MotorAge - April 2024

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PAGE 10 Oil selection is becoming more complex. PAGE 18

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4 Online

6 Straight Talk

8 Tech Tips

10 Getting Creative With A/C Diagnostics

Understanding the specific system is critical.

Brandon Steckler

18 The Ins and Outs of Engine Oil Oil selection is becoming more complex.

Mike Mavrigian

26 A Deep Dive Into GM’s Trailer Brake Technology

Understanding how the pickup truck systems work and what issues may occur.

Jeff Taylor

35 The Universal Language of Drivability

Diagnosing engine power loss from more than 1,500 miles away.

Brandon Steckler

40 Switching Your Brains to EVs How to train your drivability mind for the electric vehicle world.

Craig Van Batenburg

58 The Trainer #147

The key to efficient drivability diagnostics

Brandon Steckler

49 Automotive Product Guide

53 Technical Service



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18 10 40 26 CONTENTS April 2024 / Vol. 143 #2 Motor Age is published 6 times yearly (February, April, June, August, October, December) by Endeavor Business Media, LLC. 201 N Main St 5th Floor, Fort Atkinson, WI 53538. Customer service can be reached toll-free at 877-382-9187 or at for magazine subscription assistance or questions. Printed in the USA. Copyright 2024 Endeavor Business Media, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopies, recordings, or any information storage or retrieval system without permission from the publisher. Endeavor Business Media, LLC does not assume and hereby disclaims any liability to any person or company for any loss or damage caused by errors or omissions in the material herein, regardless of whether such errors result from negligence, accident, or any other cause whatsoever. The views and opinions in the articles herein are not to be taken as official expressions of the publishers, unless so stated. The publishers do not warrant either expressly or by implication, the factual accuracy of the articles herein, nor do they so warrant any views or opinions by the authors of said
Ad Index





Motor Age Technical Editor Brandon Steckler has launched a new monthly video series. Wrench Tales takes a deep dive into perplexing repair stories with other technicians across the country. The guest technician shares the story of a particularly difficult repair project, and also walks through the diagnostic steps he or she followed to analyze the codes in the problematic system. And of course they talk about all of the surprises found along the way. Catch up with the initial episodes featuring technicians Chris Martino and Rick Urso on Motor Age’s YouTube channel.




Motor Age is kicking off the fourth year of the Best Young Tech Award in April. The contest honors one exceptional technician who is making strides to move the service repair industry forward. This award is designed for technicians 35 and younger who are excelling in their current role and passionate about their work and the industry. The winner will be honored during a special award presentation during the 2024 SEMA Show.



Matt Hudson /


Mike Mavrigian /


Joy Kopcha /


Brandon Steckler /


Madison Gehring /


Jeff Taylor, Craig Van Batenburg



Rhonda Cousin


Mariah Straub


Melissa Meng



Mattie Gorman-Greuel /


Cortni Jones /


Kyle Shaw /

Marianne Dyal /

Martha Severson /

Darrell Bruggink /

Sean Thornton /

Diane Braden /

Lisa Mend /

Chad Hjellming /



Chris Ferrell


June Griffin


Patrick Rains


Paul Andrews


Jacquie Niemiec


Tracy Kane


Kylie Hirko



Chris Messer


Andrew Johnson



Michael Willins


Leslie Brown


Tracy Skallman


Jillene Williams




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The Importance of Understanding NVH

Customers complaining about noises, vibrations, clunks or bangs can open up a can of worms from a diagnostics standpoint.

YOU’VE PROBABLY ALREADY HEARD THE joke wherein a customer brings a vehicle into a shop and complains, “My car keeps making these awful noises.” The technician replies by saying, “Have you considered removing the Taylor Swift CD?”

Yep, that’s funny, but customers complaining about noises, vibrations, clunks, bangs or other abnormal conditions can certainly open up a can of worms from a diagnostics standpoint. The noise might be traced to the suspension (knocking or ticking noise when the vehicle is turned to the right, or when the vehicle runs over bumps in the road). The cause might be strut bearings or a worn CV joint or loose/worn shock. Maybe a whistling noise is heard at a certain vehicle speed, which might be caused by an air leak at a door seal or a dislodged undercar belly cover.

A ticking/rattling noise might be heard on cold startup or whenever the engine is idling, and the engine running rough is possibly caused by a stuck lifter or malfunctioning cam phaser. A hissing noise accompanied by a rough idle might be traced to an engine vacuum leak. A screeching noise might be due to a worn or misaligned drive belt. An undercar thumping noise might involve a loose/missing exhaust pipe hanger or a worn/damaged watts link at the rear suspension. A squeak, screech or

grinding noise under braking might be caused by worn brake pads where the wear indicator is scraping the rotor. A chirp/tick noise upon startup might simply be an electric fuel pump cycling up. A worn or improperly installed clutch may cause a shudder effect.

We could go on and on, but you get the drift. In addition to being knowledgeable about the various systems — brakes, suspension, body, exhaust, fuel system, engine mechanicals, etc. — we need to understand the over-riding area of NVH (noise, vibration, harshness). The study of NVH deals with concerns involving unusual noises, vibrations, shimmy, banging, etc.

A variety of noise and vibration levels exist in the normal operation of any vehicle. When noises and/or vibrations are perceived by the customer, the vehicle ends up in your shop, and it’s up to you to determine the cause and repair. NVH is the industry-wide term used when discussing these conditions.

If the cause of the customer complaint is not obvious or easily determined, understanding the theory and practice of NVH diagnostics can guide you through logical steps to determine the root cause.

Of course, all auto manufacturers offer training materials and service manuals to support your efforts. But are you aware of the automakers’ training

materials specific to NVH? Chances are, each manufacturer offers this material. Toyota, as but one example, produced an extremely in-depth training manual on this subject. While a manual that discusses NVH in depth will not be specific to a year/make/model, it offers overall knowledge that is applicable to all vehicles.

Few of us have the luxury of plenty of free time during the workday, but studying one of these manuals, even bit by bit, over the course of time, will definitely increase your understanding and will enable you to more skillfully address these customer concerns.


Oil Reminder

Never assume that a new or reman engine or transmission is ready to install and use. New and reman engines are usually shipped without oil to avoid potential leaks during shipping. If you’re replacing an engine or transmission, always check fluid level and add as needed per factory specifications, and be sure to use only the type, viscosity and volume of lubricant specified by the automaker. The need to be aware of this should be obvious, but it only takes one bad assump-

If a customer has a 2017-2018

Bolt EV and says that the

8 APRIL 2024
Chevy Bolt Tip
brake, SCAN TO READ MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS Follow Us On INSTAGRAM @motor_age MA-4103.indd 1 11/15/23 2:03 PM Follow Us On INSTAGRAM @motor_age MA-4103.indd 1 11/15/23 2:03 PM

Remember to Check Park Brake

Let’s face it — far too many drivers tend to ignore the parking brake system, especially those who drive vehicles equipped with an automatic transmission. They toss it into Park and never give the park brake a second thought. As a result, in many cases the parking brake system may be “frozen” (stuck) if and when they do attempt to use it. The result can be either the park brake does not function at all, or it engages and will not release. Of course, if it won’t release, the customer will likely need to have the vehicle towed to a repair shop.

When any vehicle is on your lift, and especially when you’re doing a brake job, remember to inspect the system for condition and operation. If the system is currently working (or now working after you repaired), advise the customer to occasionally use the Park brake (give it some exercise) to prevent it from seizing or becoming inoperative in the future. This is especially important for vehicles driven in winter conditions where salt/brine is used to keep roads de-iced.

After Engine Replacement

If you have a customer whose late model vehicle required an engine replacement (new or reman), advise them that it may take one, two or even more fuel tank trips for the adaptive learning system to settle down (fuel mpg reading, idle quality, etc.). We recently replaced a 5.0L engine in a 2020 Ford F150 and the customer kept complaining of an intermittent rough idle and other anomalies. After driving the vehicle for about 700 miles, everything went back to “normal.”

Squeaky Mazda

Some 2017-2020 Mazda6 vehicles equipped with a 2.5T engine may exhibit a squeaking noise from the exhaust manifold when idle speed drops from fast idle to normal idle during a cold start. This is caused by a variable valve being stuck in the closed position. When returning from fast to normal idle, the stuck valve suddenly opens due to thermal change, resulting in the noise. Mazda has updated the exhaust manifold. If the customer wants to eliminate the noise, replace the manifold with new P/N PY8V-13-450K.

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Getting Creative With Getting Creative With



the specific system
is critical.

WHEN MULTIPLE PROBLEMS exist in an inoperative refrigerant loop, the stride for accuracy becomes even more of a challenge.

When it comes to A/C diagnostics, it’s pretty straightforward. Like addressing any other system in the vehicle, having the right tools for the job, adequate service information, and the know-how to approach the system in question is always the right approach.

But, what happens when the system in question has more than one issue? How do we alert the customer accurately, the first time? Sometimes we can’t.

This same scenario drives techs insane — and typically is the cause of much frustration and lost revenue.

The initial approach

My good friend, Rick, faced this very same challenge not too long ago. The subject vehicle was a 2015 Chrysler Town and Country van with 185,000 miles on the odometer and the complaint was that the automatic A/C wasn’t performing correctly (Figure 1). Like many minivans of today, this one was also equipped with rear zone A/C.

