Technology is omnipresent – everywhere you look, you’ll find some new fangled electronic thingymajig. And, unless you only drive vehicles made before big hair was synonymous with rock bands, you inevitably have a computer somewhere in your vehicle. Electronic computer systems made their first appearance back in 1969 when smoking your draft card was cool. And it all started when those crafty Germans decided to put a complicated, on-board computer with scanning capabilities in a Volkswagen Type 3. Since then, computer systems have become more and more complex (Much like the congressional bill on health care reform – well, maybe not that bad).
In 1980, GM gifted drivers with their ALDL (Assembly Line Diagnostic Link) that spoke directly to the vehicle’s ECM (Electronic Control Module – e.g. “The Brain”), and in 1987 under the California Air Resource Board’s guidance, OBD-I was born in an effort to help close that Ozone hole over Los Angeles. Fast forward another 9 years and OBD-II, the current standard, was mandated for all cars sold in the U.S.
So what are we shadetree mechanics to do? Now that every vehicle has more sensors than NORAD? How can we find out what’s wrong with our car, diagnose it, fix it and clear that stupid “Check Engine” light without dropping $500 of our hard earned money on an OBD-II scanner? We can start by using some technology that we may already have, nestled neatly in our jean pocket.
GoPoint Technology, makers of the goLINK iPhone OBD-II Scanner, figured there was a better way to deal with the complexities of modern vehicles. Sure, they could have entered the crowded marketplace with yet another piece of proprietary hardware, but that wouldn’t be good enough. Instead, they looked to the iPhone and its vast technological capabilities as the platform from which to build.
What is it?
The goLINK iPhone scanner isn’t really a scanner per se. Its software for your iPhone or iPod Touch, and an OBD-II data cable that plugs into the iPhone / iTouch port. I say it’s not a scanner because I dare you to find an OBD II scanner anywhere on this green earth where you can surf the web or call your dear Granny at the same time. I digress.
The goLINK system communicates with your vehicle’s OBD-II diagnostics port and sends the info to your iPhone or iPod touch, which turns it into your very own automotive scanning and diagnostic tool, capable of inspecting your vehicles sensors and health in real time, clearing trouble codes, tells you your fuel economy, translates obscure trouble codes into human speak and more – no more pulling codes from a reader then surfing the web hoping to find out what that trouble code translates into. Oh yeah, it also charges your iPhone or iPod Touch at the same time.
When you purchase the goLINK iPhone OBD-II scanner, you’ll receive an austere white box containing a small white piece of paper with five very short, very simple steps, and the OBD II-to-iPhone / iPod Touch cable. To get started, simply plug the cable and iPhone into your car, start the engine and you’ll be prompted to download the software made by FUZZYLUKE (a partnership with goLINK). Within a minute or two, your car’s computer system will be connected, in real time, to your iPhone – it’s that easy.
I was lucky enough to have recently purchased an older used car, a 1999 Acura TL, which had recently decided to beautify my dashboard with a check engine light. I know, it’s not a 4-wheel drive vehicle, but the same principles apply here, and we couldn’t find a 4×4 with a check engine light on to test this new tool.
Immediately after plugging the goLINK scanning tool into our vehicle, it showed me that the check engine light was on. After pressing the big orange button, the goLINK explained that my car was throwing code P0740. Unlike the cheap scanners the goLINK converts those confusing codes into layman speak and explained that my torque converter clutch circuit was open (which means the torque converter is slipping). Knowing that I had a DOT inspection the next day, I was able to clear my trouble code without having to shell out $2,000 for a new transmission, at least not right away.
The beauty of the immediate conversion to layman terms means increased ease of use and reduced time spent decoding the cryptic OBD-II codes on your computer or shop manual. Furthermore, the iPhone’s ability to surf the web means that you can search your favorite tuning websites for the solution, all from the same device.
But that’s not where the magic ends with the goLink. The goLINK is capable of showing, in real time, vehicle data such as:
And for nearly every item listed above, a simple touch of the finger will bring up a screen dedicated for that particular data point, showing in big, bold bars and characters, the data that is being monitored. For example, if you are towing a heavy load and want to monitor MPG fuel economy, turbo temperatures or engine load, you can see it very easily with just a quick glance.
But the value doesn’t end there. The goLINK cable will set you back about $100 (at time of publishing), and the software for your iPhone or iPod Touch is absolutely FREE. A high quality OBD-II scanner / trouble code clearing tool will set you back $400 to $500, and you still can’t call dear, old Granny in Palm Beach to tell her about the kick ball tournament you won, take pictures of your new spinner rims, surf 4X4Review.com on the web, or kill troublesome aliens attacking earth with that $500 scanner. The goLINK is a true multi-purpose bargain.
Here are a few screen shots of the goLINK iPhone OBD II scanner in action.
Being a bit of a high-tech redneck myself, I tend to be pessimistic about software and technology. I wish I could tell you that the user interface was poorly designed, the software crashes, the cable was poorly constructed or the instructions were horrible, but I can’t. On the contrary, the setup was so easy a cave-dwelling Neanderthal could do it in about a minute, and the user interface is so easy and intuitive that instructions are absolutely not necessary.
The text and data is very easy to read, the “buttons” are large and easy to use (even while driving, which we don’t recommend), and the real-time data monitoring is a real bonus. The cable appears to be very well constructed and durable too.
There wasn’t anything we didn’t like but there are a few things we’d like to see available for the goLINK.
So, if you are in need of an OBD-II scanner, have a check engine light that needs to be cleared, or if you want to monitor your vehicles data in real time, do NOT spend $400 – $500 on a handheld scanning tool. Even if you don’t have an iPhone, you can buy one (or an iPod Touch) and the goLINK for less money, and end up with a better tool.