Thursday, June 22, 2017

My EPC light

My EPC light

If you've had your VW, Audi, SKODA or SEAT for a while, you're probably familiar with the EPC light and already experienced its wrath. If you haven't encountered the EPC warning light as yet, then you are definitely one of the lucky ones, because I know of several VW Polo, Seat Ibiza,  VW Jetta, VW CC, Passat, Audi A3, Audi A6, Seat Leon and even Porsche owners with odometer readings as low as 1500 Kilometers, who got spooked by the EPC light when it first stuck. This EPC light is known to trigger instant panic and fear in many VAG car owner, and I don't blame them, since it can be a scary and dangerous experience, especially when the car goes into limp mode when you're overtaking or the engine just dies when exiting a freeway  off-ramp or when entering a highway on-ramp during peak hour traffic.  

However, if you have no idea what an EPC light or an EPC fault is, nor why this warning light turns on, then you should do yourself a solid and continue reading. In a nutshell, the EPC warning light is a standard feature in all ODB-II compliant models of Volkswagen, SEAT, SKODA and Audi vehicles. Most of them, are fitted with 'drive-by-wire' technology, though neither are exclusive to VAG cars. And when I say VAG cars, I also mean  Porsche, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Ducati. Toyota, Honda, Ford, Mercedes also has it, in fact, virtually all cars manufactured post 1996  have an EPC warning light. EPC is an acronym for Electronic Power Control, and its a  warning light that resides inside the instrument cluster display.

Nonetheless, the EPC light is not all doom and gloom. It is there for a reason, and that reason is to safeguard the car and the engine from damage or destruction, especially considering what they cost to repair these days, let alone the cost to have an engine overhauled. Many people are under the misapprehension that the EPC light indicates an issue  with the cars  computerized system, whereas mechanics tend to echo that the EPC light indicates  a potential engine malfunction, though that's not strictly true either.  

Before we continue, I just needed to add that when the engine malfunctions, it illuminates the Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL) aka Check engine light (CEL), which is indicative of  a computerized engine-management system malfunction. It even has an amber/orange icon of an engine, so as to draw your attention to the engine. Furthermore if this amber icon engine light is steadily illuminated, it indicates a minor engine fault but when it blinks it signifies a major engine fault. On the other hand, the EPC (Electronic Power Control) warning light  is a distinctly separate light from the MIL or CEL because it is related to a different function.

The more appropriate answer to 'What is an EPC light?' would be that the Electronic Power Control warning light, indicates a malfunction in your VW, Audi, SKODA or SEAT's  throttle control system, though once again that's also not totally accurate either.  So let me throw so light on the subject. The EPC light is in fact a diagnostic test light. So when the car's ignition is first switched on, the EPC light is illuminated for about three seconds. If there are no faults in the EPC system the light will automatically extinguish.

This three second time period is the duration of a self-diagnostic test. Effectively the Motronic ECM (J220) checks for malfunctions  in the Electronic Power Control (Torque system) accelerator system (drive-by-wire system), which includes the Throttle Body Drive Stepless Motor (G186) with its dual   independent Throttle Drive Angle Potentiometers (G187 & G188), the Accelerator Pedal Module with its dual independent Throttle Position Sensing Potentiometers (G79 &G185), the wiring harnesses that connects them all together and its associated sensor inputs from the Cruise Control  System, the Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), the Oxygen Sensor Control, the Automatic Transmission and the Air Conditioning System, etc. 

Here Air conditioning system mean all components involved in conditioning the air in the inlet manifold prior to combustion, implying the Throttle body / Mass Air Flow (MAF) sensor G70 and not A/C as in HVAC.  That being said, the functionality of an Electronic Throttle Control (drive-by-wire system) can regulate the Charge Air Path far more accurately than a physical cable between the accelerator pedal and the throttle valve. 

This being the case, by the time the EPC light illuminates on the dashboard  in response to some sensor detecting a problem  whilst driving, the problem already occurred.  The  EPC warning is just a way to tell you that there  was a glitch in the EPC (drive by wire system) and generally remains lit until the fault is cleared. The EPC light is known as K132 and is turned on by the Motronic ECM by providing the Ground  connection that keeps the light burning. At the same time, a DTC is registered and stored in non-volatile memory for later inspection.