The initial approach was typical. The system was evaluated preliminarily, and the A/C compressor was found to be inoperative. This led to a system pressure test proving the refrigerant charge was significantly low.

Further investigation found a leaking rear expansion valve at the rear evaporator core. After consulting with the customer about the suggestion to include the replacement of the rear evaporator core, the customer concurred, and both components were replaced (Figure 2). The compressor oil was balanced, and the system was evacuated and charged to specification.

FIGURE 1: THE SUBJECT vehicle, a 2015 Chrysler Town and Country with a tri-zone automatic climate-controlled HVAC system, has a complaint of poor A/C performance. FIGURE 2: THE LOCATION of the rear expansion valve made it prudent to also recommend the replacementof the rear evaporator core as the vehicle is eight years old with 185,000 miles on it. PHOTO BY BRANDON STECKLER PHOTO BY BRANDON STECKLER

However, upon delivery of the vehicle, the compressor had become very noisy. Further analysis pointed to a faulty compressor clutch pulley bearing. Due to the cost of clutch assembly replacement and the age of the original compressor, Rick installed a replacement compressor as an assembly.

A shot at redemption

This is where things start to go awry. With the replacement of the fixed displacement A/C compressor assembly and rebalancing of the oil, Rick followed up with a generic A/C system performance test. Meaning, he evaluated the pressures at idle, vent temperatures, and factored in the ambient conditions.

The results of the test at idle are as follows:

• Ambient temperature: 82 F

• Outlet temperature: 78 F

• Low-side pressure: 80 psi

• High-side pressure: 150 psi

This is the point when Rick reached out to me for input because he wasn’t happy with the outlet temperatures at the vents. After hearing of the saga, I told Rick that I agreed the outlet temperatures were subpar and there is definitely an issue that must be addressed. I suggested that he reference and follow the published A/C performance test in service information for this vehicle specifically (Figure 3) As can be seen, it appears the new A/C compressor is not pumping refrigerant efficiently. But is it the fault of the compressor or is there an underlying cause?

Every vehicle has specific test criteria and for good reason. For one, we must always factor in the current ambient conditions. Temperature, sun load, heat load and humidity all affect the performance of the A/C system. Also, a smaller vehicle has less mass than a larger one. This means the larger vehicle holds more heat energy. Although some tests are more stringent/accurate than

others, following the vehicle-specific A/C performance test takes all those factors into account and levels the playing field to obtain more accurate test results. Besides, they typically offer a correlation chart that compares pressure/temperature and make suggestions toward likely failed components or areas of malfunction in any area of the HVAC system (Figure 4)

According to the chart, there are a few possibilities:

• A slipping belt would prevent the compressor from working efficiently.

• A faulty expansion valve would not modulate/throttle the refrigerant properly.

• The new compressor could be faulty/ low displacement.

• A restriction in the refrigerant lines could create a pressure drop and performance issue.

Each one of the above bullet points could be very likely, especially due to the age of the vehicle and the previous failures/replaced components. The question I posed to Rick is what test could we do to help eliminate one or more of the possibilities above?

Hindsight is always 20/20

Although Rick was a victim of circumstance — meaning, he did nothing wrong — this was his shot at redemption. In hindsight, Rick could have charged the original leaking system to specification and upon conducting the performance test he likely would have witnessed the symptoms and test results he was currently experiencing. Then again, the vehicle did leave the shop with a properly performing A/C system, so all bets are off.

What I was alluding to above when I questioned Rick about a different approach to eliminate possibilities, the “touch test” came to mind. Because the refrigerant loop operates off principles that dictate how temperature and pressure relate, with a topological layout of the refrigerant loop’s configuration we can anticipate the temperature of the components at any given spot in the loop.

Ambient Air Temperature (Apparent) 21° C 27° C 32° C 38° C 43°C (70° F) (80° F) (90° F) (100° F) (110° F) Maximum Allowable Air Temperature 9° C 9° C 12° C 15° C 24°C at Center Panel Outlet (48° F) (48° F) (54° F) (59° F) (75° F) Maximum Allowable Air Temperature 10° C 13° C 15° C 17° C 24°C at Drive Side 2nd Row Headliner Outlet (50° F) (55° F) (59° F) (63° F) (75° F) Suction Pressure at Service Port 138 to 310 kPa 138 to 345 kPa 207 to 365 kPa 207 to 414 kPa 241 to 448 kPa (Low Side) (20 to 45 psi) (20 to 50 psi) (30 to 55 psi) (30 to 60 psi) (35 to 65 psi) Discharge Pressure at Service Port 1034 to 1724 kPa 1379 to 2068 kPa 1551 to 2241 kPa 1724 to 2413 kPa 2068 to 2758 kPa (High Side) (150 to 250 psi) (175 to 300 psi) (175 to 325 psi) (250 to 350 psi) (300 to 475 psi)
FIGURE 4: FOLLOWING THE A/C performance test is a guide describing the link between test results andpossible faults. It’s a great way to gain insight into the nature of the fault and how to develop a diagnostic game plan.
FIGURE 3: THE VEHICLE-SPECIFIC A/C performance test is documented in service and repair information. It is recommended to help guide you toward the root cause of a fault. It takes the opinion out of the analysis. PHOTO

With that, if an issue like a restriction existed, the correlating pressure drop of the circulating refrigerant would yield a temperature drop across that restriction. There would be a significant temperature change and it would be easily sensed by hand, through the touch test (Figure 5).

As demonstrated by the colors blue and red, these colors truly represent pressure zones but also the temperature we should anticipate during the touch test.

(Red is hot and blue represents cold.) This diagram reflects the configuration of this vehicle’s system topology.

Starting to the left of the compressor is the outlet. The compressor outputs a hot, high-pressure gas into the discharge hose and then travels through the condenser. As it does so, heat energy radiates from the hot gas allowing it to condense into a liquid. The hot, liquid refrigerant leaves the condenser in the liquid line and travels through the receiver/dryer which acts like a reservoir for the liquid refrigerant. After that, the expansion valve serves as a restriction and creates the necessary pressure drop allowing two things to occur. The hot,

high-pressure liquid refrigerant becomes a cold low-pressure liquid.

As the cold liquid refrigerant makes its way through the evaporator core, which is located in the cabin, it absorbs heat from the cabin and boils off into a gaseous state once again. As this occurs the refrigerant absorbs the heat energy from the cabin and allows the cabin to cool. The compressor will draw the cold gas in and pressurize it to repeat the cycle.

Putting the game plan into action

Rick ran the system and began his touch test. Almost immediately Rick found his issue as he burned his hand when placing it on the discharge hose — between the compressor outlet and the condenser inlet. This is indicated by the yellow star in the diagram.

The question then becomes, “If there is a restriction on the high side of the

A/C DIAGNOSTICS 14 APRIL 2024 2404MA_ETEReman_ATSG.indd 1 3/11/24 11:24 AM
FIGURE 5: A TOPOLOGICAL layout of the refrigerant loop can aid in the diagnosis, taking into consideration the test port locations, particularly.
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system, why is the high-side pressure not extremely elevated?” This is where system configuration comes into play. But we will first prove the location of the restriction using a thermal imager. This will offer something visible to show the customer and to document on the repair order.

The combination/Siamese discharge hose and liquid line are shown. The bright white area in the image indicates the location of the restriction in the discharge hose (Figures 6 and 7). The picture is worth a thousand words. We know the hose isn’t physically damaged on the outside, so it has either internally collapsed or there is debris in the hose. The reason high-side pressure is not very elevated can be seen in the topology diagram. The high-side test port is downstream of the restriction. If it was upstream of the restriction, the diagnosis would’ve been swift and simple. These simple observations are frequently overlooked by technicians, and they tend to assume every high-side restriction will cause a pressure increase. It truly depends on the location of the restriction relative to the test port location.

Removal of the hose allowed Rick an opportunity to push shop-regulated

air through the hose. He captured metal shavings from the hose that likely came from the compressor. But was it the original compressor or the replacement compressor that dumped the metal shavings into the system?

At this point, I will give you my opinion. Experience tells me that metal is very difficult to get out of a refrigerant loop. With that, I would recommend a total system replacement. I am being ignorant of cost and simply stating that is the safest way to properly repair the vehicle. Rick has a few other points to factor in though.

For one, he warranted the new compressor with another replacement. Two, he replaced the condenser along with the Siamese refrigerant line (as there is no way to guarantee no metal resides inside it). Three, he replaced the receiver/dryer (containing the sack responsible for removing/trapping moisture from the refrigerant) as the metal particles tend to cling to it.

Again, I will state that it is a gamble because any remaining metal can circulate in the repaired system and wreak havoc. But it doesn’t mean it’s an improper or incomplete repair. Even if Rick recommended full component replacement, the choice is up to the customer. After repair, a subsequent A/C performance test proved the system functioned as designed and the gamble paid off. Here are the results:

• Ambient temperature: 82 F

• Outlet temperature: 48 F

• Suction pressure: 42 psi

• Discharge pressure: 181 psi

Automotive Autopsy

After disassembly, Rick noticed that the first replacement compressor had a bit of drag to it as he manipulated it by hand. This was likely the culprit that dumped the metal into the system. Reflecting on our A/C system performance test, even if Rick replaced the restricted hose, a repeat test likely would have failed. The metal shaving from the compressor would reduce its ability to pump refrigerant and

the symptoms of low displacement would have been exhibited. (High suction pressure/low discharge pressure).

