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ElmScan 5 Compact Review

elmscan 5 compact scan tool purchased from scan tool net

This review is applicable to the ElmScan 5 Compact scan tool as sold by Scan Tool Net and their distribution partners. If you have one purchased elsewhere this may or may not be applicable to your scan tool.

This scan tool was plagued by inconsistencies. Most of the tools were programmed with version 1.3 of the hardware code (same programming version ias n their new ObdLink). Some of these tools performed well, while others had problems connecting to certain cars and others just did not work at all.

Some tools had problems with the plastic case as it contained too much VOC and consequently the obd2 connector would not fit on many car connectors. People on their forum, the ONLY support venue from scan tool net, complained about these problems as well as the connector being positioned wrong. People could not see the lights on the tool, when it was connected to their car.

It is impossible to discuss this scan tool without including the Vitallys (owners of Scan Tool LLC) as they were the primary distributors of these scan tools. These are the people from whom I acquired mine and can not be separated from the subject of this review.

The ElmScan 5 scan tool sold by them was designed reasonably well, engineering and manufacturing was ok. However as stated above there were problems with the tools, and the Vitallys in their support venue did not seem to be able to help people.  

This was the first pc based scan tool I ever purchased. It was purchased when they were advertising it as an ‘authentic ELM scan tool’. I did not know what that meant at the time and frankly I was not concerned.

The tool delivery required two weeks, as they sat on the order for a few days. I had also ordered the ScanMaster software program and it was delivered as a download link about a week after the order.

Being Comptia certified and understanding computers, I found the installation pretty much a non event.

Immediately I saw some problems others complained of. It would not fit the OBD2 connector on lots of cars and I was afraid I would break the pins if I forced it. Also I ran across several cars that the power was out to the connector and the tool had no way of showing that.

Since diagnostics was my career, I decided to “FIX” these problems.

While in the shop, I warmed up the scan tool OBD2 male pin connector and shoved it onto several cars female pin OBD2 connectors. This served two purposes, it allowed it to be resized correctly and finished removing the VOC from the plastic which had caused the problem.

Then I started playing around connecting the tool to cars without it being connected to a pc. This showed me quickly whether the car OBD2 connector had power since the red led light up. This was a temporary solution, but a more permanent solution was needed.

Opening the tool would void the warranty, but I needed this function. I opened the case and looked at everything.

A visit to the local Radio Shack store, looking through the 12Vdc LEDs and finding one that could be easily installed into the case top was easy.

Being curious I wanted to know about this ‘ELM processor’ and I could not tell. I visited the ELM electronics website, and pictured there was a label on the processor. But mine had no such label.  I sent an email requesting info from ELM about processor identification and informed them where I bought the scan tool.

While awaiting an email reply, I went onto the Scan Tool net forum and posted a comment in detail telling everyone how to ‘FIX’ these problems with the tools.

 I was discussing this and sharing knowledge on their forums, since being a professional I owned and had access to lots of OEM scan tools. Upon seeing my comments about the scan tools, one Vitally challenged my credibility, which I thoroughly explained how I had this access

On their forum, the Vitallys were being overwhelmed with car connection complaints about the scan tool, which they required certain information from the customer supposedly for the purpose of support.

The ElmScan 5 scan tool I purchased has version 1.3 of the software and connects to most vehicles reasonably well. I have used this tool on a few thousand vehicles and there are some that it does have problems connecting to. These problems of connecting to certain cars seems to have started in late 2008 or early 2009 according to complaints on their forum.

The people at ELM Electronics were nice and answered my questions completely. The scan tool advertised as an ‘Authentic ELM’ tool did NOT have an ELM processor. They supplied some other pertinent information but that was released in confidence and will not be disclosed.

Graham of GLM Software saw my comments in the forum and we started talking privately. He asked questions about the header information of the tool, which I had never been concerned with. I privately expressed doubt of the tool being authentic. As it turns out Graham was also questioning what they were selling.

Later, Graham stated he had privately communicated his concerns with the Vitallys and their responses to his concerns. Shortly after that on March 3, 2010 Graham made his findings public on his website. He openly stated that he would no longer consider the ElmScan 5 scan tool from them an authentic ELM.

Upon this public disclosure the Vitallys, removed his posts in the forums, including those where Graham was providing free support to their customers.

The Vitallys then removed his software from their sales pages and started a smear campaign against him. The smear campaign became so vicious that they were openly stating it in the description areas of their website pages so that Google and others would display it.

The only logical conclusion that can be drawn is they did not want the truth to be known about what they were doing.

I remember seeing posts in their forum, and other forums, advertisements on ebay and I believe Amazon where they were still advertising the ElmScan 5 as being an authentic ELM, but were denouncing all other sellers as charlatans and other not so polite descriptions.

Shortly after this, the Vitallys introduced their ObdLink product.

Do you have an authentic Elm scan tool if you purchased it from the Vitallys (Scan Tool Net)?

 It is too hard to say. I suppose early on they may have been selling authentic Elm electronics chipped scan tools, but obviously some where along the way that changed.

Currently on their forum car connection issues are still very much alive, even on their new ObdLink series. This can be seen in this request for help with car connection issues and the Vitallys responses. And on this post in GLM software’s support section.

As a side note, the ‘FIXES’ that I posted in their forum, they tell others about now but fail to give credit for the information. Interesting people, these Vitallys.

Updated Information:

The Vitallys, Scan Tool LLc, seem to have responded to an article I posted about Bluetooth scan tools being hackable and urging caution for everyone owning and using one. They now claim on their website that their ObdLink MX bluetooth is "Hack Proof", then add the caveat of "virtually".

Common sense tells you that since the car makers are so concerned with their car networks security they have finally created a consortium to address the problem, that they see this as a huge problem. Also if companies like Home Depot, Target, BMW, Rolls Royce and Daimler / Mercedes Benz, and others with their tremendous staff and budgets can be hacked, how can a company of Scan Tool LLc's small size have the resources or even the expertise to accomplish something these big corporations can't do?

If anything, what the Vitallys have done is openly challenged every hacker in the world to attack their systems and products. This is a very disturbing and poorly concieved idea that their customers could openly pay for with serious personal injuries or more. This is a totally irresponsible marketing idea, even though they altered the high point "Hack Proof" with a caveat.


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Comparing our 2X80S to competitors

Controls Data Corruption
Improved Data Speed
Enhanced Software Included
Phone Tablet PDA Capable
Multiple PC Applications
Multiple Phone Tablet PDA Applications
2 Wheel Vehicle Applications
Component Specs
OBD Training
Legacy OS Support
  Yes or Included           No or not included              Some or limited
All above information is based on published information as of 01/2015 or products purchsed to confirm

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