It CAN be done!

Barnaby Donohew has to stick to his guns to track down the ‘simplest’ of faults

By Barnaby Donohew | Published:  10 September, 2018

We all remember certain jobs which test our nerve but ultimately serve to strengthen our capabilities. Proper learning experiences so to speak. Unsurprisingly, these memorable jobs tend to occur when tackling novel technologies or environments which, by their nature, can be unsettling.
    
Some time ago a customer arrived with a MINI having persistent warning lights, instrumentation faults and bearing a new instrument cluster and engine control unit. Mindful that the expensive repair history must have included some seriously ‘in-depth’ diagnosis, I decided to get involved and see what I could do to fix the issues.

Ruling out
A system scan reported various powertrain CAN faults in the engine, ABS and instrument cluster control units, indicating a system-wide communication issue but with no systematic patterns to help isolate the fault. The MINI had a separate diagnostic bus, which thankfully permitted scan tool communication in the presence of a CAN fault. However, CAN access was not available on the diagnostic connector to aid recording of the signals. Instead, an oscilloscope was connected to the engine control unit (Figure 1) to reveal that the wires were unlikely to have shorted together, to Earth, nor to +5V, as the signals from the engine control unit were almost ideal. The fault was more likely due to circuit integrity. After powering down the CAN this was confirmed, as a 120 Ohm resistance was measured between the high and low lines (around 60 Ohms was expected).
    
Subsequently, the customer was called with an update and to authorise further expenditure. The next stage involved pulling the car apart to fully check the wiring and control modules. Plainly, it was unwelcome news.

Added pressures
When conscious that the meter is running, doubt can creep in and you find yourself asking if a wiring fault is too simple, alongside other related questions. This was not a good time for misinformation. The resources available (course notes and workshop information) identified the MINI’s engine control and ABS units as each having a 120 Ohm terminating resistor between the CAN pins. Subsequent measurements determined a resistance of 120 Ohms on the engine control unit but many kilohms on the ABS control unit. Was it faulty? Nerves started to fray. Following a thought process akin to James Dillon's mantra "what would you test next if the part you had just fitted did not cure the fault," basic procedures were recalled.
    
Firstly, on this MINI the terminating resistors actually were in the engine and instrument control modules (all were fine). Next, a series of continuity tests isolated an open circuit on the CAN-H line between the ABS and engine control units. It was located in a well-protected and tiny portion of wire, equidistant between the terminating connectors. Figure 2 shows the damage.
    
The process demonstrated to me how, during stressful situations, it is worth trying to adhere to basic procedures as faults are often straightforward. As it turns out, this would have been good advice for the recent Top Technician practical tasks, which proved a very similar experience – I wish I had listened! For anyone thinking of entering, I highly recommend it.

TT Archives:  Top Technician issue seven 2014 | www.toptechnician.co.uk 

Related Articles

  • Managing a winning team 

    Most businesses need staff to operate effectively and this means that those staff need to be managed. However, what does ‘managed’ really mean and how can the ‘business manager’ also be an effective manager of people?

    A good manager of staff should fully understand the roles and responsibilities of all of their team members, but ultimately, each of those team members should be better at doing their own jobs than the manager could. Secondly, the manager should be able to ‘get the best from the team they have and only change it when all other possibilities have failed’. In summary, the manager needs to know how to structure, manage and motivate his team to optimise their performance.

    Critical
    It is a well-known saying that people don’t quit their jobs, but they quit their bosses, but in reality this means that they left their job because it wasn’t enjoyable, or that their strengths weren’t being used or that they weren’t growing in their careers – and who is responsible for this – their manager.
        
    Recent research showed that 31% would swap their manager if they could and 22% felt that they could do a better job themselves if they were given the chance. Ineffective management not only impacts negatively on staff retention, quality of work and morale, but also on customer service and your company’s image. Not good for either your staff or your bottom line.
        
    The best managers know what they are doing, where their businesses are going and ensure that they have the right people in the critical roles to make it all happen. They then communicate and delegate effectively to their staff who have been trained, supported and motivated to fulfil their responsibilities. Businesses with well managed and competent employees are the best performers and frequently handle problems before they escalate to become real issues.

    Guiding principals
    So what are some of the key guiding principles for good people management?

    1. Build solid and respectful relationships
    Don’t aim to be liked, but aim to earn and keep the respect of your team
    Take time to talk to members of your staff. It will show that you are interested, but it will also be both motivational and allow you to better understand their position and any concerns that they may have. Be confident, strong and professional, whilst remaining transparent, approachable and encouraging.

