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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well guys... I said I was gonna follow up on my quest to make this tool and here it is! IT WORKED!!!
And I took some photos along the way to share with you guys my little project in case some of you are interested in making one also. It's SUPER EASY... if you have the right tools and patience.
Kudos to Jeff at Planetfall for sharing this great stuff. Thanks!
------------------------------
So here it is:
PLEASE NOTE!! If you do attempt this project, PLEASE PLEASE READ all caution labels on anything that you buy (really it's the ferric chloride.) Take it slow and use safety devices (ie... mask, goggles, gloves, etc.) To give you an idea of what skill level it takes to do this, I'll use me as an example. I'm not an Electrical Engineer. I'm a Computer Programmer with an MBA and a tv broadcast journalism background. I feel that if you can read and follow directions (along with some common sense), you should do just fine and be able to complete this project.
Now for the disclaimer:
You will be attempting this project on your own and will accept full liability and responsibility for what ever happens should something go wrong. I take no responsibility for any mishaps that should come up while you work on this project and while you use it to work on your car. Basically, you do this at your own risk.

----------------------------
So what does this device do? What's its purpose? Why would someone want one of these VAG-COM devices?
The answer is this: In addition to the tweaks (change your transmission to sport mode, change your auto-door lock, tweak your stereo, etc) that you can do to your car, VAG-COM allows you to read the codes that your car throws in the event something is wrong (ie... your car runs sluggish or Check Engine Light is on, etc.. ). With the code and the bentley (or someone here on the forum can help you) you would be able to pinpoint exactly what's wrong with your car before you even pull into the dealership. If it's a simple fix, you can even do it yourself and save yourself $$ from having it serviced at the dealer (if your car is out of warranty).
Also... with the pluggins supplied by ROSS-TECH, you can also use VAG-SCOPE to log data about the performance of your engine.

-------------------
LEVEL OF PROJECT DIFFICULTY (SCALE OF 1 TO 10 with 10 being the hardest): 4.5
TIME FOR COMPLETING PROJECT: About 1.0 to 2.0 hours (maybe a little longer) depending on skill level
COST OF PROJECT: Less than $8.00 if you already have the tools and supplies
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Print out the schematic from Jeff's planetfall.com's website on transparancy. Print out the instructions. All the parts necessary for this project is also at this website.
Some have been confused about which side goes to which on the schematics. Here's an pic of the layout which I modified to help give reference:


* Click here for the parts list and schematics
* Click here for the guide written by Jeff.
* Click here for the PDF version of the board layout. Print this on transparancy
PARTS:
Obtain all the parts necessary for this little project (transistors, copper boards, switches, ferric chloride, etc). If you order from digikey.com, you won't find Part#2N3904-ND (NPN SML SIG G.P. AMP&SWITCH TO92 ) but there is an alternative that you can use that will work (which is what I used!): Part#497-2395-ND (TRANSISTOR NPN 60V 200MA TO-92).
TOOLS OF THE TRADE:
- Dremel tool or something similar. I used a cheap $2.99 rotary tool which I got from a long time ago from HarborFreight.com.
- Soldering Iron ($2.99 from Fry's)
- Solder (Get the really thin one)
- Rubber Gloves
- Handy Helper (Look in the pictures below. It's this metal thing with arms on it). Helps to hold your board while you work ($7.99 from Radioshack). I noticed that Harbor Frieght also sells this same tool for half the price of what I paid for!
- Fun Hat
- Digital Multimeter is helpful here to test your leads. Got it for $2.99 from Harborfreight.com
- Plastic Ziploc Container (!!!NEVER TO BE USED FOR STORING FOOD EVER EVER AGAIN!!!)
- Nail Polish Remover
CABLES:
- Type Cable 7 (Is what connects from the car to this device). This is the most expensive piece. You can build your own or you can buy one from Multiplex Engineering for I think $20 or so.
- Serial Cable (Is what connects from the device to your computer). This should be relatively cheap, about $5 or so, maybe less depending on where you get it. I got mine from Fry's Electronics.
SOFTWARE:
- VAG-COM (Registered version $99 will offer full functionality of the software... or shareware version which allows you to do most things.) Whether which one is right for you (Registered versus Shareware) depends on your needs. If you spend a ton of hours on your car and you do EVERYTHING on your own, then it's best to get the registered version. Now if you only play with your car once in a while and want to simply change a few minor stuff and be able to read codes, then the shareware version will probably meet your needs.
CLICK HERE TO SEE A COMPARISON BETWEEN THE TWO VERSIONS
CLICK FOR VAG-COM SOFTWARE DOWNLOAD
While you're there... I'd recommend downloading the "55 page printable manual version 311.2" and read through it to understand how to use VAG-COM. Very easy read.
-------------------------------------------------------
Start with a bare copper-clad board. I bought the copper board from Fry's Electronics for like $2.50 or something like that. It's big enough to make three of these boards. Print out the schematic on a transparancy per the instructions and it looks like the following:

