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How to scan trouble codes?

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Recently I read about the trouble codes that one faces in a car. But can anyone tell me how to scan such codes? Do we really need an expert to understand the codes, or is it possible to do so on our own?

 

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These days you don't even need a scan tool, you just need a laptop and a lead which you can probably pick up for 50 Dirhams, maybe less, from one of the internet sites. There are loads of software available to buy cheap or rip from the torrent sites for free depending on what car you have, i.e. Consult 3 for Nissan, VCDS for VW/Audi vehicles, Planet for Peugeot vehicles, Google will tell you what the specific software for your vehicle is. Or, you can just get a piece of software like Delphi Diagnostics which is pretty comprehensive and will cover most vehicles. Then it's just a matter of installing the software and connecting your laptop to your car viz the OBD port and playing around with the software until you learn how it works. Don't worry, you can't break your car by reading/erasing fault codes but if your software has any programming options, I would recommend staying away from them until you learn properly how engine management systems work and how your software relates to them.

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One thing to learn how the software works, but something else entirely to interpret the data. A fault code in itself means nothing if you don't have a very good idea of the systems and fault setting parameters that caused the code to be set in the first place.

In fact, unless you are  a competent mechanic who understands the operating principles of the control systems that relate to a fault code, you probably have no business poking around an OBD system, much less trying to interpret the obtained data.

Diagnosing fault codes, even generic codes of which there are more than 5000, is best left to competent technicians, and to suggest that illegally copied (ripped) software be used on any modern vehicle is the worst advice I have ever come across. There are simply no sources of free diagnostic software available anywhere, and some of the products mentioned - "Consult 3 for Nissan, VCDS for VW/Audi vehicles, and  "Planet for Peugeot vehicles" are often pirated copies of proprietary software.

As such, there is no guarantee that these programs won't harm a vehicle. These "products" should be treated with a great deal of circumspection, and especially by persons who are not skilled in automotive diagnostics.  

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Hi @treks It's always good to hear and debate differing opinions :)

I put to you this point, just take a walk through the garages in the industrial area of Sharjah, even the DIP area of Dubai, there are a lot of them using pirate copies of original software for diagnostic/programming work. The legality/morality of this is a different point, but a copy of a disc will still cover the functions of the original disc. After all, the original disc is still a copy ripped from a manufacturers computer somewhere. I fail to see how using a copy of software can cause harm. Sure, it might not be up to date, it might not be able to read the ECU of the latest model out but it will still perform the job the user needs to do which is the end objective.

I don't subscribe to the opinion that only "a competent mechanic who understands the operating principles of the control systems that relate to a fault code" should be able to read and interpret fault codes. Everyone should have the right to repair/attempt to repair their own car. If they screw it up, that's their tough luck, there is enough information out there to attempt most jobs. You are correct, there are thousands of fault codes but all one has to do is scan the ECU for these codes and type them into Google and there will be hundreds of other people who have experienced the same problem, possible causes, possible fixes and solutions. Even on YouTube, one will be able to find thousands of instructional videos enabling them to work on their own car. No technician knows or can remember every single fault code and I've seen plenty of "qualified" guys still hitting google with their fault codes. The forums are and always will remain the best source of information.

Everyone has to start somewhere and this applies to computer diagnostics too. I still remember the first proper mechanical job I did, changing the brake pads on my 1993 Ford Sierra Sapphire. I was working in a parts department at the time and hadn't got any money to pay a mechanic so I attempted it myself. I pushed the brake caliper piston back without opening the cap on the brake fluid reservoir and flipped the seals on the master cylinder. Yeah, stupid mistake but the Internet wasn't a thing in those days but on the plus side I learnt how to change a master cylinder and bleed a braking system through so there is no air in it. Same applies to diagnostic systems. When OBD fault code readers became widely available cheaply, I bought one and taught myself how to use it. I eventually bought a better one then a better one before I knew enough that I could just get a USB to OBD lead and some software and do some programming work. Now I'm a self trained diagnostic technician to earn my living. Enough so that Mercedes Benz hired me in my home country even though I had no formal qualifications after high school.

But my original point stands, everyone has the right to work on their own car, be it mechanical, electrical, diagnostic etc. Surely that's the whole point of internet forums such as this? So people can share their knowledge with others.

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@Technician I fully agree with you that people have the right to fix their own cars. That was never in dispute, but personal experience has taught that illegal copies of diagnostic software are often corrupted, and in one case (there are others, but I fixed this one) the user of an illegal copy wiped the operating system from his BMW when he tried to clear a code.

