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.

New Cannonball record. A.k.a How I drove across the U.S. in under 29 hours.

This one just came across my desk and I felt this one was worth of posting here as I, and many others in our office are Cannonball Run, Gumball Rally, Bull Run, etc fans. Ed Bolian, a Lamborghini dealer from Atlanta, Georgia. is such a fan of the infamous Cannonball Run events, that he once told Brock Yates that he planned to break the record. This was before Alex Roy setting the previous record of 31 hours and 4 minutes in his ultra modified BMW M5.

I guess we should say what the new record is. Would you believe, 28 hours and 50 minutes? Shattering the previous record by about 3 hours. Very impressive, but also extremely dangerous. Bolian's choice of equipment was a 2004 Mercedes Benz CL55 which like Roy's BMW was equipped with several navigation units, and a host of radar detectors and monitoring equipment. And the run was made with co-driver Dave Black and support passenger Dan Huang. So, a pretty comfortable ride for 3. During the run, their top speed was 158 miles per hour with an average of 98 miles per hour from the Red Ball Garage in New York City and finishing at the Portofino Inn, in Redondo Beach, California. The original start and finish of the Cannonball Runs. The only thing that I personally didn't agree with was releasing the details about the run this soon. Alex Roy waited nearly a year before releasing the details of his run so that the statute of limitations would expire. Bolian's run was just made on October 19th. And he only waited about 10 days to release the news. But either way, the record has been broken. I wonder who will break it next, and more importantly, with what car? Congrats go out to the team. But we do caution our readers. If you have the need for speed. Please, take it to the track.

Source & Photos:

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Technician Training

This is a real sore subject with me. Almost every technician gripes about the lack of training in our industry. It is something I hear almost daily. I am often asked "When is the next training event?" I give information, hand out flyers, and even remind techs of upcoming training. Then why is it that I see the same familiar faces at every training event I attend? I will tell what I think.

It all comes down to sacrifice and commitment. If you want to become the best in whatever you do these two actions are paramount. When I ask the same people that were wondering about training why they weren't at a recent event. I get the usual excuses "I forgot", "It was on a Saturday and I couldn't swing it", "It was after work and I didn't feel like it", "It is too expensive". These aren't as bad as the people in this industry that think they don't need any training. They know it all, just ask them. I often say the minute you think you know everything in this industry you should walk over to your toolbox lock it up and look for another job. There is no one person in this industry that knows it all. You can always learn something. If you are not learning something everyday in this industry you are not paying attention.

Some training events are better than others. No doubt about that. However, I always pick something up no matter what. It is vital if you want to become a better tech you will need training. You will also need to do some self training. This can be looking at known good vehicles for scantool data, scopeshots, or maybe "bugging" a vehicle to see how it reacts. If you are not willing to do this you will not advance in this field.

The same people I see at training events all have some similar personality traits as well. Typically, we are perfectionists, inquisitive, some degree of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), headstrong, and willing to sacrifice to be the best.

Think about it. What separates an athlete from an elite athlete? An elite athlete identifies his weaknesses and wants to improve on them. Then he/she does the work and improves. Same thing applies to our field. If you want to become a more proficient tech you will need to identify your weaknesses and take steps to sure them up. Part of that is to get as much training as possible.

So the next time a training event is around. Attend and invest in your future.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Biker Gangs, Range Rovers and Class Wars

I haven't posted on here as often as I would like due to a huge surge of work from various clients. That's a good thing, so I can't complain really.

In any case, I've been following fairly closely the whole criminal case of the biker gang in NYC that attacked the family in the Range Rover. I knew about the story before the major news outlets picked it up, and I was shocked from the beginning.

Sadly, I wasn't shocked that the bikers behaved as they did. I've owned a variety of vehicles, but every time I drive a European vehicle it seems to be a magnet for douche bags on sport bikes. I've had several of them literally almost touching my back bumper as I'm traveling down the road, hot dogging around me, and in general acting overly aggressive. The part that really pissed me off was that these human pieces of trash could see that I had a baby seat in the backseat of the car, but that means nothing to them. I was just driving on the road, going somewhere and minding my own business when they decided to single me out, not the Corolla by me, or the Mazda6 or even the F-150. Why is that? More on that in a second.

With the case in NYC, there was a two year old in the backseat, but that didn't stop the whole attack. In fact, now that more details are coming out, it's become clear that murder was the end goal of the attack. A single man stepped in between the bikers and the victim, telling them to stop. Why didn't more people intervene? I know in psychology you learn about group anonymity in such situations, where people don't act because they can remain anonymous in a group of bystanders.I'm sure some people were scared they would be next if they tried to intervene. Thankfully someone thought of more than their own hide and stopped things, otherwise the whole case would probably be a homicide investigation.

