GS-911 BMW Diagnostic Tool Review

[This GS-911 BMW Diagnostic Tool review was originally published in the June 2011 issue of Rider magazine]

GS -911 BMW Diagnostic ToolThe engine management systems on today’s motorcycles are smart, efficient and reliable, but there’s little to do when your motorcycle dies except to watch a blinking fault light and wait for roadside assistance. In simpler times, when carburetors mixed air and fuel and a set of points cued the spark, an average rider stood a fighting chance of troubleshooting and repairing his own bike. And if you couldn’t get it running, maybe your buddy could. Today, you’re SOL (simply outta luck) when your modern moto coughs and sputters to a stop. That is, unless you’re riding a BMW and carrying a GS-911 diagnostic device from Hex Code.

GS-911 taps into the diagnostic port on most BMWs with electronic fuel injection, exchanging commands and data with software you’ve loaded into your mobile phone or computer. The software is Windows-only, but there are workarounds for Macs. Depending on the model and year of your BMW, the palm-sized unit will read out Engine Control Unit (ECU) data and real-time information, run function tests, read and clear fault codes, and let you reset service reminders. Hex Code offers two grades of GS-911. Enthusiast models are limited to 10 vehicle IDs, while Professional models can be used on an unlimited number of bikes. Both are available as USB only (they cable up to a PC), or as USB and Bluetooth, adding a wireless cell phone interface. Prices start at $299 for the Enthusiast USB unit (perfect for a small group of riders to share), and climb to $549 for the Professional USB/Bluetooth model reviewed here. Through the kindness of Hex Code, Enthusiast models perform all emergency duties (ECU, fault codes, real-time values) for any supported BMW.

Connecting GS-911 to the diagnostic port of my F 800 GS took just seconds, followed by cabling it to a GS-911-enabled laptop (my aging phone wouldn’t handle the Bluetooth option). The program interface is well organized—selecting your bike’s series, model and year brings up the main function menu to get you going. Under ECU Info you’ll find total operating time, ECU firmware module versions and other arcane information. The Realtime Values page is the most informative, presenting information for engine management signals like fuel pressure, air intake temperature, rpm, switch indicator  status, battery voltage and many more. If you’re into charts, you can go nuts letting GS-911 dump real-time data to your computer in an Excel-compatible format. Output Tests let me run the fan (which I rarely hear), test the overtemp lamp and cycle the fuel tank venting valve and fuel injectors, creating a symphony of whirring and clicking within the bowels of the machine. From Special Functions I reset a service reminder that had been nagging me for a few thousand miles. I’d done the service myself, but couldn’t tell the motorcycle that without tapping into its brain.

Hooking up a GS-911 is like cutting a window into your BMW’s electronic black box. And it’s so easy to do that running the diagnostics regularly would be child’s play. The only thing missing is more information on some of the values displayed. I’d like to see min-max ranges for the sensor values and have some of the abbreviations spelled out so I don’t have to trot out a shop manual to interpret the results. Other than that, this South African device is a gem. In the United States you’ll find them at Ted Porter’s Beemershop. Go ahead, re-calibrate your idle actuators—just because you can. I did.

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For more information: Contact Ted Porter’s Beemershop, 5100 Scotts Valley Drive #100, Scotts Valley, California 95066; GS-911 or Hex

 

2 COMMENTS

  1. Rant mode on!

    I used a GS-911 ($250 pre-owned) plus an IBM laptop (free from a pal) when my bike ran poorly. It was a greatly frustrating experience, see my thread on the HexCode forum under the same username. No one on the HexCode list would indicate what correct operational values were… surely HexCode knows. I was referred to a thread with real-time values, which was known to contain bad values, but no one revealed what was wrong. I got flamed for expressing my frustration and left.

    Hexcode produce several diagnostic devices that are not difficult to use, but the readouts are COMPLETELY UNACCOMPANIED by any indication of what “normal” readings should be. WTF is a blind man going to do with a hammer? This is compounded by BMW Motorrad treating technicians as parts replacers, acting only at the direction of the factory, so even the techs don’t seem to be aware of correct parameter readings (at least, the one I spoke with didn’t, or wouldn’t, tell me). The ‘net doesn’t produce hardly any info… i-bmwr is gone… here we are. The factory rep-rom (have one of those too) is excellent for replacing parts but devoid of operational values or description.

    Who knew the bike ran an alpha-n fuel system? What is the correct fuel pressure range and should it vary, and if so, when, how, and to what values? How is it controlled? What are the sensors on the bike that inform the ECU, where are they, how are they tested, what are normal values? The online parts diagram calls many of them only “sensor” without naming them or what they report. Crude and poor, BMW, but this presents a market opportunity for an outside source.

    Thus: course materials should include a summary of the operational characteristics of all the bike’s systems. Making that material readily available to the user community should earn Hexcode some considerable regard, and possession of that information/ understanding is a requisite item BEFORE any diagnosis is attempted. The owner (even if not mechanically inclined) should have the opportunity to understand how the bike is supposed to run, before trying to diagnose something that isn’t running right, or having it towed to a $dealer. Relying on online advice cost me just over $600 for a set of non-returnable ignition coils that turned out not to be the problem.

    The value of such materials, and the user course(s), will be evaluated and determined by their technical depth. Given no current source for this information, it should be regarded as essential to any wedge engine bike owner.

    Using a GS-911 is not difficult but the device has little value without the underlying operational info. Your proposed online course would be not of much value without the knowledge base being present beforehand. Get the info together first. There’s nothing else on the market or ‘net where this how happens. Then we can evaluate what it’s worth. Hint: Haynes, Clymer and Bentley make illustrated diagnostic and repair manuals at prices from about twenty bucks up to a hundred twenty.

    The cost of providing the basic technical information should be absorbed as supporting marketing for your tool(s).

    Bring it on, HexCode, and let’s see what you got.

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