RX8 Project – Part 13, Canbus #3, Labview!

If you just want the CANbus ID for the RX8 PS light and not all the background work just skip to the end!

So it’s been quite a long time since I had chance to have another go at getting the CANbus on the cluster working and while previously I manged to get everything apart from the power steering warning light working I decided I really should find out why not. This is a simple lesson in why getting sufficient sleep is really important!

I was contacted a while ago buy a guy doing a similar conversion to mine who happened to have a second complete RX8 and a variety of diagnostic equipment that can talk CANbus who had send me a block of CANbus log data that I’ve done nothing like enough work on since I’ve had it! Anyway the key here is I knew that the car some of the logs had come from had the factory PCM (ECU) working as intended and as such the power steering light doesn’t illuminate. This meant that somewhere in that log file was the data that turned off the light, I just had to work out where it was!

Now first off I took the approach of taking the two sets of data logs I had, one from a car with a functioning PCM and one from a car that doesn’t. Then list out all the ID’s that occurred in each set of data. I’m going to assume for my purposes that any that occur in both sets are not required. The logic being that the data that turns off the light must be present in one set and not the other. I admit that this might not be the case if there’s something more complex going on like if with the PCM removed the power steering computer doesn’t get the required data and sends a different value on the same ID. But for now it’s a starting point!

The ID’s that remain are as follows:

201, 203, 215, 231, 240, 250, 420, 620, 630, 650

A couple of these we’ve already seen elsewhere, specifically 201, which is the RPM and speed to the dash, and 420 which control the cluster warning lights. So after setting up the arduino and canbus data to strobe all these remaining address and nothing happening I gave up!

Many weeks went by and I it was nagging at me why I couldn’t find the right code. Eventually I decided to try a different tack so I ordered a USBtin which is a really neat little USB to CAN adapter which appears as a virtual COM device in windows and can be controlled using a series of commands known as the LAWCIEL protocol (details of which can be found here). The kit version is really quite cheap and would probably be a good option for the budget conscious but on this occasion I just decided to be lazy and buy the prebuilt one.

Clearly I’ve decided to PC control it at this point! Next up I needed a way to stop it when the warning light went off. I ordered a very cheap optical detector off ebay which can be wired into an Arduino or something similar. These are the ones that vary around £1-2  so difficult to argue with. They offer a potentiometer to adjust the switching brightness so I can tune it to what I need and a digital output so I don’t need to mess about doing analog reads or calibrating things on a microcontroller. Yes i know it’s not the neatest or most efficient way of doing it but for my purposes it’s so cheap and easy it really doesn’t matter! So I need to make that talk to a PC in a way I can use and that’s where this whole thing starts to get more interesting.

I’d pondered ways of interfacing a microcontroller to a PC easily and while it’s not terribly hard to make it shout over serial when an input goes high I came across something much more interesting. There’s a company called National Instruments who make lots of very expensive software and equipment for recording data from experiments but fairly recently they started supporting hobbyists by producing the Labview Makerhub, and more specifically a package called LINX. LINX includes a series of drivers and firmwares to allow things like Arduinos, Beaglebones and even Raspberry Pi’s to be used as IO devices (the Raspberry Pi can actually have programs loaded to them as a full remote node). This is quite a major step because it suddenly allows hobbyists to use really good professional software without having the problem of only being able to use NI’s extremely expensive hardware! This gave me and idea – use labview as the core software then I can use the supplied LINX firmware to set up an arduino as IO. To make this deal even sweeter you can also download Labview for free from NI for home use. Take a look here

So after a quick bit of following the instructions we have a basic labview program that will read the arduino IO via serial:

Labview Lynx1

Basically what this does  is it starts by opening a serial connection via the LINX toolkit, this returns a device name to an on screen string display and passes a reference which identifies the connection to the read stage. The next bit the larger grey rectangle is how Labview handles a while loop so it’ll keep performing the enclosed functions constantly from left to right until the conditional term in the bottom right goes high – in this case it’s a stop button. So basically the loop just calls a LINX channel read of channel 2 where I connected the light sensor to the Arduino. The inner rectangle only executes when the read value is false (i.e. when the light goes off) and while there’s a lot of information recorded here from elsewhere in the program basically if it sees the light go off it records the current ID being tested, the time that has elapsed since the test started. This means we know when it’s right!

Labview is designed to capture data from lab instruments and so there’s a really handy thing called the VISA toolkit that allows blocks of data read and write via the serial port and basically you can just open a port with specified settings then make read and write requests and do things like crop the incoming data at a predefined character. In this case that character needed to be CR (Carriage Return) this is ASCIIcharacter 13 because LAWCIEL terminates everything with one.

