You may have come to this guide because you have not been able to find good information on Chrysler scan tools. It's a damn shame that the people who build these things, or the people who sell them, cannot provide anything but canned advertisements and press releases. When you post the name of one of these scan tools into a Google search, it always seems to come back with exactly the same information, often times word for word. These guides are from my research and experiences with the scan tools I have been able to access and use. I dont sell a million scan tools a year, but one would think that the folks who do might post some REAL information about their products. Please take advantage of my studies and hopefully it will make your purchasing decisions easier than mine were when I started this crusade. Please feel free to add information that may have been missed.
I have been beseeched by people inquiring about Miller Special Tools and their products. These products include DRB III, StarScan, StarMobile and the newest system built by BrightStar Engineering, WiTECH. After having some quality time with all of these items, I am now going to offer my opinions and insights on these products. Keep in mind that like my other guides, these are a work in progress. I add and take away based on research, training and just good old interfacing with you, the technician on the street. This is why I encourage those of you who read this and have questions or disagree with things I have posted to Email and help expand the knowledge base.
DRB I and DRB III are the Genesis of scan tools for Chrysler, Jeep and all the family of MOPAR vehicles. In their day, these scan tools for OBD I and OBD II were state of the art and provided their users with a great amounts of access to vehicle controllers. For OBD I and OBD II Chrysler products, they are still a mainstay! In the few times I still use DRB I for instance, I am still impressed by the level of access it provided. The big problem with these older products, (and some of the newer products like Desktop Client) is that Miller Special Tools simply does not make it easy to find information and functions within the product. Often times, information or bi-directional functions are not in the same places. It would not be unusual to find climate control data in the body control module module display on one vehicle and have its own controller on another and than find it in a completly unrelated module in yet another vehicle. There was very little uniformity of where to find PIDS or gain access to DTS's on early Chrysler products. Once you learn the lay of the land on DRB I and DRB III, they become invaluable tools in testing, diagnosing, and programming, without a doubt! It's just getting enough background to be proficient on different lines of vehicles and the programs in the scan tools and software that takes time and a lot of training. Let me provide you with some of the things that I learned early on with DRB III:
DRB III works great with most chrysler, Jeep, Daimler/Chrysler and even Diamond Star, vehicles in a stand alone mode. HOWEVER!!!! If you are working on Sebring, Stratus or a few other "specialty" cars like Crossfire, or Sprinter, or cars that were built in foreign factories or foreign countries, you will need program cards to access controllers and do flash programming. You will also need a plethora of cables to accomplish tasks, even OBD II vehicles with DRB III.
THE NEW DEAL IN DIAGNOSTICS in a Hand held unit was DRB III.
In addition to great access (all be it difficult to find some times), DRB III has a thing called a PEP module. The PEP module provides a platform where you can do tests on things like pressure sensors, transducers, ignition coils, triggers and even drive belt tension. You can use it to test sentry keys, test communication networks and multiplexers, and can also use it to do tests with thermocouples and low current sensors. Sure, Ford had all of this with its SBDS (Service Bay Diagnostic System) but it was as big as a truck and took up a lot of room. The PEP module stuff has become dirt cheap because DRB III is now 4 times removed from Chrysler products. What do I mean by 4 times removed? There has been 4 diagnostic tool upgrades sense DRB III. Not one of the newer scan tools does OBD II specific testing, so DRB III definitely has its place in your diagnostic tool cabinet! I always get a kick out of people on Ebay who well DRB III stuff for top dollar. Its so cheap and easy to get now that teh government has started closing GM and Chrysler dealerships, this stuff is all over the market. Anyone who needs to buy brand new DRB III stuff on Ebay either wants new stuff or is simply not looking very hard to find if for a fraction of the cost.