My point is that even following procedure can still lead to tough roads ahead. But being creative with the tools you have, your knowledge of how the components of the system function, and what to expect from the derived test results can serve as a supplement to good service information. The combination of the three serves as the three legs of a stool to keep you upright in almost any situation. Persistence pays off!

Get creative with tools like the thermal imager. The thermal imager detects infrared heat energy. Any object that is warmer than absolute zero emits infrared radiation. The further from absolute zero the surface temperature of the measured object is, the more infrared heat energy it will emit. Capitalize on this and use it to your advantage when possible.

Reference service information and determine the system’s topological layout before troubleshooting issues via a performance test. Not only will the test results make better sense to you, but you will have a greater understanding of how the individual components work together as a system.

All of these skills and techniques come together and will help you become a better technician overall.


BRANDON STECKLER is the technical editor of Motor Age magazine. He holds multiple ASE certifications. He is an active instructor and provides telephone and live technical support, as well as private training, for technicians all across the world.

FIGURE 6: THE SNAP-ON Diagnostic Thermal Imager was used to locate a restriction on the high side of the refrigerant loop. FIGURE 7: THE SNAP-ON Diagnostic Thermal Imager offers dual views of the image being targeted. A raw photo and one indicating the intensity of Infrared radiation (heat signature). PHOTO BY BRANDON STECKLER PHOTO BY BRANDON STECKLER
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Oil selection is becoming more complex.

The Ins and Outs of Engine Oil

UNFORTUNATELY, TODAY’S DRIVERS do not tend to check engine oil levels manually, as they instead rely on instrument panel displays to remind them of the next oil change interval. Some of today’s engines don’t have dipsticks but there is a dash reading and procedure to verify the proper level.

In addition, some vehicle owners don’t pay attention to the type and/or viscosity requirements, potentially assuming that

if oil is at the correct level, it doesn’t matter. This attitude is a recipe for long-term disaster. Choosing the correct type and viscosity is critical in terms of engine longevity, engine power output, fuel economy and emissions.

The engine oil of choice must prevent engine component wear, limit timing chain wear, and prevent sludge, varnish, and oil deposits. It must control deposits in the turbocharger, on the engine’s pistons


and prevent low-speed pre-ignition (LSPI). LSPI is a potentially catastrophic engine problem that occurs when tiny particles of fuel and oil self-ignite in the combustion chamber. Turbocharged gasoline direct-injection engines in particular are prone to LSPI. Rods, pistons, piston rings, cylinder walls and spark plugs can all be damaged by severe LSPI conditions.

Adhering to the manufacturer’s recommended engine oil ensures that the oil will feature the required oil additives to prevent LSPI, limit oil volatility, wear, deposits, sludge, foaming, and still supply the critical cleaning and lubricating protection.

The manufacturer is going to be specific on the type of oil (conventional, semi-synthetic or full synthetic), the oil grade (SJ-SP, GF-6A, GF6B), any other specific specifications and the engine oil viscosity. All these pieces of information must be known before adding new oil into any customer’s engine.

Once the engine manufacturer specifications for engine oil are known, don’t select an oil simply based on the viscosity rating. Examine the oil bottle/container or bulk oil information package and ensure that the chosen oil meets the needed specifications.

The engine oil container’s label must provide the oil type, viscosity, OEM specific performance specifications and display one or a combination of the following symbols.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) Service Symbol “Donut”: The API provides a license to apply the “Donut” symbol to ensure consumers buying that engine oil that it meets API’s engine oil standards.

The American Petroleum Institute “Starburst”: The API “Starburst” is another symbol to look for on the package or specification sheet of the engine oil you are installing. This symbol signifies that the oil meets the most up-to-date specification provided by the International Lubricant Specification Advisory Committee

and the engine oil will meet the additional fuel economy and emission system protection requirements.

As of May 1, 2021, all oil products displaying the “Starburst” must meet the API SP/Resource conserving specs.

International Lubricant Specification Advisory Committee (ILSAC) “Shield”: The “Starburst” certification will remain on legacy products (0W-20, 5W-20, 0W-30, 5W-30, 10W-30), but the “Shield” is the new identification mark for the ILSAC SAE 0W-16 viscosity engine oil. ILSAC GF-6 oil specifications are now broken into two separate standards, ILSAC GF-6A for legacy viscosity grades and ILSAC GF-6B for SAE 0W-16. ILSAC GF-6A and its legacy grades will be backwards compatible, but the ILSAC GF-6A is not.

Oil Type

There are three common types of engine oil used today. Conventional engine oil is a base mineral oil, derived from crude oil-based products. Synthetic engine oil is a manufactured chemical compound that is engineered to provide enhanced lubrication properties and supply significant benefits. Synthetic engine oils provide superior low temperature performance, higher thermal stability, lower volatility, better shear performance and other enhancements over conventional engine oils. Semi-synthetic engine oil is a combination of conventional oil and synthetic oil. There is no classification as to how much synthetic oil is blended with conventional engine oil to create a semi-synthetic engine oil blend.

SELECTING THE proper engine oil is more critical today due to ever-evolving automaker specifications. IT’S BEST to follow the engine oil fill cap or owner’s manual for viscosity selection. 0W-20 shown here. EXAMPLE OF Ford 5.0L cap indicating 5W-20. PHOTO BY JEFF TAYLOR PHOTO BY MIKE MAVRIGAN PHOTO BY MIKE MAVRIGAN


It should be obvious that engine oil needs to be thin enough to provide lubrication upon cold startup in order to provide critical lubricating oil film to all components, yet be “thick” enough to provide lubrication and heat transfer when the engine is at operating temperature. While specific engines may call for 0W, 5W, 10W or 15W for “cold” operation, the “hot” viscosity rating of 20 or 30 will provide the needed lubrication.

In very broad and generic terms, as engine oil passages/orifices/paths become tighter, thinner cold viscosities may be needed. As temperatures and operating conditions (cylinder bore expansion, higher engine speeds, etc.) change, thicker formulations may be needed. Of course, in this article, we’re primarily focusing on street-driven and un-modified engines. For racing/heavy duty applications, “thicker” hot viscosity ratings may need to increase.

The viscosity numbers refer to the oil’s viscosity or thickness. The oil viscosity number that precedes the “W” for winter, stands for the oil’s thickness at zero degrees Fahrenheit (or minus 17.8 Celsius). The lower the number the thinner the oil at that temperature. The oil viscosity number after the W refers to the oil’s viscosity at 212 Fahrenheit (100 Celsius), indicating the oil’s resistance to thinning when hot.

Oil viscosity ranges have, in recent years, evolved according to the specifications required by the automakers, based on specific engine designs in order to deliver the required lubrication to ever-advancing internal combustion engine designs. Adherence to the specified viscosity ranges has become increasingly important and is not to be ignored.

You should be aware by now that the trend in oil viscosity has been moving to lower-than-traditional levels. As a for-instance, 0W-16 is now common in Toyota and Honda engines. Interestingly, 0W-8 has been specified in Japan-based Hondas for some time now. Cold viscosity numbers

CRITICAL WEAR-RELATED components such as cylinder bores, piston rings, piston skirts, lifters, rockers, camshafts, cam chains, variable valve systems, cam actuators, etc. rely on the correct type/viscosity/formulation. This has become increasingly important with modern engines due to tighter clearances and performance, emissions and fuel economy goals. PHOTO BY MIKE MAVRIGAN PHOTO BY MIKE MAVRIGAN THE USE of roller lifters reduces friction between cam lobes and lifters, allowing the use of thinner viscosity oil for cold startup. This also reduces the need for certain friction modifiers that would otherwise be needed as part of the oil’s makeup for flat-tappet cams.

like that may sound scary, but we need to bear in mind that the automakers have reasons to specify such levels based on their research and development.

Low viscosity oils considerably lower the energy losses that are attributed to engine oil and its viscosity causing friction (main/rod/cam bearing friction, piston to bore friction) but these low viscosity oils can have a negative effect and may increase friction on other parts of the engines such as the camshaft and lifters/followers.

Most of today’s engines are fitted with electronically controlled variable displacement oil pumps. These oil pumps will easily supply the needed engine lubrication at the desired pressure and volume to fully compensate for the oil’s thin viscosity. Also, as compared to older flat-tappet lifters and friction-inducing rockers, the trend towards using roller lifters and roller rockers significantly reduce friction, allowing the use of thinner viscosity oil.

Today’s engines feature much tighter tolerances and clearances, requiring a thinner oil to be delivered upon cold startup. Also, tiny orifices featured in oil activated and controlled variable valve timing actuators depend on the engine oil’s low viscosity for proper functionality especially when the engine is cold. Oil that is too “thick” under startup conditions can starve critical components until temperatures rise and sufficient oil flow is obtained. The wrong viscosity oil can easily cause drivability concerns, hesitation, performance issues and even possibly the MIL being illuminated if the wrong viscosity engine oil is installed. In a nutshell, the oil must be “thin” enough under startup and initial warmup to lubricate, stabilize and become more viscous to properly lubricate components once the engine reaches full operating temperature. It’s not as easy task to provide the proper balance.