Labview Lynx2

For the USBtin we open the correct COM port at 115200,8 Data bits, No parity, 1 stop bit and no flow control. The other thing to note is at the top right, this sets the termination character to the numeric value of CR, the benefit here is you can perform a read of any length and it will automatically break up the data in the buffer so a single read can vary in length but the start will always synchronise  with the read call. Opening the connection in a terminal program for the first time and you’ll see nothing actually happens as such, an OK is signified by a CR so all you see is the cursor move. At this stage we are only connected to the USBtin, not the CANbus. So next, configure the CAN connection, send a value of “S6\r” . The code is S6, this will set the USBtin to 500kbit correct for the dash, the \r is how you indicate a CR in a Labview string. Next I chose to send “v\r” which requests the version from the USBtin, we don’t need this but it gives a solid confirmation it’s talking to us. Next up Z1\r tells the USBtin to timestamp the incoming data, I thought this might be useful but never actually implemented it.

Labview Lynx3

With the setup complete we can start reading data by opening the CAN connection by sending O\r. On a terminal program (assuming you have the CANbus wired up) doing this would result in packets of can data from the cluster appearing. The initial read of length 1 byte reads just the confirmation from the USBtin that it has received the open request. Next is the main read, it’s worth noting the read length is set at 50 bytes but this will be cut short by the termination character set earlier so we can accept varying length CAN data. C\r closes the CAN connection and again another read 1 byte clears the acknowledge. Tacked on the end is a section to read the controller status looking for error states etc. The keen eyed amongst you will notice the majority of this code is conditional, this is because the code needs to insert send requests among the stream of reads. This is because if the data is not read from the USBtin constantly a buffer somewhere fills (I imagine on the USBtin itself but can’t confirm this) and the port crashes. I spent a lot of time finding this out the hard way!

Labview Lynx4This is the write data code, again very similar but it just opens the port, writes whatever string is in the buffer and closes the connection. Once the connection is confirmed closed it resets the Boolean that causes the ‘write’ condition so on the next loop it goes back to reading again to keep the buffer clear. The read loop runs at the maximum possible speed but it is slowed down because it waits for either a termination character or 50 characters to be received before it completes and loops again.

Beyond that the only other bits of code just generate the data for the write buffer using an increment counter for the ID field and toggling between either 8 bytes of FFFF or 0000 every 100ms for 20 cycles and setting the write flag high to send the data..

So after letting this run for a fair while it started spitting out values, specifically the ID 300 for the power steering light. Wait a minute that wasn’t in the list earlier. Yes I know that, that’s where getting enough sleep comes in. Originally I split the data based on whether or not the PCM was fitted and ignored the ones that occurred in both sets, the obvious mistake here is that of course the power steering light isn’t controlled by the PCM, quite logically it’s controlled by the power steering controller!

So there we go, ID 300, the first byte (leading) controls the light, values below 80 turn the light off. Unplugging the PCM causes the controller to send 80 on loop hence the the warning light.

Get data from ID: 4B1
0	0	0	0	0	0	0	0	
Get data from ID: 81
43	6F	1	4B	
Get data from ID: 300
Get data from ID: 231
F	0	FF	FF	0	
Get data from ID: 430
95	5F	83	0	0	0	60	
Get data from ID: 81
25	6F	1	4B	
Get data from ID: 81
16	6F	1	4B	
Get data from ID: 630
8	0	0	0	0	0	6A	6A

Looking at the log data again we see that ID 300 is getting a value of 80 – this is during the self test before the engine is started. I previously tried sending this data on the original Arduino CAN setup and go no result so what did I do wrong. Again this is based on another assumption, I though the logger was ignoring high order bytes with zero value (ie this value if could be 00-00-00-00-00-00-00-80) well it turns out that was totally wrong, it actually ignores trailing zeros, the value of the can data here should be 80-00-00-00-00-00-00-00.

So while all these hours of work told me one thing I should have already known it’s actually worked out Ok because it highlighted this other problem (read ‘incorrect assumption’ !). This means The odds of me working out all the other data from the logs (that I’d previously written off as not usable) is actually much higher!



RX8 Project – Part 5, Canbus

Following the decision to go for the complete engine swap I had the sudden realisation that nothing was going to work on the car because I wouldn’t have the factory engine and so also wouldn’t have the factory ECU and so no engine data and nothing on the instrument cluster. So I needed to come up with a better plan!

Initially I intended to open up the stock instrument cluster and replace the normal controller circuits inside the cluster with a microcontroller (probably an Arduino) with suitable supporting electronics such as motor driver IC’s to control the gauges and small MOSFET’s to switch the warning lights and anything else I needed to get it working. Done in that way I could interface almost anything to the Arduino and make the cluster behave however I wanted.

