Sunday, December 1, 2013


If there is one question I get asked frequently by shop owners, technicians, and emails alike is-What scantool should I get? Or, Is this scantool good? Or, I just spent $12k on this scantool and it doesn't do this procedure on this vehicle.

I typically will follow this up with questions of my own. Such as. What manufacturer is the bulk of your work? What functions do you want to do with the scantool? What is your budget?

Without knowing the answers to those questions it is awfully hard to give sound advice. I see many shops that use a $10k scantool like a $99.00 code reader. They would have been better served spending the $9K someplace else in my opinion. Like maybe some training. If that works for you and your shop so be it.

In this age of automotive diagnostics it is nearly impossible to be "loaded for bear" on every manufacturer. Unless, you have deep pockets. Even with that are you using all the capabilities of all your tooling? Lots of aftermarket companies make boastful claims when it comes to coverage and capabilities. Unfortunately, when the tool is in your hand and need to do a function they can fall short at the worst of times. I often say that a good aftermarket tool will have 85% capability on 85% of the vehicle lines. However, that 15% can kill you.

  Here is a small example of aftermarket tooling. Any one of these are a very capable scantool. Being able to read codes/erase, view scan data, graph, and perform bi directional functions on different modules. Some do it better than others. Some are strong on this manufacturer but weaker on others. Again the 85%/85% rule. Some, I have been impressed with and others well not so much. Sometimes it is just easier to break out an aftermarket handheld tool rather than hook up a OE laptop based tool to check data or codes. Time is money. Some aftermarket tools actually graph better/faster than the OE tool for certain manufacturers.

    Here are some OE scantools. These are manufacturer specific tools. Some are handheld and some are PC/Laptop based. The world of OE tooling is a convulated and confusing world. These tools walk the walk. With these tools you should be able to have 100% capability for that manufacturer. Notice, how I said should. They have their hiccups as well. It happens from time to time. Not often though. If you want to do a procedure from start to finish and want to be sure you can do it then OE tooling is for you.
One thing to point out in this photo is the GM Tech2. There is been much chatter about the demise of this tool. Well, it had a recent update and I used it to finish up an ABS control module setup on a 2013 Cadillac CTS just the other day. Granted, there is a PC based version of Tech2 called Tech2Win that could have done the same procedure.

Here is a screen shot from Tech2Win. I still prefer the handheld to the PC based. The point here is don't get rid of your Tech2 and if you do service a lot of GM vehicles a Tech2 is still a smart tooling investment.

You have to ask yourself those three question I posted earlier when choosing scantools. Some tool companies/vendors allow for a "test drive" of tooling. That is always a smart idea take advantage of  if possible. Nothing worse than investing money in a tool that disappoints. A test drive of a week should let you know if that tool is right for you and your shop. Beware, of any tool company that claims that you will never need another scantool.

Another point to remember is comfort. A tool that everyone is intimidated to use will be a tool that sits in your toolbox making you no money. There are plenty of techs throughout the country that are diagnosing issues with vehicles with tooling that many would scoff at. It works for them and they are using that tool to its potential. Many times it is not the tool but the tool wielder. The general publics perception that all you do is plug into the vehicle and the scantool "tells" you what part is bad is grossly exaggerated. The best scantool you have is your brain. Technicians fix vehicles not scantools. Remember that always. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Timing is everything

Here we have a 2005 GMC Envoy 4.2 Liter engine. The vehicle is fairly clean and has 112,361 miles on it. The complaint is the MIL Lamp is on and is setting a P0017 code. This code indicates an issue between Crankshaft and Camshaft correlation. The truck runs well and the shop owner was hoping there was a reprogramming that would solve this. A quick check of present calibration and available updated calibrations yielded nothing for this code. Time to roll up the sleeves. First step is to look at the code and more importantly code set criteria. While we are at it check for pertinent TSB's.

Here is the code P0017. I love the code set criteria. A calibrated amount. What is a calibrated amount? Time to dig a bit. I look for TSB's and PI's on the OE site.