    2. Strengthen your communication skills
    Your ability to listen and communicate is vital to your success as a manger of people. I don’t just mean your ability to listen and speak on a one-to-one basis, but also your ability to capture people’s minds in order to present your ideas, values and visions as well as your ability to listen and soak up the ideas, values and visions of others; that is true communication. Whether you are speaking with one person, or presenting to a whole audience of people, strong communicative skills are a must.

    3. Actively develop your team and be the team leader
    As you build and strengthen relationships throughout your team, you should begin to identify the individual talents, abilities and strengths of your employees. Knowing this detail will help you develop your team so that everyone is positioned within a role in which they can succeed and excel. Take time to communicate with each employee individually, as quite often employees will be forthcoming about what they see as their strengths and where they aim to be; they may also spark ideas to strengthen your team and its performance as a whole. Sometimes low morale and performance can be due to a lack of support and training. Ensure that your whole team are up to date with regular training appropriate to their role.
        
    To establish what your employees really appreciate and value, or to discover their training and support needs, use surveys, one-to-one appraisals or focus groups to talk through each key area to identify the good points, skills gaps or areas that should be improved. Quite simply, support your team.

    4. Be transparent
    Hiding things from your employees is a recipe for disaster. Remember that you have spent time building relationships with these people, relationships based on respect. As part of that mutual respect you also need to engender trust. By remaining transparent, honest and trustworthy with your employees you will further develop their respect and loyalty.

    5. Take responsibility
    This can often be tough, but is a sign of truly exceptional people management. As the manager, leader or head of your company, all responsibility should end with you. You are accountable for the performance of your employees. Remember failure is not a weakness; it’s an opportunity to learn, strengthen and improve. Take responsibility for your team and they will further respect you for it.
        
    All of these people management principles are important internal management skills, but these will also be seen externally by customers in a variety of both obvious, and not so obvious, ways.

    Perception
    When customers experience your business, whether by telephone, e-mail or physically visiting, their perception will be significantly more positive if they feel that they are being looked after by a well run, well managed business with highly motivated and professional staff. Often it is almost imperceptible how this can be picked up, but for sure, if your staff are not working within a well led and motivated environment, it will be reflected in their attitude to their work and frequently, to your customers in a negative way.
        
    The reality is good managers are not born, but learn the skills as part of learning how to understand people as individuals. Most of us work much better if we enjoy what we are doing. It has been said that the best qualification for running a business is not an MBA or a qualification in accountancy, but in psychology. Ultimately, good managers plan, monitor and review before delegating the work, but they can only do this effectively if their team is working well.
        
    As a small business, it may be a difficult to become recognised as one of the Sunday Times ‘Best companies to work for’, but the same good management practices will still apply.  Work hard with your staff and they will work hard for you.
    xenconsultancy.com

  • Under no pressure 

    Once the news started to spread about my Top Technician win, the phone started to ring with more interesting and challenging jobs, usually ones that have been doing the rounds between other garages without success.
      
     A phone call came from a local parts supplier, a visiting rep was having issues with a DPF. They believed it needed a simple regeneration to get it back on the road and asked if I would be able to do the job. After checking the Blue Print G-Scan, the function for a forced regeneration was available, I believed I would be able to carry it out and booked the job in.

    Basic beginnings
    After traveling from two hours away, the vehicle arrived. The customer was questioned, ‘Why do you require a DPF regen?’ Being a parts rep within the motor trade, her garage visits were frequent; various attempts had been made to resolve the issue. With conflicting advice being given and quotes between £600 - £1200 to fix the vehicle, the customer was obviously confused and unsure about what to do.
        
    The engine management light was on, so the obvious place to start was a scan check for fault codes. The vehicle showed P2002: Particulate Trap Below Threshold.
        
    Viewing the live data for the DPF pressure sensor, key on engine off, displayed a 0kpa pressure reading, a good start for a sensor plausibility check. With the engine running and RPM increased, the sensor reported a suspiciously low-pressure reading, not one I would associate with a saturated DPF. I decided to use the Pico Scope to look at the DPF pressure sensor voltage in real time. After confirming the power and ground circuits to be ok at the three wire pressure sensor, the signal wire was checked. Again key on engine off, 750mv was displayed, a sensor plausibility check and again this was good. Starting the vehicle and increasing the revs revealed exactly the opposite to what I had expected, a negative voltage reading. The voltage should increase as the exhaust pressure increases.

