A shock to the system and how to avoid it

EVs and hybrids represent a real opportunity, but training is vital for businesses looking to stake their claim on the future

Published:  24 April, 2018

Hybrid and electric vehicles (H/EVs) are an ever-day reality, and are becoming more popular with drivers and carmakers.
“Electrified powertrains are emerging as manufacturers’ preferred means of meeting stringent future emissions legislation,“ says Jonathan Levett, technical trainer for Delphi Technologies Aftermarket.

At the same time, early hybrid and electric vehicles are transitioning into the aftermarket and out of dealer servicing networks. Just like traditional internal combustion engine (ICE)  powered vehicles, H/EVs must adhere to strict servicing schedules and undergo timely, efficient repairs.

“This represents an enormous business opportunity for the aftermarket, “ comments Jonathan,” but the industry is in for a shock if it does not prepare its professionals for the potentially deadly nuances of H/EV powertrains.

“A lack of understanding on the common dangers of handling high voltage systems can have devastating ramifications for H/EV owners and service professionals. Fortunately Delphi Technologies Aftermarket provides a range of training options suitable for personnel working with H/EV technologies.”

Massive opportunity Understanding the basic dangers posed by working on electrified powertrains and the processes required to overcome these can offer service personnel
the confidence required to tackle them safely.

“We have seen garages sidestep working on these vehicles, “ laments Jonathan, “which is a massive opportunity missed. The technology is becoming commonplace and these vehicles are in the aftermarket – the first Prius is now over two decades old!
“Servicing and repair of H/EVs requires a different mindset as you are working with extremely high voltages. Understanding the dangers and best practice protocols offers an inherent safety net that reduces risk, and which is backed up by provision of correct PPE. Traditional PPE is essential but complemented by CAT 0 1000V-rated insulated gloves and either insulated boots or matting
to protect against electrocution. Systematic maintenance of equipment is even more vital
when working in a high-voltage service environment.“

Safety advantage
“Knowledge provides the greatest safety advantage,” continues Jonathan. “Basics, for instance, such as never working on live voltage systems where you feel inadequately qualified, never assuming that a live circuit is discharged and recognising that orange cabling normally signifies voltage levels in excess of 60V – unless proven otherwise. Delphi Technologies offer a wide range of training that has been developed to provide the aftermarket with everything from an introduction to electrified technology to advanced best practice when handling a variety of latest-generation H/EVs.

“Physical and environmental threats can come from H/EVs in the form of electrocution, arc flash, arc blast, fire, magnetism, corrosion or contamination. It is clear that advanced training is not only a vital business opportunity for the aftermarket, it’s a common sense next-step for any workforce likely to come into contact with H/EVs.”  

Delphi Technologies’ training evolves to reflect the rapidly changing H/EV architecture, such as the company’s latest 48V mild hybrid technology. “The number of service professionals attending our H/EV training suggests that the aftermarket is opening its eyes to the potential of this emerging technology,” says Jonathan. “The flexible courses, such as the Hybrid Technology Components & Operation course, which has been developed using our own industry knowledge, are regularly attended by senior trainers from garage groups – seeking latest guidelines and best practice to pass on to their own technicians.”

Courses provide theory and practical hands-on learning through the dismantling and repair of vehicles such as the Prius. “Familiarity nurtures confidence in being able to work on these vehicles safely and efficiently,” concludes Jonathan.  

Related Articles

  • Electric future shock  

    The need to adapt to changing vehicle technology is one of the main challenges of our time in the sector. Increasing connectivity and a vastly more complicated conventional vehicle provide a whole raft of obstacles on their own, before you even get to the rise of electric vehicles and hybrids.

    Add to that a more uncertain legislative environment resulting from rules not quite keeping up with the technology coming in, and you’ve got yourself a whole host of issues that the entire industry needs to stay on top of if it is going to continue to offer a sterling service to customers.

    Let’s look at electric vehicles. For Tom Harrison Lord from Fox Agency, the b2b marketing company specialising in the automotive sector,  Automechanika Birmingham offered a troubling glimpse into the future:  “This summer’s Automechanika Birmingham was entertaining and enjoyable as ever, but it also exemplified a worrying trend in the motor industry today. With the advancement of electric vehicles, there are going to be some rapid and stark changes ahead. The automotive aftermarket, however, seems to be burying its head in the sand.”

    The key, as it has been in the past, is access. In this case, the right to be able to repair vehicles. Think that’s all sorted? Perhaps not:  “The rise of the electric cars and vehicles is something that could hit the automotive aftermarket hard – in particular, independent garages.