So the key piece of equipment to solving any EPC problem or issue is a diagnostic scanner. The fault below shows that the brake light switch F was the culprit that caused the EPC fault. Bearing in mind, that the Cruise control get its cancellation signal from the brake light when the brake pedal is depressed. When a brake light is fused or the dual contact brake switch goes open circuit and can't provide the requisite signal, the cruise control cannot be cancelled. The ECM detects this condition and construes it as a safety issue and sends the car into limp mode

Essentially the EPC circuit prevented an accident from happening. Implying the brakes would work but the engine would still run at high rev set by the cruise control, meaning the brakes would be ineffective to bring the car to a stop. For safety reasons the EPC system closes the throttle valve to a predetermined position the brake pedal and the accelerator pedal are depressed simultaneously. However if the ECU detects that the brake was depressed before the accelerator, then acceleration will be carried out. 

1 Fault Found:
16955 - Brake Switch (F) 
P0571 - 35-10 - Implausible Signal - Intermittent

The fault below shows  that there is  an electrical malfunction in the Drive by Wire  circuit causing the EPC light to illuminate. After clearing the fault code, the EPC light just comes back on. The ECU was suspected and replaced but didn't solved the problem. It turned out that the  wiring harness between the ECU and the instrument cluster.

1 Fault Found:
18084 - EPC Warning Lamp (K132) Circuit: Electrical Malfunction 
P1676 - 35-00 - - 

The fault below  was on an Audi where signal from the Transmission  Control Module (TCM)  to the ECU was intermittent causing her to go into limp mode and idle really rough. Turned out that the TCM got wet from rain water that leaked into the carpets.  

1 Fault Found:
18265 - Load Signal: Error Message from ECU 
P1857 - 35-10 - - - Intermittent

Friday, June 16, 2017

VW electrical issues

VW Electrial issues

As we all know, Volkswagen, Audi, Seat and Skoda have several mechanical and electronic components in common, among which are their wiring looms with their huge variety of connectors. These connectors range from as few as 1 or 2 contacts per plug, to as many as 16, however the ECU and TCU edge connectors can range anything from for 32 to 68 pins,  up to 80 pins and even beyond. 

AUDI, VW, Skoda and Seat 2 pin connectors P/N535972721 - P/N1J0973772
Most modern cars have numerous control modules, for example the ECM (engine Control Module), the TCM (transmission Control Module), ABS Module (Anti-lock Braking System), Air bag Module, Convenience Module, Steering Control Module, Radio Module, Central  Electronics Module, Instrument module, CAN Gateway Module to mention just a few. Bearing in mind some cars have as many as 40 modules or more on board. 

TCU, ECU and Air bag plugs showing the multiple pin contacts.
Some of these modules control the sound system, the telephone system, the satellite navigation system, xenon ballast module, fan control module, suspension height control system, traction control system among so many others. Each of these modules and systems have numerous connector terminals / pins, some for its primary power, some for standby power, some for data communications, some for sensor inputs, some for actuator output, some for future expansion, some to accommodate different models  and probably some just for show. Each of these modules can have just a few contact terminals / pins whereas others can have close to 100 contact pins.

Molex ECU and TCU interface connectors that are normally
soldered onto the Printed Circuit Boards

When this glut of electrical contact terminals / pins / connectors are compared to those  of a pre-1994 vehicles, you shouldn't be surprised to see that they increased by at least a 100 fold. Meaning if your car of the 90's had as few as 200 electrical connections throughout the entire car, then its 2017 version would have 2000 electrical connections bumper to bumper. This is just a poor estimate for the sake of clarity but in reality their are way more connections. Pessimistically speaking that implies there are an extra 1800 connections that could go awry at any time, especially whilst driving in peak hour traffic or on a deserted road. Some of these 1800 connections include those for the EPC circuit, the throttle body, the check engine light, the crank sensor etc, and some many others that can be the cause that your car breaks down at the road side, leaving you stranded when you need the car most.

Female terminals seem to be the most troublesome of all connectors.
Since all cars are subject a certain amount of vibration that permeates throughout the body of the car, wiring looms and their connections are vibrating along with the engine, or bouncing and shaking along due to poor road surfaces. The car's body also flexes as it drives and the wiring harness flexes right along with it. Most of the VW plastic plugs and connectors have a locking system to keep them together, to prevent them from becoming adrift  whilst driving. But if there is excessive movement in the plug itself that causes contact friction, these contacts are not going to survive very long. The funny thing is, that we see this happening on a daily basis. Then there is chaffing of the loom against the car's body in places where goes through the firewall and the A and post.