    What’s wrong?
    One area I wanted to check was that the pipes were not connected the wrong way around. I decided to use the Mity Vac to apply pressure to the sensor pipe connected in front of the filter. This showed a positive rise in voltage, further proving good sensor functionality and confirming the pipes to be correctly connected. Connecting the Mity Vac to the pipe after the filter and applying pressure, simulated the negative voltage which was seen when the vehicle RPM was increased, simulating the fault. The sensor pipe in front of the filter must be blocked.
        
    I located the steel pipe that is fitted in the exhaust in front of the filter to reveal soot marks, it had been leaking exhaust gasses. On a closer look it was unscrewed from the exhaust while still located in the hole due to the pipe bracket allowing the slight leak of exhaust gasses. Once the pipe was removed it was clear to see the soot had built up and blocked the small hole in the end of the pipe. I unblocked the pipe, checked to make sure the mounting hole on the exhaust was clear and refitted it.
        
    Using the Pico Scope again on the signal wire, it now showed a positive rise in voltage when the RPM was increased. The live data now showed a small pressure increase, the filter was not blocked. With all fault codes cleared, an extended road test was carried out, the pressure reading stayed low throughout and no fault codes reoccurred confirming the fix, the vehicle did not require DPF regeneration.

    With no parts required to fix the vehicle the repair cost was far lower than the customer expected due to the previous attempts. The vehicle was returned to the customer who was surprised by the
    outcome of the repair and relieved by the associated costs.



    TT Archives:  Top Technician issue nine 2016 | www.toptechnician.co.uk

  • WIN with WhoCanFixMyCar.com 

    Aftermarket readers have the opportunity to win a year’s free membership with WhoCanFixMyCar.com. That’s unlimited quoting on the site for a full 12 months, as well as 30 days free support from a dedicated account manager to help you get the best out of your membership.

  • All the things YOU could do…  

    If you had a little money, how would you spend it to improve your business? Maybe you’d buy the latest ADAS calibration kit, or subscribe to an workshop management system?

    Okay, now let’s think bigger. If you were given all the money you had ever invested in your business and could start it again from scratch, how would you gear it up to attract customers and make it profitable? Would you build something like
    your current business, or would it be totally different?

    Why do I ask? Because the world changes quickly, which means our businesses are rarely set up exactly as we need or want, and we must make frequent spending decisions. We must work out how to prioritise our spending, to ensure we always offer the things of greatest worth to our customers; i.e. we maximise our value proposition.

    Last month, we sought to understand our typical customer (a private vehicle owner). We saw that they have functional, emotional and social tasks to complete (jobs). These jobs have either good results (gains), or bad outcomes, risks and obstacles, related to their undertaking or failure (pains). For example, taking a car to the workshop is an extreme pain for a typical customer because it makes it more difficult for them to complete their more important jobs (e.g. commute to work or navigate the school run).

    This month, we’ll use the things we learned about our customers to design our value proposition; We’ll use a repeatable technique to ensure our businesses offer the things our customers need and want. The result will be a value (proposition) map, or value map for short.

    Value mapping
    Anything that helps our customers get their jobs done will have value. Therefore, our products and services must aim to help them complete their jobs. If these products and services then eliminate a customer’s pains, they are pain relievers, or, if they produce gains, they become gain creators. By stating the ways in which our products and services create gains and relieve pains, we can communicate their potential benefit to our customers. Hence, by putting a list of our products and services together with the lists of their respective pain relievers and gain creators, we create a guide to the worth of our business to our customers. That is, we make a value map.

    Of course, not all our products and services, and their subsequent pain relievers and gain creators, are equally relevant to our customers; some are essential, whilst others are merely nice to have. We can use these differences to help our decision making: by ranking the items in our value map in their order of relevance to our customer, we can see which can be ignored, and which can be prioritised.

    Figure 1 shows example items that might be within an independent workshop’s value map, ranked in order of relevance to a private-vehicle-owning customer (a value map is targeted at a specific customer segment). As with the creation of a customer profile, there is no ‘right’ answer; this one is based on my half-thought-through assumptions, and previous business experiences. Yours might differ. Hence, we must derive and tweak our respective value maps accordingly. Ultimately, each of us would use business metrics (e.g. profit ratios and customer satisfaction ratings) to tune our value propositions to the max. But that’s a task for another time.

    Products and services
    We saw before that customers don’t like to waste time at a workshop; they want to go through their lives with the minimum of hassle. They crave convenience. Therefore, courtesy cars, a handy location (covered under ‘community-orientated’ services in Figure 1), extended opening-hours, while-you-wait servicing, or pick-up and returns (either vehicle or customer) all represent high value offerings. We don’t have to offer them all - they’re included in Figure 1 for reference. Likewise, online bookings and related management systems simplify engagement, bring convenience, and enhance value.