Low viscosity oil reduces engine warmup times, improves cold weather starts

An oil manufacturer weighs in ExxonMobil Product Solutions provided some insights on the latest trends in engine oil, including why automakers have made the switch to synthetic oils, and the next oil specification that’s already in the pipeline.

What’s new in engine oil technologies?

What are the latest trends on oil viscosities?

ILSAC GF-7 is the new engine oil specification planned for introduction in the first quarter of 2025. It is designed around improved low speed pre-ignition protection, increased fuel economy benefit, and better deposit control. Additionally, additive technology has advanced to lower levels of sulfated ash, which is also part of the draft ILSAC GF-7 specification, for protection of emission aftertreatment devices. New detergents have been developed to protect against higher boost pressures and compression ratios. The trend towards lower oil viscosities continues as evidenced by the addition of SAE 0W-8 and 0W-12 viscosity grades into the API SP Resourcing Conserving category, which drives the use of higher quality, lower viscosity base stocks to enable these lower viscosity grade motor oils.

Why have automakers moved to synthetics?

Automakers continue to be challenged to meet the consumer demands for improved engine performance, including better fuel economy and longer engine life. To meet these challenges, automakers have turned towards full synthetic lubricants, which typically offer better performance and protection than synthetic blend and conventional motor oils, even at the same nominal oil performance level. As a result of the use of synthetic lubricants, automakers can design their engines to take advantage of the better performance from synthetic lubricants to provide overall better engine performance to the consumer.

Why is it important to adhere to oil type and viscosity ranges specified by the automakers?

The oil plays an integral part in engine performance, serving multiple functions including wear protection and engine cooling. Automakers design their engines to operate at peak performance with oils of specific viscosity grades and performance levels. As a result, using the specified viscosity grade and oil performance level can ensure owners of optimum performance over the lifetime of their vehicle.


and increases fuel economy. Changing from the old familiar 5W-30 to 0W-16 represents a 2% increase in engine fuel economy and the use of the ultra-low viscosity oils such as the 0W-8 could further improve engine fuel economy by another 0.6 to 1.1%.

Many automakers tend to establish their own proprietary engine oil specifications to meet the specific designs and requirements of their engines, emission systems and the engine operating systems. These proprietary formulations often have modified additive packages and can pass specific chemical and physical oil tests that may not be included in the standardized oil testing procedures. GM’s dexos Gen2 for example, supplies extra protection against LSPI, uses a new oil performance test that GM developed to protect turbochargers and a newer oil aeration test.

As another example, Ford 5.0L engines featured in the F-150 lineup are specified for either 5W-20 or 5W-30 oil, which can be confusing for do-it-yourselfers and some professional techs. The safest way to decide on which range to use is to refer to the owner’s manual and also pay attention to the markings on the oil fill cap, which will clearly indicate what viscosity range to use. Possible yearly design improvements in valvetrain, cam timing actuators and piston cooling nozzles may have prompted the automakers to alter the viscosity range for specific engines. Other examples of manufacturer-specific specification are dexosD, FCA Material Standard MS-6395, VW 508.00, BMW LL-04 and Ford WSS-M2C962-A1. This is something that we need to pay specific attention to when providing an oil change.

Does this mean that you must use only the automaker’s brand of oil? Of course

not. As long as the oil meets (or exceeds) the automaker’s formulation specs, you’re good to go.

Keep in mind that automakers don’t

ENGINE OIL 22 APRIL 2024 2404MA_PicoTechnology.indd 1 3/12/24 3:46 PM
PHOTO BY MIKE MAVRIGAN EXAMPLE OF Mobil 1 oil 5W-20 specified for 2020 Ford F-150 5.0L.

arbitrarily change oil specs for the fun of it. There are many variables that prompt them to decide on oil viscosity and formulation in an effort to enhance engine longevity, performance, emissions and fuel economy. The automakers aren’t playing with oil requirements just to make our lives more difficult.

One of the areas easy to overlook involves the use of start-stop technology, wherein the hydrodynamic oil film may momentarily collapse between the stop function and the re-start function. This concern may require special oil properties and unique bearing materials to be used to prevent wear. Also, consider that hybrid engines that are not running can allow moisture to form on pistons and cylinder walls that will need to be dealt with by the engine oil and its additive package when the engine starts running again and the moisture is deposited in the oil pan.

Adding the incorrect oil to an engine will not result in immediate engine damage. However, even though an engine doesn’t completely seize up from using the “wrong” engine oil, that doesn’t mean damage doesn’t occur. For instance, if a Corvette LT4 engine was given starburst oil because someone didn’t read to know

IGNORING OIL change intervals can certainly result in issues such as sludge buildup, but this can also result from using the incorrect oil formulation.

it needed a special oil, there wouldn’t be immediate failure. But over time, problems would likely develop. Oil viscosity and formulation is critically important in turbocharged engines, due to the extreme heat and turbine speed that the oil must deal with to prevent coking and turbo failure.

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The correct/specified oil will feature the required balance of base oil and additives for a given engine. If an oil lacks the right components or the right balance, bad things may happen. Depending on which additive is missing, over time this may result in metal-on-metal contact in the valve train. An engine oil lacking certain antioxidants could see heat damage since

local hot spots in the engine spike to 400600 degrees Fahrenheit. Over time this buildup of varnish can keep parts from moving properly. Using an oil that does not meet the automaker’s specs can lead to varnish and sludge buildup, even if oil change intervals are conducted within/ near the OE interval recommendations.

We simply cannot take engine oil for


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granted, tossing in whatever oil is handy or available at the lowest price. Today’s ever-evolving engine designs present specific lubrication demands that require the use of specific thickness ranges and friction-modifying formulations.

ROCKER ARMS increasingly feature roller pivot axles. A full-roller rocker design will also feature roller tips that glide (as opposed to rub) on the valve stem tips.

MIKE MAVRIGIAN has written thousands of automotive technical magazine articles involving a variety of specialties, from engine building to wheel alignment, and has authored more than a dozen books that crisscross the automotive spectrum. Mike operates Birchwood Automotive, an Ohio shop that builds custom engines and performs vintage vehicle restorations. The shop also features a professional photo studio to document projects and to create images for articles and books.

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out duty cycled signal commands via the dedicated LIN bus to the TBPM for trailer brake application. The GM Trailer Sway Control uses the ESC system to identify instances of trailer instability and uses differential braking to mitigate trailer oscillation and instability. To reduce or cut the back-and-forth motions of the trailer, GM’s Trailer Sway Control can detect the unique vehicle dynamics associated with sway and, if needed, apply the brakes, and reduce engine torque.

The BSCM can activate the trailer brakes to slow down and stabilize the vehicle when a sway condition is encountered. The Trailer Sway Control system can detect and identify instances of recurring instability in the trailer, and then send a warning signal to the instrument display to alert the driver about the unsafe configuration of the trailer.

The TBPM is mounted above the spare tire of the truck. It receives the BSCM’s commands and then provides the trailer brake output voltage, triggering the trailer brake operation. But that is not the TBPM’s only task. It also helps to identify the type of trailer brakes being used and provides diagnostic information on the trailer brake circuit. The TBPM continuously sends test voltage pulses out through the trailer brake output circuit looking for a trailer. When a trailer is attached and plugged in, it will continue to send out these test pulses to identify the type of trailer brakes, and as a diagnostic feature of the trailer brake circuit and its connections.

When a trailer is initially plugged into the truck’s trailer plug, the test pulses sent from the TBPM on the trailer brake output circuit will be altered by the type of trailer brake system and its components and circuitry. The TBPM will report to the CCM and BSCM the way that the test pulse reacted/changed when the trailer plug was attached to the truck and the trailer brake output circuit. The CCM/BSCM will use that information to decide the type of trailer brakes being used.

Note on some wiring diagrams the TBPM may be shown as the CCM or the CCMA — it depends on the year/model and equipment level of the truck.

Electric Trailer Brakes

This system uses the familiar electromagnet/lever arm assembly that is activated by a controlled electrical output signal from the truck, which in turn directly activates the brake mechanism. The light duty GM system can accommodate up to eight trailer brake electromagnets on a four-axle trailer. This trailer brake system will be displayed as “Electromagnetic Brakes” when using the scan tool.

Electric Over Hydraulic (EOH) Trailer Brakes

This trailer brake system utilizes the trailer’s dedicated electric hydraulic brake system and controls the EOH system by an electrical output signal from the towing vehicle. The EOH braking system

uses hydraulic pressure to activate the trailer brakes, but instead of the familiar surge brake hydraulic actuator on the trailer tongue, there is now an electrohydraulic actuator supplying the needed brake pressure to activate the trailer brakes. This system cuts the braking lag time that surge brakes encounter and provides much higher hydraulic braking pressure: 1000-1500 psi vs. 400-800 psi that the surge brake actuator could provide. This system allows for the use of trailers with disc brakes. The brake system will be displayed as “Electrohydraulic Brakes” when using the scan tool.

