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Product Review - Scangauge 2

PostPosted: Fri Mar 25, 2011 3:04 pm
by zzsstt
Vehicle fuel economy, and what impacts it, should be important to anybody claiming to want to reduce their carbon footprint. Some vehicles include econometers, varying between digital real-time displays and the old "moving needle" that BMW were installing in the 80's, but most don't and so the driver must rely on manually recording the mileage and calculating back using fuel receipts.

I recently purchased a "ScanGauge 2" to fit in my Hilux. The Hilux, like almost all modern vehicles, has an engine management computer (ECU) that uses the ODBII protocol. This system allows a mechanic to plug in a computer and check the functioning of the vehicle, and see what faults it may have recorded. The Scangauge is a device that allows the vehicle owner to access the same information to investigate what the engine is doing.

There are several devices on the market that do this job, some (like the Scangauge) are a hardware device that plugs in to the vehicle directly, others are software based and run on laptops or iPhones. The iPhone versions can be quite complex, using the iPhones own sensors to measure acceleration and combining that with the engines data to produce an in depth analysis of the vehicles performance for both acceleration and braking. The disadvantages are that the system still needs a hardware interface to plug in to the vehicle and transmit the data wirelessly, and also the iPhone must be running the software for the system to work - if you answer the phone your consumption recording stops! I use my iPhone to play music in the car, so it wouldn't work well for me!

The Scangauge however is a standalone unit, with a small (text only) 2 line LCD screen. Its cable plugs in to the diagnostics port (just below the steering wheel in the Hilux) and then the unit is mounted wherever the user wants, using an adhesive velcro pad. Installation takes about 12 seconds! The unit powers up when the ignition is switched on.

Setup is very simple. There are a few parameters that need to be set to tell the Scangauge the type of fuel, size of fuel tank, measurements (imperial/metric) etc., but these are mostly self explanatory and the manual provides sufficient information to avoid any problems.

Having only four buttons, navigation of the "menu" system is very easy. Having done the basic setup, the user selects which four items of information are required to be shown on the screen. The information available varies from vehicle to vehicle, but whilst some of the more esoteric information (throttle position, turbo boost pressure etc.) is not available on all vehicles, most vehicles will show everything that a "general" user needs. From the initial setup I chose to display engine rpm, vehicle speed, instantaneous L/100km and trip average L/100km.

At the first refuelling, a couple of button presses tell the system that the tank is full. At the second refuelling (preferably at the same pump with the vehicle facing the same way) the unit will report how much fuel it thinks has been used, and this can be corrected so that future accuracy is improved - on some vehicles (diesels especially) the fuel return is not measured very accurately by the vehicle's engine management computer, and so the inaccuracy is passed on to the Scangauge. By providing an "actual" fuel used figure at the second (and subsequent) fill-ups, the Scangauge can adjust for this inaccuracy. On my Hilux the initial numbers were hugely inaccurate (the vehicle does not measure the fuel return very well at all!), but having made the correction all subsequent fill-ups have been within 0.5L of the calculated amount. The "fill-up" screen also allows the entry of the price of fuel, but I have never bothered investigating any cost details (I can't change the price of fuel, only the consumption rate!).

In addition to the actual fuel usage, the Scangauge allows the speed data fed from the vehicle to be adjusted. Compared to my TomTom GPS, the vehicle (and therefore the Scangauge) was reading a slightly higher speed and so I made a 3% adjustment to make the Scangauge agree with the TomTom. Such speedo inaccuracies are fairly common due to differences in tyre sizes etc., but correcting them on the Scanguage, and also correcting the actual fuel usage, gives a more accurate end result.

So, having competed the setup and run a couple of tanks of fuel through to calibrate the system, I now have an accurate display of fuel usage, both instantaneous and averaged over the trip. After a few weeks, having established how my driving style, speed, load of the vehicle etc. impacts the fuel economy, I have made a couple of minor changes to the Scangauge. As well as the preset data, the Scangauge has the ability to extract other information from the vehicles computer (as long as you know what each data item actually represents), and also to be configured to record/store/display different items of data known as "X-Gauges". I have now configured the system to record and display the fuel economy (L/100km) for the current tank of fuel, and display that information rather than rpm's. To do this required only a few buttons pushes, and is fully explained in the manual.