I found it easier to fold the transparancy in half and slide the copper clad
in between to prep it for ironing.

Iron the heck out of it for about 5 min - 10 min at about 85% high heat.
Don't let the transparancy melt though!! I'd recommend making several of these boards in case you mess up since it's really cheap (like pennies).

Let it cool in a sink full of cold water for a few minutes.

Slowly and carefully peel back the transparancy and you should have your copper clad board with the toner on it!! Most of the toner should be transferred to the board. If not, and there are exposed copper where there shouldn't be, you can simply use a super fine tip permanent pen by sharpee to fix it. If there's too much toner missing (It happened to me the 1st time), simply use nail polish remover to remove the toner and go iron the print back on again.

Here's a pic of my dog (Roxie) who was with me in the build process.

Get a "ZipLock" plastic container (to be used for this AND NEVER USED FOR FOOD EVER AGAIN!!!), pour about a 1/4 cup of ferric chloride (I got from Fry's Electronics) in it. Mix with about 1/4 cup of hot (but not boiling hot) water. (Reason for heat is to speed up the etching process)

PUT ON A PAIR OF RUBBER GLOVES FOR THIS! Better be safe than sorry. Place your copperboard with the artwork on it into the plastic container. Close the lid and agitate the heck out of it for a good 5 min to 10 min or until all the copper is gone. If in the event your mixture has gotten cold, have no fear. Do this to get the process going again. Fill your sink with steaming hot water. Place the ziploc container with the ferric chloride and copper board in it in the sink. Agitate. The warm/hot water in the sink will get the ferric chloride going again.

Once the last step is done, wash the board thoroughly with cold water to clean it. Keep the cold water facet running for a few minutes when you're done to flush out the ferric chloride. Wash everything well including the gloves, the sink counter, etc.

Use nail polish remover to remove the toner that's covering what's left of the copper. It should look like the picture below after you're done cleaning. All the copper lines should be there (I would compare your result with the schematic to make sure it's all there). If not, you can either use a copper pen or just start all over again.

Here's a comparison of one that has toner on it and one that doesn't.

I dont' have a picture here of it... but you want to get a dremel tool or
something similar with a small bit to start drilling tiny little holes on it
where the components are suppose to be. Don't over do it with the holes. Just make a hole large enough for the leads to fit. If you over do it, you'll drill away the copper plating (which is what the solder sticks to). Without copper plating, the solder won't stick! In the picture below, you can see that I already did the drilling.
This is where the challenging part is.... soldering. Take your sweet time and do it right. Patience is key here.

Here's progress...

More progress... almost done...

Very close...

And ta da!! All done! Now download the shareware version from Ross-Tech.com (if you don't want to pay $99 for the registered version), load it up, hook the baby up with a Cable 7 and serial cable, and you're set to go!!

