Fault Reading for Beginners – ELM327 & ForScan

One thing that has paid for itself many times over with my van is a cheap bluetooth ELM327 diagnostic reader. You may have come across these before as they are popular to use with many phone apps, ‘Torque’ being the most common app. However if you have a Ford then you are in luck as when used with the free software ForScan the cheap ELM327 becomes capable of almost dealership level diagnostics. You can read and clear codes, view live data, program new keys and more.

To get started you need a ELM327. They range in price from about £5 upwards but not all of them work with ForScan as there are plenty of bad clones out there. Below you can view a list of ForScan compatible units on ebay. If you have your own recommendation you can add it in the comments at the bottom of the page

Which ELM327 to buy?

I have compiled a short list of some units that should* work with ForScan. All of those listed are ‘modified’ ELM327 units which means they have had a switch added to be fully compatible with newer Fords like the MK7 transit. The switch isn’t needed when used with a MK6 transit

*I say should as these units have been modified to work with ForScan but I have heard of there been some bad clones out there.

USB Version (ebay link £16)
Pros – Faster and more reliable than wifi/bluetooth
Cons – Only works with Windows and some Android device, Need to install driver for windows

Bluetooth Version (ebay link £22) also available on ebay from china for £
Pros – Works with most phones and laptops, No cables, Can be used upto a few meters away from the vehicle
Cons – Does not work with iPhone, not as fast as USB, sometimes unreliable when trying to connect

Wifi Version (ebay link £22)
Pros – Compatible with Windows / Android / iPhone.  No cables. Can be used over 10 meters away from the vehicle.
Cons – Not as fast as USB

More Expensive Version (ebay link £70 ships from china) – USB / WiFi – Ford IDS Software Compatible
Pros – Also works with Ford IDS software and can be used to update the ECU Software, reprogram modules, remove speed limiter etc (but not on mk6 transit), Fast and reliable connection, Compatible with Windows / Android / iPhone. Auto switching (no manual switch on device)
Cons – Cost

The Software

The free software ForScan can be downloaded here. they also have a paid version for android / iphone which is great for when you are on the go.  I’ll cover some of the basics of setting up ForScan here but ForScan already have a very good and in depth getting started guide here

The two most common things to overlook when getting started with forscan is to make sure your ELM327 is linked to your laptop / phone. If you are using USB this should be fairly easy as you can just plug it into a USB port, on first use check windows installs appropriate drivers, if it doesn’t check the disk that came with it or download from the manufacturers website. If you are using bluetooth you need to go to your bluetooth settings and pair with the elm327 it will likely show as ‘OBD2’ once it’s plugged in to your OBD port. For wifi elm327 you need to go to your wifi settings and check the list for a network called ‘OBD2’ or ‘ELM327’ once you spot it click connect.

The next thing to do is make sure your ignition is on. The engine doesn’t need to be running but you do have to turn the key until all the dash lights come on. You should then be able to connect by pressing the connect button in ForScan.

What Can it Do?

ForScan is capable of an ever growing list of functions. Some of the things I have used it for on my van include.
Reading trouble codes (DTC’s) from the ECU. All manor of things can be logged and many don’t cause any dash lights to illuminate.
Reading live data. You can see live data from pretty much every sensor on the vehicle, you might be surprised how many there are!
Coding injectors (when you change injectors on a TDCI you need to type in the new calibraiton codes)
Programming new keys – You can get a ford key cut for £5 and then program it to your van in minutes (mk7 keys are more expensive)
Pump Learn – Can improve general running and necessary to perform one if updating ECU or replacing parts of the fuel rail
Pilot Injection Learn – Can improve general running and necessary to perform one if updating ECU or replacing parts of the fuel rail
Control functions – Use you laptop to rev the engine to a defined RPM, turn on dash lights, adjust dial readings, etc

That’s just what I have used it for on my two vans. There’s also features like ABS bleed which engages the ABS pump to assist with brake bleeding and DPF regeneration.

I have also used FORD IDS software with the VXDIAG VCX Nano OBD tool mentioned above to update the ECU on my MK7 transit. The software was out of date and can cause damage to two valves on the fuel rail if left. The cost of buying a VXDIAG and doing it myself was cheaper than taking it to Ford for the update. Ford’s IDS software does have it’s uses, mainly for updating or replacing modules. There’s a few other useful bits it can do but I try and use ForScan where possible as the interface is much more user friendly, it’s easier to use with helpful explanations and it’s less glitchy than IDS

Here’s a few screenshots of ForScan in use.

Below: choosing the PID’s you want to monitor

Below: Once you have chosen PID’s to monitor you can view the readouts as a table (below) graph or dashboard view.

Below: There are various service procedures you can run, below I’m running a pump learn and pilot injection learn

Below: At the top of the screen ForScan gives info on the adaptor you are using. If using bluetooth or wifi the delay is likely to be average to bad and you may see some errors under the error count)

The Lite version is very useful for when you are on the go as it works on Android and iPhone. Below is a photo of it running on my Android HiFi at the time I was monitoring the wheel speed from each of the ABS sensors.

Forscan on Android HiFi

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