Modern 4WD’s have a lot of electronics in them, and knowing exactly what is going on in a modern car cannot be done with just your eyes and ears. It requires specialised tools to do so, like an OBD2 Scanner.
I reckon anyone heading bush with a modern 4WD without a way of reading error codes and clearing them in a 4WD is absolutely mad.
Every modern 4WD has a little OB2 port, usually under the steering column, which is used for fault finding and clearing problems that the vehicle has. I would rate this in my top 3 accessories for a 4WD, by far and away.
In the past, its only really been used by service technicians, but today they are used full time by a lot of people who want to know exactly what their vehicle is up to.
Simply plug an OBD2 reader (some people call them an OBD2 gauge) into the little plug, and you can access a heap of interesting information ranging from transmission temperatures to rail pressures, engine load, oil pressure and heaps more.
Of course, this vastly depends on what the reader can see, and what your vehicles ECU actually reads itself.
Options for OBD2 reading
Using your phone
If you want cheap, and portable, you can buy a little bluetooth adaptor and app on your phone for under $25. This will have access to a whole heap of useful information, and be able to clear codes. This should be the bare minimum everyone carries when heading away from the city.
Torque pro is the most common app recommended.
A fixed solution
I can’t stand the idea of having to use my phone each time I drive the vehicle. I wanted something that would fire up when you started the car, display what I wanted to see and then shut down when its turned off. There’s a few of these around, that plug in and mount to the dashboard or windscreen.
Scan gauge has always been the one to buy, and they make great gear, but I stumbled across a different brand in my research which really caught my attention – the Ultragauge. We ended up with the MX 1.3.
Why is the Ultragauge better?
If you are comparing the ultragauge vs scangauge, you’ll see they are very similar in terms of what they can do, but one has a much nicer display.
If I had my time again, I’d certainly consider the Scangauge, with a much bigger reputation in Australia. That said, our Ultragauge is now 6 years old and still performing flawlessly, and I don’t really want for anything else.
Scangauges are well known, just outdated in terms of their display. The Ultragauge has a much larger screen, the text size and display can be customised much better, and it will read everything that your vehicles ECU has access too.
I often say the Ultragauge can do everything a Scan Gauge can, just with a much better display! Now, its worth noting in the Scangauge vs Ultragauge battle that there’s nothing specifically wrong with the Scangauge and a huge number of people run them and are happy with them.
We just feel the Ultragauge is far nicer to look at.
EDIT – Scangauge have finally brought out a new model, with a lovely display, which makes it so much nicer, and its probably as good, or maybe even better than the Ultragauge.
Buying an Ultragauge
A quick bit of googling and I found the model I needed, and purchased it from the Ultragauge website in the USA.
Now, lets just say their website is average at best, but the order process is fairly straight forward, and it arrived in my letterbox about a week later.
I purchased the windscreen suction mount, wanting to mount it out of the way but not have to cut any holes in the dash, and the install was done in a couple of minutes.
Where to buy an Ultragauge, and their cost
You can buy the Ultragauge direct from the USA, from their website here – Ultragauge USA. Alternatively, Precise Auto is the Ultragauge Australia distributor.
As I write this, its 92 USD for the MX 1.4 off the USA website, or $249 AUD from Precise Auto.
Setting the Ultragauge up
Essentially, you plug the gauge into the OBD2 port, and it fires up, reading most of what you need already. The gauge didn’t read the automatic transmission temperature on our Dmax, which is one of the things I was most interested in, so I did some looking online.
I copied a code, and entered it into the gauge and a few minutes later I had the automatic transmission temperature showing. Now, I will admit to looking at the codes, and thinking there’s no way I’ll be able to figure this out, but it is actually really simple.
From there, its a case of selecting what you want to display, and how you want it to display (there are up to 8 pages of items, with 8 results showing and you can make it cycle, or stay on one screen, or just display one or two readings if you like).
You can set alarms for when readings get too high, and do a whole heap of things that I’ve not yet explored.
They can literally read anything your ECU has access to. This is important to remember; our Isuzu Dmax does not have a probe to measure the EGT, and thus there’s no way of being able to see what its reading without installing an aftermarket EGT Gauge and probe.
The Ultragauge has been in the corner of my door/dash now for nearly 4 years, and has performed flawlessly.
I’ve used it a couple of times to clear a code that was caused by installing an Electric brake controller, a code in Karratha from faulty trailer wiring and after the battery was disconnected, and I use it HUGELY while driving to monitor the coolant temperature, automatic transmission temperature, engine load, battery voltage, boost and intake temperature.
I would never be without this sort of gauge again, and it beats having a heap of different gauges spread all over the car in the cruiser that had to be constantly monitored.
I don’t even have to look at this if I don’t want to – the alarms will go off if something is wrong and I can just relax, and concentrate on driving along.
The windscreen mount has fallen off a few times a year, but only in really hot/cold weather. Pretty good, when you consider the amount of nasty 4WD tracks, corrugations and weather that the Dmax has been through. It takes 2 seconds to put back on, and isn’t really an issue.
It really is a good bit of kit, and if you bend the arm to make the gauge sit on the dash it gives it a lot of support on the vibrations.
With this in mind, I’d highly recommend an Ultragauge; they are fantastic in every way that I’ve found!