Racing isn’t cheap. I campaign a homebrewed race car in the SCCA U.S. Majors Tour and the Hoosier SCCA Super Tour series, but I’m constantly pinching pennies in order to do this. To that end, my daily driver is a 16-year-old Toyota Corolla with so many miles on it that the odometer has stopped working. (I’m not kidding; the digital odometer on older Corollas stops “turning” at 299,999 miles.) I drive the Corolla in order to not have a car payment, thus freeing up funds to race. The downside, however, is that a commuter car with more than a quarter of a million miles on it requires extra upkeep. To that end, I recently purchased the Launch Creader Professional (CRP) 129X.
Being a longtime automotive penny pincher, diagnosing engine problems is nothing new for me, but the latest problem with my high-miler has been a bit of a head scratcher, combining a multi-code check engine light, an ECU that won’t go into ready mode, and (where this review begins) my 15-year old ODB-II reader going kaput.
Research for a new diagnostic scan tool led me to the Launch brand of ECU readers, mostly due to the fact that Launch sells competitively priced, modern OBD-II diagnostic readers with many positive Amazon reviews; the company also offers U.S. product support. So after much waffling due to the price, I placed an order for Launch’s CRP 129X OBD-II diagnostic tool.
The scan tool I was replacing was a decade-and-a-half old, so using the new unit was like stepping into the future. It’s quite amazing what $240 buys today. Where my comparably priced OBD-II scanner from the turn of the century offered two lines of LCD text along with limited features like freeze-frame data (that had to be purchased as an upgrade – which I never did), the CRP 129X boasts a 5-inch touch screen and includes every bell and whistle for the original sale price.
The Launch unit runs Android 7.0 on old hardware, so don’t expect the software to fly, but it does the job amply well. The software is also slightly clunky. For example, there’s a “Diagnose” selection and an “OBD-II” button that both essentially complete the same tasks, but I found data easier to manipulate through the “OBD-II” button. Conversely, utilizing the “Diagnose” button allows data reports to be saved for later reference.
The CRP 129X also features a built-in diagnostic code lookup, and for further research, the unit is WiFi enabled, allowing access to the web directly from the unit. The unit also receives lifetime updates via the WiFi connection.
Bettering its slightly less expensive CRP 123X sibling, the CRP 129X interacts with a car’s electronic parking brake, steering angle sensor, TPMS, throttle, and oil reset light as well as monitoring battery voltage, which comes in addition to the ABS, SRS, and transmission diagnostics that both the CRP 123X and CRP 129X offer. Both units also house a sizeable rechargeable battery that charges through a supplied USB cable or via the vehicle’s OBD-II port.
But one of the neatest features of this unit is access to live engine sensor data. Like my EZ-Read from yesteryear (as well as every other scan tool on the market today) the CRP 129X will tell you if the ECU houses fault or pending trouble codes and allow them to be reset; with the CRP 129X, however, you can then dig into the vehicle’s sensors to ensure they’re functioning, and then graph that data in real time.
My Corolla regularly threw a P0420 code, and periodically a P0171 error would arise. For those, I was led to the oxygen sensors for the P0420 reading, while the P0171 code had me centering on the MAF and fuel injectors. With access to the car’s live data via the CRP 129X, I could drive around while logging data for the O2s, MAF, and injectors, and dive in further by overlaying those data streams, or combine everything with items like rpm and throttle position to discover what happened and when.
Truly, the Launch software is not fluidly intuitive, but it’s close enough that anyone with a decent amount of vehicle knowledge can use this powerful diagnostic tool to further explore issues rather than blindly throwing parts at their vehicle. To that end, I write this review having only partially solved my Corolla’s issues with this scan tool. But I’m getting there, and from what insight I’ve gleaned via this diagnostic tool, I have little doubt that the CRP 129X has already paid for itself.
And with that, I encourage you to check back here in 15 years for a review of my next automotive ECU diagnostic tool.