Product review performed by:
Bruce Bonebrake managing editor at BATauto
For a list of supported Palm handhelds, click here.
For a current list of the available AutoTap Downloads, click here.
AutoTap� OBDII Diagnostic Scanner Made in the USA
B&B Electronics Mfg Co
707 Dayton Road, PO Box 1040
Ottawa, IL 61350
(815) 433-5100 Fax: (815) 433-5105
� 2003 B&B Electronics
By now the term OBDII is familiar to almost everyone who works on vehicles. You have a good idea of what the term means, the next question is, what to buy to be able to work on these vehicles? With the vast selection of dedicated OBDII scanners, OBDII code readers, PC based OBDII scanner systems, and the OBDII handheld systems out there, you may be more confused than ever. At BATauto, we are trying to take some of the mystery out of making a decision on what OBDII system will work best for your your needs.
When you are considering what to buy, make sure you take a GOOD LOOK at this system, the AutoTap OBDII Diagnostic Scanner for Palm. I have performed several product reviews, and I can tell you that the folks at B&B Electronics really take their job serious at being one of the fore runners in designing and manufacturing PC and Palm based OBDII diagnostic scanners. I have used both AutoTap systems, the PC and the Palm, and it is amazing how much information these systems provide. If you haven't yet, take a look at the AutoTap OBDII Scanner for PC review. I have always been fascinated with small electronics that can do big things, and that would be a good way to describe what you are about to see and read about in this product review. Let's go ahead and get started. Folks, there are ALOT of images, so please pardon the product review load time.
I always start my product review with the way the system is packaged. I know that some of you are thinking, that the packaging doesn't matter on how the product performs, well, your right, but when I see a case included, like the one shown above, it let's me know that the company takes pride in the product. The storage case for the AutoTap system is a well designed nylon case with two slide open/close latches and a carrying handle. Nice!!
The scanner contents fit nicely into the carrying case with room to spare. Although the system does not come with the Palm handheld, you could easily store the Palm handheld and its hardware, software, and literature in the AutoTap carrying case. I especially liked the positive slide latches and the actual hinges Alot of times on a nylon case, there will be that plastic flap that acts as the hinge, that always seems to break. Yes, we do notice these things.(grin)
To the left, you can see what the AutoTap OBDII for Palm system consists of. The AutoTap software (which is a single CD), the AutoTap hardware, the AutoTap vehicle cable, and the Palm cable that will connect the Palm handheld to the AutoTap hardware. The Palm connecting cable will be ordered separately from the AutoTap system. The AutoTap system is designed to be used on several different models of Palm handhelds. Which Palm connecting cable you will need, will depend on the Palm handheld you choose to use with the AutoTap system.
The literature included with the AutoTap system consists of the Warranty card, the Quick Start Guide, a Conversion Chart, the explanation sheet of the Palm cable,and the AutoTap Registration Sheet.
Before we can use the AutoTap system, we need to install the software. The AutoTap system we are reviewing is designed for Palm handhelds. If you are not familiar with how the Palm OS works, what we will do first, is install the software onto the "host" computer, in this case, my Sony Vaio laptop. Once the software is installed on my laptop, next we will HotSync the Palm to the laptop which will upload the AutoTap software to the Palm handheld. We will cover the entire process as we go along.
The first step is to install the AutoTap CD in the host computer CD drive....
The AutoTap software will "autorun" and the window shown above will be displayed. Select/click on the Install Products button....
Click on the Install AutoTap for Palm button. The AutoTap CD will have other selections listed, as shown above, but, the software will require registration before it will function, so only install what you have, or plan, to purchase.
The AutoTap software installation process is pretty straight forward. Just read the screen instructions and click on the appropriate button. On the screen shot above, we want to click on the Next button...
The AutoTap for Palm software is completely installed and ready to be loaded onto the Palm handheld. I have two different Palm handhelds, and they each have there own identity on my laptop. Before we go on to the HotSync operation, with the AutoTap CD still in the CD drive, the screen shots below are some of the other features included on the AutoTap CD.