The DLC 16 pin connector and a 12 pin connector with their crimp-on terminal pins
Most mornings on my way to work I see at least three rollback tow trucks either in the process of loading a VW or I see the rollback driving in the opposite direction of my travel or I end up over-taking  a rollback with a VW on its back.

So by just looking at the female terminal pins of all the images above, one can clearly see that all of them sport a tweezer like female tension receptacle that squeezes the male pin when it is inserted. Each of these female contact terminals have two little wings that secure them inside its plastic plug but when the terminal  goes intermittent contact it need to be replaced with one of the VW replacement wire kits displayed above.  

VW wiring harness connector terminal removal tool.
The "VW Wiring Harness Connector Terminal Removal Tool" below is used for this purpose, ie to release the terminal pin from its plug. Alternatively you can make your own tool with a paper clip. Straighten the paper clip then hammer both ends flat, then bent it in half to form a staple, so that the two flats are parallel to one another. The hammered flat edges can then be inserted on either side of the terminal pin  so as to push the terminal's wings back onto itself, making it easy to pullout.  Look at the image below. VW 2 pin coolant plug seems to be a favourite that goes wonky and needs replacement. Audi throttle body connector is another. VW, Audi 6 pin accelerator pedal plug is another troublesome connector. But that's best left for another post.

Cross section of terminal plug thats been cut open, see how the two wings in 
the top image is pushed flat by the harness connector tool in the lower image.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Volkswagen Electrical Problems

Volkswagen Electrical Problems

Electrical problems will invariably affect each and every new Volkswagen vehicle on the road today.  Generally, electrical problems are relatively easy to trace and repair, if you know what you doing, but it can be a nightmare when the faults present themselves as intermittent, especially considering cars have now gone CAN Bus, LIN Bus, Byteflight, MOST, Flexray, Zigbee, etc. VW EPC problems tend to be seriously intermittent, making every VW with an EPC issue a real bitch to diagnose.  Of late, more and more VW cars seem to be having EPC trouble among other bizarre electrical problems and very surprisingly, the VW service centers seem unable to repair them. 

Virtually everyone I know who has had an EPC issue, had to take their cars for repairs at least three to four times for exactly the same fault.  There are also numerous VW, SEAT, SKODA and Audi owners, who spent enormous amounts of money on replacement of "EPC issue causing components", yet the EPC faults remain. Essentially they lost money but I normally say they didn't loose money but bought experience and they paid dearly for it. Then there are others who are still waiting on the VW service agents / or some mechanic for their EPC problems to be solved after several months, a year and in some cases even longer.  

There was a time when virtually every electrical issue or loom (wiring harness) problem was associated  with the  FIAT brand. People even ascribed a nomenclature to FIAT - "First In All Troubles". However, it seems like Volkswagen  subsequently bought that patent, and now owns all right to it.

Electrical problems have never been as common place as they are today.
Let me give you an example, the wiring harness between the alternator and  the a  high voltage fuse box mounted on the battery of the VW Beetle has a tendency to melt or it just start to burn. It's a very well known problem and is also really common. It the  main reason that so many Beetles have burnt to a crisp. The Beetle wiring harness running between turn signals / headlights and the ECM is also troublesome -intermittent. The wiring harness resistance between the injector and the ECM changes over time from 1 ohm to above 30 ohms. The wiring harness resistance between the alternator and the battery also increases due to failing fans thus causing excessive current draw resulting in the wiring harness  over heating then melt.

I've seen VW Polo and VW Passt headlight wiring harness melt. The connectors tend to melt due to the type of plastic used and can be traced back to either arcing / overheating of the the bulbs or shorting out of deteriorated wiring. VW Passat coil pack wiring harness also prevents the car from starting and when water enters the wiring harness in the cowl area beneath the windshield,  it caused a short that normally damaged / corrodes the electronic control module. 

Both the Volkswagen CC and the Golf Mk5 GTI now seem to have throttle body wiring harness issues causing the EPC light to switch on and make the car go into limp mode. But there is no fault code that tells you the wiring harness is faulty or intermittent. Another VW CC harness problem to be on the lookout for, is the trunk lid harness that physically breaks over time  due to opening and closing of the trunk. A common problem on VW Pasat is the ignition wires that breaks inside its insulation, resulting in misfires.  VW sells a six pin throttle body sensor connector kit with yellow wires (below) that needs to be spliced onto the wiring harness to circumvent EPC issues when presented with wiring harness / G187 & G188 DTC errors.

