX Products OBDII Diagnostic Interface that I had ordered from Amazon just arrived this morning, and I eagerly plugged it into the OBD port of my 2015 Chevrolet Volt LT and established the Bluetooth link to my Samsung Galaxy Android tablet. I started Torque Pro, and it was able to link the the ECU of my Volt through it and provide readings. So far, so good.

However, I then ran an Android app called ELM327 Identifier, which tests the OBDII interface by checking for the correct operation of 103 different codes to determine the version and status of the unit. The BAFX Products OBDII Diagnostic Interface claimed that it was an "ELM327 v.1.5" device, which is an indication of a pirated chip. Moreover, it was only able to run codes up to ELM327 v.1.4, and it failed on all of the higher codes for ELM327 versions 1.4b, 2.0, 2.1, and 2.2. This is exactly the same diagnostic report by ELM327 Identifier that I got from a cheap blue Chinese OBDII dongle that I bought for $10.99.

Clearly, BAFX is selling a repackaged version of the pirated Chinese clones and is marking up the price by a factor of 2 or 3. I'm very disappointed. So much for good ethical German companies following EU regulations.

I just ordered an ELM327 Bluetooth. Original ELM Electronics Genuine ELM 327 Chip 2.2 SM directly from in Romania for about $64. I will report the results when the device arrives.
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I use the OBDLink LX and have never yet seen a car that it does not work with, including my previous Leaf. It even comes with its own software for configuring it, reading data, updating firmware, and the like. And it is also very fast! $50 on Amazon.
Please download the Android app ELM327 Identifier, run it on your OBDLink LX, and tell us what the analysis says.

Also, does it work OK with Torque Pro?
BAFX Claim is False

The BAFX OBDII Adapter dongle makes the following claim:
“ONLY the BAFX Products® OBD Reader REALLY works on ALL vehicles located in the USA 1996 & Newer! Many cheaper versions have trouble with the J1850 & CAN protocols even though they SAY they work. Many people buy cheap first but always end up buying ours, because ours works!”
I had previous found that the transparent blue Chinese "ELM327 v.1.5" dongle that I had bought on Amazon could not connect to my 2002 Dodge Grand Caravan, and I was aware that the garage that works on the minivan had to use their most sophisticated OBDII reader on it to be able to read its error codes. Today, I tried the BAFX unit, and it also fails to connect. Their claim of a universal reader is therefore clearly false. I suspect that what it means is that it uses the "v.1.5" pirated chip rather than the more buggy "v.2.1" pirated chip.

I note that the shipping label gives their address as: BAFX Products, 3837 Bay Lake Trail, Suite 115, North Las Vegas, NV 89030, which on Google Earth seems to be a big distribution warehouse with tractor-trailers parked at loading docks. That doesn't sound like a German company. I agree that obermd was probably confusing BAFX with BASF.

Added Later: I just notice that that Las Vegas address is the same one used by the Amazon Returns Department, except that Amazon is Suite 113 and BAFX is Suite 115, and the ZIP codes are different. I guess that when I return the thing, they can just take it down the hall. Actually, I think that the address belongs to Amazon, and BAFX and lots of other vendors use their facility for storing and shipping their products.
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One logical possibility you have to consider is that the software is flawed. I'm not saying that's the case, but if the software keeps telling you everything is pirated (it probably is, but...) it could be that the software is not capable of properly identifying. Just something to consider as you spend gobs of cash trying to track down something legit.
It's true that ELM Identifier may be lying, since I've never seen a dongle that got past ELM327 v.1.4. The test of that will come when my dongle from arrives. It should process all 103 codes correctly and report out as v.2.2. If it doesn't, then there's a problem with the checking program or the device. The manual for the Elm Electronics ELM327 Data sheet can be found here. It defines the codes and has a table at the end showing which versions will execute which codes.

The way the ELM Identifier app works is to send the ELM327 dongle 103 different OBDII codes and observe how it responds to each one of them. I have two log files generated by the app showing the codes that passed and failed for the the blue Chinese dongle and for the BAFX dongle. The failure codes are the same for both dongles. That's pretty straightforward, and it seems to me to be a pretty unambiguous test.
Too bad you can't run ELM327 Identifier on an iphone. Then we'd know what ELM327 version it supports.
Great! I didn't know there was such an ELM327 testing app for iphones.

However, in reading about the app online, it isn't clear what it actually does. Does it simply interrogate the ELM327 dongle and show what it reports? Torque Pro does that, and the pirated ELM327 chips report back as "v.1.5" or "v.2.1".

