My Love and Hate Relationship with Diagnostics

Michael Mobile Technician Utah Posted   Latest  
Case Study
Electrical
Programming
2019 Ram 2500 Big Horn 6.7L (L ETL) 6-spd (68RFE)
No Crank
No Crank / No Start
No Acc
No Communication

Of all the things that a technician does, none in my opinion is more frustrating and rewarding than diagnostics. In this study, the problem is compounded by location and the nature of the problem. The story goes that vehicle went running into the body shop. After body work done, the key was not recognized. This vehicle is a push button start. We see a message to press brake to start on the dash but nothing else. Lock and unlock functions work erratically with the remote. The vehicle is parked at the Dodge dealership. Whatever the dealer told the customer, it was not pretty. So they had me go over to look at it. First thing is that when connected with scan tool, the whole CAN C network is down. Here is the conundrum, is it a bad key, is it a failure to get past the gateway, is it a bad gateway, is it a bad RFHub, is something on the network bringing it down?

I am working in a parking lot, trying not to be too obvious as techs walk past me. It seems strange to me that the door locks work with the remote but in the scan tool there is no comms with the RFHub. It is 98F outside and I am getting frustrated. I check the wires to the RFHub. I have power and ground. I also have a bad looking CAN signal. I rationalize that the RFHub was damaged by the body shop while welding on the vehicle. So I tell the customer it is an RFHub. They provide the part. I take the original and the new part back to the office and transfer the immo and VIN data so that the vehicle will start. (This avoids LSID/VSP issues) I get back, install and my laziness bit me in the backside. The vehicle refuses to start or turn on. The issue is exactly the same.

diag​.​net/file/f4xgnr19i…

I tell the customer that we need to get the truck to their shop so I can dig in without attracting attention. They tow it to their home. I go over and start the task again. At least I am not on a dealer's lot. I connect a stable power supply, turn on the hazards and again try to make sense of this problem. I access service information to try and find the CAN C splice packs. The pictures provided are less than ideal. After removing some panels, I eventually find the packs on the left side. I back probe and connect to CAN Hi and CAN Lo with the scope. Two sets of splice packs have nice and clean signals. The third has an ugly signal. I remove each node one by one. I find that none make a difference. The bad signal is originating with the 3 wire connector which is a jumper from another splice pack. When it is removed and the others connected together, the dash lights up and I get the ACC, ON, Radio and Cluster back. Transmission, Engine ECU, Drivetrain Module, Dosing Control Unit all in the Red.

diag​.​net/file/f4sfw014n…

I am off to find another splice pack. The diagram of location again is lacking. After an hour of searching, I find it buried high up on the right side above the kick panel. I get it down to where I can access it. The left side jumper is then connected. I back probe the right side jumper. The nasty signal returns. I then remove one node at a time. I find the culprit. With that node disconnected, I try starting the vehicle. It fires up! Checking the wire colors, the offending module is found to be the Drivetrain Control Module. Maybe it was damaged by the welder, who knows?

diag​.​net/file/f3xln8n2n…

Here is the hate part. I have spent at this point 6 hours on this vehicle. Yeah, time flies. I end up having the customer eat the $100 for the RFHub and I charge for two hours time. (A huge savings over billing the time spent) I put myself in a bind when I quoted 2 hours when I lazily identified the RFHub as the issue. Discounting the knee-jerk diagnostic, I still have a hard time charging for all my time. That is what it took to get it figured out. This is why I really try to avoid diagnostics. Programming is so much more straight forward.

+15
Thanks
Agree
Helpful
Timothy Owner/Technician
Wisconsin
Timothy
 

On communication issues, or wiring issues, I bill by the hour. I used to try and ‘take it easy’ on the client, but experience has shown me that I'll starve on those wages! I let them know up front, that it will be at least two hours, but the time is billed per hour, and it could extend beyond that. So far, I've not had an issue with billing that way.

+7
Ð Awarded
Agree
Matthew Owner/Technician
Oregon
Matthew
 

Welcome to the world of mobile diagnostics! (tongue in cheek) I think all of us that do this have been In this situation before and probably will be again. Mostly I know I'll never get paid for all my diagnostic time on some jobs. Maybe I'm too slow to figure out the problem but some are crazy difficult. I recently spent 26 hours tearing apart a truck to find a medium speed CAN issue. I got…

+1
Ð Awarded
Timothy Owner/Technician
Wisconsin
Timothy
 

Unless it's something I can tear apart quickly, I don't do it, I have the shop gain me access. I let them know what and where we're going. At times, I have to return to the shop/later date. I get paid for what I've got in it, and the clock restarts when I return.

