The old-school days of the common father teaching his son how to maintain, repair, and overhaul a vehicle and its motor are now far behind us. Carburetors were initially simple devices that got loaded down with anti-smog technology in the late 1970s-1980s, making the whole system a mess of vacuum hoses and valves, each vehicle being different and requiring a more complicated diagnostic approach, but most problems were still within the realm of a patient self-repair vehicle owner. Unfortunately some anit-smog sub-systems’ specs were never revealed to the public without buying a factory service manual generally only available during the year the vehicle was originally purchased new — and thus began the new era.
By the late 1980s, computer technology became fast enough to manage the operation of a vehicle motor, and carburetors were replaced with computer-controlled throttle-body-injection and then multipoint-injection. Vehicle manufacturers created proprietary systems, and initially only dealerships had access to the technology needed to diagnose problems. Every vehicle “make” required a different connector for a diagnostic computer to “talk” to the vehicle’s computer; this was called “on-board diagnostics” or OBD, a.k.a. OBD-1.
Because the federal government required vehicle manufacturers to install anti-smog systems, and because this essentially gave them a monopoly on vehicle repair, the federal government required them to release this information to the public (for a fee if desired) and make the technology available to all repair shops. But the multitude of different connectors and interfaces greatly increased the operating costs of the average auto-service center, and thus repair costs. The federal government’s interest in reducing air pollution includes people keeping their vehicles running properly and as efficiently as possible, and high-dollar repair costs inhibit that goal. So the feds also required all vehicle manufacturers to adopt a universal interface system starting in 1996 that has a universal connector, with a specific universal set of “codes” that the vehicle sends to the diagnostic computer that each signal a different problem that the vehicle’s computer finds. This is called OBD-2.
Many places (Sears, auto-parts stores, etc.) sell hand-held “scanners” that can read these OBD-2 codes in later-model vehicles and tell you what they mean. But this is only the starting point for diagnosing a vehicle. Just because the vehicle’s computer sends the code meaning “the first oxygen sensor on the left side shows the fuel mixture is consistently running too lean” doesn’t mean you need a new O2 sensor, but usually it does.
The Rolling Wrench autocare service utilizes a more advanced computer system that can not only read OBD-1 plus OBD-2 trouble-codes, but can also read what the vehicle’s computer is “thinking” in real-time; this can tell the technician specifically where the problem lies, or at least more probably lies so that further testing is targeted and not just a game of “go fish”. Since even that advanced “computer scanner” may leave unanswered questions when diagnosing the problems in a modern vehicle, Rolling Wrench autocare also utilizes an advanced computerized graphing electrical meter with an internal database that can identify virtually every electrical engine component on every vehicle made (1986 and up) and tell the technician how to test it and what its electrical signature signal is supposed to be, which can further diagnose every electrical sensor or actuator, etc., in your vehicle. That way, the real problem is identified and fixed the first time.
In addition to OBD-1 & OBD-2 engine trouble codes, the diagnostic computer can read anti-lock braking system computer trouble codes on some vehicles as well. If your “check engine” light, your “brake” light, or your “ABS” light is illuminated on your dashboard, get it diagnosed right away. Call the Big Island Rolling Wrench to solve your problems and get you back on the road safely.