Even more shocking is the new detail that one biker smashed the front passenger side window and began trying to pull the wife out of the Range Rover, stating that she was "next." If there was any doubt before that these bikers need to hang for what they did, that should completely remove it. Apparently at that point some bystanders did speak up, shouting "not the lady" or something like that. Why didn't anyone shout "stop beating that man" or something like that?

I know the whole situation is complex, but I have a theory. You see, going back to my experiences of driving a European vehicle and having dumbasses on sport bikes drive aggressively around me has given me additional insight. Most people buy sport bikes because they provide cheap performance versus a high-powered car. I know some people just love motorcycles, but the sport bikes seem to really attract overly aggressive types who want a cheap thrill. So you have individuals with constrained finances and a thirst for power. They see someone with a vehicle they perceive as expensive and fast and they get pissed. It's simple class conflict at this point. From what I understand, where the beating of the Range Rover driver took place was not in a nice part of New York. It's possible that at least some of the bystanders thought the Range Rover driver was getting what was coming to him simply because of class jealousy. The wife, on the other hand, is given a pass because people often view them as "victims" of their affluent husband. It's a messed up way of looking at things, but I think it was at least a factor in the situation. Had it been a guy in an older Ford Explorer, part of me wonders if more people would've intervened. There's no way to tell for sure, but it makes me wonder.

What do you think: did people stand and watch the beating because of class conflict, maybe even at the subconscious level? Or is there some other factor that was driving the inactivity of the crowd? Would things have played out differently if the victim had been in a less expensive vehicle?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Parlez Vous Francais?

In the year since Superstorm Sandy hit my area. I have seen lots of flood damaged vehicles. They have seem to have come in waves. No pun intended. Right after the storm every other call was a flood vehicle. Then it seemed to die down a bit then picked up early spring and again recently. Every call always starts the same "It was a light flood it wasn't that bad". It usually ends up just the opposite. There were plenty of times I would show up look at the car and leave. I could see the waterline was at the top of the dash yeah light flood, right. The point I stress to shop owners about flood cars is the corrosion you can't see that causes the real issues. The corrosion we see at connectors is easy to see. The corrosion that occurs down the line from capillary action is another story. Salt water or fresh water it doesn't matter.

That being said I have had situations where vehicles had communication one day and not the next day. It is always an adventure. I have has some success stories. Typically, this happens when the shop understands the issues with water damage and changes harnesses instead of cleaning and praying. I treat every flood vehicle the same. First I try to get communication lines up, get the motor running, then get all the accessories going, then finally airbags. It is amazing to see the shops reactions when the vehicle starts and belches out crazy amounts of water and sand from the exhaust.

Here is one such vehicle. It is a 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee that a shop inherited. He wanted to get it started and determine how far he wanted to go with the vehicle after evaluating how the motor ran. Most of these flood vehicles have no keys or keys that were cut to fit the ignition but not programmed for one reason or another.  That was the case with this vehicle. Key was cut from a locksmith but he couldn't program it. The reason he couldn't program was the wire that feeds battery voltage from the underhood fusebox called the TIPM (Totally Integrated Power Module) to the ignition switch was rotted in the harness. I bypassed this wire temporarily and programmed the key. A few more bypasses and the vehicle started and ran. It poured sand and water out the exhaust. Overall the vehicle sounded well. I opened the drivers door and took a peek inside at the dash and saw this.

Was this vehicle from Canada? I am no linguistic expert but this is not English. It is French! I see weirdness on vehicles all the time. But, one thing is for sure Chrysler vehicles that have bad batteries or that have had batteries go low or disconnected for an extended period of time tend to have the greatest number of issues. Some will lose their VIN in modules, they will lose initialization on certain modules, set erroneous codes, etc. This is the first time I saw a language change. Time to break out the factory scantool and try to correct this language barrier.

I go into CCN (Cabin Compartment Node) which is the Instrument Cluster. Miscellaneous Functions and choose language preferences.

I update the language from French to English.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Let's All Hate on the New Cadillac Escalade!

Images courtesy Cadillac
In case you're living under a rock and didn't get hit by the media firestorm, Cadillac is showing off the next generation of the Escalade SUV, which will be a 2015 model. I've actually had a pulse on this one for a while, not because I'm a big Cadillac fan, but because it's an important model in the automotive industry. After all, this truck will star in no less than 577 rap videos, usually with 28-inch chrome spinners installed.

I remember when Cadillac first announced it was making the Escalade. I heard from it from my college marketing professor, who said it was the best way to be obnoxious  toward everyone else on the road. He literally leaned on all of his marketing knowledge to conclude before the SUV ever hit showroom floors it would be piloted by overly aggressive individuals stilting in a most ostentatious act of conspicuous consumption.

