Reverse engineering the Xcalibrator 1 -- serial port to PC - Ranger-Forums - The Ultimate Ford Ranger Resource


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Old 03-04-2007
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Reverse engineering the Xcalibrator 1 -- serial port to PC

I bought a used Xcalibrator from Thomas (blkout) but he listed it thinking he knew where the PC cable needed to download the unit was -- but he still can't find it. I do have the cable needed to hook it to the truck.

He sent me the unit though, so I took it apart and figured out how to add a standard 9-pin cable and a power jack so I can download tunes into it without the $50 cable that you have to buy to do that normally.

There's pictures of the somewhat "hacked" looking result, lol. However, it works and I've downloaded sample .xtr tunes into it to test it.

The reason I want that so bad is that you can use ExtremeTune software that is free from SCT to modify the tunes. You can change shift quality, VSS calibration and other things and get much of the function of an Xcalibrator 2 and do it on the PC with graphs and so on. I may do a second topic on this when I start using it to actually tweak the tunes I've bought.

If anyone's interested in how I figured this out, I reasoned like this to begin with:

1. PC communications is a "standard". It's different than OBD2 communications and would use different circuitry.

2. They are probably using different pins since there are 15 pins on the connector and Ford OBD2 ports require less than that for programming the PCM.

3. It's a small box so likely they used a standard chip to interface that doesn't take up much room.

Examining the circuit board, I found it had an MA3232C chip right near the connector. It was Texas Instruments' version of the MAX3232 RS-232 transceiver. Bingo!

The chip provides two signal outs, and two in. One of them was always at -5 volts and that identified it as the RS-232 transmit data line. Its paired receiver I figured was the receive data line.

So far so good, but the ExtremeTune software signals the box using a handshaking line. Just hooking up transmit and receive yielded an "Excalibrator loopback not detected" error (or something like that). Obviously, one of the "handshaking" signals from the 9 pin connector for the PC would have to connect to this remaining input line.

So I put a meter on the lines and kept telling ExtremeTune to communicate with an Excalibrator 1 and that allowed me to identify the pin by looking at which one changed.

It doesn't seem to need the other input pin on the Excalibrator, but I connected it anyway based on what I thought it should be hooked to.

I ran the lines to a 9-pin female "D" connector (DB-9F) and mounted that on the box as shown.

It works, and I don't need a $50 cable! If Thomas finds it, great -- but it's no longer necessary.

You also need 12 volts to the unit when using it with a PC. I put a "pigtail" on it with a standard coaxial power connector and I can use a "wall wart" transformer that puts out 12 volts DC to power it.

I didn't buy anything to do it. Just used junk I have lying around.

Last edited by n3elz; 03-04-2007 at 06:14 PM.
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Old 03-04-2007
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Your just showing off your skills at this point John......lol Looks great and itz always nicer to save some cash to put towards the SAS. Nicely done!!!
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Old 03-04-2007
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Well, it was supposed to come with the cable, but stuff happens, lol.

I just want to USE it!!! That's what drove the effort.

Thanks, though.

I should post the actual pin-to-pin chart for those who might need to do it. I'll do that later when I can find my notes, lol.
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Old 03-04-2007
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When you buy a used xcalibrator does it matter what vehicle it was for? Like if it was for a mustang when you buy new tunes does it matter. As long as it is unlocked
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Old 03-04-2007
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Yes. Must be for Ford (duh...) and unlocked.

The older one will not do the latest PCM's with the big memory that are showing up in the Mustangs and what not. The newer ones (9415 or later) will I believe.
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Old 03-04-2007
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hmm i wonder if that program will work for mine... wouldnt mind tweakin a couple of my programs
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Old 03-05-2007
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What form did you get your tunes in? If you got them emailed or sent on CD to you, and they end with .xtr, then you can modify them with ExtremeTune. It's free from the downloads section at SCT.
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Old 03-05-2007
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So do you have a diagram of it? Or could you cook one up for us?
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Old 03-05-2007
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I'll do that. I won't post it on SCT's site, but I will here for reference. I'm in the middle of playing with ExtremeTune using a stock tune for my engine and it sure is fun, lol. I'll post on that too. Give me an hour or so and I'll have something up for you on the cable.
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Old 03-05-2007
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Okay, here you go.

I know this works because I took the stock tune for my truck, modified the transmission shift points, gear ratio and tire size, and idle speed and have loaded it into my truck successfully.
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