I come up with this document. A world of information including the specified calibrated amount as well as a wealth of causes for this code. A little background on these engines. They utilize a camshaft actuator or phaser on the front of the exhaust camshaft that is loaded to a neutral/base position. When the PCM wants to actuate this actuator it duty cycles an oil control solenoid that will in turn feed oil to the actuator and in this case will retard the exhaust camshaft. Basically, this operation takes the place of EGR operation and it also improves overall efficiency. Like all engines that utilize this type of design it is very reliant upon proper oil level, viscosity, and pressure.

Here is the front view of the engine. The oil control solenoid is in the head right by the power steering pump. The camshaft sensor is also on the front of the cylinder head right by the upper radiator hose.

Here is a close up of the oil control solenoid. I see plenty of issues with these. They clog up, the portion inside the head gets clogged up and doesn't allow the oil solenoid to do its job properly. Typically, when this happens the vehicle runs really poor at an idle but runs decent raced up. Think of a vehicle with a stuck open EGR valve. This vehicle runs rather well at an idle. Scantool data is only going to give me a small portion of what I need to know. My play is to scope crank and cam sensors.

Well here is Crank sensor on channel 1 in yellow and Cam sensor on channel 2 in Green. Is it good? Is it bad? I don't know. This is where it is nice to have a known good. It just so happens that there is another similar vehicle on the lot. This vehicle is running fine and is just in for servicing. Lets take a look at that one and see if we can see any differences.
Hmmm. Waveform interpretation can be daunting at times. I usually zero in on one portion. If you look closely at the crank sensor pattern you will notice a double spike. This is the signature portion of the waveform. The PCM uses this signature pulse to determine piston position. I am going to zero in on that portion of the waveform.

  Notice how the first signature starts after the second trailing portion of the short camshaft sensor pulses and the second signature is on the trailing edge of the second long pulse of the camshaft sensor. Lets look at our suspect pattern.

A definitive difference indeed! Looks like the whole crank pattern is shifted to the left or is the camshaft pattern shifted to the right?

Here is a comparison of the two waveforms. At this point I inform the shop owner of my findings. I tell him definitively that he has a true blue issue with correlation. At this point it could be a stretched timing chain, timing chain alignment, an actuator/phaser not returning to base position, an oiling issue inside the head, an oil control solenoid not operating correctly, etc. I ask the shop owner if he wants me to delve deeper. He refuses citing he has to get approval from customer for more diagnostic time. He was really hoping there was a calibration update to solve this. I advised the shop owner I don't think it is crank endplay or a loose crank bolt. Because I don't see major differences in the amplitude of the crank signal when raced up, etc. Unfortunately, the customer refused more diagnostic time and the vehicle was released. This happens sometimes. What is ironic just last week a buddy of mine called me asking if I had a known good 4.2 liter crank/cam scope pattern that I could send him.

Just a little math here as well. One crankshaft rotation (from signature to signature) took approximately 100ms. That would mean 3.6 degrees per 1ms. The code set was 16.31 degrees which is approximately 4.5ms.  Looking at the bad pattern it is real close to being about 4.5ms out. If memory serves me these cam sprockets have 48 teeth that would yield 15 degrees per tooth. So a tooth out with a little stretch is a possibility here as well.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Arrivederci Gallardo!

After ten years and 14,022 cars, the Lamborghini Gallardo has come to the end of the road. The Gallardo was the first Lamborghini to really break the mold so to speak. Prior to the car's production, the company would average around 250 or so cars a year, The Gallardo brought a whole new way of thinking at the company in terms of volume by jumping to 2000+ per year. Since Lamborghini was founded in 1963, nearly half of all the cars produced are Gallardos.

Like all Lamborghini's, the Gallardo name was derived from bullfighting. The Gallardo bloodline was known for its exceptional courage and undaunted nature. ans was bred during the 18th century. When the Gallardo was introduced in 2003, it also brought many new advancements for Lamborghini. Including an all new aluminum space frame, the first ever Lamborghini to have full time all wheel drive, and a robotized electronic shifting system (e-gear). The Gallardo also set records with 32 different variants of the car over it's 10 year run. My particular favorite was the Superleggera. It was also the first Lamborghini to have a special service record with 2 cars built for the Italian State Police.