To have a current DRB III there are a few things you must know. First and foremost, not all DRB's are equal. If you have a DRB III that has on board programming older than around 2002, its database (or operating system so to speak) will need to be updated to take newer programming. You can get OEM level programming updates for DRB III up to November of 2007. Problem is that the database (or OS) update can only be accomplished by sending the unit in and having it updated by the manufacturer. I know the guy who does this for Miller Special tools very well. It's not a cheap prospect, it will cost you between 4 and 8 hundred bucks depending on what is in the unit currently and what kind of condition it's in. Keep this in mind when buying a used DRB III. Also, keep in mind that DRB III was manufactured as a very delicate tool. They dont like being dropped, and left in a damp cold shop. Connectors rot, the cooling fan freezes up and the LCD's DO NOT LIKE COLD or HOT weather. Again, keep this in mind when buying used because these units do have some inherent design flaws that make them VERY susceptible to malfunction. Also, keep in mind that if you make any mistakes in programming updates, you will corrupt the memory, requiring you to send your unit to Miller Special tools in Auburn Hills Michigan to be re-programmed.
Buying a used DRB III is a VERY risky prospect so make sure your getting some assurances that it is updated beyond 2005 and works flawlessly or your going to take on some unwanted expenses in getting it current. Bear in mind that Miller Special tools charges a flat rate (around 800 bucks) to refurbish and update a DRB III if you have an old timer or broken unit laying around. For most folks, this is a great deal. If you just spent 2 grand on one, it's not so much of a good deal! There are lots of folks trying to unload old units on Ebay for top dollar. Watch your step and ask a lot of questions, first of which is "what year is currently resident to the unit." If its older than 02 or 03, think twice! Your going to spend some big money to get it updated to 08 if thats what you need.
With regard to programming a module with DRB III, Chrysler provided DVD programs (ITIL/ ISIS) up until 2008 for OBD II vehicles. These programming DVD's are not too hard to find. Chrysler module programming with this program can be accomplished through the DRB III unit with some training. You are required to choose the programming you like from a list of controllers that the program allows you to chose from. Its not like GM TIS where you can manually program in a vin number and the program will find you flashes, with Chrysler, you need to go find the controller in the vehicle within the program, than pick the flash that belongs to your application. Than you dump it onto your scan tool, than take it back to the car or truck and than load it.
You can also use a J2534 Pass Through unit to reflash via Chryslers retial consumer web site (TechAuthority.com). If you have a J tool for programming, I can tell you that its a world easier than using a DRB III, it will just cost you a per day, week or year access fee to get flashes and TSB's. Here is the only problem with module flashing on Chrysler's site with a J tool. For the most part, They only give you J tool access to programming for engine and transmission controllers. Add to this the fact that stuff is sometimes IMPOSSIBLE to find on their site, and the prospect of flash programing via TechAuthority with a J tool can be quite a challange for the first couple times. You have to first, download and install the J2534 program from TechAuthority, than you must locate the flash programing you need. Once you find the flash programming you need by digging and digging for the proper screen, entering the VIN number and locating the newest flash, than you have to download it into the J2534 flash program you installed earlier (the J2534 installation program will stay on your computer). Once its downloaded onto your program, you will THAN have to hook up you J tool to the car, select the particular J tool on the program, than begin the process of clearing and loading the new flash program to your chrysler/jeep product. Now if that were not enough, before you do ANYTHING, you had better go get the PIN (personal identification number) for the chrysler/jeep product from the dealership. If you re-flash your computer, and your computer happens to have a SKIN (factory anti-theft module) there is a chance it will need to be re-initialized after module re-programming. Of course, good luck doing this with most J2534 pass thru units, as the DrewTech Cardaq plus is the only one I know that you can do that function with (or a factory scan tool like StarMobile or DRB 3). So in an nutshell, first you install the J program, than find your flash, dump it onto the program, than dump the flash from the program onto the controller and hope it doesnt freak out the SKIM.
*NOTE* Make sure you check TSB's BEFORE programming a module! Chrysler has lots of little things that need to be done before flashing a module. You can do real damage unless you read and carry out directions on TSB's. They are on the TechAuthority web site so dont overlook them!
