Car Diagnostic scanners - anybody use them?

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Fergie 307

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Here is an excellent example, I had a polo in the other day with a MAP sensor fault, the little old ladies local garage had replaced the MAP sensor and it still had a fault, brought it in to us (main dealer) within 5 mins I had diagnosed a wiring fault and an hour later had found the broken wire and fixed the fault. The first garage charged £150 inc diag for their "repair", we charged £100 and we fixed it first time with no parts needed. The garage it had been to had a £6000 snap on scanner that gave him all the same information I had except I used my training and knowledge to make an accurate diagnosis. If you google the code it came up with internal MAP sensor faults and a replacement fixes the fault, but not in this case. My point is accurate diagnosis is nearly always cheaper than guessing which is ultimately what googling the fault code is.
This is such good advice. All the scanner can tell you is that it isn't getting the expected reading from the particular component. It absolutely cannot tell you why. All too often Garages just change the "faulty" part, only to find the problem is still there, often because the reading is actually down to a wiring fault. This could be a broken wire, a bad connector, bad earth all kinds of things. So the reader is a good tool to tell you where to look, but don't take what it says as gospel.
 

Fergie 307

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I have an icarsoft unit for mercedes, very good. Have various others bought over the years for different makes. You are going to have to shell out around £150 or so for a decent make specific one. The cheap universal ones are ok for basic stuff, but won't read a lot of manufacturer specific codes. Never used the app type ones so can't comment on them.
 

Keith 66

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About 20 years ago we used a mechanic, same guy we had used for years. Had a problem with a car, engine magement system problem, Back & forth to mechanic, sensors changed couldnt sort it.
In the end went to another guy we know, He plugged his new machine into the car & found the obscure problem quickly,
As he said "No offence but XXXX wouldnt have found it" "Why's that?" i replied, "Cos i sold him my old diagnostic machine, its obsolete".
90% of his work is obscure electrical faults on older vehicles, & the equipment & diagnostic tools he has to keep up with the times is huge. And it doesnt stand still its a constant upgrade process or you get left behind.
 

mcgranag

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I use this for my 2011 W212 E 200cdi. Its well made, easy to use, has a good reviews, both online and from a knowledgeable mate who has loaded several manufacturers software onto his. It takes a lot of the guesswork out when a dash light comes on.

FOXWELL NT510 Elite Full System OBD2 Scanner. Heres a link to adverts.ie for your information.
link to Irish advert site
 

Dibs-h

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I've had VCDS (RossTech) for 10+ years and for the 2 cars (A4 & Polo) we run it's been invaluable, paid for itself at least several times over.

Most recently the airbag light came on (and stayed on) in my 20yr old A4. Plugged it in and it said the front driver's side crash sensor had no signal. Quick removal - clean of the contacts in the plug and voila, all working.

Edit: If you own a VAG brand car (VW, Audi, Skoda, Seat - right up to the current cars) and the dashboard lights up and you want it plugging in and details of the faults - drop me a PM. [No charge. ;) ]
 
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Fergie 307

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I use this for my 2011 W212 E 200cdi. Its well made, easy to use, has a good reviews, both online and from a knowledgeable mate who has loaded several manufacturers software onto his. It takes a lot of the guesswork out when a dash light comes on.

FOXWELL NT510 Elite Full System OBD2 Scanner. Heres a link to adverts.ie for your information.
link to Irish advert site
That's a really good point, it will save you a lot over time of you get one that can have various software packs installed for different manufacturers, and free updates is really good too. That's why it's well worth paying a bit more.
can save you money on day one. My Jeep is pre OBDII, and uses their own DRB system. The only dealer I could find who still had this old kit wanted £100 just to plug it in! I ended up buying a second hand unit from a guy in Texas for $150 including shipping came with all the various accessories in a fitted box, has saved me a bomb over the years.
 

Superduner

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I'm being inundated with adverts for the Carly system at the moment after looking at their website. Edd China (he of Wheeler Dealers fame) rates it highly. They seem to have a subscription pricing system which is updated regularly.
 

pe2dave

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Now I'm impressed. I thought 'fixing' a car meant oily hands etc.
From above, this review I found to be quite an eye opener.
Simpler question. I have my car serviced at a garage. Is it
worth it? To check what they've done?
Your view?
 

