It’s no secret around here that we recently had a months-long bout of engine trouble with Lance. That’s been discussed to death elsewhere on the site (like HERE, and HERE), so I won’t rehash that. The one conclusion we received – from a technician who had disassembled Lance’s engine and tested individual parts – was that Lance’s thermostat had failed, and this led to a perpetual overheating situation that started the descent into ProMaster engine madness.
But here’s the thing: I had no way of knowing this. The ProMaster dashboard temperature gauge always shows the same thing… because it’s programmed that way. Don’t believe me? Watch this video! (And then see what I decided to do about it.)
I was determined not to let something like this happen again (duh). Given that it’s impossible to get any meaningful information from a gauge that always shows the same thing, I needed a new solution. So I turned to the OBD2 code readers that are available today. I explain this in the video, but these are devices that plug into the “check engine light” port on your vehicle, and then can display information from your vehicle’s computer – in real time – to you in the cab. There are lots you can pick from – but these are the four I took seriously:
This was the first on my list because a Travato-driving buddy of ours uses one on his rig. In fact, you can see a picture of it in action in the comments on this post. This would be a very safe option, as it’s tried and true, and proven. I know several other ProMaster RV owners who have installed one and are happy with it. It DOES require an install – you have to run a cable and mount a display unit.
Yes, this thing is crazy expensive compared to the others. But it was recommended to me as “something that I can guarantee will work” by a friend who’s into race cars… Race Cars! Lance is a race car, right? Well not really. But this was useful to research as a top-tier unit, so I had something to compare other ones to.
In looking around at OBD2 monitors on Amazon, you’ll no doubt stumble across a number of Bluetooth solutions. Many of them are from offshore companies with names like “Zoomitech” that I wouldn’t totally trust. In the end, this is the one I wound up going with because of the reasons you’ll hear me go over in the video. I chose UltraGauge over some of the other imported solutions because UltraGauge is a US company (though the units themselves are manufactured in China).
Once I started looking at UltraGauge, I flirted with the idea of using one of their wired units – namely because they seem to have a good quality unit for a lower price. You might want a wired unit if you don’t want to worry about the latency of a Bluetooth solution. Or, if your Bluetooth connections from your smartphone are notoriously flaky and you don’t want to deal with something that ultimately becomes annoying due to connection problems.
The other thing I needed to complete the solution was a way to mount my phone. I decided to use something that I haven’t used in any vehicle in over a decade… the CD Player! I picked up this CD player mount for a smartphone from Amazon, and then I had everything you see in the video.
Oh – And About that Check Engine Light
I honestly didn’t plan or plant that check engine light you see in the video! But it does highlight one of the other super-cool benefits of the UltraGauge blue (as compared to a hard-wired unit). The smartphone app makes it extremely easy to see what’s causing a “Check Engine” light. I‘m not even in the van now, but I can still pull up the code on my smartphone. This is what I get:
And if I tap on the error code, it searches it on the web for me, and I get this information:
So now – later this afternoon – when I head to the RAM dealer to have it looked at, I know what to expect. (And if I were going to a dealership I didn’t trust, it would be a good way to check on them.) I should say that this information is usually available from any OBD2 code reader, but the smartphone app really takes the display of it to the next level, and I don’t have to be in the vehicle to recall it.
Well, that’s going to do it for now. I suspect this IAT thing is probably something that was fudged up during Lance’s recent heart transplant. But I guess we’ll see.