The whole experience has been very interesting. I have been able to establish, with a degree of certainty, what is detrimental to fuel economy. My Hilux has a removable timber rack, and it adds about 15% to the fuel usage even when it's empty. A 1000L IBC that sticks up above the roofline adds about the same, and empty or full (1 tonne difference!) makes only a marginal difference other than when going up steep hills. Increasing the speed from 80km/h to 100km/h results in a 30% increase in fuel usage - the Hilux is far more economical around town than on the open road! Allowing the vehicle to slow marginally when climbing hills, rather than rigidly sticking to the speed limit, and then gaining a bit of "free" speed when descending the other side reduces fuel consumption quite noticeably. I also noticed that one particular tank of fuel from a station south of Sydney instantly increased the fuel consumption by about 1.5L/100km, and returned to normal at the next fillup - one servo to avoid in future!

The Scangauge will supply information about various other aspects of the vehicles performance (coolant temperature etc.) if the vehicles computer supplies it, but for me the fuel usage is all that really matters. It can also be used to reset any errors stored in the ECU, if you should need to do so. It can be purchased with a spare cable, so it can be moved between multiple vehicles (once the calibration/correction settings are know for a given vehicle they can be re-entered directly).

I have found it to be a very useful addition to the vehicle. I now know for certain that the 2 minutes required to remove the timber rack is time well spent, and that "pressing on" is very costly when compared to leaving a few minutes earlier.

The only negatives are that sometimes, when the engine is frequently switched on and off (very short trips around the farm, for example) the unit does not switch itself on when the ignition is turned on. For a 20 second drive to the sheds that doesn't matter, but for a longer trip it will affect the recorded consumption. I must add that it may in fact switch itself on after a short while, as I've never noticed it being off after any trip longer than about 30 seconds! My other, very minor, gripe is that the default average fuel usage display is reset when the engine is switched off, so it only reflects a very short term average. This is only really a problem when stopping to refuel in the middle of a 300km journey, and can easily be resolved by configuring another more useful average, as described for the "current tank" average mentioned above.

Overall "Highly recommended".

The Scanguage is available on-line for about $170. I bought mine from a company called "Ample Outdoors" (, who also sell through eBay. I believe they are in Lithgow. They were very helpful and very quick to send me the unit. They also sell the hardware required to use an iPhone to check vehicle performance, though the software comes from the iStore. Their website contains a list of all vehicles that have been tested with these devices, and whether they work or not. The unit arrived with a survey form that (if returned!) allows any compatibility issues with a particular vehicle to be updated on that list. They tell me that most 4WD's, grey nomads and people interested in economy will buy the Scangauge, with the iPhone system being sold mostly to the younger "performance oriented" demographic because it has more details regarding speed and power.

I have no connection with Scangauge, Ample Outdoors or any other company involved with the sale or manufacturing of these units!

Re: Product Review - Scangauge 2

PostPosted: Sat Mar 26, 2011 12:53 pm
by variflex
I too have the Scangauge in my Triton and it is a fantastic bit of gear, I bought mine for different reasons than mentioned above, more for keeping an eye on temps, boost etc when towing but is brilliant for watching economy aswell

The Scangauge also gives you the ability of reading fault codes and clearing them if need be,

Heres a pic for those interested


Re: Product Review - Scangauge 2

PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2011 1:57 pm
by karlajensen
Yep, I've got one too
but I havent had any luck playing with the fuel economy stuff.
the l/100K etc you talk about are complete dutch and I havent been able to change the settings to get it to work anything close

Guess I need to spend more time with it on a trip with the instructions in hand.

I bought it to reset stupid codes that pop up everytime I do something I probably shouldnt, like forgetting to plug the airflow meter back in -car goes into limp mode and it costs more to reset the code than the scangauge cost!

Re: Product Review - Scangauge 2

PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2011 5:02 pm
by zzsstt
karlajensen wrote:the l/100K etc you talk about are complete dutch and I havent been able to change the settings to get it to work anything close

You just need to do the "fillup" process twice. The first time you accept whatever it tells you (just to tell it the tank is now full). The second time you correct the value that it gives you. The Hilux was a mile out until I corrected it. But it's very easy to do, and you don't need to be on a trip. Just do it at the servo when you fill up!

Re: Product Review - Scangauge 2

PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2011 12:12 pm
by karlajensen
Variflex -I notice yours displays MAP
-on the Volvo mine doesnt display MAP values -spewing cant turn up the boost

Re: Product Review - Scangauge 2

PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2011 7:03 pm
by variflex
karlajensen wrote:Variflex -I notice yours displays MAP
-on the Volvo mine doesnt display MAP values -spewing cant turn up the boost

I also set up the Xgauge to show boost however it was only accurate when at my pre determined altatude above sea level, atleat the MAP is an accurate reading taken by the ECU, I have it showing MAP as i have fitted a chip to the vehicle and upped the boost,
The Scangauge is a great bit of gear, Certainlky helps find the vehicles sweet spot and helps keep the fuel efficiency in check, I find i read the scan gauge more than the vehicles gauges