CAN Bus and OBD2

The KTM 790 Adventure is like many other modern motorcycles employing CAN Bus for communications between the ECU, sensors and actuators. And some other devices like the front lights. A CAN bus is just two wires with data flying through it that can be read and written to.

A lot can be done from a CAN Bus, from capturing detailed read of temperatures, to uploading a new map for the engine. Your KTM dealer uses the CAN Bus during service to update the software on various parts of the bike, and to read the diagnostic codes. The risks of uploading software or new maps are high, pushing the wrong values may end up wrecking your engine. Reading or clearing diagnostic codes and monitor motorcycle performance however is perfectly fine, and can be achieved with your phone and a bit of hardware.

The simplest way to get access to the CAN Bus is the diagnostic port under the battery cover, it’s easy to find, and it’s sealed with a protective cap.

Diagnostic port

OBD2 is originally a US standard, a requirement for all vehicles to provide a standard way to read data and diagnostic codes. OBD2 is nothing else than a CAN Bus and a specification for a diagnostic port. All the solutions on the market do use an OBD2 port. In order to use them you need an adapter from the KTM diagnostic port to OBD2. There are plenty of vendors selling those, just search for “KTM OBD2 Adapter“. One that’s proven to work is this Lonelec adaptor (which comes with all the hardware to use TuneECU on Windows).

Once you have an OBD2 port, it’s just a matter of finding a software solution for you. The picture below have been taken using OBDLink on Android, using a OBDLink MX+ Bluetooth adapter. Just avoid the cheap adapters, they do not work properly most of the time.

Once connected (and bound via Bluetooth, Wifi or USB if/as appropriate), you’ll be able to examine any “thrown codes” and peek at some commonly coded sensors.

Techies that study this stuff may want to dig into an Adventure Rider thread titled “Results from hacking the KTM SuperDuke 1290 CAN bus”, as many of the “secret codes” used on the 790 are likely to be the same as other KTM models.

Many thanks to Scott McCrory for the original idea, some of the text and all the images for this article.

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