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Understanding systems build diagnostic plans

Monday, June 1, 2009 - 00:00
scope & scan vehicle communications interface VCI device PC scanner platforms diagnosing vehicles vehicle diagnostics repair shop training technician training automotive aftermarket

As some of my readers may know, my day job is that of a Mobile Diagnostics Professional, which is to say that I travel around in a van and do diagnostics for independent repair shops as needed. Like you, I have noticed that the most time intensive part of the diagnostic process is often collecting the information I need to develop a diagnostic game plan. Understanding how a system works, in addition to pulling wiring diagrams, component locations, connector IDs and known good test values are all parts of building an efficient plan.

Once all that information has been collected, the actual testing process is usually relatively quick. This being the case, doesn't it make sense to be as efficient as possible during the most time intensive part of the process?

Scan tool manufacturers on both the aftermarket and OEM sides have really stepped up to the plate in this regard. Most new scanner platforms seek to combine complete service information programs and scan tool functionality into one integrated package — peanut butter and jelly! They are now able to accomplish this feat by either building their scanner unit around a full PC platform or designing a simple Vehicle Communications Interface (VCI) device and software package that you combine with your own shop's existing PC.

Of course, all PC scanner platforms today come with Wi-Fi (wireless Internet) capabilities so that you can use your favorite information Web sites like Identifix or iATN right at the vehicle. Combining these wireless network features with a wireless printer sure saves a lot of note-taking and documentation time as well as creating impressive diagnostic reports for customer presentation. Let us look at two examples of these PC based offerings.

An example of the aftermarket side is the new Snap-on® Verus. The Verus software runs on a Windows XP platform that is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled. With the Verus you can pull codes using the scanner software shown on the left side of Figure 1 then link directly into the Shopkey® (shown in Figure 2) full service information system (subscription required) for all your troubleshooting information needs. You only have to build the vehicle year, make and model (YMM) once. Then Verus transfers this information to all supported software applications.

The popular Snap-on Troubleshooter information database feature now has live PID data readings embedded right in the text of the Troubleshooter information screen, saving you the trouble of bouncing back and forth several menu levels deep to use both pieces of information.

Another new Verus feature is the ability to combine both the scanner bidirectional control output commands with live measurement information using the Scope Viewer on the same viewing screen. You can now utilize the standard Windows PC Tile feature to view multiple programs simultaneously.

On the OEM side, both Hyundai and Kia corporations have a new Vehicle Communications Interface (VCI) to PC software platform out called the Global Diagnostic System (GDS). Both OEMs use the same basic user interface though each software package for the Hyundai and Kia respectively are different and must be purchased separately. The GDS software uses free online access to the Hyundai or Kia OEM service information Web sites in order to seamlessly integrate the scanner software functions with all the information you may ever need to make your diagnosis and repair.

Currently only KIA offers its VCI and software kit that you can use on your own laptop. Hyundai only sells its VCI and software along with a supplied Panasonic CF19 laptop. Hyundai is working on a VCI and software only kit for release in the future.

After using the scanner to display both active and history DTCs and Freeze Frame data, you can display the DTC troubleshooting chart section right from the linked service manual documents (not shown here).

Or, if you prefer to create your own diagnostic game plan for the vehicle, you can display the Data Analysis sections shown in Figure 3. Let's say you have an Intake Air Temperature (IAT) DTC. By selecting the IAT sensor from the upper panel list and then choosing Component Location document on the left side of the screen, the scanner's lower panel will automatically display a color photo of both the general and specific areas where the IAT sensor is installed. By choosing the General Description document, the photo panel disappears and a new panel with a general description of the IAT sensor takes its place. Choosing the Fault Detection document the panel now shows the Fault Detecting Conditions for the IAT sensor DTC monitor. The Specifications document shows the operating specifications for the IAT sensor.

A click on a Component Circuit hot button brings up the diagram in Figure 4, which shows the IAT and related circuit schematics. All the connector IDs for the related circuits and labeled location photos of all related components are also shown.

Wow, what more could you ask for!

Jim Garrido of "Have Scanner Will Travel" is an on-site mobile diagnostics expert for hire. Jim services independent repair shops in central North Carolina. He also teaches diagnostic classes regionally for CARQUEST Technical Institute.

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