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Diagnosis of Modern Vehicles

Newer vehicles are getting more complicated, so much that it is the more high tech item in your life in just about all cases. Very few people have anything more complex in their life and I’m including computer networks in this theory. The most incredible thing about your newer vehicles is it drives down the road, stops, accelerates smoothly, has a very comfortable cabin and is able to operate from temperatures from -30 to 120 degrees. It can drive down very bumpy roads, go from below sea level (Death Valley) and up to 13800 feet (Mauna Kea). I have personally driven on both and not every had a problem.

Diagnosis of the modern vehicle problems is as always, very challenging. It has always been getting more challenging with new twists and more advanced multiplexing and technology adding to the complexity. Somewhere, in the world of diagnosis, some customers don’t think that the perceived valve of diagnosis is worth the money. We are asked often if we charge for diagnosis, can’t you just hook up a machine and get all the answers?

Our shops, as some in the automotive business, spend weekends and evening in classes to learn about the new technology. In these specialty classes, just learning how to use new scanner and all the capabilities is time consuming. These scanners can cost up to $12,000 with monthly maintenance fees up to $200 or more.

EuroAsian-FacebookAvatarTwo weeks ago we had a customer bring in a Mini Cooper requesting we get and replace the body control module. This module is about $500 and needs to be “married” to the vehicle and is ordered specific to that vehicle. Once this unit is “married” to the vehicle, it’s for life. It can’t be used for any other vehicle. We asked if we could please diagnosis it first, the answer was no. We programed this unit, installed it as per customers insistence for about $800 including the unit. Guess what, the brake lights still didn’t work. We diagnosed the problem, replaced the brake light switch for under $140. The customer understood he had a “thinking error” and was OK with us.

We had another customer bring in his European import with a check engine light on and running poorly. We scanned it (hooking up a specialty scan tool) and found a P0301 code, misfire #1 cylinder. We called asking for diagnosis time to find out why. He called back and said he just wanted us to replace the fuel injector in the cylinder, saying that he had read it on the internet. Very seldom do we find a fuel injector causing this problem but he said he was willing to take the risk. $245 later and a new injector, the vehicle still had the same problem. We were then given the permission to diagnosis, turned out to be two bad spark plug wires to that cylinder. Yes, this vehicle has two spark plugs per cylinder. He was very understanding. No, we didn’t take out the injector because by that time it was used.

This problem of self-diagnosis or miss-diagnosis also is a problem in the medical field I have been told. My advice is to trust the professional who is working on your vehicle; most times it will save time, money and aggregation. In life, I have found that free or low cost diagnosis is worth what you pay for it, very little.

April is car care month, getting ready for summer driving. The Car Care Council compiled an interesting survey. 79% of vehicles inspected needed parts of service. 8% had “check engine” lite on, 17% needed air filters, 20% had low, dirty or leaking brake fluid and 10% had batteries that were improperly held down. Take care of your vehicle so it can take care of your driving needs.

As vehicles get more efficient in fuel mileage and quietness in the cabin, one item robs from both, the outside rear view mirrors. These have an interesting history, it were first used in the Ray Harroun's Marmon racecar at the inaugural Indianapolis 500 race in 1911. The other race cars carried a passenger to look for traffic in the rear. Ray won this race and history was made using this. Now all vehicles for years have been required to have outside rear view mirrors. Tesla, the high performance electric car is asking the NHTSA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for permission to use small cameras with an inside screen to be able to see beside you vehicle. This will increase mirage while decreasing noise from wind going around the rear view mirror. It will be interesting to see if this happens, I think it will.

Any suggestions or questions, please email me at [email protected]


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