Dibs-h

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Now I'm impressed. I thought 'fixing' a car meant oily hands etc.
From above, this review I found to be quite an eye opener.
Simpler question. I have my car serviced at a garage. Is it
worth it? To check what they've done?
Your view?
The VCDS system is the closest to the factory ODIS system as you will get, as the guy says in his review and I've found it invaluable. Earlier this year - it diagnosed the timing on the wife's 1.2 Polo was off (EML came on & stayed on).

Stretched\slipped timing chain - which I replaced without any real bother.

"Fixing" cars does mean oily\grubby hands - don't think that will ever change. ;)

Having something like VCDS - I'm not sure it would help you verify\confirm what a garage has done tho. Extreme example - if it went in for an oil\filter service, they could easily not do it and just simply reset the "service clock" and you could think it was done.
 

Spectric

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"Fixing" cars does mean oily\grubby hands - don't think that will ever change.
But the days of the car mechanic are past, now it is computer based diagnostics and replacing parts. The days when you would change the brushes in a wiper motor or undertake a full rebuild of the engine are gone. Perhaps this is because a modern car has a much shorter lifespan, but what is better for the planet, a car that is more polluting but can give twenty five years on the road or something much cleaner but only last ten. It is actually worse because during those years the newer cars require parts replacing that would have lasted much longer on the older cars, they are just made to look like quality but without any and this was described as perceived quality by the OEM's.
 

Dibs-h

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But the days of the car mechanic are past, now it is computer based diagnostics and replacing parts. The days when you would change the brushes in a wiper motor or undertake a full rebuild of the engine are gone.

Most dealerships\brands that I've familiar with (and it's a short list admittedly - BMW & VAG) have never rebuilt engines - they always fitted short or long blocks.

Replace Parts - I'm in full agreement with you on that. I was speaking to a guy in London when dealing with the engine failure of a mate's 535d a few years ago - and he said something I'll never forget (and I think it's largely true): "Master Tech's are just good for changing oil and parts."
 

Spectric

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Main dealers cannot afford to spend time rebuilding engines for customers, just not profitable work and they tend to see the vehicles in their younger days and in warranty. Going back engine rebuilds were common, most garages would have an engine laid out needing rebore or a cylinder head off for a decoke and was something that was normal. There was many places that would undertake crank regrinding, head skimming and cylinder reboring, the one I used was Star engineering in Chelmsford who did work for me on vehicles like Hillman Imps, Vauxhall Magnums & Ventoras as well as motorcycles like Ariel square fours.
 

MikeK

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In 1998, I bought a 1991 525i (E34) from the original owner with 54K km on the clock and a full service history (or so I thought). In late 2001, I was driving home from south of Munich when the car went into limp home mode with a transmission error. I learned that if I shut down and waited five minutes, I could drive another hour before the computer put the car in limp home mode. This was not a fun 6-hour trip.

I took the car to the BMW dealer in Darmstadt, and they confirmed there was a problem with the transmission. My only option from the dealer (or any dealer) was to replace the transmission. If I wanted a factory new transmission, the cost, including labor, would be about DM 10,000 (Germany had not converted to the Euro then). If I wanted a remanufactured transmission, the cost would be about DM 6,000. When I asked why they couldn't repair the transmission, the answer was "we don't do that, we repair by replacing." I then asked where the remanufactured transmissions come from, since this implies someone is capable of repairing them. The service manager didn't know since all of the transmissions are sent to a BMW depot, but he knew there were only four or five shops in Germany that rebuilt the transmissions for BMW.

I had a second car, so while I decided whether to dump more money into the BMW or cut my losses and scrap it, I saw an advert in the German paper for automatic transmission repair in Heidelberg. I spoke with the owner and he confirmed that he might be able to repair my transmission, depending on the fault. If he couldn't rebuild it, he would replace it with a rebuilt transmission he had in stock. Either way, the maximum cost for parts and labor would be DM 1,650. This confused me, so I told him about my conversation with the dealer and asked how he could do the work at a lower price. He told me he was one of the shops BMW uses to rebuild the transmissions.

