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01-09-2013, 12:40 PM #1
Test tools for the modern-day shade tree mechanic
Lots o' questions on the forums on:
- why the truck won't start
- why the check engine light is on
- whassup with the cooling leak
- whyfor doesn't my a/c blow cold
Back in 1969 you wouldn't try to fix performance problems without a vacuum gauge, timing light, and tach/dwell meter -- all relatively inexpensive tools available at your corner auto parts place or from the Sears catalog. In that same bygone era you also had to have a cooling system pressure tester and an R-12 charging hose and gauge.
Times have changed and the tools have evolved but there is still a basic set of diagnostic tools that you are going to have to have to do any kind of troubleshooting under the hood -- anything more than basic maintenance and replacement of obvious things like belts and hoses. I see the minimum set for today's powertrains to be:
1) Some kind of OBD-II interface. The smart phone ones are the best for the money if you have a smart phone. $50-$100
2) A fuel pressure gauge designed for EFI engines, with a connector that attaches to the fuel rail. $40-$60
3) A cooling system pressure tester with a set of adapters suitable for whatever you're going to work on. $80-$100
4) A refrigerant charging hose with pressure gauge for R-134a. $20
5) A meter (or possibly two separate meters) capable of reading DC volts and DC amps up to 200 amps or so. $100
Now you don't have to run out and buy all this stuff at once but these are such basic tools that if you're trying to diagnose something for more than around 10 minutes and any of these would help then you should run out and get one from your nearest cheap auto parts place or Amazon or whatever. You use them once and they've paid for themselves compared to either a trip to the stealership or guessing and replacing perfectly good parts.Minneapolis area - 1997 K2500 regular cab long bed, pushes plow in the winter, carries camper in the summer - 2004 4x4 Suburban 2500 8.1, pulls 30' Airstream trailer
01-09-2013, 12:46 PM #2
on the subject of the code reader i did a review on a nother forum im present on. the tool when i bought it was around $200 but i think the price has come down:
LAUNCH Creader VI Review with pics.
So last week our Cornwell distributor came by and one of the items he had that week was this Creader VI scanner by LAUNCH. it cost about 200 dollars and isn't bad for the price. keep in mind iv been spoiled my whole career with GM's TechII so im a little bias.
its capable of reading basic codes and quiet a few manufacturing specific codes too. as long as the vehicle has OBD II then this code reader should work. found it extremely fast and is perfect if you want to check or clear codes. one other great feature is you can RECORD up to 8 HOURS of date. HOWEVER i have not figured out if its possible to use the graph feature with recorded data.
reading and clearing codes isn't all it can do. it also doubles has a decent scanner with graphs and values. the first downside i to this tool i found was its extremely small screen and extremely detailed graphs... too detailed for that matter.
as long as the item you want to graph doesn't change a LOT such as an O2 sensor then you should be able to make decent use of the graph feature. can graph up to 4 items at a time but things quickly become over crowded.
iv tested this quite a bit at work along side a TechII and only once was i unable to rear all the codes from a vehicle.
vehicles iv read/cleared codes or graphed values:
1999 olds alero with a 3.4
2006 chevy malibu with 2.4
2009 chevy HHR with a 2.4
1998 hyundai accel with a turd
2005 chevy silverado with a 6.0
200x kia van
button layout is ok, instructions are to a bare minimum and customer service could be A LOT better.
overall for a DIY'er i think this tool could be a great help for checking things and clearing codes but as a professional it leaves a lot to be desired as a solo tool but could be an aid to your collection (for quick viewing of codes).
here are some pics:
here is the reader, comes with what you see plus a manual and a usb cable to update as updates come available.
as you can see this date stream consist of calculated engine load and rpm. The graph shows every wrinkle in a cats ass but if you look at the scale you can see its not a wide range. scale will self adjust as your graphed items get bigger (such as if i stepped on it and rpms went up to 4k. the graph would re "scale")
Here is just some of the values you can watch. amount of viewable items varies depending on vehicle.
here is an example of items that move too fast and make the small screen hard to read. what i selected was my B1S1 O2 and my B1S2 O2. now picture having all four O2s going at once (if you have 4)
in this graph iv selected engine load, RPMs, and Absolute throttle position. great view of whats happening as i pull a set of double hills at cruise speed with cruise control activated.
i used this picture to demonstrate that zoom feature. this is the "far" setting.
this pic is the same screen but up close.
so this pic represents a cool feature of the graph i think. here i am at my destination. i shut the engine off but turn the key back on. as you can see i slowly push the accelerator pedal to the floor and let back off a bunch of times at different speeds. IF i had a faulty TPS a not so "predictable" pattern would show.
over all i like this. but i have a hard time getting use to a tool that doesn't have all the features of a Tech II. personally... i think its a great tool of anyone on here.