EOH brakes have some unique operating conditions. Most EOH systems require a 20-30% duty cycle to activate the pump motor, and if the trailer gain is set too low, and the brake pedal pressure is light, the pump motor may not function. This is normal. The operator should follow the owner’s manual to ensure that the proper gain setting is set. If the truck has detected EOH and the vehicle is fully stopped, there will be no trailer brake output. This is also normal. Certain EOH systems require a special adapter module to be installed on the trailer for the truck to recognize the trailer and provide the proper trailer brake function. Certain EOH manufacturers have made these adapters available.

Note: If a trailer brake system that is not compatible is connected, the ability to brake the trailer may be partially or entirely disabled. An increased stopping distance or trailer instability

PHOTOS BY AUTHOR GM HAS had some issues with the truck’s seven-way connector door spring and cable security tab, which can lead to a loose trailer seven-way plug and possibly cause the “Check Trailer Wiring” warning message. New revised parts are available to fix the issue.

may result in personal injury or damage to the vehicle, trailer or other property. An aftermarket controller is necessary for trailers equipped with air or surge trailer brake systems.

Once the CCM/CCMA or BSCM has determined the type of trailer that is plugged in, the TCBM continues to send test pulses, checking the trailer brake circuitry. If an issue is detected on the trailer brake circuit, the driver will be notified with the proper warning message on the instrument cluster and a DTC may be recorded to aid in diagnostics. There can be three distinct warning messages displayed on the instrument cluster:

1. “Check Trailer Wiring” comes up as a warning on the dash, even when there isn’t a DTC. If the trailer brake output circuit detects an open or high resistance during the current ignition cycle, this message will be shown.

This is normal when unhooking the trailer or removing the plug from the trailer’s wiring while the ignition is turned on. This is also a common concern that will intermittently appear on the instrument cluster while towing, then the message goes away. This typically indicates a poor/loose connection on the seven-way trailer plug, (more on this later).

2. “Check Trailer Wiring” comes up as a warning on the dash supplemented with the C1114 DTC, but not the “Service Trailer Brake Message.” The problem is likely due to a short to ground in the trailer brake output circuit.

3. A “Service Trailer Brake System” message will be accompanied with the C1114 DTC. A poor trailer ground circuit or a short to power on the trailer’s brake output circuit could be to blame for this problem.

Evaluating the Trailer Brake System

Trailer brake issues usually stem from wiring or brake issues on the trailer and often have nothing to do with the truck’s electrical system. Wiring, connectors, splices and routing in most trailers aren’t comparable with the quality and protection that

you will find on the factory installed wiring harnesses and connections of today’s vehicles.

Many times, push/block/snap connectors, pouch connectors and wire taps are used during the trailer manufacturing process. As a result, the CCM/BSCM may detect issues and defects that are difficult to identify as being specific to either the truck or the trailer.

GM does build a seven-way trailer brake module tester and trailer simulator (EL-52641) that will attach to the truck’s trailer connector. It will simulate the electromagnetic trailer brakes, display that on the scan tool and allow for the checking of the other circuits at the seven-way trailer plug. But this tool does not simulate the load that the electromagnet of the trailer would produce.

GM recommends that techs build a tester with known good functional trailer brake magnets as the quickest and most straightforward method of testing issues in the brake output circuit on trailers with electromagnetic trailer brakes. This tester will apply the correct loads to the truck’s electrical system, similar to what a trailer does without requiring the entire trailer. This test rig also makes use of real trailer braking magnets.

When building the brake circuit tester, construct a tester in which the number of trailer brakes can be adjusted by adding

THIS DASH warning message will show up if the truck detects an issue in the trailer brake electrical circuit of the truck or the trailer. It is a normal condition when the trailer is unplugged, with the ignition on when disconnecting the trailer, but not when towing down the road. This warning only shows an issue with the trailer brake electrical circuit. CORROSION INSIDE the truck’s seven-way connection or the trailer plug itself can cause dash warning messages and trailer brake issues.

or removing pairs of magnets to match the quantity on the customer’s trailer.

The test harness can be built using up to eight trailer brake magnets (four axles and the maximum number of trailer brake magnets the system is designed to accept).

Connecting the test harness to the truck’s seven-way connector should cause the instrument cluster to indicate “Trailer Connected” and the scan tool to show “Electro-magnetic brakes” in the CCM/BSCM data parameter “Trailer Brake Type.” Also, it is recommended to install the trailer brake magnet harness in the truck bed and ensure that the harness is sufficiently long to fit into the vehicle’s seven-way connector. This will enable the driver to use the truck as though the trailer was hitched.

If when driving the truck with this test harness installed and you don’t see any dash warning messages or DTCs, the truck is not likely the issue, and you will need to look closely at the trailer wiring, the trailer brakes themselves and the seven-way connector and cable.

Common Issues

Weak or poor connections at the seven-way trailer plug connector are the most typical problems with this system. This issue commonly causes the “Check Trailer Wiring” message to flash on the dash while driving. Certain 2014-2018 trucks have suffered from an issue involving a weak spring-loaded door of the seven-way connector. This door spring not only holds out moisture and debris when the seven-way connector isn’t being used, but it helps hold the trailer plug firmly in the connection. GM has an updated truck-side trailer connector available (PN. 23404450). There have been other updates to the truck side seven-way connector, socket and receptacle on various years or GM trucks, so be sure to check for part updates.

Issues can arise from excessive length trailer harnesses, looping or wrapping the harness under sway bars or sway bar connections causing the connections to be pulled or stressed. Corrosion, improper seven-way plug trailer repairs and poorly made replacement seven-way connector parts (both truck and trailer side) can result in the trailer brakes not functioning and

warning messages on the dash. The location of the TBPM above the spare tire exposes the module and its connectors to corrosion and moisture intrusion. There have also been concerns about the TBCS failing, which results in inoperative trailer brakes and sets a C1117 DTC. Evaluating the switch starts by looking at 5-volt reference and ground and then watching the switch control parameters on the scan tool.

Some trailers are factory equipped with electronic sway control, while others may have had this system added later. These systems will apply the trailer’s brakes independently of the towing vehicle to control trailer sway. Be aware that these devices can affect the truck’s ability to decide what type of trailer brake system is on the trailer and can cause dash warning messages and DTCs. There have also been concerns about aftermarket modules installed on trailers with EOH brake systems. These modules will allow a truck that only has electric trailer brake ability to tow an EOH trailer, but they can affect the way the GM system detects the type of trailer that is being attached to the truck.

The innovative trailer brake system used on the Chevrolet and GMC line of light-duty pickup trucks ensures a safe and controlled towing experience for drivers. The integrated features of the system not only adjust trailer braking force and stability control but also utilize advanced technologies such as ESC and Trailer Sway Control to mitigate trailer oscillation and instability.

However, like any complex technology, the GM trailer brake system is not immune to occasional issues. Loose connections, corrosion and other factors can impact its performance. Regular maintenance and adherence to proper procedures are essential to ensure the system operates at its best.

JEFF TAYLOR is a seasoned professional at CARS Inc. in Oshawa with 40 years in the automotive industry. As a skilled technical writer and training developer, he holds licenses in both automotive and heavy-duty vehicle repair. Jeff excels in TAC support, technical training, troubleshooting, and shaping the future of automotive expertise.

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The Universal Language of Drivability

Diagnosing engine power loss from more than 2,500 miles away.



OF THE 7,139 languages spoken worldwide, it never ceases to amaze me that “drivability” is one language I can speak everywhere I go.

Just recently I had an interesting but difficult conversation with Rayo, a bright young tech from Guadalajara, Mexico. My lack of fluent Spanish and his broken English made conversing a bit of a challenge. Rayo was faced with a strange concern.

A 2015 Toyota Land Cruiser, with a 5.7L V8 engine was experiencing what he described as a strange loss of power output. According to Rayo, the engine began to

struggle under acceleration between 4,000-5,000 rpm. The issue seems straight forward but I was faced with educating the young tech on how to obtain the appropriate data (and in the appropriate fashion) to allow for analysis. He was using Toyota’s factory scan tool for this era of vehicle, the Toyota Techstream.

Preliminary Data

After further discussion, he described the loss of power output to be more of an “engine cut-out.” I first viewed the data

he sent me to get an idea of what he saw (Figure 1). As you can see, I configured the data PIDs in a customized list from the left of the screen capture in graphical format to see how they correlated with one another. I refer to this as action/reaction comparative measure. I do this to only see the data I need to see. This tells a drivability story. These include:



• Throttle position

• Lambda 1

• Lambda 2

• Total trim 1

• Total trim 2

If one multiplies the engine displacement (in liters) by a factor of 37, it will reflect expected grams per second MAF values at 5,000 rpm/full-throttle.

FIGURE 1: THIS TOYOTA Techstream capture exhibits data right from the driver’s seat.

From this data it can be seen that the engine can breathe properly, is fueled properly and the PCM is not working very hard to maintain fuel control.


According to the data, the engine appears to be breathing correctly under heavy

acceleration (219 grams per second). This is good news because from over

2,500 miles away, I can tell for sure that the exhaust isn’t restricted, and the engine has no timing issues.

I can also see that the fuel system is up for the task. The lambda values on both banks indicate the engine is fueled correctly (nearly 20% richer than stoichiometry) and the PCM can carry out that task with no corrective factor (as indicated by nearly zero fuel trim on either bank).

