The OBDLink EX scan tool has quickly become one of the most used OBD adapters. If you’re reading this review, then chances are you’ve got your hands on this bad boy and you’re wondering whether it’s as good as advertised. Don’t worry, we will cover all the bases to help you get started.
First off, the EX is an adapter and not a stand-alone scanner. Meaning you’ll need to use it alongside a Windows PC and an OBD diagnostic software. That shouldn’t be a problem because there are so many programs out there that you can install and use.
Having said that, this dongle was designed with the FORScan software in mind. So if you want to get the best out of it, it’s probably wise to use it exclusively with FORScan.
The latest version of this program is 2.3.28 beta (download here). You can still use other apps like OBDwiz, but they’re likely to be so underwhelming and disappointing.
As mentioned already, OBDLink EX works with Windows-based PCs. It connects to the computer via the USB-A port. That’s the reason why the adapter is neither compatible with smartphones nor tablets (because they don’t have USB-A ports).
What about Mac computers? The adapter can connect with a Mac, but you won’t be able to do anything else apart from viewing codes. Besides, FORScan doesn’t work on Macs unless you have a Windows emulator like Crossover. In other words, you’ll have to do a lot of work for very little reward.
This Ford scan tool is obviously great, but how does it stack up against competition? Here’s a comparison chart pitting our feature adapter against the VINT-TT55502 ELMconfig and the OHP ELMconfig.
OBDLink EX Vs. VINT-TT55502 ELMconfig Vs. OHP ELMconfig Comparison Table
Speaking of reward, what does this OBDLink scan tool bring to the table? Check out below.
|Best of the Best||Best Value||Best Value|
4.8 / 5
4.5 / 5
4.7 / 5
|Product Dimesions||3.5" x 1" x 1.8"||5.2" x 3.8" x 2.2"||6.2" x 4.5" x 0.9"|
|Read & Clear Codes||✔||✔||✔|
|Read & Clear Codes||✔||✔||✔|
|Turn Off Check Engine Light||✔||✔||✔|
|Read live PCM DataStream||✔||✔||✔|
|Electronic Throttle Position Reset||--||✔||✔|
|Engine||✔ (codes)||✔ (codes)||✔ (codes)|
|Exhaust System||✔ (codes)||✔ (codes)||✔ (codes)|
|Transmission||✔ (codes)||✔ (codes)||✔ (codes)|
|Suspension and Steering Systems||✔ (codes)||✔ (codes)||✔ (codes)|
|Brake System||✔ (codes)||✔ (codes)||✔ (codes)|
|SRS||✔ (codes)||✔ (codes)||✔ (codes)|
OBDLink EX Detailed Review
OBD adapters that connect via USB are generally more reliable compared to their wireless (Bluetooth and Wi-Fi) counterparts. Wireless dongles usually drop the connection whenever the signal weakens slightly. You won’t have such a problem with the OBDLink EX.
If anything, it’s one of the most reliable adapters thanks to its 2000 kilobits/sec transfer speed. The transfer rate of a scanner is important because it determines how fast you can get diagnostic data, especially real-time data. The faster the better.
On the downside, the fact that it has a cable means that your mobility is limited. With Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, you can stand up to 10 or 20 feet outside the vehicle and still run diagnostics. In this case you can’t. You pretty much have to sit in the driver’s compartment throughout the process.
We’ve already looked at this but it won’t hurt to mention again. The OBDLink EX dongle is designed to work with FORScan. In fact, its recommended by FORScan on their website.
The good thing about FORScan is that it gives you OEM-level access to diagnostic data. You can view generic as well as manufacturer-specific codes. More often than not you only get such access when you have a high-end scan tool that costs thousands of dollars.
Good as it is in diagnostics, FORScan is only compatible with Windows PCs. So if you’re a Mac or Linux user it means you’re automatically locked out of the party. But if you’re running Windows, you only need to install FORScan, hook the adapter to your PC, and let it load the drivers automatically.
