App Before You Wrench

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Back in the day, when your bike wasn’t running right, you had to wrench to figure out why. Now, you can tap an app on your phone.

And know what needs wrenching… without wrenching.

Or at least, before wrenching.

Motorscan – which makes diagnostic scan tools for Harleys and BMWs and a universal tool that works with other brands of bike, as well as computer-controlled ATVs and scooters-  sent me their wireless OBD adapter to try out. I used a friend’s Harley Street Glide FLHX as the two-wheeled guinea pig.

Note the italics.

This is a wireless rig – unlike traditional hand-held scan tools, which have to be plugged in to the OBD adapter, trailing a clunky wire to a code reader.

The Motorscan tool has no wires and once set up, you can dial up the data – including trouble codes and also info about current engine operation – on your phone.

This includes a very cool LCD dashboard that displays engine RPM, temperature and volts as well as a number of other readouts.This is really helpful if your bike only came with a speedo and some idiot lights from the factory. You can mount the phone (magnets, Velcro) on your bars or fairing and then use it as a portable accessory dashboard – just like a removable GPS rig.

And if it throws a code while you’re riding, that information could be very helpful as far as figuring out why the code was thrown. Sometimes, issues are intermittent and only manifest when the bike is moving.

Of course, you could always put the bike on a dyno and hook it up to the shop’s diagnostic equipment. But then you’d have to take it to the shop – and pay to use their equipment.

The adapter is just a little dude – about the size of a segment of Tootsie Roll. Both four PIN (for older bikes) and six PIN versions (for newer bikes) are available. To figure out which version you need, see here.

You plug the adapter into the OBD data link connector – it’s usually under the seat or off to the side. Once installed, the rest is a no-tools-required deal. Turn on your phone’s Bluetooth and wait until the Motorscan app shows; complete the registration process and you’re ready to go.

You can read  – and clear – trouble codes for the injection system, ABS, handlebar controls, the Immobilizer and even the stereo. The app can send the codes to your mechanic, too.

A really cool feature is that you can use the rig with multiple bikes – so long as they have the same four or six PIN OBD hookup.

Another cool thing:

The app tells you what trouble codes mean – not just the alpha-numerical code that’s been thrown. For example, if the ECU sends a P2100 code, the app will tell you that means the EFI motor circuit is open. Now you know what to fix. Or what to tell your mechanic to fix.

On the latter:

One of the bennies of a rig like this is that it serves as an anti-rip-off device. Instead of having to rely on what your mechanic tells you the problem is, you’ll know. And before you go. You don’t have to tell the shop/mechanic what the reader told you. Wait and see what they tell you – then compare notes. If they differ, you can challenge what they tell you the problem is.

Remember what Ronald Reagan used to say . . . trust – but verify.

The scan tool ($299) is available directly from Motorscan’s web site.

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  1. Great diagnostic tool. I have a OBD Scanner but for the life of me I can’t figure out where to plug the damn thing on on my 1981 R100RT. 🙁


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