On this page I will be talking about using a laptop, some free software, and a £17 cable to save money. Detecting faults and enable features that could be already on your car, but simply not switched on. Everything I put on this page I will have done myself; either on my Focus CC (Focus Mk 2.5) or my Dad’s Focus C-Max (Focus Mk 2).
Disclaimer: You use this guide at your own risk. I take no responsibility for any damage to your vehicle or injury to your person.
First, a little background. After getting a new car, I was looking to see if I could add a USB input to my car stereo. Some modes came with this feature. One of the results in Google caught my eye. It was about enabling a tyre deflation sensing system which is present on all cars as standard, but simply not enabled. After a little more digging, I came across a forum which showed how this can be enabled and much more besides.
The forum thread as it currently stands has 161 pages and 2427 replies. It gives a lot of advice and help. But can be tricky to find the information quick to hand, hence the reason for writing this page. It will put the information in one place, and hopefully in an easy to follow manner. I must state that all props should go to Preee and the other good folks on the Ford Owners Club Forum. Here is a link to the full thread. I highly recommend you take a read.
There are a couple of things you will need before you go any further. A laptop running Microsoft Windows, the software to access the Ford systems, and an ELM327 ODBII adaptor.
laptop & software
Unlike some PC to vehicle interfaces, you do not need an old laptop with a serial port to do this. In fact a fast, modern windows laptop would be better. There are two software packages that are excellent for Fords. The first package, FORScan, is a diagnostic tool. It is great to find out if your vehicle has a fault, as well as testing systems in you vehicle. It can be used on pretty much any Ford as well as a select group of Mazdas.
The other piece of software is specific to the Mk2/2.5 Focus and models built based on this car. For example the Focus C-Max and Kuga. It is used to alter the modules in the car; allowing you to upgrade firmware and change features available on the car. This package is called ELMConfig. You will also need to install a Runtime Pack to make sure that this software works correctly.
ELM327, ODBII, and the Adaptor
If you search on eBay for an ELM327, you will be presented with hundreds of results. 99% of which will be clone devices from China. For a genuine ELM327 based adaptor, you would be looking to pay from £75. But most likely closer to the £100 mark. The ELM327 is a processing chip, embedded with firmware that is used to communicate with vehicles. The different version numbers relate to this firmware as the physical chip is the same for all ELM327 versions.
The Chinese clones are based on the ELM327 V1 chip, as the firmware was unprotected. Originally, the clone firmware was shipped on the same type of chip as the genuine ELM327; which made for a damn good clone. However, as time went on, cheaper chips were sourced and version numbers were faked. This made the chips useless for anything other than basic code reading. Devices with V1.5 firmware were fine, however are pretty hit and miss these days; anything with a version of 2.1 is no good at all.
However, there are some clone based devices out there which are guaranteed to work. They cost a little more than the £5-10 Chinese adaptors. But have the advantage of already having a switch to go between HS-CAN as well as the standard MS-CAN system. The device that I personally bought is from eBay seller universal-diagnostics and is sold as “USB Modified ELM327 Elmconfig Forscan Ford Focus Mondeo Kuga S-Max UK”. This adaptor also has a genuine FTDI chip, which allows it to communicate with and laptop at faster, reliable speed. The link below should return the correct adaptor.
Please note that I am not in any way affiliated with these guys in any way. I just bought their adaptor after buying 3 others which were rubbish. Their adaptor worked as stated with no issues whatsoever.
Once you have downloaded the software and have your adaptor, the first thing to do is install the FTDI drivers. These came with the adaptor. Then install the Runtime Pack, followed by the latest versions of ELMConfig and FORScan. Then you’re good to go.
The ODBII socket should be located in a position accessible from the driver’s seat. In most cases, it is in the roof of the cubby hole located under the headlight switch. Plug your adaptor into the laptop, then into the car, then put your ignition key to position II.
To find out how to use the system, please see my post on ELMConfig – Unlocking Hidden Features of your Ford Focus