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Davis CarChip E/X with Alarm review: Davis CarChip E/X with Alarm

For home mechanics, the CarChip E/X with Alarm is a handy tool that can record data about your engine's performance, but it's limited by some restrictions. Read our review to get the full scoop.

Wayne Cunningham
Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow

Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.

3 min read

The CarChip E/X with Alarm is a chunky block (1.4 by 1.8 by 1 inches) of translucent plastic with one side taken up by its OBD-II plug. It's small enough that it should fit into the OBD-II connector on any car without being hampered by tight cabin spaces. Davis, the manufacturer of the CarChip, does state that there are a few vehicles in which the device doesn't work properly, so you should consult the company's Web site before purchase. We put it in a BMW Z3, and it fit fine in the car's passenger-side center-stack connector, although it looked a bit unsightly sticking out of the smooth plastic covering. A proprietary cable connects CarChip to a PC's USB slot. The software for CarChip is functional but basic; it uses a spreadsheet format to display car data. It also lets you enter multiple vehicles, but CarChip has no way of identifying the vehicle it's monitoring. You have to remember which car it was logging when you download the data.


Davis CarChip E/X with Alarm

The Good

CarChip E/X with Alarm is very easy to use, seamlessly collecting data on engine performance. Plus, its small form factor won't interfere with vehicle operation.

The Bad

CarChip E/X with Alarm can monitor only eight power train parameters at a time, and four of those can't be changed. It can't distinguish between different cars in which it's used.

The Bottom Line

CarChip E/X with Alarm offers basic OBD-II scanning for home mechanics, and its alarm feature lets the kids know when they are driving unsafely.
CarChip E/X with Alarm
Extremely simple to use, the CarChip E/X with Alarm ($199) plugs into a car's OBD-II connector and saves information on specific engine operating parameters. The information it logs can be downloaded to a PC via its included USB cable. Although it can log all the standard power train data, you can select only 4 parameters to monitor at a time in addition to its standard 4, and it doesn't recognize different cars. Its alarm feature causes a beeping sound if preset engine thresholds, such as speed and braking limits, are exceeded.

With CarChip E/X with Alarm connected to a PC, logged data can be viewed in the CarChip software, and CarChip can be set to monitor up to 4 specific engine parameters and reset the Check Engine light; plus, alarm thresholds can be specified. CarChip is a bit limited in that it reads only power train OBD-II codes, and it can be set for only 4 parameters beyond its standard 4 (it always logs time, distance, speed, and acceleration). There are a total of 23 user-selectable engine parameters, including fuel pressure, battery voltage, and coolant temperature. By default, the alarm is set to go off at speeds more than 70mph and hard braking. The alarm can be disabled, or the speed and deceleration thresholds can be changed. Unfortunately, the alarm can't be set to monitor other parameters, such as engine temperatures, which might prove useful.

CarChip E/X with Alarm performs exactly as it's intended, monitoring and recording all preset parameters. You can set the interval at which it grabs data, and at a wide interval, it can record 300 hours of drive-time data. Downloading the data to a PC is very fast.

Davis maintains all documentation on its support Web site, with complete PDF manuals. The support section also includes a useful FAQ with a link to an online database of locations for OBD-II connectors in different cars. E-mail support is available, as is a toll-free telephone number, which is available Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Pacific time.