Affordable Aston Martin OBDII Reader

News Flash!!!  There is finally an affordable OBDII reader that can talk specifically to an Aston Martin.  If you do some of the service work on your Aston an OBDII reader is an essential tool as it can talk to the many computer modules that control the car.   I’ve written several articles already about the topic (you can find them all in this Collection here).  What was bothersome was that none of the aftermarket OBDII readers actual knew all the specific Aston Martin codes.   We could just talk to the Powertrain Control Modules (PCMs) since they were really made by Ford.   We had no access to all the modules on the “Body” port, which included the Airbag, Transmission, Door, Seat, Entertainment, and other control units.

Let me introduce you to the Foxwell NT510.   Foxwell is a Chinese company that makes a number of Automotive Diagnostic Tools.   They have updated this model to now include the codes for the Aston Martin DB9, DBS, Cygnet, Rapide, Vantage and Virage.  The unit has a color display, upgradeable firmware, can comes with a nice storage case.  Let me dive into a few details that matter.

Pricing

Foxwell has an interesting approach to how they make their money with the unit.  It’s a sensible ‘pay for what you need’ model.   When you purchase the unit it is just a basic OBDII reader (like any cheapy OBDII you can pick up for under $100 USD) and it can do all the Generic OBDII stuff.  Here is where it gets interesting.   With your initial purchase you get one ‘Token’ to add the custom codes for any manufacturer they have on their list.  Currently they have 17+ manufacturers ranging from Aston Martin to Porsche to Ford to Ferrari and more.  When you register your unit online you can cash in your token and select Aston Martin and this will enable those codes in the unit. [I will have a separate article about setting up the unit and you can see how to do this]  If you need more than one manufacturers codes (perhaps you have a Ford and an Aston Martin) you can purchase as many additional codes as you want for $70 USD each and enable those features.   Neat.

At the moment I can buy a Foxwell NT510 Online for $179 USD from Amazon.com (with Prime Free shipping) or directly from the Foxwell website for $149 USD (also with Free shipping).

Updates

They approach updates in a different way too.  Many of the makers of fancy code readers (like some from Autel) try and get their hooks into you for annual subscriptions.   As Manufacturers develop their product lines from year to year, the code libraries evolve too with the new models.   Your Ford code reader purchased in 2012 won’t be able to understand a completely new Ford model that came out in 2017 unless you have some way of updating the database in your OBDII reader.   Most OBDII manufacturers keep updating the ‘firmware’ for the devices, but want to charge you with an annual subscription fee to be able to download the latest updates to your device.

Foxwell has taken a different approach with this unit, one that all of us will like.  Lifetime upgrades are included – no subscription necessary!  Of course, if the company doesn’t put any effort into this and doesn’t release any future updates, the lifetime upgrades is meaningless.  So far so good though, they have already update the Aston Martin code firmware once since introduction.

What can it do that’s special?

Reading Information

OBDII Body Port

It can talk to all the Body Port Control Modules and provide you with information about their status and sensor values.   Honestly there are zillions of data points it can provide back and I can’t list them all here (maybe sometime in the future).   It can talk to the following modules in the DB9:

  • EMS-P – Primary Engine Control Module – Bank 1  (the right hand bank 6 cylinders)
  • EMS-S – Secondary Engine Control Module – Bank 2 (the left hand bank 6 cyclinders)
  • BCM – Brake Control Module  (they brake and traction control system)
  • RCM – Restraint Contol Module  (the Airbag and restraint system)
  • CEM-HS – Central Electronics Module – High Speed
  • CEM-LS – Central Electronics Module – Low Speed
  • DIM – Drivers Information Module (your dash board gauges and lights)
  • PAM – Parking Aid Module
  • CCM – Center Console Module
  • AUD5 – Audio Amplifier Module
  • SUB5 – Sub Woofer Module
  • MMM – Multi Media Module
  • MP1 – Media Player Module
  • AFM – AM/FM Tuner Module
  • GPS – Global Position System
  • TCMZF – Transmission Control Module for ZF Transmission
  • ASM – Transmission Control Module for Marelli Transmissions
  • EPB – Parking Brake
  • ESCL – Electonic Steering Colum Lock Module
  • HLM – Headlamp Leveling Module
  • SAS – Steering Angle Sensor
  • ADM – Adaptive Dampening Module (fancy suspension)
  • TPMS – Beru Tire Pressure Monitor Module
  • DSM+ – Drivers Seat Module
  • PSM+ – Passenger Seat Module
  • DDM+ – Drivers Door Module
  • PDM+ – Passenger Door Module
  • DDMR – Drivers Door Module Rear
  • PDMR – Passenger Door Module Rear
  • FCIM – Front Console Interface Module
  • RCIM – Rear Console Interface Module
  • LCDM – LCD Module