+1
Ð Awarded
Stephen Owner/Technician
California
Stephen
 

Dont cut yourself short with your talent and skill. Always bill by the hour for diagnostics. Let the customer decide if its worth it. Nice job on finding the issue

+9
Ð Awarded
Agree
Matthew Owner/Technician
Tennessee
Matthew
 

I get these people from the general public (I run a brick and mortar auto electrical shop) that ask questions like: ‘do you have the thing you hook up to it that tells you what's wrong with it?’, also ‘what do you charge to look at it?'. I want to slap them sometimes.

+10
Ð Awarded
Agree
Funny
Michael Technical Support Specialist
California
Michael
 

Your abilities are well above mine and most shops. Keep in mind that they would have had to tow this to several shops and probably spent serious money and never gotten it fixed. While you are a tech, you also need to remember that you are also a business man. You didn't design this truck nor cause the damage. You have to “sell” the fact that you may have to replace more than one part due to…

+2
Ð Awarded
Lee Diagnostician
Pennsylvania
Lee
   

I hear ya brother! I’m starting to get away from diagnostic work and do just programming and keys , been doing diagnostic work since 1985 , 3 brick and mortar shops and now been mobile for 4 years , sometimes not enough work to just do keys and programming but seems to be better putting the effort into door to door relationship building of shop owners and see how I can fill in the gaps on the…

+1
Ð Awarded
Jamie Owner/Technician
Ontario
Jamie
 

Unfortunately, it’s part of the game. I charge $135/hr, 1.5hr minimum, $0.30/km plus a $15 tool fee. I also use a time Clock (my phone) and set an alarm at 1.5hrs so I don’t end up ”on safari”. At the 1.5 I stop and fill the client in on what I know and what I don’t and let them decide if the wish me to continue. Once you’ve done it once it becomes way easier…trust me. I gave away too much for…

+1
Ð Awarded
Jeffrey Mobile Technician
Illinois
Jeffrey
 

How do you charge for km. Is it from client to client? Is it from home base/office to client?

0
Ð Awarded
Jamie Owner/Technician
Ontario
Jamie
 

Each client gets charged from home base to their location…round trip. I don't tell anyone where my last call was nor where my next call is. None of their business, every one is treated as if they're my only client for the day.

+1
Ð Awarded
Richard Technician
New York
Richard
 

I just did a similar thing today. I spent 3 hours driving this f150 to get monitors to set after having to install a fuel pump fuse relocation kit. The customer asked for inspection at this time as well. I couldn't get the o2 and o2 heater to go. He is not due till end of July, so I said drive it and stop back and we will check it. He is a really good customer and nice guy, he actually suggested…

+1
Ð Awarded
Agree
Paul Owner/Technician
California
Paul
 

I think a lot of us have a hard time billing fairly for our time. We like what we do and like when we can show others how good we are at it. We look for appreciation more than monetary gain. It's good for the ego and bad for the wallet. In a shop there's a buffer in the form of a service writer. He's disconnected from our need impress others and be liked and is more likely to bill…

+7
Ð Awarded
Helpful
Agree
Rex Technical Support Specialist
Ohio
Rex
 

“As far as billing for time and materials when we came to the wrong conclusion, I think we should bill for that as well. Everyone makes mistakes. This is true across many occupations. If you go to a doctor with a rash, he might look at it, make a diagnosis, prescribe an ointment, and send you on your way. When you call back a week later and say it hasn't improved, he won't offer to refund the…

+2
Ð Awarded
Agree
Theo Technician
New Zealand
Theo
 

I get the impression that this is a common issue in our industry. If I read between the lines, you are feeling guilty about charging the actual time you spent on the vehicle. Maybe ask yourself where does this guilt come from? From what I have read on here, you come across as being in the top 10% of this trade when it comes to skill and knowledge. Don't be afraid to charge for that. This…

+4
Ð Awarded
Agree
Helpful
Paul Owner/Technician
California
Paul
 

Hi Theo, I liked your post. A couple comments… “How much is the customer willing to sink into the vehicle? Get a number up front.” On the one hand, a great way to find out if your customer is realistic/serious. On the other hand, this can be a bit of a trap. Let's say a guy comes in with a non-running car that has been sitting. He says it would be worth $2000 to get it going again and wants…

+2
Ð Awarded
Agree
Geoff Diagnostician
Hawaii
Geoff
 

I love your writing, Mike. What is the physical location of the DTCM? I had an old retired flat rater tell me once, "always unplug the modules closest to the elements first". (the ones that get wet!)