ASE master tech
Last edited by mfleetwood; 01-09-2013 at 06:19 PM. Reason: Removed link to outside community and replaced with the thread the link went to"i dont think you got the picture. i got a beautiful picture. this baby happens to have an extra turn of speed, which is the only thing i care about. you dont understnad what happens do you? they make cars. they make 'em exactly the same way. one or two of 'em turn out to be something special. nobody knows why. i know why. i may be kiddin' myself, but i think i can make somethin' out of that sad little bucket of bolts." ~ Tennessee Steinmetz
01-09-2013, 01:07 PM #3
Luckily, if one does not have the means to purchase the group of tools mentioned they can be "borrowed" from an autoparts store for free. Unfortunately, the loaner tools are abused and may not work as they should. I have not purchased a cooling system pressure tester, I just borrow the part store's. Same with the fuel pressure gauge and AC gauge set. It would be nice to own them, I just have not had enough people bring me coolant leak or AC problems to justify buying them. I have a nice fluke meter and I can use my programmer as a scan tool. If I need to pull codes for someone else, I have them take it to the parts store before I work on it or I will go there while test driving it. I have learned to test drive ever thing before doing ANYTHING. This was after I had a friend tell me that I made their car shift "funny" after adding washer solvent before they left our home late one night!
1995 Silverado 4x4
6" BDS Suspension Lift-3" Body Lift-Add A Leaf in rear -Trailmaster SSV Shocks-Duel Steering Stabilizer Kit -AirAid Cold air intake-
4.56 Gears with Detroit Auburn Locker-Pro-Comp Traction Bars with duel shocks-Aluminum Skid Plate Kit-38.5" x 16.5" Mickey Thompson Baja Claws-Constant Dropping fuel gauge
2005 Yukon XL Jet Power Programmer, Bilstein Shocks, Bilstein rear springs, Helwig Anti-sway bars, EGR Window Visors, EGR Hood Shield, Denali Headlights, Headlight harness upgrade, GE NightHawk Bulbs, White Night Rear lighting system http://www.gmtruckclub.com/forum/sho...5-GMC-Yukon-XL
2002 Silverado ext cab 2wd (Sold)
2003 Yukon XL (Totaled)
01-09-2013, 02:52 PM #4
- Join Date
- Dec 2011
- Blog Entries
My local shop and Autozone both read codes for free, so I don't worry about that. I have had coolant leaks, but only one that was easily found and fixed (radiator was leaking). I don't like to mess with A/C because well I just don't and my shop usually has specials for checking/tuning up the A/C system in the spring so it isn't outrageous to get it vac tested and refilled. I do have a multi-meter and plan on getting a digital one soon. They are always handy when fixing or adding electrical equipment. I need a fuel pressure gauge, but they are more expensive because you need to buy adapter kits for it to work on GM vehicles.
1996 Chevy Tahoe LT 5.7L V8 4X4 202,000+ miles. Built proudly at Janesville Assembly in Janesville, Wisconsin
Basic mods: Lights all over, bunch of electrical work, and a couple cooling mods.
Check out my other mods in My Garage: http://www.gmtruckclub.com/forum/sho...t-Tahoe-4-Door
01-09-2013, 05:33 PM #5
Silverado Crew.....4.8 L
- Join Date
- Oct 2010
- Cobourg, Ontario, Canada
- Blog Entries
---Pendaliner BoxLiner and Side Rails....Van and Truck World
---Reese Adjustable Step Down Trailer Hitch....Van and Truck World
---PUTCO chrome eyebrow Mirror Covers.... Van and Truck World
---PUTCO chrome Bowtie 3rd Brake Light Cover....Van and Truck World
---DeeZee TailGate Assist ....Van and Truck World ( now Action Car and Truck Accessories )
---Westin Series side steps....Apple Auto Glass
---TRIFOLD rear soft Tonneau....Apple Auto Glass
---Chevrolet Bowtie Mudflaps...GM Dealer
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---GM Front Black Tow Hooks w Hloks
---GM Chrome Tailgate Handle/matching key-lock....GM Dealer
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---Better Built rear hitch step .... Lowe's !!!
