Car failure detection and prediction & NAS

Blog Car failure detection and prediction & NAS

This blog is not about how you can rid yourself of the need to visit a technician. Or how to tune up your car. It is about, how you can track events/issues that can lead to future or current failure. It is about how you can use your NAS as data aggregation point for you or your technician to analyze remotely.

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This is achievable in any Car system equipped with:
- Apple CarPlay … hard, but achievable
- Android Auto … easy
or using a custom Android Car radio.

Some important notes before we start

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OBD: On-board diagnostics is an automotive term referring to a vehicle's self-diagnostic and reporting capability. OBD give the vehicle owner or repair technician access to the status of the engine control unit (ECU) and the various vehicle sub-systems (more than one ECU can be available). Modern OBD implementations use a standardized digital communications port to provide real-time data in addition to a standardized series of diagnostic trouble codes, or DTCs, which allow a person to rapidly identify and remedy malfunctions within the vehicle. Last version of the standard is called OBD-II. There is also a specification of OBD-II PIDs (On-board diagnostics Parameter IDs) = codes used to request data from a vehicle, used as a diagnostic tool.

From 1996 OBD-II is mandatory for all cars sold in the United States.
From 2001 in the European union for all gasoline (petrol) cars and from 2004 for all diesel cars.
All vehicles in the mentioned regions after said years are thusly equipped with OBD.

Why not use special diagnostic gadgets only from your car repair shop

One of the main reasons is - that your car repair shop will inevitably ask you about the failure symptoms. And here is the starting point for this blog – even though technicians from a car repair shop can take your personal feelings/imagination regarding the issue into consideration that will very frequently be insufficient. Because of that technicians will have to use their own diagnostic device (connected through OBD) to be able read:
  • Errors (if any), recorded in your ECU since your last visit
  • current status of your car sensors (not from previous days/hours when the issue happened)
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What is insufficient often. Of course, situations like these will inevitably prolong the “diagnostic hours” and thusly, your repair bill. Especially when technicians can’t find any abnormal conditions from the base sensors’ diagnostic. That’s because they can only see errors (result, no reasons) and the current status (still results), making it really hard to find the reason(s). Unless the reason is very obvious of course. Then you need an objective data. Data for better understanding of the issue in time. Data from a specific event & time, when the failure occurs. And such data you can easy read from your ECUs anytime, w/o repair shop technician assistance. Then you need to be connected.


So what do you need, to be connected?

1. First check – are you able to install this Smart app into your Car’s system?

The app’s name is Torque. For the test of compatibility with your Car system you can use Torque Lite (free). If
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the Lite version is installed and works, you can uninstall it, then Purchase the full version “Torque Pro”. Cost of the app is about 5 USD. This compatibility test will save you a lot of potential, future effort. If the installation failed, you can install the App onto your phone, though it is not as perfect as directly in the car’s systems. There are plenty of similar Smart Apps, but this one has one specific, particularly useful feature = logging all data into a specific folder. Tested and operated many years. Hmm, but this Smart app is only available on Google play store... What App you can use instead with iOS? The answer is – Car scanner, but with limited features regarding logs sharing (logs can only be sent manually). Since I have an Android Car system, I prefer Torque Pro even though many people don’t like it. The data logging is more important for me and the main selling point in this case. Though the option to log in CSV format within a defined folder is perhaps a more important feature for this topic. I don’t really care about disco colorful blinking lights showing my current speed from other apps. Torque also has an official forum and wiki…..yes, unfortunately, quite far from this forum’s quality 😊, but perfection is demanding and hard to achieve.

2. Now you can proceed with installation of the Synology cloud client into the Car’s system for the OBD-II logged data to be transported into your NAS.
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Syno Drive is normally my favorite everywhere, except here, because Syno Drive can’t select specific folders to sync in client side (upload from Android or iOS) to NAS. Optionally Synology DS Cloud for Android is a possibility, but you need lot of patience in setup (you can see more in this thread). Unfortunately, there is no such feature for iOS (select folder/file with logged data). What is more important - there is n
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ot APP, that can store log files into a specific iOS folder. Doesn’t work with iCloud Drive either. Naturally, the best solution is to use Android Auto or an Android based custom Car system. Except (as mentioned above) the Car scanner App for iOS with manual Data logs sending to your NAS (directly to Syno Drive), every single time when you leave your car. If you like such complicated solution (manual sync), this is your way.

3. You will need to purchase an OBD-II adapter based on ELM327 (programmed microcontroller for translating the OBD-II). Until this point, I have bought a total of 4 adapters with all of them being a complete failure. 3 years ago, I spent 6,50€ including shipping costs from Asian’s biggest e-shop for my final adapter and it works just as expected (all necessary protocols compatible, even special PIDs accessible).
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Be sure that you purchase version 1.5 of the microcontroller though. Otherwise you will get into trouble with compatibility. There are plenty of fake OBD-II adapters out there and no one can guarantee their compatibility. I have seen in many crazy people in various forums, that had bought an ELM327 ver. 2.x for less than 20€ and their investment of course disappeared. For ELM327 ver. 2.x you need to expect a price of over 30€ and much more if you want sufficient compatibility.
Useful recommendations before your purchase of the adapter:
  • check the ELM327 version of the adapter – if the seller can’t confirm compatibility of the adapter with your specific Car model (incl. production year), don’t buy it, ever.
  • check if the adapter is compatible with one or both above-mentioned Car systems (iOS or Android). Otherwise you will purchase an adapter for Android auto or Android phone and your Apple car won’t be usable.
  • check if your car system (mentioned above) has Bluetooth (ver. 1.x-3.x or LE) or Wi-Fi connection to external devices others than Smartphones. Adapters with Bluetooth (ver. 1.х, 2.х, 3.х) are not compatible with iOS. Apple iOS allows for Bluetooth LE (4.0) adapters in background. There is no way to use a Wi-Fi adapter on iOS, while the app is in the background. From my research and real testing, I’d say an adapter based on BT 4.0 is better and more useful. Some cars based on Android Auto systems support all BT except ver. 4.0 (LE). Can’t say why tbh.
  • check, if the adapter has a self-switch on/off feature supported, otherwise your adapter will remain connected to your car battery after you’ve switched off the car. Or will not switch on automatically.

4. You need to find an OBD connector. Such connector can commonly be found in the driver’s part of the car, frequently under the steering wheel and/or near the pedals. There are is a useful site (or this one site), which can help you to find the connector in your exact car model.

5. Then you need to insert the OBD-II adapter into the connector. And setup the entire OBD-II system based on the Smart App of your choice.

End of part I. – to be continued.

What you will see in part II.:
  • How to setup the OBD-II environment in Torque Pro App
  • How to setup the data synchronization between your car and your NAS
  • How you can setup an analytics environment based on MS Power BI
  • How to prepare your Car Health Card for better analysis of any future problems
  • How to share your OBD-II data with your car repair shop by Synology Drive
A teaser - what your repair shop can see from your car Healt Card anytime (on demand):

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