0
Ð Awarded
Michael Mobile Technician
Utah
Michael
 

Hi Geoff, The DTCM is just above the carpet, mounted to the firewall under the glove box. -Mike

+1
Ð Awarded
Helpful
Interesting
Thanks
Geoff Diagnostician
Hawaii
Geoff
 

Thanks. Back on your original topic, had a few recent conversations with various folks and I came to the conclusion that nobody wants hear that you don't know what is wrong and have to test things. They think good mechanics always just KNOW what is wrong. I'm sure that was true in 1950's, and those images are fully ingrained in most of everyday culture at this point, thanks to TV and movies…

0
Ð Awarded
Michael Mobile Technician
Utah
Michael
 

Geoff, I have had many heated conversations with technicians, managers and shop owners about “just knowing” what is wrong. I would suggest that I should get paid for time in service information digging into the problem. They would tell me that was on me because I did not know. Another example of unbilled time that nobody wants to pay for so the technician does.

0
Ð Awarded
Geoff Diagnostician
Hawaii
Geoff
 

and there we have the real root of the issue. If even guys on "our side" don't want to pay, how could "we" ever convince the general public? It's a lost cause. "Leave it out back for two months and I'll get to it between PAYING JOBS".... works great on a FARM .. LOL

0
Ð Awarded
Randall Technician
Pennsylvania
Randall
 

Michael, I do appreciate that you take the time to share your stories! We as an industry should not feel the need to apologize for what is justifiable to charge for difficult to resolve problems. Randy

0
Ð Awarded
Scott Owner
California
Scott
 

Hi Michael, Good job! Who am I to tell you what to charge. I appreciate you putting yourself out there and being real. I find it refreshing to hear I am not the only one that isn't walking on water. You didn't ask for advice, but I wouldn't have been so kind and probably would have charged 4 hours, cost for CDJ programming/subscriptions/tooling subscriptions, sold the RFHub for my cost and…

0
Ð Awarded
Derrick Diagnostician
United Arab Emirates
Derrick
 

Hello guys,i must state it's really good discussion on the subject matter and we really appreciate your contribution to the same​.​Big appreciation to you Michael for the job well done and case study we have learnt really alot. My humble request is am seeking to find an alternative to all data​.​some times it won't simplify our work and instead end up spending more time…

0
Ð Awarded
Michael Mobile Technician
Utah
Michael
 

Derrick, The factory service information is the best. You can look at Mitchell or Motologic as alternatives. Common tools for EEPROM are AR32a and VVDIprog. Cloning tools, HEXPROG, FLEX, KESS 3, IO Terminal, VF2.

+1
Ð Awarded
Derrick Diagnostician
United Arab Emirates
Derrick
 

Excellent…very many thanks Michael.

0
Ð Awarded
Derrick Diagnostician
United Arab Emirates
Derrick
 

Oh Michael how do you guide me on this matter. How can I acquire Mitchell and motorlogic..for less or not spending a penny.

0
Ð Awarded
Michael Mobile Technician
Utah
Michael
 

Derrick, These services are subscription. I do not know of any that are at no charge. mitchell1​.​com/alt-home/index… motologic​.​com

0
Ð Awarded
Derrick Diagnostician
United Arab Emirates
Derrick
 

Thank you, Michael​.​appreciation

0
Ð Awarded
Timothy Owner/Technician
Wisconsin
Timothy
 

You may not like AD at times, but it is the closest to OE SI as you can get. AD takes the factory info and formats it so that the same path through the software works for all SIs, so you don't have to ‘learn’ how the OEMs format there SI. All SI from the OEMs has its own protocols, so you have to learn a new protocol for every OE. That said, with a valid sub to AD, you can get access to…

+1
Ð Awarded
Jamie Owner/Technician
Ontario
Jamie
 

I'm a fan of AD because of the OE wiring diagrams. The redrawn diagrams are nice, however, the number of times that I've been mislead by incorrectly drawn diagrams has given me a level of distrust of them.

+1
Ð Awarded
Agree
Helpful
Timothy Owner/Technician
Wisconsin
Timothy
 

They are handy for the Euro vehicles, but, since the Euros have become far less tech ‘friendly’ as far as being able to comprehend the SI, and the total lack of actual D&O for most systems, the redrawn diagrams are nicer than OEM for sure, but, as you state, they can be wrong, and I've chased a number of ‘rabbits’ down the hole as a result…

0
Ð Awarded
Agree
Tim Owner/Technician
Alberta
Tim
 

Michael, your skill and knowledge is valuable! I know this firsthand thanks to your training. I have performed diagnostics for other “skilled shops” many times. Their techs spending over 24 hours in many cases and not finding the solution. I have come in with my expansive tooling and knowledge and get to the solution in 6 hours or less. This is not something you can or should even consider…

0
Ð Awarded