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Interface and Debugging Tools

CANBus Communications Decoded

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Listed below are some of the devices we've used for CANBus work in the past. Suppliers and prices change pretty frequently, but if you google the devices below you should be able to find a supplier in your area. Feel free to add to this post with your own suggestions, we'll update the first post to keep it current :-)

Interface Tools:

KVaser Leaf Light & CanKing:

A relatively expensive option for just starting out, but will give you good flexibility and software compatibility in the long term. You pay for the leaf light interface, the CanKing software is free, but AFAIK will only work with a KVaser interface. Software is pretty intuitive, interface can handle heavy traffic easily and the logging to a file is excellent. There are some not so obvious benefits to getting into the KVaser range, one of which being that you can use their tools to program some motorsport electronics devices, if they support programming over CAN. ECUMaster in particular provides this option, meaning you don't need to purchase one of their CAN programmers. Available from lots of places, I'm loathe to include links as they constantly go dead and need updating, but Element 14 and Digikey both had them last time I checked.

sysWORXX analyzer and their specific version of PcanView:

Relatively inexpensive. Interface is pretty robust, software is easy to use, can handle heavy traffic. However, the stripped down version of PCANView they supply to work with the interface does not log to a file. Good for decoding simple message traffic where you can set a parameter to a known real world value and enter the data manually into a spreadsheet. Seems pretty bullet proof, but frustratingly limited feature set with the stripped down version of PCANView... However its quick to get up and running. We purchases ours from Motorsport Electronics in Auckland, New Zealand.

Microchip APGDT002 Can Analyzer:

Relatively inexpensive. Software is quite old, but does work still. There is an update provided by a third party that adds a couple of features, however requires reflashing the original firmware on the interface with a PIC programmer, not something for the inexperienced user to attempt. Will not handle heavy CAN traffic, will miss messages if they come in too fast. Useful for bench decoding work with button inputs, keypads and the like. Digikey and Element 14 had them last time I checked :-).

Software that may work with multiple Interfaces:

BusMaster: Opensource which is always nice. Excellent featureset. Log to files, and replay logged CAN traffic. You'll need to research carefully to make sure you purchase an interface that is compatible.

SocketCAN: A set of utilities and drivers for Linux... So will require you to be familiar with using Linux. Probably not for the beginner user that is only familiar with windows. Steep learning curve, but the flexibility once you're up there is worth the payoff. Particularly useful when paired with a raspberry pi and a CAN interface add-on board of some type to create a mobile CAN interface / logger.

Contactless Interfaces:

CANCrocodile is the term to search for. It seems like Copperhill has taken over production / sale of these units. I’ve not personally used one, but have heard good reviews. They read the CAN High and CAN low wires inductively, and generate their own CAN signals on their wires, so you still need a standard CAN Interface tool / software to communicate with your PC. In particular the CANCrocoLITE looks like a really good option, well priced (at the time of writing), nice and slim to install. They do need a 12 or 24 volt supply though, so connection to an accessory socket in the vehicle is probably the best way to go, does add a little more wiring, but you'll only have to wire the accessory socket plug up once :-).

Hi Zac,

Some of the current MoTeC hardware (C1xx Displays, M1 ECU's and the UTC) can be used in conjunction with MoTeC CAN Inspector (downloaded FOC as part of the MoTeC Utilities program) to read the CAN messages on the Bus/es that they are connected to. Whilst this isn't an analysis tool, as a diagnostics tool this is a useful option to have if MoTeC hardware already is in the vehicle. The data captured using this tool can be logged and saved, then edited as a csv.

The is excellent info BlackRex. I've not had the pleasure of setting up a MoTeC system in the last couple of years, and the last ones I did were pretty light on the CAN side of things. I remember a similar situation with some Shiftec gear shifting stuff I was setting up years ago, had a pretty decent CAN analyzer built in too. That stuff is pretty uncommon though :-/.

Hi Zac,

nice to have you and your knowledgeable input back here, even for an one off...

I recently came across this:


based on this:


I am using a really sketchy simple software and some generic OBD2 interface, but only for private, entry level stuff.

I use the PEAK PCAN-USB tool which also seems to be a good device.

I'm familiar with CAN programming but still purchased the course to bridge any gaps in existing knowledge and to hopefully help some concepts become more intuitive (big endian / little endian!).

I didn't see any reference to bit combine functions (did I miss it?), where up to 8 on/off values are packaged into a single byte. Most of the motorsport targeted devices I work with make use of this feature. Is this something to look for in OEM data streams?

G'day Ray. I mention single bit flags in the simple message construction section and go through a little bit of an example, as well as the worked example with the Blink Marine keybad. It's bound to come up in future worked examples though, so we'll make sure to mention it there, great point.