    “Many, if not all, electric vehicles invalidate their manufacturer warranty if essential work is carried out on the electrical systems by someone other than the main dealer. What’s more, many cars with batteries, such as the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, have warranties on the electrical components lasting up to ten years.

    “Having no choice but to use the main dealer for a full decade shows just why independent workshops will have fewer vehicles coming through the doors in the years ahead.”

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  • To Scope or Not to Scope? That is the question 

    If you’ve read my technical articles previously then you’ll know that the endgame for our technical training is straightforward. Quite simply our goal is to develop technicians so that they use a repeatable process, carry out root-cause analysis, diagnose the vehicle first time in a timely manner, and ensure that it does not return for the same fault.
    Tick the box on those five points more often than not and you’ll have a happy technician, a happy boss, and a satisfied customer. For this to be a regular occurrence though the right elements need to be in place.

    Essential components?
    So what’s required? Obviously a skilled technician, and the right information are essential ingredients, but what about tooling? Can you get by with a scan tool, multimeter, and a copy of Autodata (other technical references are available)? Or is an oscilloscope an essential tool? In this article we’ll take a look how to diagnose a misfire, and whether a scope plays a pivotal part or not.

    Line up your ducks
    The offending vehicle in this instance is a 4 cylinder 1.8 petrol Vauxhall Insignia, although this procedure could apply to any similar petrol vehicle. To say it’s sick would be an understatement. It’s only running on three cylinders, and quite honestly sounds a little sorry for itself. A couple of questions spring immediately to mind. Which cylinder is it? And what’s the overarching cause? Normally a problem like this will be attributed to a mechanical issue, fuelling issue, or ignition related fault. Our purpose at the outset is to quickly identify which of those areas deserves our attention, and to do that we need to carry out some initial high-level tests.
    Before we get into what’s causing the problem I like to identify which cylinder is causing the issue. Once I’ve identified that I’ll then drill down to find out why.
    You’ve quite a few options on how to achieve this, although my favourite wherever possible is to carry out a cylinder balance test. This is done using a serial tool to deactivate an injector whilst idling and monitor the RPM drop. If there’s no change in rpm for a given cylinder then you’ve found your culprit. On this vehicle, it was identified that cylinder 4 was having little input, and that’s where our focus should be.
    Now we know the offending cylinder you’ve three areas to test. On a personal level, I’ll choose a quick mechanical integrity test but the question is: “What’s the quickest way to achieve this? Understanding what cranking speed sounds like on a good car is a benefit, and I’ll normally use a scope to support this with a relative compression test. Using a current clamp (figure 1) to identify a poorly sealing cylinder is a quick test that can give immediate diagnostic direction, but in this case we can see that current draw is equal across all cylinders, and as cranking sounded normal I decided that my time would be better spent looking elsewhere.

    Next steps
    With a quick mechanical integrity check undertaken my gaze turned to ignition. Ignition related misfires are commonplace and there are a number of ways to complete this part of the diagnosis. I could dive in with a scope although I’ll normally look at spark performance with a gap check first, and drill down a little deeper with an oscilloscope if it fails that test.
    Figure 2 shows the tool typically used for such a test. The secondary ignition output from all coils was good and equal across all cylinders. If this had not been the case then a scope would have been used to identify why, but in this instance a quick output test showed that all was well and the scope would not be required.
    With our previous tests all but eliminating ignition and mechanical faults, it was time to take a look at fuelling faults. The problem on this particular vehicle meant that the cause would be isolated to one cylinder, this made the probability that it’d be a fuel supply issue to the rail less likely. With this in mind it makes sense to use a scope and carry out comparative checks on individual cylinders looking for anomalies that could be caused by a fuelling fault. Access to primary and secondary ignition was less than ideal due to the coil pack configuration so the ignition profile could not be used for fuelling evaluation.
    Injector supply, ECU control and circuit current were inspected across all cylinders and while there were small differences nothing was conclusive, until we took a look at rail pressure using the Pico WPS500x pressure transducer. Using this it was plain to see that upon injector number 4 being commanded to open and deliver fuel that there was little drop in rail pressure compared to the other cylinders. This definitely warranted further inspection so the injectors were removed and  a flow test was completed in our test bench. Number 4 injector was found to be delivering significantly less fuel than expected. Bingo, we’d found our misfire.

    To scope or not to scope?
    Effective and efficient diagnosis is all about using the right tool, for the right test, at the correct point in your diagnostic routine, and as this vehicle has shown the oscilloscope plays a critical part in serving up the answers that whilst possible via other methods are often more time consuming to obtain.
    If an oscilloscope isn’t playing a major part in your day to day diagnosis then there’s no time like the present to blow the dust from it and start seeing the benefits that this amazing tool will bring to your workshop.

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