    Have you ever heard a customer say they like messy and dirty workshops and technicians? I haven’t. That’s because we attach value to our health and safety: If your premises and staff are well presented, they will project professionalism, and your customers will reach their desired emotional state of feeling safe. Even better, properly motivated, well-equipped and trained staff will increase the likelihood that your customers are safe and secure. As safety fears are powerful motivators and manipulators, we must use our expertise to help our customers assess and manage their exposure to risks. They will then be in control and feel in control of their safety.

    Not all customers will be seeking to cut costs all the time, but certainly all of them will want to control their costs. There are ways a business can help customers manage this aspect of their lives: clear terms of trade and fee structures; well-managed engagements with expert advice; warranted parts and labour; and a range of payment methods such as easy-pay solutions, touch-less, or credit card services.

    Surprisingly, some customers want to look after their vehicles. Primarily, this helps them feel safe and secure, minimises the risk of disruption to their lives (from breakdowns), and protects the value of their vehicles. A good service history represents monetary value in this sense. This means we should be offering, high quality parts and labour, and OE-aligned servicing and repairs.

    Pain relievers
    It might suit your ego to think all your customers visit your workshop because of your skill, expertise and professionalism, or your friendly welcome and great (i.e. free) coffee. However, pure convenience can be the decisive factor when some customers choose where to take their vehicles: you’re around the corner; you had a spare courtesy car; you’re open; you were prepared to look at it there and then; you had the part in stock etc. Whilst this reflects the significant value these pain relievers offer to all our customers, it is the case that some of those who value convenience above all else are not able to see the worth of your other products and services. If they don’t understand that your conveniences come at a cost, then point them elsewhere. You will never please them. Nothing has the potential to sour a relationship like an unexpected bill: When my head was buried in an absorbing diagnostic job, adequate communication was sometimes an issue for me. My ‘solution’ was to swallow the costs, to avoid upsetting the customer. This was neither a solution nor a sustainable business strategy. What I really needed was the best preventative medicine of all: Great communication.

    It should be no surprise that there are far more pains than gains in our value map: Servicing and repair workshops are all about pain relief; we are either trying to eliminate a current pain, through diagnostics and repairs, or carrying out preventative maintenance to avoid a future pain. Because this is our reason for being, customers find it intolerable to think our actions have caused them unnecessary inconvenience or costs. Nowhere is this more obvious than when we try to ‘help them out’ -  Every time we ever tried to help a customer to control costs (i.e cut costs), by fitting a cheaper part or trying a less expensive solution, it always backfired. Every single time. Can you guess who suffered the consequences? It always paid us better to ensure the car was fixed when it left the workshop. ‘Try it and see’ tends to translate into ‘you are going to be really cheesed off next time I see you’, It also counted that we supplied quality, parts and labour.

    Gain creators
    When properly delivered, our products and services will help our customers have the following: An easy-life; a car that holds its value and works properly; peace of mind; a sense of feeling special at our premises; and the information from our sound advice to make good decisions.

    However, for some of us, the ultimate convenience is to not have to engage our brain, so if we really want to take our value proposition to the next level, we must be highly proactive and perform our customers’ thinking for them: e.g. by sending MOT and service reminders, with easy to process ‘calls to action’ so that they are only a click away from being sorted. Then, at the allocated time, we would pick-up their vehicles from their homes to take them to the workshop, leaving a replacement vehicle in their place. I know plenty of businesses that do this. And they are successful.

    Money, money, money
    There are many servicing and repair options available to private vehicles owners: Independent workshops, fast-fit chains, main-dealer workshops, mobile technicians, chancers, etc. Next time we’ll see how other business types deliberately tweak their offerings (value maps) to fit specific customer segments. We need to learn to be equally deliberate and well-informed about our investment decisions. What if we don’t? Well, we might waste all our money, and lose all our customers. Which isn’t always funny, even in a rich man’s world.


    https://automotiveanalytics.net

  • Certifying your future 

    The rate at which the modern car is developing to include new functions based on new technologies is exponential.

    The car owner is often unaware of this, as they see only the ‘HMI’ (human machine interface) that allows them to select and control functions and along with many other electronically controlled ‘things’, the expectation is that ‘it just works’.

