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Old 12-13-2014, 02:30 PM   #1
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A DIY Silverleaf-like Data Scanner - less than $50

For those of you who like to tinker with electronics/computers, here is just the project for you.

I wanted to know the values of engine and transmission parameters not shown on my normal dash. In particular - the gear I was in, retarder oil temperature, boost pressure, and inlet air temp. The only way I knew to get all these was with Silverleaf or some other similar scanner. While Silverleaf is a great scanner, I was not wanting the information bad enough to spend $400 or so. So, I built my own.

The only cost was for the interface between the coach data bus and the computer. I had an Android tablet (Nexus 7) that would work as a display and I knew I could figure out how to write a simple Android app for no cost.

Building the interface was made very simple by using Elm Electronics ELM325 translator chip. This chip is a dedicated computer that takes care of all the details of interfacing with a J1587 data bus and it only costs $15!. A few dollars more for some basic electronic stuff and a Bluetooth module and I had a complete computer-to-J1587 data interface.

You can find all the details for constructing the interface and programming the Android app on my blog at:

J1587 Scanner for Motor Home

The Android project files can be found there as well.

I've also written a Visual Basic PC version of the data display that shows more parameters; however, since it is a work in progress, the Visual Basic files are not available. Maybe someday.

2003 Foretravel

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Old 12-13-2014, 02:57 PM   #2
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Now thats just awesome.

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Old 12-13-2014, 04:09 PM   #3
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Great first post.
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Old 12-13-2014, 07:05 PM   #4
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Nicely done Indio thank you
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Old 12-14-2014, 09:39 AM   #5
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Jim, that is fantastic!
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Old 12-14-2014, 10:13 PM   #6
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Ok so possibly a really dumb question, I apologize in advance. Can you not use something like the torque app and an obdii port?
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Old 12-15-2014, 04:44 PM   #7
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Not that I am aware of. Torque uses OBDII which is the data protocol used by cars and light trucks. Class A motorhomes are heavy duty vehicles that use a different data protocol. I guess there could be some motorhomes that use OBDII, but I'm not aware of any.
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Old 12-15-2014, 05:36 PM   #8
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Great post. I used to tinker all the time. I have the silverleaf but I may try it just for fun next year.
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Old 12-17-2014, 08:45 PM   #9
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I always envy electrical/computer gurus. Especially when it comes to things like that, on these coaches. I have a question for you though. I see in your drawing and photos, the J1939 Data port, used for diagnostics, on both the front and rear of most of our Freightliner chassis equipped coaches. Now, what I don't see in your drawings and pictures is, the interface plug, that I THINK you used to plug into the J1939 diagnostic port. Am I missing something or, did you somehow by-pass that port and still tie into the system?

If I didn't already have both the Medallion Information Center and, the Trip-Tek computer engine data system, I'd be looking for the parts you used to build your "Heathkit" (just kidding) Silver leaf faux project.

You and I need to talk on a J1939 issue I had back a year and a half ago. I think you'd be real interested in what happened and, my remedy.
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Old 12-18-2014, 11:24 AM   #10
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Just to be clear, the scanner I built uses the J1587 protocol, not J1939.

The diagnostic plug on motor homes and other large vehicles, is normally a 9-pin Deutsch connector. This plug provides connections for both the J1587 and J1939 buses (and some other stuff as well).

Being basically cheap, I did not want to buy a 9-pin Deutsch connector, so I simply spliced a DB9 connector onto the data bus wires just before they connect to the Deutsch. However, I have since found a 9-pin Deutsch to 15-pin DB15 cable for $15 and will modify my interface to use it just for neatness sake.

Jim McNeece
2003 Foretravel U320
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