The company's contact information and the link to the website will always be available to you. Simply install the AutoTap CD and click on the appropriate menu button. How many times have you searched for a phone number, or an email address of a company that you purchased equipment from, and spend hours looking for it? With the AutoTap information being on the CD, it is always just a couple of mouse clicks away.
The Palm handheld used on this product review, is my Palm m515. When selecting a Palm to use with this system, keep in mind that the system is in color, and the m515 has the color TFT display. Something else to consider would be the batteries. The m515 has a rechargeable battery. Here again is the link on the manufactures site for the list of supported Palm handhelds
Setting up the AutoTap hardware will take about a minute. As shown in the pictures above, the Palm m515 cable is connected to the Palm handheld, then attach the other end of the cable to the AutoTap hardware. Make sure you connect the Palm cable to the hardware port marked Computer. Next, attach the vehicle cable to the AutoTap hardware port marked Vehicle. The completed AutoTap hardware is shown on the bottom right photo above.
I have two test vehicles that we will be using to perform the product review. The first, a 1997 Pontiac Grand Prix. The MIL (Service Engine Soon light) is staying on. The customer told me that the MIL has been on for about 2 weeks. To connect the AutoTap OBDII for Palm system to the vehicle, we attach the vehicle cable to the DLC located under the left side of the dash above the gas pedal. With the AutoTap hardware connected, the red LED should be illuminated as shown in the picture to the left. I want to introduce how the AutoTap system operates on the first test vehicle, and then on the second test vehicle, we will go into more detail how to setup and use the various functions of the AutoTap system.
When we turn on the Palm m515 and click on the Home button, a list of installed programs will be displayed. You can see we have the AutoTap icon on the home screen as shown in the picture on upper left. Click the AutoTap icon and you will see the AutoTap startup screen. Click ok and next we need to register the AutoTap OBDII for Palm system before it will function. As the screen on the lower left explains, simply follow the steps on the screen. If you haven't purchased the AutoTap for Palm registration number, the steps on this screen show you how to buy the registration number. If you installed the Palm system from the AutoTap CD, without purchasing the registration number, the system will not function. The first step of registration is reading the AutoTap hardware serial number. You need to make sure that the hardware and cables are attached to the Palm, or the hardware serial number will not be found.
If the hardware serial number was not found, the serial number is located on a tag on the side of the hardware. You can enter this number along with the registration number as shown on the two screen shots above. I have marked out my registration numbers for this review. You want to keep these numbers in a safe place. Also, you should keep this information private. The registration number for our system was on the registration sheet included with the system. When done, click next..
The screen shot to the left shows the successful registration has been completed. We click the Done button and we are ready to put the system to work. The screen shot above on the right shows our choices of tasks to choose from. The AutoTap OBDII for Palm is an extremely powerful diagnostic tool and is even equipped with the capability to save a previously saved Log File. This feature is very handy!!
The screen above on the left shows the different preferences that you can select. Just check or uncheck the way you want the system setup. You can modify or change these settings at anytime by selecting this function. The screen shot above to the right shows the contents of the Load Vehicle function. I saved our test vehicle, so we will select it and click the Load Vehicle button.
Above on the left you can see the saved log file loading. Once loaded, the system is set right back to the configurations that I selected previously. There are alot of choices available to set up the parameter(s) you want to display. We will talk about what that means as we go along.
