From the Desk of Mike Anderson: Scanning---It’s Not Just for DTCs Anymore (and Never Was)

From the Desk of Mike Anderson: Scanning---It’s Not Just for DTCs Anymore (and Never Was)

Those of you watching TV back in the 1970s probably remember the slogan, “It’s not just for breakfast anymore"---the Florida Orange Growers Association’s way to encourage folks to think about drinking OJ more often than just in the morning.

I’ve been paraphrasing that slogan in relation to scanning to emphasize to people that scanning isn’t just about finding DTCs (diagnostic trouble codes).

A real “aha moment” I had in relation to this about a year ago was when my father told me there was something just not right about the way his vehicle was driving. He’d had a broken windshield replaced on the car, and afterward, they scanned the vehicle and said everything was OK. But after driving it, and still noticing a problem, he took it to a dealership that confirmed the vehicle scan they performed showed no DTCs.

That’s when I got involved, hooking my asTech device to the vehicle, and asking my friend Jake Rodenroth and his team to help me out. They scanned the vehicle: Sure enough, no DTCs.

But that’s when the asTech technician said, “Let me check something else.” He checked the data from the scan tool that shows how the vehicle’s steering angle sensor is set, and then compared it to the automaker specifications.

You can guess what he found: The steering angle sensor was out of spec. My dad was right: There was something wrong with the vehicle. But it didn’t set a DTC.

That opened my eyes to something I’m concerned about in our industry. Scanning isn’t just about checking for DTCs.

It’s important, whether conducting scanning in-house or using a mobile or remote supplier or even a dealership, that you have a knowledgeable person who really understands the collision repair process involved. Someone who is going to dig further, ask the right questions. Someone who doesn’t assume no DTCs means everything is A-OK.

Since that incident, I’ve done more research. I came across some documentation from other automakers about the need to look beyond the just the presence (or absence) of DTCs.

Whoever is scanning should also pull the “freeze-frame” or “snapshot” or “live” data. That can show data, for example, when a fault code occurred: the date, vehicle mileage, how many key cycles have occurred, or even---in one example I’ve seen---how much gas was in the car at the time. This kind of information can be critical as part of diagnosis, documentation and reimbursement.

One example of the need for this step: With some Honda and Acura vehicles, an issue with the lane-watch system or seatbelt pretension won’t trigger a DTC; you have to check the “live” data.

As an industry, I think we’ve overlooked the skillset needed for those scanning vehicles in our businesses. These aren’t just auto parts store scans (with no offense to those businesses). You can’t presume all that’s needed is to just plug it in. There’s so much more to it than that.

You need someone who understands how to dig further, and who understands the “set conditions” that must occur in order to set a DTC. If a vehicle is towed to the shop directly from the accident scene, for example, it might not have been driven for the distance or time or speed needed for that DTC to be set.

I think our industry is doing itself and its customer a disservice when it presumes anyone is qualified to conduct a scan. It’s insulting to knowledgeable technicians who really understand all that this important and potentially complicated process entails.

That’s why I say: Scanning. It’s not just about DTCs anymore.

Mike Anderson

Mike Anderson is a columnist for Autobody News and president of Collision Advice, a consulting company for the auto body/collision repair industry.

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