USING A J2534 TO PROGRAM CHRYSLER PRODUCTS
You can use a generic J2534 tool like a DrewTech CarDAQ plus to flash program Chrysler products. The nice thing about using a CarDAQ to do this is that the program DrewTech provides to thier customers makes getting flashes from Chrysler stupidly simple. It will also provide Immobilizer, SKIM and Key programming functions as well. You can get this program right from DrewTech's web site for free and check it out. You can also use pretty much any generic J2534 tool to re-flash a Chrysler/Jeep product (OBD II OR CAN) by simply paying a one day subscription to TechAuthority, downloading their J2534 program and than just following the directions on TechAuthority.com. They, like all other automotive companies selling cars in the US, provide a J tool program for generic module programming. Even though I own all the Chrysler scan/programming tools from Miller, I find it easiest to simply log on to TechAuthority and use my J tool to do programming. Its way quicker than using a DRB III. Keep reading for reprogramming tips with StarScan, StarMobile and wiTECH.
CHRYSLER SWITCHES TO STARSCAN.
In its day, StarScan was the cats a$$. it was one of the first dealer level touch screen units. Keep in mind that when StarScan first came out, it was still a stand alone unit and was ONLY FOR CAN vehicles. Because it was a stand alone unit, that did everything including diagnostics, bi-directional functions, flash programming, and everything else, it was VERY SLOW. It does not allow for programming of OBD II vehicle modules. Chrysler techs still found themselves going back to DRB III for new OBD II cars. For a few years, DRB III AND StarScan were required in the dealership because Chrysler was still producing OBD II vehicles and new CAN vehciles. The evolution of StarScan was the first time most of us saw a situation where now, there were no longer programming discs that you could get flash data from. Chryslers tech support network, TechConnect, was born. TechConnect and TechAuthority differ only in that TechConnect is dealer level information and TechAuthority was more for independent shops and individuals. TechAuthority provides easy access to things like vehicle PIN numbers for security functions.
*NOTE* On all Daimler/Chrysler and Jeep vehicles, to do any SKIM, Immobilizer or security re-programming, you must have a 4 digit PIN number to access these controllers and their functions. To get this PIN number, you must either be a registered owner of the vehicle, or be a registered locksmith and pay 20 bucks to TechAuthority for each PIN you request or do it the way I do it. If your a shop owner, the far better way is to go into your local Chrysler Dealership, find a parts guy or the manager you like or regularly do business with, and buy him a couple pizzas or a case of good beer or a bottle of Crown Royal and ask him nicely to provide you with these PIN numbers as you need them. You can also send your customer to the dealership with his registration and a picture ID to get it, but if you know your parts guys well, they will usually hook you up. These PIN numbers are accessible to the parts department very quickly through TechConnect. Be advised that if you accidently punch in the wrong pin number, the car will lock you out of programming for about an hour. You have to let it sit with the key on and come back to do it all over again so get it right the first time!
Back to StarScan, it was heralded as a very slow unit with very poor battery life. This unit was half way between a classic scan tool and a hand held PC, kind of like how Ford came out with WDS (World Diagnostic System) which, like StarScan was not liked very much by dealership techs because of its bulkiness and slow speeds. The new software that Miller built for the StarScan was much like that of DRB III in that it was very difficult for the novice Mopar guy to find functions within the program. The program it used is called Desktop Client and was used for years for StarScan and StarMobile. The great thing about Desktop Client was how much access you do get to modules, and the greatest feature is the network topology. The program, however, was very poorly suited to a PC environment because of its difficult to navigate qualities. In StarScan, it was better suited because the StarScan was a fairly slow and had much lower resolution than the average PC. On a PC, you have to navigate through many screens to get to simple functions like simply clearing DTC's.
One big advantage StarScan has over StarMobile is how you can do module initializations a little quicker because it's a stand alone unit. Key programming and code reading also goes a little faster only because you dont really have to get out a PC, fire it up, hook up the unit to the DLC, and than go to work. With StarScan, you just plug it in, turn it on, and do your thing.