The screen on the upper left shows what AutoTap program screens are available. In the list you will see the Pages numbered 1-5. You can customize each page to whatever configuration you want. What this means is you can select the parameter(s) you want to display and how they will be displayed. The parameters that are available will vary from application to application. An example of a parameter would be the Throttle Position. As shown on the screen above, the Throttle Position on Page 1 is set to display as a gauge with a blue face. You can change the color and also change the range of the gauge. The screen on the upper right shows the DTC's that are Pending and History in our test vehicle, the 1997 Pontiac Grand Prix. The DTC P0121, TP Sensor Performance fault could not be duplicated during testing, and once cleared, did not return. The DTC P0441 EVAP System No Flow During Purge is the DTC that caused the MIL light to illuminate, and when cleared, it did return. To follow along with the diagnosis of this DTC, the AutoTap OBDII for Palm was used in the Waekon Evap Tester product review. You can click here to find out what caused the DTC PO441 problem on our test vehicle. Once the repair was made, the DTC was cleared, as shown on the screen shot on the bottom left above, there are no DTC's and the MIL is now off. Before we go to the second test vehicle, take a look at the screen above at the bottom right. The icons used in the Autotap system are explained for you. Throughout the AutoTap system you will see an "i" (information) icon displayed. By selecting this icon, the AutoTap system will provide you with information that will explain the different procedures and what you are viewing. A built-in Help program!! Very handy!!
Before we can attach the Palm m515 to a vehicle, we need to install the AutoTap program onto the Palm handheld. This is achieved by an operation called "HotSync". When you purchase the Palm, the Palm software CD that will come with the Palm, contains the HotSync program, the Palm drivers, etc. Basically, the Palm software will load the Palm programs onto the host computer so that the Palm and the computer can communicate with one another. Not only can you upload programs onto the Palm when you perform the HotSync operation, you can also download information from the Palm to the host computer.
To perform the HotSync, the connection from the Palm m515 to my laptop is a USB HotSync cradle. The USB cable on the HotSync cradle will be attached to the USB port on the laptop. Next the Palm is set onto the cradle and the HotSync button on the cradle is pressed. This will start the communication process from my laptop to the Palm m515, and also from the Palm m515 to the laptop. Both the Palm m515 and the laptop are looking for any additions that will either be uploaded or downloaded. Since we have the new AutoTap OBDII for Palm program installed on the laptop, the AutoTap program was found during the HotSync operation, and was uploaded onto the Palm m515. It is as simple as that. The AutoTap upgrades, as they are released, will be available as a download. After you download the upgrade from the AutoTap website onto the host computer, the next time you perform the HotSync function, the AutoTap upgrade will be installed onto the Palm. The pictures above show the HotSync operation in progress. Once the HotSync operation is complete (as shown on the bottom right) we are ready to connect the AutoTap hardware to the Palm m515 and get started.
The second test vehicle is my 2002 GMC Sierra 4X4 with a 4.8L Supercharged V-8. I installed a Magna Charger Supercharger on my truck, and the supercharger kit came with the "Superchips Micro Tuner." I wanted to continue with the review and show you some of the various functions and screen configurations of the AutoTap OBDII for Palm system. Using my vehicle may answer two questions you might have. The first question you may have is "How current is the AutoTap system?" Well my truck is an '02 and the AutoTap system immediately identified it. I have successfully used the AutoTap system on '03 vehicles. I haven't tried an '04 vehicle yet as it is mid-'03 at the time of this review. I would say the AutoTap system is very current. The second question you may have is "Will the AutoTap system work on a modified OBDII vehicle?" I can tell you in my case, yes, the system worked perfectly, as will be shown on the second vehicle test of this product review.
Going from one vehicle to the next, you will see that the screen in the middle shows the AutoTap system resetting to the next vehicle. I pressed the Connect to a Vehicle button and the system found my vehicle and loaded the available parameters. The screen to the left shows the location of the DLC connector on the truck. The picture on the right my wife took and I decided once I saw it, that the picture really puts in perspective the size of the Palm and the AutoTap system. Don't let the small size fool you, this is an extremely powerful scanner and the Palm m515 screen is bright, crisp and very easy to read.
The three screen shots above show the Record to a Log File. Once you have the parameters setup that you want to log, you can press the Record icon and the Data will be recorded/logged. To stop the Record function, click the Record icon again. The screen on the right lists the options that you can use to review the logged file. If you have the AutoTap OBDII for Windows, when you HotSync the Palm, you can upload the file to the Autotap OBDII for Windows, you can even upload the logged file to a Spreadsheet program. Think of the possibilities of this function alone. We are far from being done though (grin).. let's continue on..