If the scanner fails to load drivers (which can happen, especially with Windows 10), you will have to do a manual installation. Head over here, download the drivers and then install manually.
Once that is done you will be set to perform OBD on your car. The FORScan icon (top left on the FORScan app) will turn from red to yellow to indicate that its ready to collect data. When collecting data, the icon turns to green.
Note that you can get OBDWiz for Windows instead of FORScan when you buy OBDLink EX. To avoid any confusion, be sure to specify that you want FORScan.
As far as vehicle coverage, the OBDLink EX is designed for Ford cars and light trucks that are OBD2-compliant (1996 and newer models). It works on any Ford vehicle that is rated between 12V and 24V. That includes all Ford affiliates like Mercury, Mazda and Lincoln.
The coverage doesn’t end there. This OBD2 adapter is also compatible with GM, Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, Nissan, and Kia car and light trucks. So while its mostly known as a Ford scan tool, the OBDLink EX does extend coverage to other brands, domestic and foreign.
When you connect the OBDLink EX, it will automatically detect the car when its key is on and engine off. From there, this Ford scan tool will display the vehicle information, including VIN, CIN and CVN. That’s very important info if you’re buying a new car and want to know all its identification numbers.
Once you have the vehicle ID you can proceed to perform diagnostics. Here’s what the OBDLink EX for Ford can do:
- Read and clear trouble codes. At the very least, you can view and erase diagnostic trouble codes for all available modules. We’re talking about the ABS, SRS, transmission, TPMS and any other system. That goes for generic as well as manufacturer-specific codes (with FORScan).
- Turn off Check Engine Light. The OBD2 adapter allows you to read and clear codes in the engine control module (ECM). By doing so, you will be able to diagnose the check engine light (CEL) and turn it off. You won’t have to take the car to the shop to get that pesky light sorted.
- Live data stream. You can use the OBDLink EX to pull live sensor data like RPM, voltage, speedometer, O2, fuel consumption, LAC and so much more. As you would expect, it displays PIDs which you can view in real-time on your PC. The dashboard is customizable, so you can place all the important PIDs on the home screen. And, you can leave the adapter plugged in so that it relays real-time data. Its built with battery saver technology that ensures it doesn’t drain your car battery.
- Service procedures. There’s a long list of test procedures that you can perform using the OBDLink EX. The adapter can do forced DPF regeneration, reset warning lights, disable TPMS, oil reset, battery reset, alter door and window settings, disable auto start/stop and many more. In short, you can perform whatever service function that’s available on FORScan.
- Programming and coding. Again, the EX unlocks all the advanced features of FORScan. They include component activation, adaptation, coding and programming.
Activation is simply the process of getting components (like sensors) ready. Adaptation involves relearning a new component (say TPMS sensor or any other sensor for that matter) to recognize and communicate with the ECU.
Coding and programming, on the other hand, install new parameters in the ECU. You need that when you want to change how a component operates. For example, you can reprogram the ECU to enable (or disable) a double horn honk. Or you can disable an old key and program new keys.
This adapter is ideal for car owners who have a Windows PC. It’s very simple and straightforward when used alongside FORScan. And it offers all the basic functions that car owners need, not to mention a ton of advanced features as well. You can view codes, turn off the CEL, check live data streams, perform service functions, do programming and generally diagnose all the available modules.
- Supports all Ford protocols and their modules
- Compatible with non-Ford vehicles
- Utilizes all functions available in FORScan
- Supports basic and advanced diagnostics
- Built with hacker-proof and battery saver technology
- Free lifetime software updates
- Fast data transfer rate
- Not compatible with Mac and Linux
- Only performs best when used with FORScan
The OBDLink EX is a steal for the price. It will serve you perfectly, whether you’re looking for basic or advanced diagnostics. Just make sure that you have a Windows PC and FORScan.
If you still have your old OBDLink SX (older version) then you may want to consider upgrading. The EX has a faster processor and covers more vehicles. You can use it with MS CAN cars as well as 24V vehicles.