However, something strange occurs about 20 seconds afterward (Figure 2). Although the operating conditions remained unchanged, the data indicates the lambda values (both banks) exceed 1.23 (over 23% lean of stoichiometry). I would’ve expected the fuel trim to attempt compensation but as can be seen, they both remain at zero. Viewing the data from the MAF as well as engine speed shows no variation at all. Any time you see straight lines on graphed data, it typically indicates a state of default, as in, the data isn’t true.

Weighing the Possibilities

Just a moment past the cursor (Red arrows), the vehicle comes back to life and the data begins to update again. This is the symptom Rayo has been experiencing and at this point, I’m growing suspicious

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FIGURE 2: THIS PORTION of the same capture shows the PCM exhibiting erroneous data. A common sign of trouble with the PCM entering a stare of default or reset.

of a computer issue. I believe the PCM is resetting for some reason. A few common causes for this scenario are:

• High-energy discharge from an inductive device (like brain damage)

• Loss of PCM voltage, ground or ignition feed

• Loss of 5V reference circuit or (internal PCM fault or external circuit fault).

My advice at this point was to determine which of the three bullet points above was occurring. I advised Rayo to first measure the CKP/CMP signals on a digital storage oscilloscope along with their reference voltage and ground supply circuits. Unfortunately all I can show you is the picture Rayo took with his cell phone (Figure 3).

According to the scope capture, both the CKP and the CMP signals fail at the time the vehicle’s symptom presents. However, the 5V reference voltage that feeds both sensors (allowing them to operate) is dropping out simultaneously.

The Data Doesn’t Lie

With all the information in front of us, and the desired information not yet obtained, we are faced with deciding how to proceed. Here are some bullet points of what we know to be factual, and I will ask all of you, diligent readers, for your input:

• Vehicle loses power under acceleration.

• The engine breathes correctly.

• The engine is properly fueled.

• The PCM appears to be resetting.

Given this information, what would you do next?

• Replace PCM for erratic internally shorted 5V reference.

• Monitor 5V reference circuit at PCM with amp probe.

• Rewire all of the 5V reference circuit feeds on the vehicle.

• Replace CKP/CMP sensors for intermittent 5V ref short to ground.

VEHICLESERVICEPROS.COM 37 MOTOR AGE 2404MA_Topdon.indd 1 3/11/24 12:46 PM
FIGURE 3: THIS LAB scope capture demonstrates the CKP and CMP sensor signals failing. Definitely a cause of a PCM reset. However, it’s the 5V reference circuit feeding the sensors that is the root cause fault. This must be pursued to locate the cause of the PCM reset concern.

Solved: 2015 Ford Transit, misfire under heavy load

From March 2024,

What would you recommend doing next, given the data bullet points in last month’s challenge?

Given this information, what would you do next?

1 | Replace all six fuel injectors to be sure.

2 | Replace the No. 6 fuel injector only.

3 | Evaluate the performance of the injector circuit.

4 | Perform and injector system cleaning service.

For those of you who chose answer No. 3, congratulations. The amperage

waveform is frequently one reflected upon to determine if/how the work is being performed. It will be clear to see if the injector is not functioning properly but also determine if the circuit is functioning correctly. Although the test was conducted the injector drive circuits were all identical, eliminating the circuitry and PCM as the fault.

The next logical thing to do might be to perform an injection/induction system cleaning service but results vary so I won’t say answer No. 4 is incorrect. Although it

may be cost-effective to replace only the faulted injector, the labor is very similar to replacing all six. Even If we educate the customer about the fact that the other five injectors are of the same age and operated under the same conditions, it will be up to them how they wish to proceed in that fashion. This customer agreed to replace all six injectors and the drivability fault was rectified (Figure 4).

Be sure to read the next Motor Age issue for the answer to this month’s challenge and what was discovered!

BRANDON STECKLER is the technical editor of Motor Age magazine. He holds multiple ASE certifications. He is an active instructor and provides telephone and live technical support, as well as private training, for technicians all across the

38 APRIL 2024
A REPEAT OF A failed test (once the repair has been completed) is always a great idea. This No. 6 injector cancellation exhaust gas test proves the fault has been repaired, with the replacement of the GDI injectors. PHOTO
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Switching your brain to EVs

How to train your drivability mind for the electric vehicle world.

I WAS TEACHING a class in Montreal, Canada, that worried me as I was preparing the material. I have a lot of confidence in my abilities and also enough self-awareness on what I should stay away from. My apprehension wasn’t the subject manner. It there enough to teach given this was a three-day class? I had been at this college before and knew most of the faculty.

The department head wanted a class on pure electric cars. This was some time in 2013. Once the fee was established and the date sent, I went to work writing an out-

line for the class. In no particular order, I listed all the components used in an EV that were similar in a hybrid vehicle. As this was my third visit, I had a good idea of what they knew.

One by one, I added the EV side that related to the hybrid’s DC-DC converter, inverter, drive motor or motors, high voltage cables, detection systems for high voltage leaks, electric air conditioning compressors, li-ion cells, modules, cooling systems and more. I had never before been asked for a class that excluded the internal combustion engine (ICE).

NISSAN LEAF that will not charge on a Level II EVSE. PHOTO BY ACDC AUTHOR CRAIG Van Batenburg teaching an EV class to a full house.

In 2013 hybrids were the dominant technology. I started my high voltage training company, ACDC, in the year 2000. A lone Honda Insight was the subject matter. As I made sense of this transition, I said in the classroom, “ACDC will make sure your 12-volt brain is well developed. Then we will create a high voltage brain to use along with it. Where the two brains match up, the learning is easy, but sometimes ACDC will break the connection between the two, so your 12-volt brain is not used on a high voltage system.”

We still use that thinking today.

It is 2024 and the ICE is no longer needed, if a person, school, city or company wants to change fuel sources. In 2013, that possibility was very limited. Change was happening then but ever so slowly, from all ICE, to hybrids and now pure electric vehicles.

In a technician’s lifetime, that change





was fast. As a result we must change our diagnostic approach.

As the class in Montreal was getting closer, I removed all references in my handouts to hybrids.

What was taken out? Nickel Metal Hydride chemistry, belt-driven anything (water pumps, A/C compressors), typical

ICE cabin heating, all ICE and transmission lessons, and more.

What was added to make it an EV? Cells in parallel called groups, group balancing, SAE J1772 charging standard plugs, DC fast charging, more advanced cooling and heating systems for the battery packs, heating for the passengers,

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battery removal equipment, estimating range, the onboard charger, a gateway for high voltage distribution, water tight battery packs, module replacement at the pack level, and more.

Let us take a “no start” in a typical ICE-powered modern car or truck. In this

case, the car gets towed in and the customer is not with the vehicle. This may be a new customer that does little preventive maintenance. You have no service records and the service advisor sold one hour of diagnostics. You are already in a tough position. The work order has only “No Start”

written on it. This is the way the shop operates. It is not technician centered.

What do you do? If it is not snowing, raining or you don’t see a tornado heading your way, you grab four tools. In your bag you add a scan tool and a 12-volt jump box, best if it is your own (that way you know

CHECKING A Nissan Leaf at a DC charging station. ACDC ACDC A NISSAN Leaf at a technician class.

they are both charged up). The other tools are an OBDII break-out-box and a DVOM. You get in and plug in your break-out-box into the DLC with the meter connected to pin 16 and 4. Before you try to crank the car over (KOEO), you check the voltage of the 12-volt battery. It reads 10.7 volts. No need to add more codes, so you locate the 12-volt battery. If you are lucky, once you open the hood, it is in plain sight. Attach the jumper box and get back in and gather any codes. Make a PDF of the codes. Now you try to crank over the engine. It cranks over and will not start.

Basics again. Fuel? Gauge says just over a quarter of a tank. Clear the codes and try to start again. No start. Read the codes it has generated. Shut it down, and go back in the shop to look up service information. The clock has been ticking and you have 25 minutes left. Ten minutes on the computer. Back outside for a general look at the entire car. Needs tires, oil is dark, cracked and missing part of the tail light lens. Wipers torn. The usual stuff. Back inside with the service advisor. Time is up. No need to push it into the service bay. You get another job to work on. Does this sound familiar?

In another shop, the diagnostic work can start with the customer coming over before the work begins with their service records for a discussion about their car, history and a quick look at the car while they are there. The one hour now can be used to sell the actual time and parts needed, just to get started. There needs to be a fee before the tech gets deeply involved. Once you know the car was recently purchased as a no start and sat for two years makes the job very different than a “no start” that happened yesterday.

Now let us replace that same scenario with an eight-year-old Nissan Leaf EV. Out the door you go with a scan tool, a 12-volt jump box, OBDII break-out-box, and a DVOM. Using your break-out-box you read 10.7 volts at the 12-volt. You locate the 12-volt battery under hood, connect the jumper box and get back in. Scan the

EV for any codes in “Power-On” mode, the EV equivalent of KOEO. Make a PDF of the codes. Now you try to go into “READY.” No READY light. Range says just over 30 miles left. Clear the codes and try to start again. No READY. Read the codes it has generated. Shut it down, and go back in the shop to look up service information. The clock has been ticking and you have 25 minutes left. Ten minutes on the computer. Back outside for a general look at the entire car. Needs tires, cracked and missing part of the tail light lens. Wipers torn. Looks like you are in the same boat.