Or maybe it does what ELM327 Identifier does: tries a list of OBDII codes and observes the responses. I hope it does this. I note that the app's online description gives a list of possible versions, and "v.1.5" is not among them, so maybe it does do the code testing.
A Cheap ELM327 v.2.2 dongle?

I just discovered that Amazon sells the XTRONS ELM327 Bluetooth OBD2 II V2.2 Android Car Auto Diagnostic Scanner Tool Torque Special for Xtrons TD626AS TD696A PF61HGTA. Here's the link. It seems to be made in Spain, it claims to be ELM327 v. 2.2, and it sells for just $10.99.

However, I'm skeptical because of the low price. In batches of 100, Elm Electronics sells the ELM327 v.2.2 chips for about $16.15 each. I think this is probably another Chinese pirate clone, perhaps one that has been massaged to report out as v.2.2.
A Non-Pirated ELM327 dongle?

Amazon sells the PLX Devices Kiwi 3 Bluetooth OBD2 OBDII Diagnostic Scan Tool for Android, Apple, & Windows Mobile for $99.95. They claim that it works on all cars and does other good things.

I asked the following: Question: Does this device use an authentic (non-pirated) Elm Electronics ELM327 v.2.2 chip? Does it show all the codes with the android app "ELM327 Identifier" for v.2.2?

Answer: All PLX's products use top grade original components. Yes, Kiwi 3 will show all the codes with the Android App. Thank you for supporting Kiwi 3!
By PLX Devices Inc SELLER on August 18, 2017

So they were evasive about what chip is used, but they claim that it executes all 103 codes that ELM Identifier tests. The price is stiff, but it doesn't seem to be a Chinese pirate in disguise.

Has anyone tried one of these?
Romanian ELM327 Dongle is Authentic

The only one that I have been able to find is made in Romania and sold by for 49.00 € ($57.82 US) plus shipping. I can’t guarantee that they are selling what they claim, but they do show a photograph of their circuit board containing an authentic Elm Electronics chip.
My ELM 327 Bluetooth Interface, supposedly containing an authentic Elm Electronics ELM327 v.2.2 chip, arrived today (8/22/2017) from in Romania. The shipping from Cluj-Napoca, Romania to Seattle took 12 days. I have just plugged it into the OBDII connector of my 2015 Volt and tried it.

The unit is black with a red and white label. it sticks out a couple of inches further than the blue Chinese dongle, and it has one red light that shows power is on and four more colored lights that flash when it is in operation. It connected with my Android tablet's BlueTooth, took the "1234" code as verification, and was recognized by Torque Pro with no problems. It then connected with the Volt's ECU, and it operated the Torque meters that I had set up very well when I did a test drive. It also reported as "ELM327 v.2.2" when it was interrogated by Torque Pro.

Then I stopped Torque Pro and turned on ELM327 Identifier. It connected to the unit, ran its 103 tests of AV commands, and showed that all were OK. On the display, all of the version tests were green bars, including those for versions 1.4b, 2.0, 2.1, and 2.2.

My conclusion is that the ELM327 Bluetooth dongle sold by does indeed contain an authentic ELM327 v.2.2 chip made by Elm Electronics of Canada, as their advertising claims. It's not cheap (~$60 with shipping) but it isn't a pirated knockoff. I am pleased that we have now identified at least one non-pirated OBDII Scan Tool. :)
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Scanning the OBDLink LX

Thanks for the ELM327 Identifier scan, Tomt!

It first tells us that the OBDLink LX device claims to contain an Elm Electronics ELM327 chip, but it's version 1.3a rather than the most recent v.2.2.

Before you did the firmware update, the device failed to execute the "CEA" commands characteristic of v.1.4, which have to do with extended addressing of the CAN bus. (That limits the amount and kind of information one can get from the CAN bus.). It also failed all of the commands characteristic of versions 2.0, 2.1, and 2.2.

However, after your latest firmware update, it seems to pass all of the 103 AT command tests, including those for versions 2.0, 2.1, and 2.2. I believe that someone had said that OBDLink uses their own programming rather than using an Elm Electronics chip. Apparently, they have done a good job in this respect. My only criticism would be that they should update their own firmware before shipping instead of shipping a unit with mediocre firmware and expecting the user to fix it.

