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Learning from a racing legend

Race teams know the difference between winning and losing is measured in milliseconds and they invest a lot of time and technology to track their progress.
Monday, February 24, 2014 - 09:00
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Growing up in my dad’s auto electric business in Kokomo, Ind., I have to admit I didn’t migrate toward the performance side of the industry. While my gearhead friends in high school were making horsepower mods on their rides, I was playing with electronic ignition conversions and water injection. I guess that made me a geeky gearhead.

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Looking at this 2009 Dodge Caravan’s Mode $06 descriptions from Chrysler OEM information, we can determine that EGR flow is checked via the O2 sensor(s) affect on fuel trim when EGR is operated during the test period.

When I left the family repair shop in 1989 to go to work on the technical assistance hotline at Delco Electronics (now Delphi), I was immediately immersed into the world of auto racing thanks to a colleague named Steve Butler. In his spare time, Steve was a racer – and a good one at that. He raced motorcycles on the flat tracks taking the Indiana half-mile AMA championship in 1976 and had transitioned into racing sprint cars prior to our working together. Steve wasn’t your typical short track driver – he was as talented in the technical aspects of racing as he was the behind the wheel winning a half dozen USAC Sprint and Silver Crown championships. After retiring from racing, Steve kept on working at Delco Electronics (now Delphi), becoming a very successful systems engineer.

Looking back on the days we worked together I consider myself fortunate to have worked with a true champion. While I learned most of the fundamentals from my father, I learned a lot of technology working with Steve. No doubt Steve Butler is blessed with talent, determination and sheer nerve but I suspect there is something more than that. I believe it has been his ability to discern the proper time for fundamentals and the proper time for technology that gave him that winning edge.

Anyone with a J2534 universal reprogrammer can subscribe and download Toyota’s factory Techstream scan tool software on their laptop. While most older non PC based factory scanners like GM’s Tech 2 and Chrysler’s DRBIII don’t do Mode $06 the Toyota Techstream has an OBDII generic feature that will run Mode $06.

Is There a Winning Edge In Your Shop?
Both today’s production cars and race cars have seen tremendous changes in technology. One of those changes on the track has been data acquisition. While there still might be some types of racing that keep it simple, the use of data acquisition devices has become relatively affordable for most forms of racing. Even if the rules don’t allow data acquisition during the actual race, it’s often still allowed for car testing and setup. A dozen or more sensors on the car capture information ranging from track speed to rpms to lateral G’s that stream into a black box so the crews in the pits can analyze and determine what changes the car needs to win.

It’s one winning edge you need to be successful on the track. It’s very much the same with data acquisition in the world of production OBDII vehicles. You need that edge to be successful in your service bay tackling challenging drivability problems. What data recording acquisition do I refer to? Mode $06 data for non-continuous emissions monitors is one such edge.

Notice bank 2’s cat passed but just barely by coming in right under the 0.686 percentage mark. This vehicle most likely will be back in the shop with a MIL illuminated.

Mode $06 Basics
Using the terms Mode $06 and basics together is a bit of a stretch for those who know anything at all about this subject. The very presence of the dollar sign ($) symbol indicates that the numbering system associated with this diagnostic technique is not in the normal base 10 numbering system we all learned in grammar school. That $ symbol represents the origins of Mode $06 data being in hexadecimal.

Hex (for short) is a preferred alphanumeric system used in computer engineering leading me to my personal theory that Mode $06 originally was developed by engineers for other engineers to analyze - meaning it was never intended for the rest of us! Hex uses the digits zero to nine used in our familiar Base 10 numbering system along with the addition of the letters A through F. Fortunately, if your scan tool was made in the last decade it probably converts from Hex to Base 10 for you already.

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