I also applaud you for once being hired by MB without formal training, but here is the thing- Google is no substitute for formal training, and growing with new technologies over decades. Moreover, forums are more often than not, fraught with wrong diagnoses, speculation, guesswork, and the opinions of people who, apart from their own problem(s) with their own  vehicle(s), have for the most part,  no clue about what a reliable repair entails.

An opinion is one thing, and everyone is entitled to one, but the owner of a repair shop, such as myself, can never rely on Google and Internet forums for information on how to perform repairs on a customer's vehicle. When a customer presents me with a problem on his vehicle, he relies on my training, knowledge and skill as a mechanic to resolve the problem, not my skills in internet research to find a solution that may, or may not work. The customer pays me, the owner of the shop, to resolve the issue, and  comebacks are for my account, not the mechanic's account to whom I had assigned the job.   

Being self-taught is a great thing, but a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. You may know your way around an OBD system, but to suggest that all the average car owner needs to fix a/his car is a laptop and a ripped copy of some diagnostic software, is disingenious to say the least.

You, as Technician, may know that a generic fault can trigger one or more vehicle-specific codes, and how to resolve the root cause of a code,  but to seriously suggest that the average car owner in the UAE, or anywhere else for that matter, only needs a laptop and a ripped copy of software in order to decode the freeze frame data or code setting parameters where this has happened might create opportunities for DIY mechanics to make expensive mistakes.

One example- an emission control -related code could be the result of using the wrong engine oil, and there may be nothing wrong with any component, circuits, or control modules. If you knew nothing  about lubrication technology, would you be able to trace the cause of a damaged catalytic converter to unsuitable oil? If you didn't know that the molecules in synthetic oil are all the same size, and that the oil therefore provides better lubrication, would you be able to ascribe the code to excessive mechanical wear because the owner tried to save some money by using mineral oil, or would you try to find the cause elsewhere?

Another example is the analysis of wave forms in ignition, and/or charging systems. You and I may know the difference between the electrical waveforms generated by two-, and three-wire Crank Position Sensors, or how long it should take a sine wave to decay in a defective alternator, but do you seriously expect the avarage DIY mechanic to know this?    

I also agree with you that we all have to start somewhere, but the cars we worked on in the early 1990's are as far removed from today's cars as a kite is removed from the Space Shuttle. The cars of 20 years ago simply did not have the miles of wiring, several hundred  fuses, dozens of relays/control modules, or the thousands of electrical connections we see in modern cars. 

You cannot seriously expect a DIY mechanic to find a high resistance, out-of-spec reference voltage,  loss of ground, or an open circuit in a modern German SUV with just a laptop and an almost-certainly outdated version of a diagnostic program in such a vehicle. At best, he may be able to extract a code or two, but without a wiring diagram,  pressure to Hertz charts, or an oscilloscope (and the ability to interpret the data), the avarage DIY mechanic has no chance to find the cause of any problem, and even less so if the problem involves captive technology or diagnostic/repair information that is not available to the repair industry outside of the dealer network.  

In conclusion, I must say that a "professional" mechanic who relies on Google to find solutions to problems on internet forums should not be allowed to work as a mechanic. Period.

 

   

 

     

 

 

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OK guys, not everything expressed on forums have emotions attached as it's just a bloody fucking words.

What technician is meaning or pointing is quite right and also required to identify or double check the fair and honest mechanic or workshop advise. Not everything in Dubai auto repair market need to be taken fully as-is as there are 100's of conman workshop waiting to rip you for 3000 AED for an hour job that cost less than 300 AED. 

I myself encountered this in two scenario and when confronted, same guy did the job in 1/8 of the initial quote and within 2 hour me standing on their head.

What treks is saying is not to take this DIY knowledge mechanic experience too serious and professionally. Which is also right.

Peace guys, you both are good and right in your own way. Chill.

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Dear All

in addition to the above you may get DTC from dashboard hidden menu it varies for car maker but you can still get it in most of modern cars like (ford, volvo & Jaguar/ Jeep & Chrysler and Dodge) from mileage reset switch and VW & Audi + Seat & Skoda from AC display (limited to climatronic editions (if you have 3 dial analog type no chance!) Renault & Peugeot & Opel from center display and dashboard if you have one!

if you are trying in a Japanese sorry it want work you need a scanner

Mercedes & BMW is very limited on hidden menu due to dual can system! so you still need a scanner!

and advanced one would make your job easier as it would give a good description so you may have a sensor failure but advanced scanner would tell you is it the sensor or sensor wiring or other sensor reading conflict as impossible reading.

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