The technician and the service writer must get together and form an alliance on how to handle these situations. An old-fashioned system and new electric vehicles require a new approach. Once you are off to a better start, the triad (customer, shop and technician) must all feel that their concerns are understood.

The success of the repair requires that all three parties have their goals met. The shop needs to make a profit. The customer will return the next time service is needed. The technician knows the vehicle will not come back for the previous concern as the root cause was fixed. How do we get there?

A Three-way Partnership

The technician ultimately does the work. The car owner is a partner in all this and they need to know that and should be encouraged to participate. That starts with a great website that explains what the shop needs from them. Set up a time to sit down with each new customer and get the information you need. It can still be in written form, but an electronic


A NO-READY light on a Nissan Leaf (simulated).
THIS BREAKOUT box (see arrow in upper right corner) helps in fixing a grid charging issue.

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device will be faster for keeping records. Complete a history of their vehicle’s service, repairs, recalls, accidents and the personal information they are willing to share. Make sure the tech has access to that data. Establish a realistic fee after a 15- to 30-minute interview and cursory look at the car. The tech can do a visual and scan check while the service advisor interviews the owner. “Who is the decision maker?” is a fair question to ask. Once the customer agrees to the fees and your process, he or she signs the work order and the real work begins. Up to this point, you have every reason to charge a fee for what I call “Intake and inspection” to get the customer to join the triad or find another shop. At this point, sell a “comprehensive inspection.” This is for first time customers. It is a complete physical exam for a motor vehicle.

Depending on the condition of the electric car, the technician — armed with enough time and parts — can start whatever process makes sense. One more tip here. The late Jim Linder, a great mentor to many (including me) taught us to use the word “analyze” rather than “diagnose” when writing up the work order or talking to a customer. The word explains what a technician is doing with their brain. When getting back to the owner after a “comprehensive inspection,” use multiple electronic work orders, and start with their primary concern. Then, in this order start with safety, emissions, reliability, progressive damage, performance, entertainment and lastly, cosmetics.

Let us go back to the Leaf. It was towed in. The customer’s spouse drops the kids with a relative and picks up his wife. They were told to bring what they have for service records and that they will need to remove their personal belongings from the car. They are at your shop now cleaning out their car. Yes, they will clean their junk out of the trunk if you ask them nicely.

How much better would this help the technician? These electric vehicles will not be easy to repair. Even with some great

training, the list of what can keep an EV from going into “READY” is not the same as an ICE. No more getting the 12-volt starter motor to crank the ICE. No more spraying “starter fluid” in the intake. The list goes on. Where do you start? A history of the EV is worth the time. That “intake and inspection” fee is designed for that purpose.

In the intake process you need to know:

• Condition of overall health of the EV

• Salvage title?

• Bought at auction?

• How many owners?

• How long have they owed it?

• Are all the recalls done?

• Too much rust?

• Unsafe to drive (bald tires)?

• Do you have most of the service records for the vehicle?

• Was it worked on by someone else for the same problem?

• How cooperative is the owner?

• Are you equipped and trained for this job?

• Do you need to learn and this job will help?

Once the above questions have been answered, and the owner is willing to pay you to find out more, the technician is now ready to spend the time needed to look at this Nissan Leaf. It might be simple. The intake process will get this customer and their EV into your system.

I owned an independent Honda / Acura repair shop for over 25 years. The above system was realized after some trial and

error. If you graduate from our two week class called “Up Your Voltage,” we offer tech support on HEV, PHEV and EV. There is a catch. You must get a history of the vehicle and the proper equipment must be at the shop to support the technicians.


If you are a technician that stays away from modern cars and trucks, this switch from ICE to EV will be very difficult. Most likely, you can stay busy for a long time, taking care of what you know. No problem with that.

On the other hand, a well-trained tech that loves to learn and finds new systems exciting will love the future. Retraining your 12-volt brain is possible — no matter what your age.

A FORD Mustang Mach-E off to a shop with a noREADY condition. LEO & SONS AUTO REPAIR CRAIG VAN BATENBURG is the CEO of ACDC, a hybrid and plug-in training company based in Worcester, Mass. ACDC has been offering high voltage classes since 2000, when the Honda Insight came to the USA. When EVs were introduced in 2011, ACDC added them to their classes. Reach Craig via email at Craig@ or call him at (508) 826-4546. Find ACDC at
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Mobile ADAS Calibration System

The Rotary Mobile ADAS Calibration System is designed to offer shops a quick and cost-efficient way to perform static and dynamic calibrations and resetting of ADAS correctly with fewer physical targets. The portable system features a 75” 4K HD monitor that creates digital non-scaled vehicle targets, 360-degree motion casters, accurate laser positioning of machine to vehicle via Bluetooth technology, step-by-step guided frame adjustments to reduce errors, and offers software versatility for users to choose an OEM or MCS Windows-based tablet. The system is also customizable with four different levels to choose from.

Equipped with evacuation spout

The OEMTOOLS 9-gallon Upright Portable Oil Drain, No. 87032, is designed for evacuating used oil from a vehicle. Users can position the 17” diameter funnel below the oil drain, adjust the drain height, and release the waste oil into the drain. The 9-gallon tank features a translucent green plastic which allows the user to monitor waste oil levels. Additionally, the drain is equipped with an evacuation spout and drain valve for easy waste oil disposal when the tank is full.

Comes in foam storage tray

The 97-pc 1/4”, 3/8”, 1/2” Drive Bolt Biter Mechanics Tool Set, No. GWMSBBS02, from GEARWRENCH comes in a foam storage tray that is chemical and solvent-resistant, and designed to fit in a wide range of tool storage systems. The foams are in contrasting orange and black with hi-vis size markings for easy identification. A tapered entry enables the socket to easily siton a damaged fastener. The dual-sized sockets are designed to work with both SAE and metric fasteners, and have a black oxide finish to resist corrosion. The 90-tooth ratchet included delivers a 4 degree swing arc to turn a fastener in tight spaces.

Features 270-degree rotating design

The Snap-on 500lm Dual-Sided Mini Flex Light, No. ECARL032R, features a 270 degree rotating design and multiple magnets, provides technicians with unparalleled flexibility in lighting difficult-to-reach areas. Offering a 500lm dual-sided output, individual switches for spotlight and bar lights, and a dimmable switch with memory, this light caters to varying lighting needs. The integrated battery gauge enhances efficiency for technicians on the go.

Charges lead acid and lithium batteries

The Bosch BAT6120-US High-Power 12V Battery Charger and 120A Power Supply is a multi-functional battery support solution for automotive shops. It functions dependably as an efficient and fast battery charger for lead acid and lithium batteries, or as a 120A continuous power supply. The BAT6120-US can update charging characteristics via USB, offers a large four-color LCD, and is ideal for operating on a desk, bench, or floor, and is also wall-mountable.

Made to fit into small areas

The 1/4” Drive Stud Extractor, No. 29894, from Mayhew Tools is designed to fit into small areas to remove hard-toreach seized, stripped, or broken studs and bolts. This extractor is made from high-grade, heat-treated alloy steel, and has a chrome finish for additional rust protection. The extractor clamps down on the damaged stud and maintains a firm grasp of the screw/bolt as it is removed. It can be adjusted to fit studs from 2mm to 7mm in diameter and can be driven with a 1/4” square drive, or a 1/2” wrench, allowing the user to pick the correct driver for the job.



Offers extended battery life

The Matco Tools Maximus 5.0 diagnostic scan tool is ideal for master technicians. Engineered with advanced technology, the Maximus 5.0 is designed to deliver a combination of automotive intelligence, quick navigation, and ergonomic handling for optimal efficiency. Offering a new intuitive user interface, a larger touchscreen, increased memory, and extended battery life, the Maximus 5.0 comes fully equipped and is available with carline (No. MDMAX5CL) or carline and heavy duty software (No. MDMAX5CLHD).

Raises vehicles up to 6’

The BendPak Full-Rise Scissor Lift, No. SP7XE, provides the performance and undercarriage access of traditional two-post lifts in a more compact, space-saving package. The lift has a rated capacity of 7,000 lbs and is designed for full-service auto shops, quick-lube pits, and any other service area with minimal room to spare. They can raise most passenger vehicles and light trucks nearly 6’, so technicians can more easily access all critical undercarriage areas without having to stoop or crawl across the floor. The lift folds flat when not in use. Reinforced steel at the base and along the top of the runways provides structural support for this open-center design. An electric/hydraulic power system ensures dependability, with all operator controls located within close reach.

Head flexes up to 15 degrees

The Platinum Tech 1/2” Drive Split Beam Torque Wrench, No. PLT-12250, offers a range from 40 to 250 ft-lbs, with 5 ft-lbs increments. It measures 24.2” in overall length and its head flexes up to 15 degrees for improved access. The PLT-12250 is certified DIN ISO accurate to ±4 percent CW (specific calibration results at the time of manufacture will be shown on the included certificate) and each wrench is calibrated according to ASME B107.3002010 standard.

