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Why A Simple "Check Engine Light" Requires Expert Care

Posted by Greg Minnick on Wed, Sep 02, 2015 @ 03:00

An example of what goes into fixing your check engine light:

We had a Nissan in that ran poorly and had a P0300 code which is a non cylinder specific misfire code. This code could be caused by any number of issues, some of which could be related to compression in the engine, an ignition misfire, a lean or rich running engine to name a few. This type of code in particular requires some skill and experience to resolve. I was working with Scott Hughes on this one; here's how we went about testing it.


When a powertrain code sets, it will set freeze frame data. This data lists some of the most critical sensor and data values and the freeze frame is what this data read at the time the fault set. I like to check fuel trim data, which shows how the computer compensates for an imbalance in the air fuel mixture. I found the fuel trim for bank one of the engine was seeing a lean condition and adding fuel. Bank 2 was reading fairly normal. At this point we can feel pretty comfortable ruling out something that would affect both banks of this engine, such as a mass air flow sensor.

I next checked the current fuel trim values at idle and 2500 rpm. Fuel trim here was switching from centered to adding fuel and was doing this at both idle and 2500 rpm. By watching how fuel trim is affected by different engine conditions and using past experience and knowledge, you can start to rule out possible faults.

Next we decided to get out the digital storage oscilliscope. The scope we use is made by Pico and is laptop based. This allows you to connect to components and look at them electrically. There is a definite learning curve to this, both in interpreting the patterns and learning to hook up and set up the equipment. I decided to current ramp the fuel injectors. This technique uses a low amp probe to look at the current signal in a circuit. Scott consulted a wiring diagram and found the fuel injectors were on their own fused circuit, so we were able to tap in here. We adjusted the scope to look at several patterns and found one that was definitely not like the others. This occurred every sixth pattern. We've found a bad fuel injector. This engine is a V6 with an intake plenum that covers three of our fuel injectors, so now we have to find which injector is our faulty one. We connected another lead of our scope to measure voltage at an easy to reach injector. We chose cylinder number two. We then set our scope to trigger off of this cylinder. Now we follow our firing order starting with our #2 cylinder trigger and count to the bad current pattern, which happened to be cylinder 3.

If you happen to encounter a "Check Engine Light" on your vehicle be sure to consult with an expert.  A simple check engine light always requires an expert evaluation. 

Topics: Check engine light

Catch Pothole Damage with a Foreign Car Inspection

Posted by Greg Minnick on Tue, Jul 08, 2014 @ 09:46

Undercar Inspection

Drivers of import cars wince when they hit potholes. That is my observation driving in the company of countless European car owners, like those who own firm-on-the-road BMWs. Actually it is a good instinct to perceive bad road conditions as a risk in any season for luxury foreign cars, even for those owning higher-riding Lexus SUVs. Yet I have noticed that once a car keeps going, apparently handling a pothole peril, the driver relaxes, forgetting the possibility of harm to the car—after all, the sensitive foreign car is still performing, having survived the “ooch” factor. Subarus, for example, are designed to handle rough terrain. In reality, however, that initial instinct a driver has about the danger a pothole poses is accurate.

Imported cars can and do suffer serious consequences from the unexpected hits to potholes and other rough road hazards. Foreign car owners may not realize their imported cars need service or repair. Even when there's no indication, maintenance checks preserve long-term foreign auto performance, which is my philosophy about repairing and servicing foreign cars. It's why I'm offering this type of inspection currently to foreign car customers.

Potholes can be struck unseen during inclement weather and can simply be unavoidable in construction zones, too. Depending on a European import's speed and the depth of a pothole, impact with potholes can dent wheel rims. These road nuisances may throw off the alignment even if there is not a strong pull in the steering; yet the result of minor alignment issues can be uneven tire wear. Minor foreign car repair keeps the whole car in good condition; in this case, tire rotation prevents the long-term situation of buying new tires unnecessarily.

Poor pavement conditions seem worse in the summer as all the cracks and evidence of the previous seasons' harshness of nature are visible. Besides potholes, rough pavement from Michigan's varying weather and seasons, including that fifth construction season and its sometimes off-road detours, also causes wear and tear on cars that drivers may never notice.

While sophisticated technology is standard in foreign cars today (and I continually learn to keep myself and technicians in front of the latest technological aspects of import auto repair and service), damage from seasonal wear, like rust, or cracks from hitting potholes does not trigger a service light notification. Often there's no noise to indicate a problem either. The best way a foreign car owner can be aware there might be an issue that could cause more serious damage to an imported car's optimum performance down the road is for a certified mechanic to look under the car.

Free Tire Quote

Catching and fixing small problems from a visual check, like seeing a cracked protective boot, can keep rust at bay. Rain water that passes through cracks in any season feeds rust growth and its spread throughout the year, affecting the premature wear to tie rods and ball joints. Another problem that can be evident from looking under a foreign car is the extent of wear on brake rotors. This can be crucial for VW cars since their braking surfaces can be as small as 1 and ¾ inches by 3 inches. Rust and its consequential pitting may cause a quick decline in braking performance, including an extended stopping time.

Passionate about foreign cars, I like to see them safe and performing at their best. It's why I'm offering an under car inspection this summer to customers' foreign autos. I want their warm weather driving travels to be safe and their cars to be healthy and avoid more serious repairs in the long-term. I do look under my own cars, like my Audi A4, and I recommend it for all foreign cars. The under car inspection at Flying Dog Garage is $23.95 and includes suspension, exhaust, steering, tires, and visual brake check. Just mention the special when scheduling an appointment or when arriving. If you've been in recently for your foreign car's service, chances are good we already did this inspection.

Flying Dog Garage, located in Kalamazoo, Michigan, specializes in foreign auto repair and service. Owner Greg Minnick honors the active role he hopes customers take in preserving their foreign luxury or sports car's optimal high performance by telling customers what they need to know so they can make informed decisions about their imported car. All mechanics are certified and experienced in foreign car repair and up to date on the latest technology, continually keeping current under the proprietor's dogged passion for and pursuit of foreign auto knowledge. Both manager and doer, Greg is often practicing and teaching what he knows in the garage...under an imported car or its hood.

Topics: Brakes, foreign, auto repair Kalamazoo, suspension, exhaust, damage, potholes, inspection, bmw, lexus, subaru, VW, steering problems, rust damage, Check engine light

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