StarMobile came along touted as a superfast "pass through" unit that could still be used in stand alone mode. StarScan is a stand alone unit for about 10% of its potential functions. It's pretty much nothing but a code reader in stand alone mode and pretty poor for even that. Also, the battery life, if its possible, was even worse than that of StarScan. In Pass through mode, along with a PC, it was worlds faster than StarScan. It does everything that StarScan did, only 500% faster and can also be used in a wi-fi mode. When using a PC in conjunction with StarMobile, you can get 100% access to every controller and do so very quickly. Sounds great, right? The problem was that StarMobile still uses the old Desktop Client as its resident software.
Keep in mind that some folks, like me, LOVE desktop client. We love it because we know it and are used to it. Also keep in mind that Chrysler has recently stopped supporting StarScan updates because of the vast memory requirements. There is not a lot more I can say about StarMobile because its software and functionality is identical to that of StarScan, just bigger, slower, and not able to be used with a PC. Keep in mind that in addition to StarScan needing an internet hook up and access to TechAuthroity or TechConnect to get module Flashes and TSB's, so does StarMobile. The method for re-flashing modules is 100% exactly the same for either unit. The difference is that StarMobile is a lot faster because it's already hooked to a PC which has much faster communication speeds than StarScan does. The speed "bottleneck" will always be the automobiles communication speed.
*NOTE* Keep in mind also that flash programming a Chrysler product is a very ominous prospect if there are any interruptions to the process. Interrupting a module programming can destroy the controller. I DO NOT RECOMMEND USING ANY WIRELESS EQUIPMENT WHEN PROGRAMMING A CHRYSLER OR JEEP MODULE! Do not rely on a wireless access point or the wireless connection between StarMobile and a PC. Always use cables and make sure the battery has a full charge and a highly filtered battery minder like a Midtronics refreshing battery tender or a fully charged battery jump box. DO NOT USE SHOP BATTERY CHARGERS as they generate way too much electrical noise or RFI for this kind of job.
wiTECH is actually made by........................
Witech is the very newest tool Chrysler and Jeep techs have to use. In addition to using a very elaborate infrastructure mode to operate in a dealership environment, it has all new "idiot proof" software for the tech to use. In the dealership, WiTECH uses a wireless connection or gateway in the form of a router to establish a network connection between the diagnostic unit (known as a POD) and the PC. This takes the burden of a network connection out of the hands of the technician and provides a VPN (virtual private network) to Chrysler corporations TechConnect. Every Pod is registered to that dealership and they now have to pay a per unit maintenance fee to WiTech to keep their POD's working. In addition to that, they will now have to pay the yearly "maintenance fee" to keep their StarMobile working as well! WiTech has taken over the software end of the game by first discontinuing Desktop Client. The current update is the final update. After this update, you will be required to download WiTech software to use on both your Pod, or on a StarMobile if thats what you have. Once you try to download the WiTech software and connect to the internet using it, if your not signed on with WiTech, they will shut down your Pod and your StarMobile. The only way to get signed on is to purchase a new WiTech Pod Package from Witech for over 4 grand, than pay a per year fee to add your existing units.
wiTECH SOFTWARE - Where do we go from here?
After spending some time screwing around with WiTECH software I think I have some good news and some bad news. First the good news:
Its easier to use without a doubt! It may be the easiest diagnostic software in the industry thus far. It simply allows the user to bring up the network, view all the modules and networks and immediately see which modules have DTC's, are not on line, how they interact with other modules, and have updates available from chrysler. Sounds good right? Read on for the BAD news:
Witech Software is easier to use, IN THE DEALERSHIP ENVIRONMENT and cheaper of you bought it directly from WiTech! If you happen to be on Chryslers VPN, you have the world at your fingertips. As of the writing of this guide, I have not been able to get WiTECH to be as substantial on TechAuthority as on TechConnect. Bear in mind, that this is far less an issue of the actual infrastructure of the WiTECH unit or WAP, but more an issue of the new wiTECH software and the fact that it can no longer be used by people who have not bought their equipment right from WiTech.
The other bad news is that, pretty much like the city of Detroit has no law and order at all, for all intent, wiTECH has NO TECHNICAL SUPPORT AT ALL! If you buy one, you had better be willing to diagnose any software or hardware issues your self! The manufacturer that makes the POD (BrightStar Engineering) has like one guy named Roy who is the only tech support person for the entire country. You call in your problem to wiTECH support, leave your phone number, and if you have what they consider "lagitimate ownership" of the POD, at some point in the next week or so, the only tech. service rep avalable nationwide will call you back. Now hopfully, you will still be around your computer and your POD when he calls you, or you will simply have to wait another week for support.