Provides instant test results

The MVT Battery and Electrical System Tester from Midtronics is designed to bring accuracy and efficiency to battery diagnostics, making it an ideal tool for automotive technicians and quick service centers. The MVT features a 3.5” color display, an intuitive user interface, a rechargeable internal battery, and comes with field-replaceable cables. It provides a diagnosis of discharged batteries in the vehicle, eliminating the need for charging, and offers reliable battery diagnosis in the presence of vehicle system noise interruptions. It also provides battery diagnosis when the cold cranking amps rating is not visible as well as provides instant test results with no user input required in most quick lane testing scenarios.

Features 3-D targets

The HawkEye XL Alignment System from Hunter Engineering is designed for speed, durability, and ease of use for a wide range of commercial vehicles, including trucks, trailers, buses, and more. The aligner features Hunter’s patented 3-D targets that are low maintenance and non-electronic as well as high-definition cameras to monitor each wheel in a 3-D space to provide accurate measurements. Users can also see live alignment readings from three axles at a time and are able to perform alignments on either the floor or a lift thanks to its moveable camera beam and portable cabinet. Additionally, HawkEye XL connects to the HunterNet 2 customer portal, allowing shop owners to monitor alignment performance remotely and in real time.

Designed for one-person operation

The Universal Suspension Arm Lever from Pichler Tools is designed to push down the wishbone when removing the drive shaft, changing the axle boots, or before replacing the wheel bearings. The lever is made for one-person operation, allowing the suspension arm to carry out the required work. The tool locks the lower arm down and allows for controlled alignment for reassembly.

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This bulletin applies to reprogramming the ASCM on 2019-2022 RAM 2500 and 3500 trucks equipped with auto level rear air suspension. Customers may experience a MIL on, and the following DTCs may be set:

• U0132 (loss of communication with air suspension control module)

• C15E1-97 (left rear air spring intake — component or system operation obstructed or blocked)

• C220C-48 (active suspension module internal-supervision software failure — 2019 only)

• C211B-92 (ignition run/start inputperformance or incorrect operation — 2019 only)

• C156C-7A (ride height system air leak-fluid leak or seal failure — 2019 only)

In addition, the customer may describe:

• Air suspension system is inoperable

• During key ON or while driving, the

“service air suspension” message appears for five seconds

• Air spring deflated or ruptured

• Right/left rear suspension sits lower than opposite side

• Chime and “service air suspension immediately” message in cluster for five seconds

• Excessive operation or noise from air suspension system when vehicle is stationary — 2019 only

• “Air suspension disabled” message when attempting bed lowering mode — 2019 only

• Excessive compressor valve cycling following a cold start — 2019 diesel only

• Erroneous “bed low achieved” message when requesting lowering, even though the truck did not actually lower

• Ride height changes/valve actuations without operator request on rough roads

Reprogram the ASCM with the latest software. (Photo: Chrysler)


Some 2018 Lincoln Navigator vehicles may exhibit a battery draw resulting in a discharged battery. An electronic park brake (EPB) switch internal short may cause the anti-lock brake system

module to wake up, causing the controller area network (CAN) system to wake up. If the draw cannot be duplicated with fuse F70 removed, suspect the EPB switch. (Photo: Lincoln)


This bulletin addresses front radar sensor alignment on 2014 and later Kia vehicles. A warning light may be on related to radar sensor alignment errors in the forward collision avoidance assist (FCA)/ Smart Cruise Control (SCC) system. These alignment errors may be due to a collision or other outside impact that may have caused the radar unit to lose its original factory setting. The underlying damage may not be readily apparent from the exterior. In these cases, replace the damaged bracket or bumper beam and perform the front radar sensor alignment by referring to the “Brake System > Forward Collision



technicians aged 35 and younger who are moving the service repair industry forward, who excel in their current roles and are passionate about their work.
to 2024 AAPEX/SEMA Show in Las Vegas Tools & Equipment from contest sponsors Award plaque and uniform patch
Austin previous Best Young Tech Award winner
Prizes Trip
Techs aged 35 or younger
be born after January 1, 1989)
experience in the industry
At least 2 years
career development, innovation in their role, technical or educational achievement, community service and importance to the shop
Techs can be nominated or

Avoidance Assist (FCA) System > Repair Procedures” in the applicable shop manual on KGIS.

Check for any bent mounting brackets or bumper beam damage where the radar sensor is mounted that may have caused the radar sensor to go out of factory alignment. If the front radar alignment does not correct the concern, diagnose and replace the required part(s) and perform the alignment as necessary.


This bulletin applies to 2019 Cadillac XT4 vehicles equipped with a 2.0L turbo engine. If you encounter DTC P0299, inspect the turbo wastegate lever for a possible missing retaining clip at the wastegate actuator or at the wastegate valve, causing the lever to become disconnected. The wastegate lever side also has an anti-rattle spring that could be missing.


This bulletin applies to 2018-2021 Honda Accord and Accord Hybrid, 2016-2021 Civic, 2017-2021 CR-V, 2020-2021 CR-V Hybrid and 2019-2021 Insight vehicles. A rattling noise may be heard at the front of the vehicle. The probable cause: the rubber

damper caps at the top of struts may be faulty. Remove the damper caps and test drive. If the noise is gone, install new rubber damper caps P/N 51608-TJB-A00.

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Some 2018-2022 Ford Mustang vehicles may exhibit various concerns with the active exhaust system. These may include Drive Mode Not Available or Exhaust Mode Not Available messages, and/or illuminated MIL with DTCs P26C5, P26C6, P26FE, P22BF9, P2BFB, P26C7, P2BF5, P2BF8, P2BFD and/or P2BFA. This may be due to an improperly seated exhaust system.

If P26FE or P2BFB are present, using a scan tool, access datalogger and view the PCM parameter identifications (PIDs). Monitor the EFCV_A_ MON_STAT PID while active commanding the EFCV_A_CMD PID. Open the tailpipe actuator in 10% increments until it has reached 100% (fully open). Close the tailpipe actuator in 10% increments until it has fully closed. If a mechanical fault is indicated, remove the exhaust actuator and inspect the physical binding and/or blockage and repair as needed.

If the concern is still present, inspect the muffler and tailpipe assembly and both catalytic converters for proper positioning in the exhaust clamps which secure them together. Make sure that the exhaust clamp locking tab is fully engaged to the converters. Make sure that the knurled/ridge area of the muffler and tailpipe assembly is covered

by the exhaust clamps. Adjustments can be made by loosening the clamps and repositioning.

Inspect the exhaust actuator wiring harness for damage as well.


Subaru Techline has received calls regarding inoperative RES (Remote Engine Start) systems after installation. Although technicians are able to successfully register the system, when attempting to start the vehicle with RES transmitters, there is no response from the vehicle. A quick check of the RES antenna will most likely show the connection is not fully seated. When routing the RES antenna, verify that there is enough slack in the harness to tuck it under the headliner. If there is not enough slack, excessive pressure will be applied against the harness and will disconnect the antenna. The RES antenna connection must be checked for full seating. (Photo: Mitchell 1)


This bulletin applies to BMW vehicles equipped with TRSVC01 control unit installed and the optional equipment OE03AG — reversing assist camera (2020 430i as an example). After programming, the rear view camera displayed image may have changed. The change is identifiable by the top and bottom corners of the rear view camera which are now visible in the screen image. No corrective measures are needed.

The angle of view for the rear view camera was enhanced. Due to the field of view being expanded, side obstacles can now be better identified. However, with the expanded field of view, the top and bottom corners of the camera can be seen in the image. This expanded field of view was introduced with the integration level F020-18-07-5xx. (Photo: Mitchell 1)

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NO. 147

The key to efficient drivability diagnostics

THE KEY TO EFFICIENT DRIVABILITY DIagnostics is to make easy-to-perform analyses by limiting hands-on testing time under the hood and without disassembly. This allows you to decide what is “good” on the vehicle so you can focus on the remaining potential faults when it is time to test.

This is usually best accomplished by obtaining drivability data right from the driver’s seat. Utilizing a scan tool tends to yield us as diagnosticians what we need to make preliminary decisions about what system may be faulted and the driving conditions in which the fault surfaces.

So, how do we handle locating the suspect cylinder when it comes to the

intermittent misfire concern? Well, the Autel MS919 has you covered there.

Join Motor Age Technical Editor Brandon Steckler as he leverages the power of the Autel MS919 to perform a scan tool enhanced function mimicking that of the Ford factory scan tool platform, the Ford Power Balance Test. The test leverages the variation in crankshaft speed (as reported by the CKP sensor) and correlates it with the engine’s firing order and cylinder position. The combination of the acquired PCM inputs allows the Ford Power Balance Test to indicate not only if a misfire is present, but also which cylinder is misfiring and whether it is intermittent.

The easy-to-view graphical data al-

lows the scan tool to plot a live misfire data trace in the color blue (representing current crankshaft speed variations). The Ford Power Balance Test in the Autel MS919 will also provide a historical trace of crankshaft variations, in the color gray. This allows us to see if a misfire is present or has come and gone. It’s a great way to begin a misfire analysis on a Ford vehicle and is carried out obtaining data right from the DLC with no need to even open the hood. This allows the technician to gain insight right from the driver’s seat! Tune in to this episode of “The Trainer #147” and see just how powerful this factory-level enhanced scan tool function can be and how easy it is to perform!





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