I can highly recommend this tool! Best software and Hardware I came across in the lower budget range. The CH-P interface has two galvanic isolated CAN Bus. Best part is, it can be setup as an gateway and act as man i the middle. Means you clip CAN 1 to ECU and CAN 2 to the harness. Then the software you can choise if you want pass trough all can ID or you can turn off each sigle message. On top of that you can send out also single or repeatibg messages on the Bus. There is also a Bomber function which sends messaged on all defined ID and vary bits. Which is great if you have no clue on what ID is for example the Tachometer.


I do have also the WG software, which looks imilar to the kvsar tool, however not worth to buy. Much better to get the CAN Hacker tool.

Btw it's a Russian tool and they are just good in Hacking things ;-)

Hardware options and reviews:

CanCapture. $1325 USD. 1 of 5 stars for the value. Windows only proprietary software. does not support Compound (Multiplexed) Messages.


Canable / Canable Pro. $35 and $60 USD. Open sourced Controller that does a stellar job for it's price. There is FW on the openlightlabs site that can make these units emulate a PCAN USB, but you assume the risk and software violations of Pcan View Software. Supported by SocketCAN on both SLCAND and Native CAN depending on the FW. there's currently a chip shortage so they dont stay in stock for long at the time of this post.

Openlight Labs

Pi Hats using 2517FD Controllers. ~$40 USD. They have big issues transmitting so they're kinda a Receive only device. I'd personally recommend the canable/canable pro if this was your targeted route.

Cantact Pro. $150 USD (on preorder waiting for my shipment) Dual channel FD Capable from the same guy that brought the Cantact to market (which is where the Canable was a clone of). Will support Busmaster and SocketCAN.

CANtact Pro

Great work Zac.

Just to throw in my 6 pence on the adaptor and software front, I find for fast jobs the ECU Master Light Client works well, free too, works with peak pcan, kvaser and the ECU Master USB 2 CAN hardware adaptors.


Also, another one which many tuners already have but don't don't know about its full capability - You can use Taxtrix openport 2.0 with SavvyCAN, which is a very powerful open source reverse engineering tool with many unique ways to visualise the data, manipulate, bomb, playback certain parts or ID's etc.

Also, FYI, you can use SavvyCAN with most of the other devices mentioned above such as PCAN/SocketCAN/Kvaser/systec etc, and if not supported directly it will usually open the log file from any device.

Otherwise for a more polished device I give a second vote to CAN Hacker as suggested by Adrian above, amazing software and tool for the money, I have the similar single channel one. I especially like how you can tag comments on to a message, say for instance "I think byte 4/5 of this message might be lat accelerometer". With other tools I find myself writing notes on paper all the time and at the end of the day when looking back at the data it is not always easy to corelate.


Thanks for the hint, that Tactrix cable works with Savy, I just was to order some other adapters, since the CAN Hacker is going to support Savy only in 1-2 months. I do have the Tactrix cable here, so ready to go :-)

BTW I had a demonstration of the following system for a full day. It is a superb system to any other, but 8k+ Euro is a too big investment for me atmo, just for a CAN-Tool.


Bugger, I sold my Tactrix a couple of years back, knew I should have held onto it!

Hi, Zac, trying to set up a warning message on a Motec C187 Dash for when OEM ECU activates MIL, having little luck finding protocol, is this something you have come across at all? ECU runs J1939, im thinking maybe there is not a network command for this.

Has anyone used a Memorator Pro 2xHS v2 ? Any feedback on ease of use and features ?

Hi all

Does someone here have experience with the CanDue ESP32 v.2, designed by Colin Kidder, the SavvyCan developer? What do you think of its usability?

There is also this two:



Anyone with any experience with these?

Kvaser does great hardware. The CAN software is really basic. You mainly buy a kvaser to use with a 3th part software. There are a good deal of different once available. Just with the Kvaser software, I don't recommend it.

for me Can hacker tool works best, than Savvy.

What connection settings are used for the Tactrix with Savvy CAN?

A while back SavvyCAN changed to a 64bit version of QT which broke the compatibility with the Tactrix driver. I believe there is an experimental 64bit tactrix driver but install seemed complicated last time I looked at it.

Rusoku have compiled a version of SavvyCAN which has the older QT that works with the 32bit driver. You can download here: https://www.rusoku.com/downloads/SavyCAN_v207_win32.zip

If you use that version, then in the "add new connection" window you choose "QT Serial Bus Devices", then passthrucan, then in the Port drop down your tactrix should show in there.

Once you create the new connection, it will say "connected", but the bitrate will default to 250K and no data will be flowing, so you then need to select the Tactrix device in the device list, change the bit rate, then hit save. It is a bit buggy here - it likely still doesnt show data yet, select it again and hit save again. For whatever reason I always have to do the "save bus settings" twice before it works.

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