EEC-V Testing with the AutoTap 2 

a corral original article 
Christopher Ihara
 
CORRAL UNIVERSAL RATING SYSTEM: 
Difficulty (Easy 1-10 Difficult) Easy
Special Tools (Few 1-10 Many) Computer or Laptop
Price (Cheap 1-10 Expensive) Fairly Inexpensive
Quality (Poor 1-10 High) Very Good
Improvement (None 1-10 Alot) N/A
Customer Service (Poor 1-10 Good) N/A

The owners of Ford's latest generation Mustangs have been continually left behind since the change of power plants in 1996. The aftermarket has been terribly slow in its offerings of performance parts, and tuning the new EEC-V engine computer has been difficult at best. It has been a long time coming, but things are finally starting to catch up. The aftermarket is beginning to pick up steam for the 4.6L engine, and the basic tools necessary to tune it are finally becoming available.

In order to successfully upgrade the performance of any car you need to have the ability to see what is wrong after you've made any modifications. With the EEC-V this used to be impossible for the average mechanic. We previously reviewed an OBD-II scanner from Actron, and while it was suitable for basic diagnostics it was missing a few key features.

Click to enlarge The AutoTap2 OBD-II Diagnostic Scanner from B&B Electronics is a few steps above the Actron. At about the same price it is very affordable; however, unlike the self-contained Actron, the AutoTap2 requires that you connect it to a computer. If you're reading this chances are you should have no problem with finding a computer. The AutoTap2 provides all the features necessary for basic maintenance and hard-core tuning. The AutoTap 2 features real-time data logging, user configurable monitoring screens, error code scanning, and error code clearing. The actual unit itself is quite compact.

Installation - Step 1
Loading the AutoTap Software

The first step in connecting the AutoTap to your Mustang is to install the software on your IBM compatible laptop or PC. One of the short-comings, and strengths, of the AutoTap software is that it is MS-DOS based. It has a simple installation program, that while effective, leaves a few pieces unfinished. For example, after you have finished installing the program the instructions tell you to perform the following steps to start the program:

  1. "If only a C:\> prompt is present, type cd autotap Press the key.
  2. When the prompt reads C:\>autotap type cd v2.02 Press the key.
  3. When the prompt reads C:\>autotap\v2.02, type autotap after it and press the key."
All of these steps could have been written into a batch file that the installer program could have saved to the computer. This is a minor detail that does not affect performance, but impacts the product's overall finish and "detail." We made a batch file to perform all of these steps so that we could just type "at" at the DOS prompt to go directly to the program.

Installation - Step 2
Connecting the Computers

After the software has been installed the next step is to connect the AutoTap 2 to the car and the computer. This is pretty easy even if you're not very good with computers as the connectors can only be inserted into specific ports. If your computer is not near your car you can use a serial cable that is up to 50 feet long to connect the them.

    Click to Enlarge
  1. With the ignition turned off, plug the OBD II cable into your Mustang's OBD II port under the dash, just behind the center console.

  2. Next connect the nine pin serial cable of the AutoTap2 to the serial port on your computer. If you only have a 25 pin serial port, use a nine pin to 25 pin serial adapter which you can pick up from Radio Shack, or your local computer store, for about five dollars.

  3. If you have not done so already, boot your computer.
Now that you have your computer and the OBD II physically connected you can get started with the diagnostic process.

Performing Diagnostics

Your initial diagnostic session will require some set up of the AutoTap2 software. This is relatively easy and should only take a few minutes. If you wish you may use the default configuration that comes with the software. After you have performed your initial setup, however, you may save that configuration for use again later.

  1. Start your Mustang.

  2. Run the AutoTap2 software, you will see an initial start up screen.

  3. Type "C" for "Connect to Vehicle."

  4. The AutoTap software will read your car's VIN from the computer and ask you to verify it. If it cannot read the VIN it will prompt you to enter it manually. While you must enter a valid VIN for the software to operate properly, it is not needed if you are simply clearing Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTC). If that is all you are doing you can press the ESC key. The AutoTap2 software checks the validity of the VIN so you may not enter an invalid number.

  5. The software will now check your Mustang's parameters, and look for DTCs or Freeze Frame information.

    Click to Enlarge
  6. When the computer has completed checking the EEC-V, it will bring up a selection menu where you can choose which parameters you wish to monitor. You will now select which items you want the AutoTap2 to monitor. Keep in mind that the EEC-V sends out information at a rate of about 20 samples per second. Therefore, the more parameters you monitor, the slower they will update!
    For instance if you select 20 different parameters they will only update once a second. If you select 10 different parameters they will update twice each second.

