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OBD Scanner Issue

Can anyone tell me how robust the consumer OBDII scanners are? I have a 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid that had power steering problems a while back as well as occasional idiot lights that come on intermittently (yellow wrench). Every time I connected my Actron AutoScanner Plus CP9180 to the car, I always get an indication that there are no active codes and no pending codes. Even when my power steering module went bad and there was absolutely no power steering assist, the OBDII scanner came up with nothing. When I took the care in for service, the Ford Dealer was able to pick up the codes and they eventually were able to diagnose the problem with the power steering control module. The shop tech indicated that there are several levels of diagnostic codes on the FEH and not all of them are sent to the OBDII port. Ids this a common problem with other makes and models?

Any info on this would be appreciated. It seem that my OBDII purchase was just a waste of money

 Remember that not all problems trigger a code.  it is quite possible to have a serious problem without having a code.

The Ford tech was reading about 4 or 5 codes - not all related to the PS. Some were probably related to the yellow wrench coming on. If you read my earlier post here:

you will get the entire picture (scroll down to my 2nd to last reply). The car has an Engineering Diagnostic read out that can be viewed on the dash by starting the car with the trip odometer button held down. That also shows codes from time to time that the OBDII does not.

The typical OBDII scanner only scans generic OBDII codes and most of those are only problems that relate to emissions related systems. (The generics are Power train codes only and range from P0000 - P0999).

There are lots and lots of codes (like body module codes and many transmission codes) that a generic code reader won’t read. For that you need to spend, not $60-100 but more like a couple thousand.

Generic OBDII scanners only pick up the standard emissions codes. If you want to be able to read steering, ABS, body, climate control codes and so on, you will need a scan tool with Ford specific decoding. One example (that I have used) is AutoEnginuity.

You would need the “Total Ford ScanTool Bundle” for $399.95.
(Google it)

Thanks. I guess you can’t get much from a $60 Wal-Mart scanner.

Does anyone have any experience with the scanner sold at It sells for around $120 and claims to reads powertrain (Check Engine ? vehicle sensors), body (ABS ? brake system), and chassis (SRS ? safety system) codes. I have a Nissan maxima and a Ford Escape Hybrid, so buying the hardware and data for both my cars fro AutoEnginuity will be over $500. It sounds like CarMD is a better deal - if it can truely read all the codes.

You never had an actual CEL light…your light indicated an issue with another subsystem of your car. When you have an ENGINE CODE…your scanner will tell you whats wrong. Fords scanner hooked into the cars ECU…and pulled any and all computer codes…not any engine codes.

What does CEL and ECU stand for?

The CarMD site claims it’s scanner will read powertrain, body and chassis codes. Doesn’t that just about cover everything? It seems my scanner only reads emissions (engine) related codes.

I looked over the site and I didn’t get that from it at all. I got that it only covered the standard OBDII codes. Can you site the URL of the page that you are reading?

CEL = Check Engine Light
ECU = Electronic Control Unit

“Uses the same technology as those $5000 scan tools found at a local repair shop ? CarMD reads powertrain (Check Engine ? vehicle sensors), body (ABS ? brake system), and chassis (SRS ? safety system) codes.”

In my opinion they are not robust at all. Comparing the consumer code readers to professional level or factory level scan tools is like comparing a bicycle to a Lexus. It’s almost impossible to fix a car in a timely and efficient manner using the generic code readers. All they do is give you code numbers and the very minimum of data at a very slow refresh rate. I’d guess that on a late model car like yours the consumer level tool gives you maybe one-tenth the data and ability of a professional level tool. I don’t think they give you bi-directional capabilities–meaning you can make the car do things you want it to, like open the EGR valve, or shift into 4th gear at 10mph, or run the wipers or honk the horn. I don’t think any of them have programming or flash capabilities.

On Board Diagnostics, phase II (OBDII) is a federally mandated system that standardizes trouble code definitions and numbers and deals only with items that are emissions related. Specifically, the system will turn on your amber engine light when it detects a fault that will increase either your tailpipe or evaporative emissions to 1.5 time the federal standards, or cause damage to the caalytic converter or other primary emisisons control devices. Your steering assist has nothing to do with tailpipe emissions or emissions control devices, and so will not set any codes that a consumer level code reader will see.

My experience with my OBDII scanner is as you describe, but the one described at makes thus claim:

“Uses the same technology as those $5000 scan tools found at a local repair shop ? CarMD reads powertrain (Check Engine ? vehicle sensors), body (ABS ? brake system), and chassis (SRS ? safety system) codes.”

If it can read codes for all the car system, this would be very useful. Imho.

I just saw the commercial. It may be worth $39.95. Maybe not.

Are we talking about the same animal? The CarMD device sells for $120.

Car MD is nothing but a scam designed to separate you from your money on a monthly basis in my opinion. It can also create huge problems for a shop as the cut and paste below illustrates.

Customer came in and wanted us to install and upstream Air/Fuel Ratio sensor (O2) on his 99 Accord 2.3 ULEV motor in which the customer supplied the sensor from a local parts store. My explanation to the customer was that I could install the sensor, but without warranty. The customer didn?t bat an eye, and said fine. After the installation the customer returned a half hour later with the MIL light on again and his little CarMD in his hand with the same code. The customer (in front of other customers) accused us of never changing the sensor to begin with. I showed the customer the new sensor and told him we changed the sensor with his sensor. Then he said we didn?t install it properly. Now I did explain to the customer that I would be happy to fix the vehicle as we do without a diagnostic charge, and he stomped out of my office. This tool is very misleading and just a major problem to this business

…and people wonder why mechanics don’t want to install customer supplied parts or allow customers to be the diagnosticians. In all of your time in the business OK, I’ll bet you could have several more Harley’s for all of the work time/$$ you lost on ridiculous things like that.

Reading codes is one thing, but a fast refresh rate on complete data stream is a necessity. Without being able to see all the inputs/outputs of a system, it’s still quite difficult to repair, unless you rely on an outside source to help you with the diagnostics on the code. But I suppose that’s what CarMD is doing, right?