Here are some photos of the connection. My car is an Audi A6 2.7 so the OBDII connector is located on the lower left hand side of the steering column. This is what the connector looks like:

Now it's connected:

The full connection:

A pic of the computer screen which show information about my car:


---- Edit with more info ----
I was able to read all my codes. Plus I was able to recode. First thing I did, recode my transmission to sport mode.
I'll take some additional photos and post it on here tonight or sometime soon. (ie.. setups, hookups, etc).
Keep checking back for updates if you're interested!


Modified by OneGuyInCA at 9:20 PM 1-23-2004
 

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Re: Instructions For Making Your Own VAG COM Interface (OneGuyInCA)

Quote »
TIME FOR COMPLETING PROJECT: About 1.0 to 2.0 hours

Including the time you spent gathering the parts, tools, and supplies? How about debugging it if it doesn't work first time? Sucessfully debugging it might be a frustrating experience without an oscilloscope. Over the past three years, we've received dozens of e-mails from people asking us for help getting their home-brew interfaces to work.
Realistically, I'm going to say the average person will have invested at least 8-10 hours of his time from start to finish.
Quote »
COST OF PROJECT: Less than $8.00 if you already have the tools and supplies

That's for the parts on the board, right?
Realistically, you should include the cost of ALL the materials necessary, becasue most people don't have these laying around:
$10 Copper-clad board (Digi-Key)
$ 5 Ferric Chloride etching solution
$20 OBD-II cable (if bought in quantity, Multiplex has a $50 minimum purchase)
$ 5 Serial Cable
$ 8 Parts on board
===
$48
So you've saved what, $52? Divide by the 9 hours the average person will really spend and you're in minimum wage territory.
In addition you still don't have a case for the board/electronics. I wonder how the PC's port and the computers your car will like it if that board, being completely exposed, touches a metal grounded surface in your car while you're using it?

This is a cool project to do if you have nothing better to do with your time. Kinda like climbing a mountain. You do it to prove to yourself (and others) that you can. But you don't do it because it's cost-effective!

-Uwe-
 

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Re: (fiorya)

did i miss something? i just have to ask... why are you doing this? so you can use the full software without registering it? i'm not quite clear on the purpose.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Re: (Triumph)

Whoa there! MAN you guys are so critical! But as always... EVERYONE is entitled to their own opinion. So here's mine:
First off... UWE... I can understand why you posted what you did. You're unhappy. And it shows in that "e-mail" that you sent me a couple days ago.
You operate ROSS-TECH.com and this thread "threatens" your business. I apologize if it does and I never had the intention of doing so.

To say that whoever attempts this VAG-COM interface project has "nothing better to do with your (the person's) time" sounds rather "insulting". Let me put it this way. In those same words, you're basically saying that those who do their own oil changes in their own garage (instead of bringing it to the dealer) to save $10 - $15 have nothing better to do with their time since the savings is so minimal?
Correct? Yet... why do people continue to do their own oil changes? Is it for the challenge? The enjoyment of doing something nice for their car on their own? The fun of it? Get the picture and the point I'm trying to make now?
Oh yea in your attempt to correct me on the actual cost of the project, why else do you think I would put the words "Less than $8.00 if you already have the tools and supplies". And the price of the Copper Clad Board? It's not $10. It's less than $3 for a piece that'll allow one to make 3 qty interfaces. That's how much I paid for my copper board at my local Fry's electronic's store.
Then you suggested 8 to 10 hours to attempt the project. I don't know how you came up with this figure but for me, when I worked on my second board, it took me about 1 hour from start to finish.

--------------------------
Now to answer Triumph's question of why I would do this and if it's because I can "use the full software without registering it?". The answer to the first question is simple. It's a challenge. It's a quest. That's how people get ahead in life. It's really to test my ability. Think of the projects (Some hard some easy) you comtemplated on doing on your car. Same deal. My savings of $50 to $80 for this project is very small compare to what I make for a living.