The 2013 Gallardo LP 570-4 Squadra Corse boasts a dry weight of 1340 kilograms, 70 less than the already lean Gallardo LP 560-4. With a stunning power-toweight ratio of 2.35 kilograms per hp it delivers breathtaking performance: from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.4 seconds, from 0 to 200 km/h in just 10.4 seconds.

Now, the final car produced? It is a Gallardo LP 570-4 Spyder Performante in Rosso
Mars (red) and it is destined for a private collector.

Source: Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Details, Details, Details......

In the automotive diagnostic world details are everything. Missing a vital piece of scan data can lead to a misdiagnosis or missing a step during a programming event can cause issues. You have to pay attention at all times. It is something I strive for. To be a detail orientated person and that translates to my business as well.

A shop owner called me one day frantic about a 1999 Ford F150 pickup truck with 78,820 miles that he could not get rid of a P0401 EGR code. I arrived at the shop to see a very clean low mileage Ford truck with a 4.6 liter. Lifting up the hood I could see a new EGR valve, a new EVR (EGR solenoid), a new DPFE (Delta pressure feedback egr) sensor, a new exhaust tube for the EGR, and new DPFE hoses. Some parts the shop put on and others the customer installed. I quickly ran a KOEO (Key on engine off) test there was a P0401 (EGR low flow) code in KAM. No on demand codes. I moved on to the KOER (Key on engine running) test but first I hooked up an old fashioned vacuum gauge on the vacuum hose between the EVR and EGR valve. When you run a KOER test the PCM will activate certain outputs such as EGR and look for change. I was interested in if there was any vacuum going to the EGR valve during the test. During the test I indeed saw vacuum going to the EGR valve. The control side of the EGR system seemed to be in order. The test completed and a P0401 was set in KOER. Next step was to actually put vacuum to the EGR valve at an idle and see if it caused the engine to run rough indicating the EGR was opening and that the exhaust and intake passages for EGR were not clogged. Putting vacuum to the EGR valve didn't cause the engine to change at all. I could physically see the EGR valve diaphragm opening. I unbolted the EGR valve and started the motor the intake port were completely clogged. No vacuum could be felt. Considering the low mileage and the common issues with this issue I instructed the shop to remove the throttle body so I could show him the clogged ports. 10 minutes later the throttle body was off and sure enough the ports were clogged solid. Leaving the shop I gave the shop owner a quick rundown of how the system works and how it tests itself to see if it fully functioning.

A couple of days later I get a call from the shop owner saying he gave the vehicle back to the customer and the MIL (Malfunction illumination lamp) came back on and it has a P0401 again! Huh? This was a slam dunk diagnosis. I asked the shop owner if he ran a KOEO/KOER tests before releasing it to the customer. His reply was "I scanned it". I also asked him if he put vacuum to the EGR valve did the motor run rough or stall? Again, I got a reply "I think so". I told the shop owner I would stop by later in the day. Those that know me already know that this vehicle would be gnawing at me all day until I got there. I take things very personal. Did he clean the passages completely? Did another issue crop up?

I arrive at the shop and first thing I do is apply vacuum to the EGR valve and the engine ran very rough almost to a stall. Well, he has the passages clean now. Now, lets retest to see if it still is getting vacuum to the EGR during a KOER test. It was. Ok, does the PCM actually know the EGR is opening and flowing. How the PCM knows this is from the DPFE sensor. It senses flow across a controlled orifice in the EGR tube via those two brand new hoses. I hooked up my scantool and graphed the DPFE voltage. On a plastic DPFE such as this one KOER with no EGR flow you should be at 1.00 volt as EGR flow increases so does the voltage. I normally can get upwards of close to 4.0 volts or more when adding vacuum to the EGR valve.

As you can see from the graph I started out at close to 1 volt. I then added vacuum, took it away and reapplied vacuum. But, my voltage went down. Way down to .14v. What is going on? I know the hoses at the DPFE are reversed. I reverse the hoses and redo my vacuum test.