  7. Pressing the [Enter] key on each selection will bring up a sub-menu. Pressing the [Esc] key will take you back to the previous menu. Pressing the "Arrow" keys will move the cursor around the menu. Pressing the [Space] bar will select an item. Notice the check marks next to some of the parameters, these have been selected by using the space bar.

  8. When you are finished, press the [Enter] key to return to the main menu. Based on the selections we made above the screen should look something like this.

    Click to EnlargeAt this point you can watch the readout of each of the monitored parameters in real time. We set up our own screen and monitored:

    * Coolant Temperature
    * Vehicle Speed
    * Intake Air Temperature
    * Time Since Start (unfortunately this parameter will only count up to 255 seconds)
    * Engine Speed
    * Mass Air Flow intake rate
    * Throttle Position
    * Fuel Pump Duty Cycle
    * Fuel Pressure
    * Ignition Timing
    * Cumulative Misfires
    * Engine Load
    * Transmission Output Shaft Speed

    Once you have your screen set up, you can save the monitored parameters for use later. Simply go to File, Save, and then give your configuration a filename. You can have multiple configuration files that can be used for separate tests.

    The system also incorporates the ability to log the data from the screen you have set up, thus allowing you to road test the vehicle without having to keep an eye on the software. Once you specify a filename for the logged data you can turn data logging on and off by pressing the [space bar]. This easy method of activation allows you to turn logging on and off quickly.

    The data is logged into a text file and may be imported into a database or spreadsheet application when you're ready to review it. This file is very small and you should have no problem getting lengthy road tests to fit on your laptop. Keep in mind, however, that the longer you log the data, the larger the file will be!

    Another caveat about data logging is that you must have some idea of what problem you're trying to detect. The data logger does not record ALL the data the EEC-V processes, only what you have selected to monitor on your screen. For example, if you are trying to detect a lean condition you will want to make sure you monitor things like Fuel Rail Pressure, Fuel Pump Duty Cycle, Engine Load, Engine Speed, Throttle Position, and MAF Air Flow Rate. You would be less concerned with things like Transmission Output Shaft and Time Since Start, so there would be no need to monitor them.

    Review
    Our Impressions of the AutoTap2

    We found the AutoTap to be extremely easy to use. You will want a helper though as we did find it a bit awkward to use the system while driving. In fact, make sure that you have someone else operating the AutoTap2 if you go out for a drive. While the system is easy enough to use, paying attention to the road and driving should be your number one concern.

    One disappointment with the AutoTap 2 was with its logging feature. Currently the system does not have a "playback" mode. All the data must be analyzed in a spreadsheet or database application unless you feel like poring over pages and pages of numbers. This can prove very time consuming if you're analyzing a lot of data.

    The only other short coming we found with the system was its very sparse manual. Aside from basic setup instructions, the manual doesn't contain much additional information about performing more advanced diagnostics. Also missing is any OBD-II code information. The basic trouble codes have descriptions that will appear when they are detected and displayed, this includes any manufacturer or vehicle specific codes. You will need to refer to a shop manual, like a Haynes or Chiltons, to figure out how to fix these types of codes.

    Aside from the two small inadequacies, we found the AutoTap2 to be an invaluable diagnostic tool for the "Do-It-Yourselfer." It's ability to tap into the EEC-V's sensor readings can provide valuable information when you're trying to tune the latest mod you've added to your car.

    If your car is prone to turning on it's "Check Engine" light, or you're beginning to add bolt-ons to your steed, then this scanner is for you. If you're able to save just a few trips to dealership to have the "Check Engine" light cleared, then the AutoTap 2 will pay for itself in no time. Not to mention the frustration you'll save when you're trying to tune, and trouble shoot your car.

    At around $250 this system is a MUST HAVE for those with access to a laptop. This scanner is everything the Actron CP9035 scanner is, and more! So if you're looking for an OBD-II scanner that offers something more than a basic hand-held, run, don't walk, to the phone and get your hands on one of these!

    CONTACT:

    B&B Electronics

    707 Dayton Road
    P.O. Box 1040
    Ottawa, IL 61350
    Phone: (815) 433-5100
    Sales Fax: (815) 433-5109
    E-mail: sales@bb-elec.com

 
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