Electronic repairs, program fixes and/or updates, calibrations, resets, configurations etc. are already done to our PC’s, Cell Phones, Game systems and many other electronic and computer driven systems almost exclusively by internet connection either wired or wireless.
The challenges facing this type service in the automotive repair world are the wide ranges of vehicles and vehicle systems differences by manufacturer and even models. It is extremely challenging for a repair shop to be equipped with specific diagnostic equipment, knowledge, and access to all the information to make an electronic repair to a vehicle in shop. Also, at this time, each car manufacturer requires a different type of interface “scan tool” with access to the manufacturer’s service information and calibration files for the shop to properly diagnose and repair electronic faults or identify mechanical/electrical “hard faults” properly.
Here is an example; a customer with a 2005 Nissan Xterra complains of a high idle speed-approximately 75 rpm higher than normal with a code P0507. Some of us would be inclined to say a 75-rpm idle speed shift might be acceptable, but the service engine light is on and the vehicle is just not right. How you choose to resolve this issue could make all the difference in the world.
Technician “A” performs a visual inspection, checks the throttle body for carbon deposits, looks for vacuum leaks with a smoke machine, uses a generic scan tool to clear diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs), uses the scan tool to look at related diagnostic parameters-including engine coolant temperature (ECT), fuel trim data, mass air flow sensor (MAF), oxygen sensors, etc.-and finally verifies the actual idle speed against the manufacturer’s recommendations after the code resets.
The target idle speed specification for this vehicle is 700 ±50 rpm. In this case, the idle speed is 775 rpm, so according to Nissan, the idle speed is too high and the code resets. No problems were noted during Tech A’s diagnostic procedure. What should he recommend at this point? Additional diagnostics? Fuel injector cleaning? Replace marginal components? This is a tough call.
Technician B takes a different approach. His first step is to use a scan tool to check for DTCs and verify the customer complaint. The code returns after all idle re-learn procedures have been performed. According to the Nissan specification, we have established that the idle speed is too high. The technician researches the customer concern by checking technical service bulletins (TSBs). During his research, he finds Nissan TSB NTB05-067: “Engine Controls – Idle speed too high”
The TSB describes a condition where the “in-use” learned idle (IAVL) may be higher than normal due to vacuum leaks, idle speed control issues or, in some cases, after throttle body deposits have been removed. One of the actions listed for 2002 and 2005 Nissan models is to check for newer engine control module (ECM) calibrations. If a newer calibration is available, the ECM should be reprogrammed. Also, if a newer calibration is not available, the TSB still recommends reprogramming the ECM to clear the IAVL learned value. Once the reprogramming is complete, the ECM starts the idle speed relearn procedure without the old idle adaptive information. This is an electronic repair.
There are virtually thousands of these types of updates and electronic fixes published and non-published for all manufacturers in the OBD2 era of electronically controlled vehicle systems.
Technicians A and B followed what most of us would consider good diagnostic strategies. The difference is Technician B took the time to research the issue after verifying the customer complaint and may already have found a solution to the problem. He’ll still need to perform the steps recommended in the TSB, but in the end, if all the actions check out good, Technician B can perform the recommended ECM reprogramming if he is equipped and skilled with the programming processes to correct the issue. Technician A basically has reached a dead end and might have started guessing at a solution by replacing unnecessary parts.
If a shop or repair franchise chooses to stay away from this work they can start planning for retirement or be content doing oil changes and tire rotations (only on older vehicles without service reminders or tire pressure monitors). Oil change? You may need a scan tool or access to manufacturer’s information to reset that annoying service reminder. Tire Rotation? You better reset the tire monitoring system and set the tire positions in the module correctly. Tune up? You will need a scan tool to reset idle parameters. Air Conditioning? Scan tool and access to programming will be needed for many repairs. Brakes? You may need a scan tool to release the electronic parking brake on some models. Suspension? There is a host of computer controlled struts and ride control to deal with and you may need a scan tool to re-set vehicle ride height. Check engine light? You guessed it. Remotes inoperative? Send it to the Dealer! Module replacement? (ECM, TCM, BCM, Etc.) Forget about it! Without manufacturer scanning and programming/configuration/set-up/flashing abilities an old school shop is dying.
Currently a repair shop other than the manufactures dealer service centers must make a decision to either stay away from this type of diagnostics & repair work, or to invest $10k minimum in equipment per shop/per vehicle manufacturer to perform this service on only a fraction of vehicles. If a repair shop is willing, and employs the technical expertise they can be prepared to invest a whopping $100k plus to purchase the diagnostic scanning equipment, and access to calibration files. This is in addition to all the other tool and equipment expense a repair shop is already challenged with. And then you are not going to find a technician skilled in use of all this high-tech equipment for less than $35-$40 per hour.
So how does an automotive repair shop move into this area? Keep up without going bankrupt or having to charge customers inflated rates for routine services to cover the expense of the equipment required in the growing area of electronic automotive repairs, service and maintenance? They can choose to specialize in one or two car lines or manufacturer like the dealer does, but this limits the opportunities. They can choose to limit their depth of repairs to only the vehicle systems which don’t require electronics involvement, “which would require turning a lot of customers away.” Or they can sublet the work to a dealer or a shop has the capabilities and hope their customers don’t start going there instead.
AES Technologies has a solution. Just imagine…… you plug a vehicle diagnostic connector into your new AES Technologies ASTech, a live full data interface which transmits a vehicles data, codes, values, calibrations and virtually bring the vehicles electronics and computer system to an Automotive Electronic Remote Programming and Diagnostic Specialist, to read, interpret, and make electronic calibration repairs to a vehicle from any location in the world.
Now the time has come to actually use remote diagnostics. How does this work? Who does this? How much does it cost? It is all about customer retention. A repair shop with this type of service will always tell their customers “Yes we can do that”.
For less than 1% of the cost to invest in one manufacturer line and employing solid average technicians a repair shop can add this capability for practically any vehicle that may enter their shop. When that module may need programming updates, or parameter resets, or you need to program that remote your customer lost, just plug in your ASTech in to the vehicle’s DLC connector, make an internet connection and call AE,S who will log in and virtually connect the manufacturer scan tool to the vehicle and perform any electronic procedures needed to complete the job correctly. Some examples of procedures you will be adding to your service and repair abilities are:
- Perform some module program updates
- Program some replacement modules
- Program remotes
- Reset Adaptable Module Learned Parameters
- Reset Maintenance reminders
- Reset tire monitors
- Re-program theft passwords
- Perform live data Diagnostic assistance
- Add or Remove Accessories
- Configure tire size changes
Someday has arrived for your shop or repair network. With the barriers removed for tool access, manufacturers’ configuration file “programs” access, and expert skilled AES Master Techs available on demand, you can keep your customers in your shop and progress in the future of automotive electronic repairs and service without going broke, Better yet the cost is at a level to allow your shop to add thousands to the bottom line on a weekly basis. So get ready to add to your customer base and expand your service offers unless you are ready for retirement in this business.