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Why is it important that diagnostics in cars be with a scanner?

Computers are not only at the heart of a car, but must also be in the workshops where they are intended to be repaired when they fail.
Computers are not only at the heart of a car, but must also be in the workshops where they are intended to be repaired when they fail.

what is it about diagnosis What do the workshops offer before going on vacation? Is it lucky “medical check” of the car? It could be said that yes, but with the sophistication of having precise data and not just a subjective opinion. It is done with a scanner, something that did not exist in other times but is now essential to know how a vehicle works.

Why were they not necessary before and now they are? It’s very easy to answer: since cars have a on-board computer, its operation ceased to be only mechanical and became electronic. And that electronics requires a device that can review your work routines to detect problems. The person responsible for this is scannera small portable equipment similar in size to a notebook, which is connected with a cable to a socket that all cars generally have on the dashboard, inside the passenger compartment.

To take it to a practical example, while in other times you had to know the consumption based on use to calculate how many kilometers you can do with half a tank of fuel, Today all you have to do is press a button. And, in addition to knowing the remaining autonomy, it is possible to know how much is consumed instantly when accelerating, how many kilometers have been covered since the start of the trip, and even modulate the driving style to reach a certain point with the liters that remain in The deposit. All this is done by a computer that did not exist before.

There are different types and sizes of scanner.  The most sophisticated have the appearance of a notebook and are connected to cars through a cable.
There are different types and sizes of scanner. The most sophisticated have the appearance of a notebook and are connected to cars through a cable.

However, it all started much earlier, with the advent of electronic fuel injection to the cylinders, which is regulated through a ECU (Engine Control Unit), which is the computer that controls the operation of the engine. With the advancement of electronics in cars, other functions such as steering wheel control were soon added. ABS (anti-lock braking system) or the airbagswhich must receive a stimulus captured by an electronic sensor to activate, until reaching a point such that almost all the functions of a current car go through a module or computer.

But a scanner is not just a piece of equipment that checks electronics. There are three types of scanner on the market: the original equipment of each brand; that of the manufacturers of these computers or electronic control modules for automobiles; and the generic. And each one has its advantages and contraindications.

Car factories have the most sophisticated scanners, but they are only found in authorized or official workshops
Car factories have the most sophisticated scanners, but they are only found in authorized or official workshops

The official scanner of each brand is naturally the most complete, but only official dealers or authorized workshops for official service can have it. These scanners are the ones that have all the functions enabled and even programming that can be done to the vehicles from the equipment, that is, it is a two-way link, it not only collects information but can program certain tasks or functions, many of them, optional in the equipment of the cars.

Naturally, being the scanner of each brand, it is constantly updated with the evolution of new models and components that are modified in the cars of previous years.

The most effective scanners for auto shops are made by the same companies that equip most cars with their computers.  They connect with a wire to a terminal on the car's dashboard.
The most effective scanners for auto shops are made by the same companies that equip most cars with their computers. They connect with a wire to a terminal on the car’s dashboard.

The case of scanner developed by computer manufacturers of cars, like Bosch either Magnetti Marelli, is the most effective for mechanical workshops that work with all vehicle brands and not just one, like official workshops. These teams have the main electronic functions of the cars, but not the special ones, which are hidden and are only accessible by dealers.

In this type of equipment, the user, mechanic or workshop you must pay a subscription to use the equipmentthat even if you have bought it, it is not enabled if you have not paid for the authorization and the updates of software and data, which are usually several throughout each year. With the equipment updated and enabled, it is only a matter of connecting it to the car, searching the menu for the make, model and year of the vehicle in question, and once located, scanning the system.

A scanner can check everything from exhaust emissions to central door locking.  Today, almost everything is electronic in a car
A scanner can check everything from exhaust emissions to central door locking. Today, almost everything is electronic in a car

Finally there is the generic scanner, which is not manufactured by either the make of the car or the make of the computer, and which has a shallower range of analysis, as well as fewer data updates. It is the most economical, the one that perhaps detects a symptom but not the main problem, and sometimes ends up being just a reason for a consultation in an official workshop or one with better technological equipment.

In all cases, when the scanner detects a fault and allows the problem to be resolved, the team accesses the car’s computer and get those error logs clearedsince if this is not done, the next time an equipment of this type is connected to it, the error will be there and the technician will be able to interpret that there is a fault that no longer exists.

“You can no longer have a machine shop that is not equipped with this type of technology. At the beginning they were only high-end cars, and naturally they did not come to a generic workshop but to official dealers, but as cars began to have more and more electronics, workshops had to adopt these tools because otherwise it is almost impossible to detect faults. Sometimes the scanner does not tell you exactly what is going wrong, but it does tell you what the sensor detects, and the mechanics are there to go directly to the problem and solve it”, says Diego Luciano, a mechanic that specializes in injection and automotive electronics in the City of Buenos Aires.

A normal utility vehicle, a conventional workshop and a Bosch scanner updated several times a year as a tool to see electronic failures (photo @sdainyeccion)
A normal utility vehicle, a conventional workshop and a Bosch scanner updated several times a year as a tool to see electronic failures (photo @sdainyeccion)

“Without a scanner, a garage has a one in 10 chance of being able to fix a car. With a team like Bosch, which manufactures a large part of the modules of all brands, you can find the problem of the 10 cars that come to make a diagnosis”, concluded the professional mechanic who, like so many others, began his training with cars that only had an electrical installation and no electronics, but they understood that there is only one path.

Today, the cars have comfort or safety modules separately. All the driving assistance that they have in their equipment, such as the blind spot object detector, the lane detector, the emergency brake or the adaptive cruise control are controlled by a computer and if something does not work well with those systems, the only way to know is with a scanner, There is no other way to do it. Cars are becoming more expensive because of the technology with which they work.

And just as when a suspension in poor condition ends up affecting the premature wear of other parts such as tires, when a car has an electronic problem it is advisable to solve it quickly, because it generates other malfunctions and they are all very expensive.

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