Writing Information

In addition to just ‘Reading’ information from the car, the NT510 says it has the ability to ‘Push’ information back to the car (like settings and firmware), plus control functions of the car.   I was really excited about this, but couldn’t find a list online anywhere about what exact features.

This is about the only feature I am disappointed with.  All it can do (so far) along these lines is Reset the Service Due indicator [which I have an article and video on how to do this manually].   Don’t get me wrong, having a simple one click way to reset this is much easier than fiddling around with all the special key presses of dash buttons and turning keys at the exact right time, but I was hoping for more.  [Foxwell if you are listening here is my wishlist]  In particular I would really like to have a button to help bleed the brakes.  Since our cars are fitted with a Traction Control system that can modulate the brakes automatically, the car can actually be set to bleed its own brakes.  This would be very helpful as part of the annual services where we are supposed to change all the brake fluid each year.  The Dealers have this function in their fancy systems.  Basically connect a bleed line to a caliper nipple and open it, press the button, and the system pumps the right amount of fluid through to flush the line and caliper.  Simple.  Another feature request would be to send the command to put the Windscreen Wipers into ‘Service Position’ – part of the way up the windshield so you can actually change them.  Maybe Foxwell will add these features in a future revision (they have them in some firmware for other car manufacturers they support).

Here is a link to the PDF I have since discovered since my purchase that list the  modules the NT510 can talk to and what capabilities it has with each for each Aston Martin model (including those other than the DB9).

How my purchase went

So I did my research and dove in.  I ordered my unit with a little trepidation that it might not be what it advertised, but in the end only $149 was at risk.  I thought since I was paying with a credit card you can always dispute the charge if it never shows up.  It took a little more than about a week for the unit to arrive.  It was exactly as advertised, no shenanigans.

Are they fly by night?

I don’t think so.  Overall their company has a lot of products, looks like they are just competing on the value end of the scale copying all the good ideas of the other units.  You can check out their whole product line at www.foxwelltool.com

I emailed their support team a quick question and had an answer the next day.

They say they ship US product from a warehouse in the USA.   I presume they shipped a cargo container over to a third party US fulfillment center.  I’m not sure where other International orders ship from.

They are a Chinese company, but I did a little digging and my Autel unit is also Chinese.  The units compare so closely I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Foxwell was founded by a few ex-Autel employees who opened up their own shop down the street to compete.

How does it compare to my Autel?

In my first series of articles on OBDII I had purchased an Autel MaxiDiag Elite MD802.  I wanted to give you just a quick comparison between the two:

Photo side by side

Price

Manufacture Codes

  • Autel includes an impressive list of 47 manufacturers from Bugatti to VW.   Unfortunately this list still does NOT include Aston Martin (as of when I wrote this article).
  • Foxwell includes just one of the 17+ manufacturer groups for the initial price.  You can add additional manufacturers at any time for $70 USD each.  It’s worth noting that many of the manufacturer’s are grouped.  For example, purchase the Volkswagen Automotive Group (for $70) and you get VW, Audi, Seat and Skoda (4 for 1).

Support

  • Originally Autel included just a 1 year subscription to update with my original purchase.  Since then they have changed the policy and you get lifetime updates for the MD802.  This is great, something tells me they are responding to pressure from Foxwell.
  • Foxwell includes lifetime free updates to the unit.

Quality

  • The Autel is a very nice quality unit.  Feels solid and well made.  Should last a long time even in a shop environment
  • The Foxwell seems a little cheesier, but not by much.  Their design stylists just didn’t make it as sleek.  I still think it will server very well in any shop.