---AVS Window VentVisors...Canadian Tire
---AVS tinted License plate covers....Wal-Mart
01-09-2013, 06:23 PM #6
- Join Date
- Jul 2010
- Denver, CO
- Blog Entries
Mike (Denver, CO) - 2008 Sierra 1500 Z71 SLE 5.3L 4WD
SUSPENSION: Rancho 4" Suspension Lift; Rancho RS9000XL Shocks; Rancho Skid Plates; Rancho MyRide Wireless Shock Controller;
TIRES: BFG All Terrain KO 315/70/17
DRIVE TRAIN: 4.56 Gears; Detroit TrueTrac Differential; True Cool 40k Transmission Cooler
PERFORMANCE: DiableSport Predator Tuner; Custom Tuned by Diablew; Magnaflow Exhaust; AFE Cold Air Intake
ELECTRONICS: Kenwood DNX6180 Touchscreen; Subthump box w/10" Kicker; Driver Information Center (DIC); Rear View Camera
ACCESSORIES: Westin Brush/Grill Gaurd; Westin Nerf Bars; Truxedo Tonneau; 20% Tint; Tow Mirrors w/Heat & Signals
01-09-2013, 10:11 PM #7
01-10-2013, 12:37 AM #8
I have had widely mixed results with parts store loaner tools. Got a hydraulic fan kit that was a huge help. OTOH have also had some tools that were just cheezy and a few that had been screwed up by previous users. Also had some availability problems.
It's one thing to borrow a special wrench or puller or something that you'll only use once but some tools are so basic I wouldn't want to be without them
01-10-2013, 06:03 AM #9
- Join Date
- Apr 2010
- Piermont,NY, back in Northern NJ now, But may be in IL soon....
You talked about a Muti Meter Fluke Makes some of the best out there. And if you want one they are on sale now.I used one for many years till it was stolen I loved it...
http://www.myflukestore.com/index.ph...FYLd4Aod3SUA7Q08 Z71 Avalanche Mods to date: K&N CAI,Hellwig Swaybars and End Links, Corsa Sport Exhaust, Superchips Programer,IPCW LOF & 3rd brake light and tails, AMI Gas door,Show Hooks and Door locks, Enkei Wheels, with Pirelli tires, StreetScene Bowties, Grant Steering wheel,Muth signal mirrors,SSBC Big Brake kit,Huskyliner Mug gards,Floor mats and Hood shield, McGard Lug nuts and locks, Bedrug, Cervini's Ram Air hood,35watt HID Fog lights, Sylvania bulbs all around ZXE's Highs and Lows, WhiteNight Back up lights,Sirius and HD Radio, SnugTop sitting on deck now Got a Softopper on now,Tempress Boat Hatches.... New Bilstein shocks are on... New Mods coming soon..... X
01-10-2013, 07:00 AM #10
I have a fluke that I have been using for many years. Dropped tested a time or 2. Pricey? yes. But you get what you pay for. I just picked up a cylinder compression test set of ebay for $75. No it is not something you will use often but when you need it you need it. I do have the coolant pressure test set. The next thing I am going to look into it the power probe kit. I can think of many times I could have used it. I have been making do with a test light that has been getting tossed about in my truck tool bag though.
I generaly don't use loaner tools. If I am doing a job and need a special tool it is another excuse to buy more tools. LOL!
2011 GMC Sierra SLE - 5.3 - 4X4 - Z71 - King Shock Level Kit - Body Color GMC grill emblem - 2 Tone Engine Cover, Rad Cover and Battery Box - Volant CAI - Tru Cool 40K tranny cooler - Sylvania ZXE bulbs Hi/Low -TriFold Hard Tonneau Cover- CoverCraft Seat Covers - Diablo inTune - GoRecon LED under rail lights - GoRecon LED White Lightning Tailgate Light Bar - Windows tinted to 45%- Kenwood DNX6990 - JL Audio C5-650 &650X- JL Audio Amp- Interco Truxus M/T 33x12.50x18
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