The first time I saw spinners they were on an Escalade, of course. When I finally saw the interior of the Escalade I was shocked since it was nearly identical to a top-of-the-line Chevy Suburban. It was then that I realized the Escalade was the biggest joke GM, the great killer of car companies, ever played on the public.

Now GM has a chance to redeem itself. It's put out an impressively advanced Corvette, the Cruze, and some other compelling vehicles. Some of the rumors I heard stated the new Escalade would have less bling and more luxury on the interior. From the pictures, the interior does look more luxurious, which shouldn't be a surprise considering the cabins in the ATS and XTS.

Sadly, the Escalade still is a bling monster, but I suppose people buy it for that reason. So let's all hate on the Escalade because it's pretty senseless and potentially morally bankrupt. In a way it reminds me of the annoying kid in school who's always showing up with the latest in flashy gizmos, but everyone still makes fun of him. Part of you feels sorry for him, but another part of you finds him so damn annoying you still point a finger and laugh.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

2004 Lexus RX330

I get a call from a shop concerning a 2004 Lexus RX330 with 143,707 miles. Apparently the vehicle was jump started backwards and was towed in to this shop. The shop found numerous fuses blown. They corrected all the blown fuses and got the vehicle to run. The vehicle did not run well and at this point the shop is thinking the backwards jump start hurt the vehicles PCM. They pulled some codes and then wanted me to come down and either confirm or rebuke their assessment. A little background here. Toyota/Lexus PCM's I have found to be pretty tolerant to backward jump starting. The industry term is "robust". The other item of note is Toyota/Lexus PCM's are very expensive for the most part.

I arrive at the shop and start the vehicle. The vehicle starts and idles fair. Hitting the gas the vehicle stumbles to a stall. I retrieve some codes. Hmmm, all 6 Ignition Coil circuits being bad. We have a common issue. I can't see all 6 Ignition Coils going bad. But, it was jump started backwards. Or, maybe it does have a bad PCM. Let's roll up the sleeves and get some information. My mind right now is thinking we have a power issue feeding the coils. Maybe, instead of the coil primary circuit getting battery voltage it is getting a reduced voltage and that is why we have the codes and the lack of power. I got this vehicle figured out already. Yeah right.

I break out my scope. I know it will give me the most information in the least amount of time. Next is to get the "lay of the land" of what is involved. Knowledge is power so they say.

Here is a partial wiring diagram of the coil circuits. Each coil has four wires. They have a shared battery power, ground, and IGF. Then there is IGT. Lets go over Toyota ignition systems. IGT is the signal from the PCM to fire the ignition coil. I always refer to IGT as ignition "trigger". IGF is the confirmation signal sent back from the coil to the PCM that the coil has fired and to allow proper fuel injection operation. Now we can setup a battle plan.

My next piece is to know the coil arrangement and the firing order.

Ok, I typically like to trigger off of #1 cylinder. But, #1 on this vehicle is buried under the intake and is a pain to get to. So I will use coil #2, it is easy. I am using Pomona test leads. I absolutely love these for testing. Secure connections, minimal damage to insulation, and well built. I get mine from These guys are awesome! So the first thing I do is make sure the ground at #2 coil is good using voltage drop. It was. Then I am going to hook my scope up to Battery power, IGF, and IGT signal wires at coil #2 and start the vehicle.


Channel 1 in yellow is our battery voltage at coil #2, Channel 2 is coil #2 IGT signal (it is also what I am triggering off of), and Channel 3 is IGF at coil #2. Anything jump out at you? Well my super genius idea of low battery voltage is off the table. Battery voltage is at charging system voltage. I do see something right away.

It looks like we have a Lexus 5 cylinder. I see no deviation in battery power, no IGF signal, and furthermore the IGF signal seems low to me. Typical IGF signal is about 5 volts in amplitude. Lets add some notes. Remember, we are triggering off of coil #2. Remember the firing order.

Adding some notes it fills in the blanks. It is obvious we have issues with coil #1. But, what about that poor IGF signal? I had a theory. My theory was if coil #1 was bad enough it could pull down the IGF signal since this signal is shared amongst all six coils. How could I test my theory? I had an idea.

I reached around and disconnected #1 coil connector and restarted the vehicle. Bingo! Look at the IGF signal. More importantly the vehicle revved up well. It did have a misfire obviously but accelerated well. Let's check those codes now. If my theory was correct I should only have a #1 coil code due to it being disconnected.

Nice! Now I test battery power, ground, and IGT trigger at coil #1 connector. I explain my findings to the shop owner and recommend an OE coil unit for #1 cylinder. The unit was installed and the vehicle delivered.