Picture of Hack Your Car
Want to unlock your car door with your phone?  Re-map steering wheel buttons, or log performance data?  The Car Kracker an open-source addon for your BMW 3-Series, 5-Series, 7-Series, X-Series or Mini that lets you;
  • Add an Aux-In or music jukebox
  • Remap steering wheel buttons
  • Remove the Nav warning screen
  • Display text like emails and SMS on your Sat Nav, radio, or dashboard
  • Access engine and performance data like air/fuel ratio, oil pressure/temp, and VANOS
  • Code retrofit parts like rain sensors, run-flat tires, theft alarms, and keys
  • Access the proprietary error logs to troubleshoot engine, transmission, or accessory problems.
You can also upgrade Engine / Transmission firmware, remove the speed limiter,  reset warning lights, and change dealer settings.  Here's a little demo of displaying a tweet on the radio;

Continue to the next step and I'll answer a few questions, then I'll show you how to build your own.

Step 1: What is it?

Picture of What is it?
The Car Kracker is a microcontroller with a bit of hardware to talk to your car.  It plugs into a connector in the trunk and has several default modes built-in;
  • Audio Jukebox Mode: Play music stored on an SD card
  • Advanced Diagnostics Mode: Remove the Nav warning screen, access error logs and read / modify ECU characteristics
  • Bus Sniffer: Display data traffic and send test packets
  • Audio Aux-In Mode: Enable Aux input to stereo headunits
A kit is available, or you can follow the schematic in the next step to make one from scratch.  Everything is open source, so it be customized and the firmware can be updated via USB.  A few ideas;
  • Traffic Camera Alerter
  • Automatic Audio sync
  • Auto Unlock: Unlock the doors when a specific Bluetooth device comes within range
  • Data logger + phone home: Automatically send car location and speed via SMS
Will it work with my car?
The Car Kracker works with the following cars;
  • BMW
    • 3-Series, 1998 - 2007 (e46)
    • 5-Series, 1995 - 2004 (e39)
    • 7-Series, 1994 - 2001 (e38)
    • X3, 2004 - 2010 (e83)
    • X5, 1999 - 2006 (e53)
    • Z4, 2002 - 2008 (e85, e86)
  • Mini
    • One / Cooper / S, 2001 - 2006 (r50, r53)
    • Convertible, 2005-2008 (r52)
  • Land Rover
    • Range Rover, 1999 - 2003 (L30)
Will it break my car?
Unless you want to update the firmware on your Engine / Transmission, It's pretty much impossible - the data bus is designed so that errant / malfunctioning devices don't break anything.  Changing preferences (like turning off the door gong) just updates the settings memory, the firmware doesn't change.

The Car Kracker builds on many people's work - Many thanks to Dr_Acula for respinning RS232, Jochen @ Navcoder, the BMWCoders forums, Rayman for audio playback, e46fanatics, and bimmerforums. Thanks Everybody!

Continue on and I'll show you how to make your own!
Really... it doesn't work on, say, anything else made in the 90s besides luxury convertibles and suburbans?... A Jeep perhaps? *uselessly hopeful*
Gadget Gangster (author)  CallMeShirlie3 years ago
The Car Kracker uses ISO 9141, which was adopted by Ford, GM, Honda, Chrysler, Toyota, VW, and BMW's - I'd bet it would be on most cars from 1995-2005. However, the commands vary between manufacturers and models.

You'll just need to connect in Bus Sniffing mode to figure out what commands unlock the doors, turn on the lights, etc. Of course, every car is different.

Anyone know what happened to gadget gangster? He seems to have just dropped off the face of the earth after 2012. It's dissapointing too cause a lot of his stuff was really awesome. Probably got recruited by the CIA or something to make tech for them...
arucano13 days ago

Where can I download the parallax code. Gadget Gangster link is dead

alexbnk6 months ago


Are you still selling car kracker 3?
xecure3 years ago
I have an e46 and am looking to purchase this soon. I recently performed an auto to 5 speed transmission swap and was looking to recode my DME. Does this handle that? Or would I still have to go and purchase sort of kit that communicates with EDIABAS?
Gadget Gangster (author)  xecure3 years ago
This is perfect for recoding - it will communicate with EDIABAS, just boot it up in Diagnostic mode.
Can I couple this device with a third-party keyless entry system so that my car would unlock everytime I come near it with my telephone?
Do you offer support? Even unwarranted help?
Is Car Kracker something like INPA and DIS? Something to communicate with the EDIABAS?

I apologize for all the somewhat unrelated questions. I've done my research for the mechanical aspect of the swap but haven't completed my research for the recoding.
charly20131 year ago
Would it work on a 2010 series 3?
Nick V2 years ago
This is absolutely fantastic.

I found this thread after entering a search for BMW motorcycle ideas. Would this device and software be compatible with BMW Motorrad CANBUS systems at all?
If so, it might well be a better option for most South African bike hobbyists than the GS911 made by Hexcode.
ttopueth2 years ago
I know you hate questions like this but:
Does it work with a BMW e36 318i?
I'm very excited about this project and I would be very interested about learning this stuff.. I'd like to study sth like this in 2 years so it would give an awesome insight into car electronics and stuff :)
blitz3552 years ago
Question for you, what if we didn't want all the other features, but just the aux-in feature. Would you only have to create that circuit listed in the instructables to mimic the cd changer?

I ask because I don't want to have to get the micro controller board if it isn't required.

btw, very cool project. Good work.

ps. I'm going to try to contact you on a few diff fronts, not sure how often you frequent bfc.
Is there any way this could work on a 92 e36 325is?
cooy3 years ago
So I could use this to rewrite the steering wheel buttons that are unused to be fan speed buttons?
Gadget Gangster (author)  cooy3 years ago
That's what I use it for - I remap the R/T button to display engine data on the radio. But you could map it to something else.
how do you remap the buttons
lock the doors at a certain speed
HandySun3 years ago
Cool stuff. They should do this for RX8's. RX8s are classic cars and are truly one of a kind. They also won't be produced again for another 20 or more years.
stangus3 years ago
Ok here in Germany an old BMW 316i costs about 2000€ (2500$). It's not that much. But I prefer the good ol' bus ;)
onelane3 years ago
Would you be able to flash the ecu with new a map, i.e., flash a new ignition timing tables, air fuel ratio, and other things related to tuning?
Gadget Gangster (author)  onelane3 years ago
Probably, although that's beyond my skills. You can connect to the D-bus and rewrite the ECU / TCU firmware
ryansanford3 years ago
I'm studying to become an Electrical Engineer at Baylor, I just bought this and needless to say I am EXTREMELY excited
You should enter this in the Hurricane Lasers Contest! http://www.instructables.com/contest/hurricanelasers/
useraaaaa3 years ago
really simple and inexpencive:-)
all you need is BMW 3-Series
owendaniel3 years ago
Would you know if there are similar premade PCB's for other cars that have OBD2?