Playing with SocketCan using can-utils


When setting up and testing any new system some of the most common things I tend to want to do are:

  • view raw output
  • transmit raw input
  • log the output
  • re-play the logs

SocketCAN is no exception and the tools included with can-utils does just this. (Plus more.)

Installing can-utils

Debian based systems, I can’t speak for other versions of Linux, this is easy just issue the following command

$ apt-get install can-utils

For those who prefer to install directly from source, instructions can be found on and the source is at

Other useful information can be found at and

Can-utils is a veritable Swiss Army Knife of tools and probably has a tool to get stones out of horses hoofs  somewhere. I’ll go over the ones I have found most useful.


Candump probably the most useful of all the tools as it will dump information from the CANbus to stdout.

$ candump can0

Will then listen on the interface can0 and dump any CAN frames it sees to the terminal window. (note: ctrl+c will stop candump)

 can0 1DFF6773 [8] 00 0B 3B 9F 03 02 04 5A
 can0 1DFF6773 [6] 01 A1 12 19 09 09
 can0 0DF010A0 [8] FF FF A9 3F 18 A8 C6 28
 can0 15FD0773 [8] 00 C0 53 7A FF 7F FF FF
 can0 09F503A0 [8] FF FF FF 60 01 FF FF FF
 can0 11F80E2B [8] 00 1B 01 E0 53 7F 10 3F

Candump can also be set to log to file with the addition of a -l argument

$ candump -l can0
Disabled standard output while logging.
Enabling Logfile 'candump-2017-05-19_112441.log'

below is an example of what would be recorded in the log file

(1495188791.945986) can0 0DF805A0#040000000010FC0A
(1495188791.945993) can0 0DF805A0#055000FF7FFFFFFF
(1495188791.946000) can0 0DF805A0#067F00
(1495188791.946015) can0 0DF809A0#A93FFCEDC428B400
(1495188791.946029) can0 09F50373#004E01FFFF00FFFF



Cansend is used to transmit individual frames directly onto the CANbus.

$ cansend can0 5A1#

Gives us the following candump output.

$ candump can0
 can0 5A1 [8] 11 22 33 44 55 66 77 88


By default canplayer will replay a logfile back onto the interface recorded in the log file.

$ canplayer -I candump-2017-05-19_101301.log

Using the log file below

$ cat candump-2017-05-19_101301.log
(1495188791.945939) vcan1 0DF805A0#002B87A93FFCEDC4
(1495188791.945961) vcan1 0DF805A0#012800586711CFDB
(1495188791.945970) vcan1 0DF805A0#02490800F41547C4
(1495188791.945979) vcan1 0DF805A0#03D26E0380662300

Will produce

$ candump vcan1
 vcan1 0DF805A0 [8] 00 2B 87 A9 3F FC ED C4
 vcan1 0DF805A0 [8] 01 28 00 58 67 11 CF DB
 vcan1 0DF805A0 [8] 02 49 08 00 F4 15 47 C4
 vcan1 0DF805A0 [8] 03 D2 6E 03 80 66 23 00

Note – in this instance we are using the virtual can interface vcan1

It is possible to tell canplayer to play messages recorded on one interface back on another interface.

 $ canplayer -I candump-2017-05-19_101301.log can0=vcan1

will play messages recorded on vcan1 on can0 interface to produce

$ candump can0
 can0 0DF805A0 [8] 00 2B 87 A9 3F FC ED C4
 can0 0DF805A0 [8] 01 28 00 58 67 11 CF DB
 can0 0DF805A0 [8] 02 49 08 00 F4 15 47 C4
 can0 0DF805A0 [8] 03 D2 6E 03 80 66 23 00


I hope that this brief introduction to can-utils is useful to readers, I have only scratched the surface of what they can do. I strongly recommend using the -h argument with each of the tools to discover the full extent of what each tool can do.




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