If you have been reading my articles the past 10+ years, you know that I always emphasize having a Game Plan. The New England Patriots would not have won the Super Bowl again if they did not have a plan. We’re not a football team but we are a team of professionals who keep America running. With vehicles becoming more and more complex, we need to have the proper training, tools, equipment and game plan. In this article, I will take you through a couple real life case studies that hopefully assist you in diagnosing problem vehicles.
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First up — An ailing Audi
Our first case study that came in was from a customer who had recently purchased a 2006 Audi A6 3.2L from his uncle’s used car lot. However, this well detailed Audi had to be towed in due to a no crank or start condition.
Sometimes Audi models can be a real challenge to diagnosis and get running if you don’t have the proper training and scan tool such as Ross Tech or ODIS. After questioning the vehicle owner (who unfortunately did not yield much information), it was time to move on and use our best tools. The tools that I am referring to are the tools are the same you've heard me preach on before - the tools that God provided us with; our brain, eyes, ears, nose and hands. As a result of using those tools we found that the steering wheel and column may have been compromised.
The battery and starter checked out fine. Having had previous experience with a similar problem on Audi and VW, we suspected an issue with the Access / Start module. The results from the ODIS scan tool confirmed our suspicions of a problem relating to the steering column, yielding a large list of DTCs. One of the DTCs that had to be dealt with first was the 0005 Access/Start Authorization System.
This DTC prevents an engine crank/start condition because it brings down the CAN BUS (Figure 1) and shuts down other modules. The Authorization Module is integrated with the immobilizer and steering wheel lock mechanism that is mounted to the steering column. Our experience with this issue has shown us that the module is a common problem that causes no response from the ignition key or start button. The module’s job is to look for the key or transponder that manages unlocking and locking the steering wheel. It also activates the relay’s terminal 15 that supplies power to the other modules in the vehicle. If an issue is detected with any of the module components such as the actuator motor, sensing micro switches, relay, or other electrical connections, the system will throw a DTC and not operate.
The Audi dealer’s only sell the complete steering column to repair this problem, but that’s not the only way to fix this problem. For one, the module can be removed without completely taking down the steering column. Now it was time to contact the vehicle owner and explain the repair options so he could choose the path of repair that works best for him. This was followed by providing the Audi owner with pictures and other printed information (Figure 2) on his no crank/start condition. In this case we explained that the engine not crank/start condition was due to a "no com" (communication) problem on the CAN BUS. We continued with an explanation of the different repair options; either replacing the complete steering column or just removing the Access/Start module and sending it out for repair.
The difference in pricing significant. A new steering column from Audi goes for $1700.00 while the other option is about half the price. After our explanation to the vehicle owner and the used car lot uncle, they decided that cheaper was better. However, their choice came with one big surprise! They decided to tow the Audi back to the used car lot shop. So, they used us to diagnose the problem and chose a cheaper alternative by performing the physical repair at the used car lot.
We invoiced the Audi owner for the diagnosis while they prepared to have the vehicle towed. After seeing the damage they previously inflicted to the steering column, we suspected that they would encounter problems and be back again. The used car lot apparently proceeded to remove the module and, as we suggested, sent it to Speedosolutions.com. When a module is at Speedsolutions.com they check the circuits, cleared out data and format the module so it mimic’s a new one. After the used car lot shop received the reconditioned module, they installed it but encountered the same no crank/start condition.