For several years I’ve been somewhat interested in having the ability to read automotive diagnostic information. It’s probably a very basic geek concept – my car has a computer so I want to be able to access the data. It also comes from not wanting to rely on a shop to interpret the engine code results.
I’ve found that dealing with mechanics and auto parts store employees is a grab-bag of experiences and most of them have been negative or at least unimpressive. Actually, since I’ve became I homeowner I’ve found this to be true with many service industries – the bad ones are really bad and the good ones are really good. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground.
For almost a decade I’ve managed my own car repairs, if they were relatively simple. My definition of “relatively simple” includes anything that is on the outside of the engine, doesn’t have much connected to it, and can be done by an amateur in less than three hours. Oh, and probably doesn’t involve risk that could result in death.
I finally decided to grab a tool that’s compatible with the iPhone. It’s GoPoint Technology’s GL1 OBD-II reader.
What is the GL1? Basically, it’s a special cable (with firmware) manufactured by GoPoint Technology that connects directly to the OBD-II port of a vehicle and to an iPhone/iPad/iPod touch. Most vehicles manufactured after 1996 should have this diagnostic port. The cable interfaces with iOS apps. GoPoint Technology provides two for free (GoLink and mpgLink). There are others that are compatible, including Dash Command, which is $50 but does have positive overall reviews. So far, I’m just sticking with the GoLink software.
The GoLink app does require creating an account with the Fuzzyluke.com Website, which is somewhat annoying but not enough to discourage me from using a free app. The Website could use some visual enhancements, but the automatic sync and analysis of car data is interesting.
I had this on my wishlist but decided to move ahead with the purchase to use it on my mother’s car, which has some major problems. Unfortunately, it didn’t detect the problem but I suspect that the issue simply doesn’t result in a problem code – it’s more likely something physical that can’t be picked up with a sensor.
Overall, I’m impressed with the product. It has a lot of mixed reviews – users complaining about codes not being interpreted and other issues but it does seem to work fine. It appears that GoPoint Technology did update the firmware (or app) so the tool can read diagnostic information without the engine running.
Do I think it’s worth the cost? Maybe. Sure, I did buy it but at about $100 it is a bit pricey for what amounts to a special cable/adapter. And yes, I know this isn’t unusual for this type of tool, but it’s still a risky investment considering Apple may do something to change the dock connector in future iOS devices that could render it incompatible.
Updated 08/29/2011: I’ve had a chance to use the GL1 a few more times. Overall, I think it’s OK. In the long term, a stand-alone OBD-II reader would probably be more practical. I’m still concerned that at some point I won’t have a device that is compatible with the cable.
On one occasion it wasn’t able to read anything from a vehicle. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the make and model.
So far the most use I’ve gotten out of this is to clear an engine code from my wife’s car a couple of times.
I even went ahead and purchased the more expensive DashCommand for iPhone but I still couldn’t pull any data from the car. DashCommand is a nice program but unless you’re really interested in tuning your vehicle I think you’ll find the $50 app overpriced.