In any case, the OBDLink device does not seem to be pirated Chinese knockoff, and it's about $10 cheaper than the Romainian adapter that uses an authentic ELM327 chip (see above). That's nice to know.
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so what would we be missing
Tomt's original scan had missing codes for V.1.4a, 2.0, 2.1, and 2.2. See his printout for the codes that have those numbers. If you want to know what those codes do, look in the ELM327 Manual provided by Elm Electronics.
Further Report on ELM 327 Bluetooth Interface from of Romania

I had previously tested the little blue Chinese clone "enhanced ELM327 OBDII Bluetooth Adapter" that I bought for $10.99 and the "BAFX Products 34t5 Bluetooth OBDII Scan Tool " that I bought for $21.99, both of which claimed to be "ELM327 v.1.5" and failed with ELM327 Identifier to execute AT codes above v.1.4. Moreover, neither would connect to the ECU of my 2002 Dodge Grand Caravan. Yesterday I also tested the Romanian "ELM 327 Bluetooth Interface" purchased for about $60 from with ELM327 Identifier and found that it executed all 103 of the test AT codes OK and did indeed appear to contain an authentic ELM327 v.2.2 chip.

Today I plugged into the OBDII port of my 2002 Dodge my new Romanian "ELM 327 Bluetooth Interface" and tried it. It connected with the Dodge's ECU without problems and worked very well. Torque Pro reported that it was using protocol J1850-VPW, which probably explains why the other units failed to connect with the ECU. A guy who took apart one of the clone dongles found that pins 2 and 10 of the plug were not connected, and these are the pins corresponding to protocol J1850-VPW. I was under the impression that it was GM that used the J1850-VPW protocol, but apparently Fiat-Chrysler does too (or at least did in 2002).

Anyhow, I'm very pleased with this product of, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to avoid the plethora of pirate clones that Amazon peddles. The main drawbacks are that (a) you have to pay in Euros via PayPal and (b) it has to be shipped from Romania.
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looks like Romania wont do wifi or iPhone
13a chip looks like its upgradable to 2.2 with a few exceptions
but what ive seen so far is every thing about the ice you can look at
but I see nothing about the batteries cell voltage or battery management or motor control
how do you access those and don't say android
is it on a different buss , just to new or what
Actually, the OBDLink units do not use an ELM327 chip at all. They use a different processor chip, the STN1110, that allows its firmware to be updated. This is why one can go from only v.1.4 commands to up to v.2.2 commands with a firmware update. And, yes, the Romanian site sells only Bluetooth and wired USB versions of their product, not wifi.

The Volt's internal information can be accessed from the CAN-bus. However, one needs the right PIDs to get at it. GM considers the Volt's PIDs a trade secret, and there have been no leaks. Some of the PIDs have been deduced by members of this group by trial and error, and these are available HERE. However, one also needs an app that can take in external PIDs from a .csv file and use them. Torque Pro, which is an Android app, will do this. I do not know if there is any iPhone app that will do the same thing.

With the right PIDs one can read the battery's state of charge (SOC), instantaneous voltage, current, and temperature. As for detailed information like the voltages of the individual cells in the torsion battery, there is not presently a known PID that will provide that information, and it may not even be available on the OBDII port on the driver side of the Volt. There is a more poorly understood OBDII port on the passenger side that is reputed to provide more information about battery condition, charging details, etc. A month ago I tried plugging a blue Chinese v.1.5 dongle into the passenger side socket, but Torque Pro could not connect to my Volt's ECU from there, so I gave up. I took a certain risk, because while back, WOT advised us to leave the passenger-side OBDII port alone.
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I was sufficiently taken with the idea of an OBDII adapter that had a 10x faster STN1110 processor, such as that in the OBDLink LX Bluetooth OBDII Adapter, that I bought one. It arrived this morning. In its arrival state it wanted a firmware update, and so I updated the firmware to the "latest version", which is listed as version 4.3.0.

The OBDLink LX works well in my Volt, connects smoothly, and does indeed seem to be faster than the Romanian ELM327 v.2.2 adapter that I had discussed above. However, when I ran ELM327 Identifier on the OBDLink LX adapter with the new firmware, it claimed to be version 1.3b and passed the code tests up to version 1.4b, but could not execute the codes for versions 2.0, 2.1, or 2.2.

This was a surprise. TomT had shown us that with his updated OBDLink LX adapter successfully ran all of the codes up to version 2.2. He also said that he had installed firmware version 4.4. Perhaps the OBDLink site has withdrawn firmware version 4.4 for the moment, for some reason. Anyhow, this is frustrating. I cannot say that the OBDLink LX is clearly better than the Romanian adapter, because it won't do the version 2 codes.
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