Bear in mind that tech support intake service for wiTECH is 100% sub contracted out to people who have no idea what the equipment does, several of the intake people have very little mastry of the English language, and for GODS SAKE be carful what you tell them! A good friend of mine called tech support because his wiTECH pod would not update and the program required a dealership code. He called and told them the truth, he bought the Pod from a closed dealership and even though the POD was 100% lagit, he had a bill of sale and a clean serial number, they locked him out remotely and his POD is now a pile of junk! No one at tech service will talk to him and he is left holding the bag. Problem is, even if you do, do not expect ANY tech support out of BrightStar Engineering. Dont get me wrong, if you need tech support for ANY of Chryslers tools, your pretty much screwed! Be prepaired to sit on hold for a long time only to be told someone may call you back within the next week or so.
Sure WiTech software is much easier to use, requires less screens to open up to find things, and provides less pointing and clicking, but ONLY TO a DEALERSHIP technician who has access to Chryslers Virtual Private Network. To the independent technician, wiTECH software provides easier use, but less access thus far. The question is: How do I get access to Chryslers network? YOU CANT! You can open it up and get it to work in concert with TechAuthority, but once you do that, they can read 100% of what your doing and can, conversly, shut you right down! Like Volkswagon, Toyota, and lots of others, you can get all the software and equipment in the world to work on their cars, but if you cant get access to their VPN, its only nominally useful. Chrysler has just, effectively, cut the little guy out of dealership level access. Sure, GM and Ford still let us in, but that too is going away and very quickly.
I also would like to know if WiTech can be run in AD-HOK mode so my PC can communicate with the POD wirelessly. As you can see, the POD has an antenna, but that is to communicate with the wireless router, not a wireless PC connection. As it stands, in stand alone mode, you must use a USB connecton for a wiTECH POD to communicate with a PC. Keep in mind also that each WiTech Pod or StarMobile will now have to communicate with the WiTech server via the wireless router they sell you. That wireless router has the IP address that your account will be registered to. What does that mean? As long as your in YOUR shop, you have no problem. Once you plug in your USB cable and try to use it outside of your subscription IP address, it will lock you out of your Pod or StarMobile.
In conclusion, let me say that in a dealership environment, wiTECH seems to be a great advancement at a low cost. In an independent repair shop however, I think wiTECH software will prove to be a step backward and an expensive luxury. If you need tech support with anything in the Chrysler battery of scan tools, FORGET IT! wiTECH has just made StarScan a dinosaur and just put StarMobile on the endangered species list. The good news is that the price of StarScan and StarMobile will quickly start plummeting so save your greenbacks if your thinking of buying one of these relics. Just make sure you use it with BenchTop Client only! When a company moves on to a new diagnostic platform like Chrysler has with wiTECH, and changes the software platform like they did from Desktop Client to WiTECH and than introduces its own Virtual Private Network for it's network of dealerships to have access to, we are watching Chrysler make all of its previous units obsolete and essentially cutting the independent technician out of the picture. With the introduction of wiTECH and its software, look to see the value of StarScan and StarMobile hit the basement. Be ready for some great deals on this stuff but for the most part, you will soon not be able to even use it. StarScan, and StarMobile will pretty much be like NGS. Kinda useful for old cars, but, for the most part, yesterdays news!
Remember what happened to scan tools like WDS, and NGS. When new technology comes along, where the fundamental method in which the tool works is changed, expect the price of outdated items to go down. StarScan is still a great unit, but benchtop client is no longer supported by Chrysler. It's value just went through the floor! StarMobile is on its way out and StarScan is already out to pasture. Not because they are bad units, but because the software you could get cheaply (benchtop client) is no longer supported by Fiat/Chrysler. If you wait it out, the price of these units will start to fall quickly but membership to use them will skyrocket.