I started looking into what wiring the cluster had normally to see if I could hack into anything directly and not have to fake signals, say a nice direct tachometer connection I could use, but found that virtually everything on the cluster was controlled via a canbus communications connection and this gave me other ideas.RX8 ClusterFor anyone who doesn’t know canbus is a differential communications interface used in the majority of common cars to connect all the separate devices together. It is what’s called multi drop and as such all the devices are basically just daisychained on a single pair of wires. Complexity is the data is sent to a specific target device based on a device ID which we don’t know and the format the device needs the data in is to give a particular result is entirely up the manufacturer. So for example even if you found the memory location that controls RPM it might be using a single byte (256 possible values) to represent RPM in the range of 0-7500 rpm. This means that each increment would be a step of approximately 30 rpm which would likely not be noticeable. Or they might use two bytes at different addresses which combine to give the value, or something more complicated! Figure it all out and you can directly control the cluster!

The Arduino can be made to communicate with a canbus system with appropriate components added on. These are available as an off the shelf canbus shield and if you’ve not build circuits like this before I recommend that approach but since I have an electronics background I decided to DIY my own and save the money and so I started down the route of designing a canbus interface. I then had another interesting thought, if I had an engine ECU for the new engine it would be transmitting all sorts of data about what it was doing which would normally go to the cluster of the car it was from. I could work out what address it was sending that data too I could read it all. So suddenly one canbus interface grew to a pair of them so I could connect one to the engine ECU and one to the cluster and eventually use the pair of interfaces to bridge the two canbus connections and convert and reformat all the engine data in real time to control the cluster. Sounds simple right!

Based on information found via Google the chips to use seemed to be the MCP2515 transceiver and MCP2551 canbus line driver. Part of the reason behind this was there are well documented libraries available for the Arduino to work with these, plus they are available in DIP packages to make prototyping on stripboard easier!

Sadly I can’t seem to find the original circuit diagram I drew for this but it was closely based on this one (click to enlarge):Arduino MCP2515 Interface

I tend to use Arduino nanos in my projects, they are very small but have a good clock speed and all the handy features you’re likely to need for fairly small IO count projects. Plus you can buy the knock off version on eBay for very little, my last ones were 5 for £12 delivered next day but can be had for less if bought from a Chinese seller but obviously with a much longer delivery. The down side of these is they make them cheaper by not using the proper FTDI branded USB to serial converter chip, instead they use the CH340G which means the driver isn’t included with the normal Arduino IDE and must be downloaded and installed manually. The appropriate driver can be found from a number of sources via Google.

After quite a bit of work I ended up with something that looked a bit like this (ok, exactly this!)

Arduino Canbus adapter top Arduino Canbus adapter bottom

The red and black coloured solder lines are to distinguish the 5V power from the Arduino from everything else to make sure I hadn’t accidentally shorted  it out. Needless to say there’s quite a bit going on on the bottom of this board! The converter board has options for either screw terminal connectors or the 9 way DSUB used for certain applications. I’ve also included options for connecting power into the DSUB if required. On particularly important feature is the termination resistor, this is situated next to the blue jumper, moving the jumper turns this on or off. Canbus must have this termination resistor connected between the two bus wires (called CANL(-) and CANH(+)) at each end of the bus, so if this is an end node on the bus it needs enabling. If it’s being added to the middle of an existing bus it should be disabled. Other keen people will notice there’s only one Arduino slot occupied, this is because by the time I took the photo it had been commandeered for another project but since I was still working with identifying signals in a single bus at a time it didn’t really matter. I did initial test with two Arduinos connected via canbus  with one transmitting and one receiving just to prove the hardware out.

Next up we need to connect the new hardware up to the RX8 cluster. This assumed it is disconnected from the car, if it isn’t you won’t need to tie in power to the cluster but I have no idea how the but will behave in this situation. If you experimenting as I am it’s advisable to disconnect the canbus pins to avoid problems or just disconnect the whole cluster. to make this work we need to use the smaller connector on the back only. In the diagram above you can see the pinout for this, the simple version is :

Upper Row going left to right
B/Y – Ignition Switched +12V
B – 0V (PSU Minus)
L/R – Permanent +12V

Lower Row
G/Y – Unknown
BR/B – Unknown
R/Y – Unknown

For testing purposes both +12V can be connected together and any normal 12VDC PSU (cheapo wall wart or anything else you have) can be used. Congratulations, you now have a powered up cluster you can work with!

Things will get technical in the next section Canbus #2