 Totally different story here.
We are flowing now. The DPFE hoses have a large and small opening and have to be orientated correctly at the EGR pipe and the DPFE. Somehow, someone managed to mix these up. You really have to try really hard to mix this up. Now, were these hoses like this on my first visit? I really can't say for sure. I didn't check-shame on me. I was so caught up on diagnosing the clogged passage I didn't see if the hoses were orientated correctly. To be honest this is the first time I have ever seen this. However, I won't be making this mistake ever again. I ran a KOER test and all was well.
Some details you don't see on the scantool. Some you have to see or feel.
Here is a 1999 Ford Expedition with a 5.4 liter. Shop has installed a new oxygen sensor for a P0135 (O2 heater circuit) code. New sensor and still same code. Now they are thinking it may have a bad PCM. I got called in and inspected the wiring. The connector for bank 1 sensor 1 is in an awful spot behind the passenger side of the engine. The clue that it may be a wiring issue is the newly installed remanufactured transmission. Bad things can happen to wiring when a transmission is installed especially to oxygen sensor wiring.
   Well here it is the lock portion of one of the terminals for the heater circuit was broken. The terminal itself was also damaged. The terminal was being pushed out when the oxygen sensor was connected causing the heater circuit code. 
Here is another one found with the eyes. Mitsubishi Montero with oxygen sensor codes. My first tipoff was the two different color connectors. Then a close inspection of the harness connector showed the locator tab was filed off. They used a left side sensor in the right side. They are all the same aren't they? Wire orientation was different. Very dangerous. Shop was lucky no PCM damage occurred.
A good technician not only uses his scantools, voltmeters, etc. He or she also utilizes sight, sound, smell, feel, etc. Pay attention to details and learn from your mistakes. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Veterans Day

Veterans Day is a special day, created to honor and pay respect to our country’s heroes. These heroes never ask for our recognition or gratitude, yet they deserve our appreciation every day. Thank you to those brave men and women who have sacrificed, along with their families, to serve our nation and protect our freedom.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

GirlFest 2013

The Girlscout GirlFest was held at the Portland Expo Center on November 2, 2013.  It is a day-long celebration featuring hands-on activities and experiences for girls to learn, explore and enjoy.  You didn't have to be a Girl Scout to attend, but the Girl Scouts could work towards earning badges while at the event. 

Our booth- a car for the car care workshops and dexterity boxes.
Our booth- a car for the car care workshops and dexterity boxes on the table to test folks ability to assemble nuts and bolts without looking. photo DSC08335_zpseb9d5bea.jpg
Tonia Haney (Event Chairperson) , Shayla Wilson, and Janet Gallegos  at our booth.

These boxes are for the dexterity test. Each box contained 3 bolts and 6 nuts. The test is to blindly put together the 3 nuts that fit the 3 bolts.  All ages could give it a try, and we timed those who wanted to compete for the best time. 

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Janet is timing a girl who wanted to beat the best time.
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very focused

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As they completed the nut bolt combination, they would put it on top of the box

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Some of the younger/ shorter girls had a hard time reaching into the boxes, so they just closed their eyes to give it a try.

For the older girls...
Tonia lead the car care workshop for Girl Scout Cadettes. She brought along a drill they could use to loosen the bolts of the air filter housing.

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Giving girls the opportunity to use real tools on a real car can be very empowering. 

The Cadettes took turns with the drill, loosening the air filter housing.

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Janet Gallegos, Tonia Haney, Cameron, Shayla Wilson, Margaret Ragan.
Shayla took some time to try hoolah hooping at a near by booth.

Cameron Won! Best time: 21 Seconds
We imagine Cameron was dragged to this event for girls - but didn't regret it after he won the prize. He tried and tried until he had the fastest time at the dexterity test.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

We're back!

Back again from hiatus. Well, we really never left. We've just been posting lots over at our official Facebook page. But hopefully we'll have finished two all new test drive reviews to tell you about. First we drove a new 2014 Volkswagen Beetle GSR, and we followed that up with a recent drive in a 2014 Tesla Model S 85. Both were very exciting. So look for those reviews later this week along with a few other stories.