If you have a car built after 1996, sooner or later the On-Board-Diagnostic (OBD) or Check-Engine (CL) light will come on. This little yellow light will stay on and nag at you until you get it checked out. Some owners will ignore the light and hope that it will just go away. Others will try all kinds of ways (fiddling with the gas cap, disconnecting the battery, etc…) to try to get it to go off. However, the proper thing to do is to read the code, see what triggered the fault, and decide if service is required.
The RainyDayGarage folks have looked at many OBDII readers over the years (CarChip, OBDKey, CarMD). Their favorite is the CarChip. Like all OBDII readers, the CarChip can read and download the fault code, but unlike many of the others the CarChip can also reset the “Check Engine” light. We first reviewed the CarChip in 2005. Back then, the CarChip cost $300 and required a special USB cable in order to connect to the computer. Six years later, the folks at Davis Instruments have upgraded the CarChip significantly.
The upgraded unit is now called the CarChip Pro and the price has been reduced to under $100. Gone is the need for a special USB cable. All of the electronics are now contained inside the CarChip module. The upgraded CarChip now has user-settable alarms to give instant feedback for things such as speed, acceleration, and braking. The CarChip can continously monitor and record any 4 of 23 different engine parameters for hundreds of hours. All of the data may be downloaded to a PC for analysis.
The one thing we wish Davis Instruments had done was to port the software to run on the Mac. It would take a bit of work to update their user-interface to make it OS-X compliant, but eventually we would love to be able to download the CarChip data directly to the iPhone and iPad. Can’t do that if their software will only run on the PC. Once they do that, it would be great if they would also add Bluetooth capabilities to the unit so we can monitor the car data on a iPhone or iPad. That’s not asking too much…is it?
To read our copy editor Carolyn’s take on why the Car Chip is such a useful thing to have, complete with long rambling back story (which, trust me, you will want to read), click here.
RainyDayPuzzler: What is the function of the “SOLAR” cable? If you think you know, drop us an email with the subject line “I know, I know” and the answer in the body of the email. We’ll put all those with the correct answer into a “hat”, pick out a winner, and send him/her a unit. The email filter will be programmed to ignore any entries after 12 midnight on Friday 5/20. The winner will be announced on Monday 5/23.