I dropped the car off at the shop in Heidelberg and waited. Two days later, I received a call that the car was ready and my cost was DM 150. The mechanic researched the service history and discovered a factory recall for the transmission that was related to the fault and the original owner apparently ignored. BMW honored the recall and I received a rebuilt transmission for the cost of fluid and shop materials and a two-year warranty on the transmission. I drove the car for another 12 years without any problems before giving it to a Soldier.
 

pe2dave

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In 1998, I bought a 1991 525i (E34) from the original owner with 54K km on the clock and a full service history (or so I thought). In late 2001, I was driving home from south of Munich when the car went into limp home mode with a transmission error.
...
I dropped the car off at the shop in Heidelberg and waited. Two days later, I received a call that the car was ready and my cost was DM 150. The mechanic researched the service history and discovered a factory recall for the transmission that was related to the fault and the original owner apparently ignored. BMW honored the recall and I received a rebuilt transmission for the cost of fluid and shop materials and a two-year warranty on the transmission. I drove the car for another 12 years without any problems before giving it to a Soldier.
Yep, tallies with many garage stories!
It does make me wonder what a mechanics training / apprenticeship contains today.
How to exchange major pieces of a car?
 

Spectric

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It does make me wonder what a mechanics training / apprenticeship contains today.
I would say it is parts recognition, the days of having a good understanding of how things work and being able to use diagnostic machines like the old sun tuners are long gone. These machines would display information, graphs of secondary coil voltages and primary coil current but it was the mechanic who had to interpret this information and put things right, now they expect a computer to tell them what is wrong. Part swapping was another method, a good example of this was when a workshop manager decided that a car had a module failure so swap it with another one to prove. No it is not the module as it did not fix, but maybe that module is not exactly right for that model so lets try another. End result was three motors all not running.
 

Dibs-h

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Part swapping was another method, a good example of this was when a workshop manager decided that a car had a module failure so swap it with another one to prove. No it is not the module as it did not fix, but maybe that module is not exactly right for that model so lets try another. End result was three motors all not running.

With more and more manufactures implementing or having implemented Component Protection - swapping (some) modules over isn't feasible or as feasible.
 

MikeK

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It does make me wonder what a mechanics training / apprenticeship contains today.
How to exchange major pieces of a car?

I think so. As Roy stated above, the dealer garages don't want to put time and effort into rebuilding when replacing is faster. Our neighbor's 17-year old son is starting his Ausbildung (German apprenticeship training) as an auto mechanic. The classroom portion is mostly theory and diagnosis, while the practical portion is mostly routine servicing (oil, brakes, etc.) and hands-on training with the diagnosis equipment. There is a separate Ausbildung program for those who want to work on automobile manufacturing lines.

On a related story, my wife's 2020 Mustang Cabrio (European spec convertible) started making strange noises from the rear differential in mid 2021. Since the car was still in the factory warranty, we took it back to the dealer. The mechanic diagnosed a probable fault with the clutch pack in the differential, but the Ford HQ in Köln direction was to replace the entire differential and not rebuild or repair it. A complete differential is not a normal dealer stock option, so they had to order one from the States. Unfortunately for us, mid-2021 was not a good time to wait for factory parts from the States. Almost ten weeks later, the car was ready for us to pick up. During that time, the dealer gave us a loaner Focus at no cost, but it wasn't the same as her convertible. A few days later, I noticed oil spots on our garage floor in the area below the differential. Back to the shop for another two weeks and a Focus loaner while they replaced the input seal.

We haven't had any problems with the car since, but I later learned the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say. At about the eight-week point during the first job, the dealer got tired of waiting for Ford USA to ship a European-spec rear differential and received permission from Ford HQ to take the car to a specialty shop west of Frankfurt that worked on only drive trains. The shop replaced every component in the differential, including the axles and wheel bearings. Apparently, they damaged the input seal while installing the drive shaft and the fault wasn't obvious until my wife put a few hundred kilometers on it. The dealer took the car back to the specialty shop since they warranted the work for two years.
 
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