Take a moment and review the screen shots above. You can see the various options for setting up the Pages. You can have Page 1 set up as Fuel Control, Page 2 as Ignition Control and on and on. You can save the settings, change the settings, change the way the parameter is displayed, and the colors to whatever you desire. This system is so user friendly that even if you are not a novice with electronics, within minutes you will be working with the system like a pro. If you have a question, just click on the i for information icon. If you REALLY get stumped, contact the AutoTap Tech Support. The support staff are highly trained experts that will be more than happy to answer your tech question. I also wanted to show you on the bottom middle and bottom right screen shots above, that the AutoTap system knows what vehicle it is connected to. When I selected the Vehicle and then Details, the vehicles VIN number, and also the amount of supported parameters, are displayed. This was the information on the 1997 Pontiac Grand Prix we tested above. Folks, I didn't enter the VIN into the program, once the AutoTap OBDII for Palm Handhelds is connected to the DLC on the vehicle, it communicates and recognizes the vehicle. I'd say the system is pretty smart, wouldn't you? (grin)...
The screen shots above are what some of my Page choices look like while the system is connected to the '02 GMC Sierra. Just imagine the possibilities. The AutoTap system is fast, accurate, easy to use, and is user programmable.
Well folks, we are done with the product review. I could go on and on, but, I have already taken alot of your time, so I better stop here. When the product review is complete we always take a moment and rate the product. I want to thank you for your time and for your patience. All of us at BATauto want to thank you for visting our site!!
Rating this product, the AutoTap OBDII for Palm Handhelds
Overall Product Design:
Starting with the carrying case, it was obvious to me that this company takes great pride in their products. The cables are high quality, positive locking to stay in place while using the system. The hardware with the handy LED indicator to let you know in a glance if the connection to the vehicle has been established. The software is user friendly with the information/help feature always available to take the guess work and intimidation out of using this advanced OBDII system. The overall product design is EXCELLENT!!
Product coverage and usefullness:
The AutoTap OBDII for Palm Handhelds is designed for OBDII equipped vehicles. This was mandatory for passenger vehicles sold in the US from 1996-up. You may find some vehicles that were equipped with the OBDII system prior to 1996. The system was tested on a couple of 2003 vehicles and worked perfectly. This would be a low cost, EXCELLENT addition to your equipment arsenal to properly diagnosis, and as a result, repair late model OBDII vehicles. The AutoTap OBDII for Palm Handhelds rates right up there with it's "big brother", the AutoTap OBDII for Windows (PC). If you have an outdated scanner at your shop, you may want to look closely at this product!! In a professional enviroment I feel this product was not designed to replace your expensive dedicated scanner, but instead to complement it, and work with it. Also, how many times have you had more than one OBDII repair going on in your shop at the same time? We have all been there. Also, if you are a DIY'er, this may make your wishes come true if you are looking for an OBDII system. For slightly more than the cost of an OBDII code reader, you can have a powerful OBDII scanner!!
We at BATauto are PROUD to be an AutoTap reseller!! For a list of AutoTap products in our BATauto Tool Store, click here. To check the price of the AutoTap OBDII for Palm Handheld as tested in this review, click here. Don't forget the Palm Handheld-to-AutoTap Hardware cable. The cable can be selected here by clicking on the "Choose Scan program options."
BATauto is also a:
So if you don't have a Palm Handheld yet, check out our selection here.
"I would like to thank the folks at B&B Electronics Manufacturing Company for designing this amazing product for the automotive industry!! All of you there need to know that you are very much appreciated by all of us in the automotive repair field!! Great job!! A special thanks to Mark Palmer for being patient with me doing this review. Mark, it was hard for me to put this down long enough to write the review (grin). I fly out of town when I host my TV show "Weekend Mechanic" and this little jewel is the first thing that goes in my carry-on bag!! That is a fact!!"
"Thank you folks for spending the time with me reading this product review. I know that there were alot of images, but I hope you see as I did, this is a remarkable product!!
I want to thank the folks at:
For the use of the AllData Information system used to repair the vehicle in this product
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