    Two key elements are changing with today’s and tomorrow’s cars. Firstly, they are changing into more sophisticated, interactive electronic systems, which require high levels of software compliance. Frequently this can mean that the vehicle needs ‘updating’ which may apply to one system or the complete vehicle. Today this is increasingly conducted by using standardised interface (vehicle communication interfaces – VCI’s) and pass through programming by establishing a direct connection between the vehicle and the vehicle manufacturer’s website. This is now being used even at the level of replacing basic components, such as a battery or engine management system components.

    Secondly, vehicles are increasingly being connected through telematics systems so that the car is becoming part of ‘the internet of things’. This allows remote communication with the vehicle to provide a range of new services to the vehicle owner, driver, or occupants. These broadly fall into two categories – consumer related services, such as internet radio stations, link to e-mails, finding the nearest free parking space and much more, or business related access to in-vehicle data to allow remote monitoring of the status of the vehicle for predictive maintenance, remote diagnostics, vehicle use, pay-as-you-drive insurance etc.

    Increasing isolation
    The in-vehicle E/E architecture is therefore not only increasingly complicated and inter-active, it is more vulnerable to incorrect repair processes. To ensure that this risk is minimised, the vehicle manufacturers are increasingly isolating any possible external connections from the in-vehicle communication buses and electronic control modules. Effectively, today’s 16 pin OBD connector will no longer be directly connected to the CAN Bus and in turn to the ECU(s) but will communicate via a secure in-vehicle gateway. There may also be a new standardised connection which becomes a local wireless connection in the workshop as well as having remote telematics connection, but in both cases, the access to in-vehicle data is no longer directly connected.
        
    Why is this isolation and protection of the in-vehicle systems so critical? Apart from the obvious protection against any malicious attack, there is an increasing safety issue. Thinking longer term, what happens when semi-autonomous cars or fully autonomous cars come into your workshop?
        
    The key question is how to conduct effective repairs on these vehicle systems. At first glance, it may be the basic servicing still needs to be done, but even this will become more difficult, with certain items already requiring electronic control or re-setting. As this develops into more sophisticated systems, the vehicle manufacturer may try and impose more control over who is doing what to ‘their’ vehicles, based on their claim that they have a lifetime responsibility of the functionality of the vehicle and therefore need to know who is doing what where and when. This may lead to an increasing requirement for independent operators to have some form of accreditation to ensure sufficient levels of technical competence before being allowed to work on a vehicle. However, there is also a strong argument in many European countries (the UK included) that this is a market forces issue and that it is the choice of the customer who they trust to repair their vehicle and it is the responsibility of the repairer to be adequately trained and equipped.

    What’s coming?
    Will this market forces attitude still continue when the autonomous vehicle systems are part of the intrinsic safety of the vehicle? This is increasingly becoming the case as these semi or fully autonomous systems take over more control of the vehicle and stop any driver control.
       
    Certainly, anyone attempting any DIY repair will find it much more difficult to access the information or the tools/equipment needed to repair their vehicle, as this will be beyond the knowledge and economic reach of the ‘Sunday morning repairer’, but should DIY repairs even be allowed in the future?

    This raises an interesting argument about who should be allowed to work on a vehicle as the correct repair procedures become increasingly critical. Of course, vehicle manufacturers will continue to have full access to the vehicle and it’s systems, which increasingly will be via remote (telematics) access. This may even compromise the access available to authorised repairers (main dealers), but is seen as a necessary requirement to ensure that the vehicle has been repaired correctly and that the in-vehicle software is still functioning correctly.

    The counter argument is that this also provides unacceptable levels of control and monitoring of the complete independent aftermarket – so what could be a solution?

    Controlling competition
    No one is trying to say that safety and security are not important, but there must be a balance as independent operators will continue to need access to diagnostic, repair, service and maintenance information and continue to offer competitive services to the consumer. The European legislator must protect competition, but this may also come with appropriate controls and this may mean that tomorrow’s technicians will need to demonstrate certain levels of competence, together with an audit trail of the work which has been performed in the event of a vehicle malfunction.

    Independent operators already need high levels of technical competence – necessary for the consumer and the effective operation of their own business, but in the future this may also mean a form of licensing or certification that is required by legislation. If this becomes necessary, then it has to be appropriate, reasonable and proportionate.

    The alternative is that the vehicle manufacturer could become the only choice to diagnose, service and repair the vehicles of tomorrow. I am sure we all agree that it is not what we want or need, so it may be that the increasing technology of tomorrow’s vehicles is the reason that the industry should now embrace change to mirror other safety related industry sectors, such as Gas Safe or NICEIC – qualified, competent and registered. The future is changing and the aftermarket needs to change with it.

    Want to know more?
    Find out how Neil’s consultancy for garage owners can benefit you by visiting xenconsultancy.com.

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