I felt it necessary to write this blog to try to shed a bit more light on Diagnostics and the electrics in our vehicles. From some of the questions we get from our customers about their vehicles, it is apparent that there does seem to be some confusion over how in depth the technology of modern cars has become.
In many circumstances, we can no longer rely on a simple ‘mechanical fix’ to put the car right, but instead we have to have a good understanding of the electrical components which are processed by many different electronic control units (ECU) (basically speaking - computer systems) that are used to power our modern cars.
There are occasions where the public react to having to pay the price for Diagnostics on their vehicle. It is very possible that this reaction is due to a lack of understanding and of course it is true that garages differ wildly both with the diagnostic equipment and the experience they offer.
It is really important if you do have an engine management light come on or any kind of electrical fault, that you do a bit of research as to where you take your vehicle. You need to find a garage that does have the equipment to be able to accurately diagnose what is wrong with your car as some garages may only be able to read the codes of the fault and may not then have the ability or knowledge to carry out the appropriate testing to ascertain the exact cause of the fault; The fault code is simply what the System Brain (ECU) thinks is the problem given the information it receives.
It is imperative that technicians are adequately trained to be able to understand and fix the faults. Investing in dealer level equipment is costly as is sending technicians on the appropriate courses to enable them to keep up to date with the ever growing technology found in our modern vehicles nowadays. For this reason, there needs to be a reflection in the price that is charged.
As consumers, we need to consider the value to us in knowing that a garage has the capacity to provide an accurate answer and to be able to rectify the fault (which might cost more initially), versus the cost. Trying to save money and blindly fit parts in the short term hoping that the fault will be fixed, is always going to be more costly in the long term.
A recent training course run by James Dillon - Technical Topics revealed some very interesting facts which help to shed a bit more light;
40% of a modern car is now electrical
- A Dreamliner aircraft has 18 million lines of software coding in its on-board systems – a modern VW Passat has 10 million.
- We expect and pay for the expertise of qualified people to be available to work on the aircraft we travel in. Nowadays modern cars carry a scary amount of software, yet we are happy to put our own safety and that of those dear to us in the hands of garages where there are unqualified people working on our vehicle - Food for thought!
Large companies allocate a vast amount of money to Research and Development; VW last year spent 11.4 billion dollars on research and development which was more than any other company in any other sector. 4 of the top 10 spenders in Research and Development were vehicle manufacturers. This surely tells us that technology within the motor industry is developing faster than any of us can imagine and with this in mind we need to accept that caring for our vehicle is no longer about a simple mechanical test or even a simple fix as I have alluded to at the beginning of the blog.
Another way of trying to understand the workings of cars these days is to consider that in the past, a Mechanical fault would have relatively small diagnosis time with a much larger fix time.
Nowadays, it is often the opposite with Electrical and Software faults meaning that potentially the hours of diagnosis and testing on various types of equipment need to be accounted for.
It is highly possible that the end fix may in itself be quite quick.
I have tried to show this visually in the images I have uploaded below although the diagrams are not at all to scale and are just an example.
Hopefully this goes some way to helping those who are interested, gain a better understanding albeit in simplified manner!
For more information please look at our website: http://www.lakesidegarageservices.co.uk/diagnostic-fault-finding or you can give us a call on 01784 482158 and we will be happy to answer any queries you may have.