Now the answer to the second question is simply a "No". People understand that (and I sure hope the do) that to have full functionality of the VAG-COM software, one still has to pay the $99 registration fee. The share-ware version is limited. However, for myself (and for others in my case) who only need to use VAG-COM to read codes and do some minor recoding (auto lock, transmission, radio, etc), the share-ware version provides enough functionality that meets my needs.

-------------------------------
With all due respect, I posted this thread to share with other Club Members my experience on my quest to make this VAG-COM interface. This is a community based forum where we can share our stories and experiences. I had fun making this device and the best part of it was that it worked. This project is NOT DIFFICULT in my opinion and pretty damn easy to do. My brother is an electrical engineer and he even agrees after looking at the plans. There aren't that many components and it's cheap enough to try for fun if not for the savings.

Cheers and have a few



Modified by OneGuyInCA at 9:50 PM 1-20-2004
 

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Re: (Triumph)

I don't think he's offering this as "the solution to your VAG-COM problems!!" or "how to cheat Ross-Tech".
He's got a load of disclaimers up there ... I think what he IS doing is trying some cool stuff, and sharing it with the board. No harm, no foul. Personally, I think it's neat he did that but I'd never try it in a million years and plan on spending the $70 to buy a cord in the near future. There are a select few people out there that will actually have the desire/ability to do this and test it on their own car, so I don't think he's doing anything wrong here ...
My $0.02.
 

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Re: (OneGuyInCA)

Quote »
UWE... I can understand why you posted what you did. You're unhappy. And it shows in that "e-mail" that you sent me a couple days ago.

The E-Mail I sent you was a simple request to change the "deep link" (which pointed directly to the VAG-COM distro) to point at our Download Page, so people who clicked the link would at least have to scroll past the Copyright Notice, the Disclaimer, and the Instructions before they download VAG-COM. As stated in the e-mail, we do this whenever we find deep link pointing directly at the distro.
As far as feeling threatened: Jeff Noxon's page has been around and widely known about since the summer of 2000 -- a few months after we released the first version of VAG-COM. When that page first appeared, yeah, I felt threatened, but I've gotten over it a long time ago.
I've never had a problem with people making their own interfaces. My motivation for posting what I did implicit in the content of the post. I still contend that your cost and time estimates are unrealistic. The average person will spend far more than $8 and 1-2 hours on this project. That's OK, but they should understand it up front.
-Uwe-


Modified by Uwe at 4:04 PM 1-20-2004
 

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Re: (NoDubJustYet)

Lucky for you there are Serial to USB converters....

If I had a digi-cam at work I'd show ya....but let me see if i can find one....
found it, or a similiar lookin thing, that works...


Modified by maximluva at 2:15 PM 1-20-2004


Modified by maximluva at 2:15 PM 1-20-2004
 

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Re: (maximluva)

Quote, originally posted by maximluva »
Lucky for you there are Serial to USB converters....

If I had a digi-cam at work I'd show ya....but let me see if i can find one....
found it, or a similiar lookin thing, that works...


Modified by maximluva at 2:15 PM 1-20-2004
!

Modified by maximluva at 2:15 PM 1-20-2004

man, i'm retarded- i didn't even think about that
thanks
 

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Re: Instructions For Making Your Own VAG COM Interface (OneGuyInCA)

OneGuyInCA,
Brilliant !! I've spent the last week musing over what to do with some spare time coming up, funny enough I was on Jeff's page and the Scantool.net page yesterday gathering up the courage.
Thanks alot.
 

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apparently you can't use a USB adaptor on any serial product including the one you make or purchase from ross-tech. i guess the usb adaptor isn't fast enough to transmit data (something about the baud rate). the adaptor ross-tech recommends does 900kbs and costs $120 or so- basically you might as well just say screw it). the ones linked above don't go any faster than 200kbs, i found on on newegg and it goes 500kbs...
oh well, this would have been a cool money saving project but i guess the non-serial port laptop people lose out again

Modified by NoDubJustYet at 2:47 PM 1-21-2004


Modified by NoDubJustYet at 2:52 PM 1-21-2004
 
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