Functionality

  • The Autel displays and controls work great.  Very nice color screen, easy to read, well laid out.
    • Insert Main Screenshot Here
  • The Foxwell is nearly an identical copy of the user interface.   I swear I can barely tell any difference between the two units.  The color screen is also great.   The Foxwell is just as good in all respects.
    • Insert Main Screen Shot Here

Overall

  • The Autel is a great unit and car talk to many models of cars for one reasonable price.  Unfortunately Aston Martin codes aren’t available in this model.
  • The Foxwell unit is equivalent to the Autel in most every way, costs 2/3rds as much and includes the ability to talk to Aston Martins.  Simple decision.

Conclusion

You should have one of these even if you already own another ODBII reader.

It’s not like we have many options here for an Aston Martin specific OBDII device.  Other than spending $1,285 for  top of the line Autel MS906BT unit (which appears to be as limited on write functions as the NT510), or finding a used WDS or AMDS tens of thousans of dollars, the Foxwell NT510 can give you new insight into what’s troubling your Aston at an affordable price.

In a future article I will cover the process of setting up a Foxwell NT510 out of the box and how to configure it with the Aston Martin Codes.


Video

Here is a video where I will show you around the Foxwell NT510 and how it compares a bit to the Autel unit.

[Coming Soon]

10 thoughts on “Affordable Aston Martin OBDII Reader

  1. Mark Chippendale

    I wonder whether the Aston Martin token will end up covering the Mercedes based powertrain and infotainment aspects of the latest models such as the DB11 and new Vantage, or whether you would have to purchase an additional Merc token…

    Like

  2. CHARLES

    This is a great find – ordered. Thanks for the link on additional codes – glad I can at last access the “12 Cylinder EMS-S – Engine Control Module – Bank 2” for my Aston Martin Cygnet, those are tough to find 😉

    Like

  3. Mike (Aston #2209)

    Hi Steve,

    Happy New Year.

    Got my Foxwell NT510 with Aston Martin and English options already ordered direct, should be with me in a week to 10 days, looking forward to playing with it, like you say it seems worth a punt for £112 in our money including delivery!

    By the way I might have another short video for you when I get round to doing the job. After a ride out over the Christmas holiday period I put Aston 2209 back in her cave and as I got out I noticed that the RHS head lamp washer black cover was hanging down on the flexible hose connector ….. bugger !!! On examination it seems that it had not retracted in the guide or had been push out too far so couldn’t retract. On closer examination the water hose assembly connects to the black cover with a ball and socket arrangement and during examination it took it upon itself to separate at this joint ….. bugger and even more bugger !!! Now I had the black plastic cover in my hand and the rest promptly disappeared inside the bodywork behind the head lamp. Looks like I’ll have to take out the wheel arch liner to get at it to fully investigate the issue. Anyway when I get round to it I’ll make a video of it. I don’t think it’s a topic you have covered so far.

    Best regards,
    Mike (Aston 2209)

    Like

    1. Hi Mike! Good to hear from you. Sure, would love to see the video, etc. I just wrapped up my 2yr annual service last week too, had to change the little blue ‘postition’ bulb in the headlight unit. Also a bugger. Had to pull the fender liner and airbox assembly to get to it. Since I was doing the airfilters anyways just had to learn how to pull the airbox. New videos on this, the sway bar bushings, full brake service and all the gas struts for bonnet, boot and doors forethcoming in the months ahead. Track day in 2 weeks. Lots of fun ahead.

      Like

  4. Paul

    Hi Steve, I have also purchased the Foxwell unit.I am a bit disappointed that you don’t seem to be able to check the misfire count. I have been through all of the options, and unless I am missing something, its not available.

    Like

    1. Hi Paul. I haven’t gone out to the garage to double check this, but I think you access the Misfire data by using the OBDII generic live data function, and the data will only be in the Secondary PCM listed. So, use the generic OBDII function, then pick the 2nd CPU, then look to the live data, and scroll through for the misfire. I can fire up mine and be more specific if that isn’t enough of a start. Let me know how it goes….

      Like

      1. Hi. Good question. I don’t personally know, but a little Googling shows others asking the same question and its a Dealer thing. They have to update the software in the car using the AMDS system. I’d suggest calling your local dealer and asking them if they can do it, and how much it might cost. I suspect they’d only charge for about 1 hour of labor, so under $200 USD.

        Like

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