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Finding a Non-pirated OBDII Scan Tool for your Volt

20927 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 ELM-327.eu 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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I suppose if you really wanted a genuine chip, you could ask the makers. I've done that just now. I'll report back when I get a response. In their "Links" page, however, they specifically mention the folks at elm-327.ru as being legit, so that's one source.
Since BAFX is a German company they're not using the pirated code.
I'm curious why you think Germans are devoid of greed and unscrupulous business practices?
Because the EU has strong copyright laws and they are enforced. China doesn't respect IP rights.
Generalizations like that are just not true. There are many Chinese companies that respect IP rights and many European ones that don't. Company's reputations are built, not inherited from their nationality.

Or the whole device is a pirate bootleg item from a scam-ish storefront that has nothing to do with ELM. I note that "BAFX Products" storefront selling what I'm guessing is the item you bought is also selling grilling tools, hiking poles and accessories, custom cutting boards, and a "male masturbation device". https://smile.amazon.com/s/ref=sr_f...i:merchant-items&ie=UTF8&qid=1502234950&fap=1
I had to click to see if you were making that up. Lol... you weren't.

Confusing BAFX with BASF?
My thoughts exactly. I've never heard of BAFX.
@jcramer

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.
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