Throttle body rewiring kit

Audi throttle body connector kit.  The wires kinda looks like single mode optical fibre cables along with  fusion splice protection sleeves
VW also sells a  six pin accelerator pedal  connector (below) that needs to be replaced as a solution to EPC problems when presented with wiring harness and G79 & G185 DTC errors. There is a likelyhood that this culture of poor quality wiring harnesses has spilled over into all the other VW models as well. To make matters worse, the newest mania among vehicle makers like Honda, Subaru and Toyota  for example,  are to use eco-friendly soy-based insulation wire for their engine wiring harnesses. VW's, Audi and Porsche, uses a soy based wire sheath to encase the engine harness. 

The six pin throttle pedal connector the goes intermittent causing EPC problems.
As a result, rats and squirrels are attracted by the aroma of the wiring harness and nibbles off the tasty insulation causing the bare wires to short out. Apparently these soy-based wire coverings are totally irresistible to rodents. As proof to this, several VW owners who have had electrical problems with their cars have vacuumed rats nests along with dog food chunk from their engine compartments. Others have removed several hands full of hazel nuts shells from their air filter boxes  that squirrels made their haven.  

Replacement six pin connectors for VW Audi SEAT and SKODA
Be that as it may, modern day car soy based car components are not a first, during World War II, some U.S. states used soybean fiberboard for their license plates, which proved extremely popular among goats that made a feast out of them. All I can say is, that VW service centers are going to make a small killing by replacing wiring harnesses of the millions of VW on the road today. Personally, I think you whole biodegradable "go green thing" , "eco this eco that" is overrated and is  getting out of hand. 

Some time back, some Dummkopf  -Dr. Dieter Zetscheat Mercedes Benz decided that all Mercedes Benz cars manufactured during 1992 – 1996 should be fitted with biodegradable wiring. This leap toward eco friendliness by Mercedes Benz was well-intended but those wiring harness prematurely disintegrated due to engine heat and caused untold electrical problems. VW should in fact take a lesson out of the Mercedes Benz's annals.

See the cracks and the brittleness of the wire insulation after just a few ears of use
However, there is a DIY remedy for biodegradable, rodent enticing soy flavoured wiring harnesses.  Honda Acura Acura supplies a genuine-OEM rodent-deterrent duct tape, which is treated with capsaicin, - super-spicy red-hot chili pepper compound - that deters rodent.  Wrapping you VW wiring harness before rats discover your car is the way to go. Enough said, so let me return the subject at hand. 

Spicy anti rodent insulation tape,
In the not too distant past, Volkswagen Jetta models manufactured between  January of  2005 and January  of 2006 were sold with a "defective door wiring harnesses". It wasn't that the harness was defectives in the sense of not working but rather the harness was made too short. As a result, thousands of Jetta owners were experiencing similar problems as the harness started to chafe and disintegrate through regular use.

Common experiences included loss of power to the door controls, failure of the power window controls, failure of the power mirror controls, failure of the fuel tank latch release, failure of the boot lid release. Other weird experience included loss of audio to the speakers, a tripped air bag light on dashboard, when locking the door with the key fob remote the radio to turn on, or the key fobs just doesn't work, also having to recharged the battery continually because it runs down overnight. The interior door-open lights wouldn't turn off  and neither would the buzzer, the sunroof opened randomly. The turn signal in the side mirror stopped flashing and neither would the hooter work but would beep at odd times when you least expect it.  The windshield wipers worked occasionally and the car alarm would trigger unexpectedly and repeatedly.

In fact most VW Jetta owners complained about loss of some or all of the controls located on the driver's door.  These  faults weren't confined to the driver's door, because it was purely a matter of time before the the passenger door also developed a short or an open circuit in  one or more of its electrical circuit. The only way to remedy the problem was to replace the  broken harness with a genuine VW replacement which turned out to be some 80 mm longer than those fitted in the Jettas doors.

VW Jetta Front door replacement harness
A class action suit was leveled against Volkswagen alleging that they knew the door wiring harnesses were deliberately  made too short at the time these Jettas were sold. It was further alleged that Volkswagen shortened the harness by 80mm was  so that they could save costs, which  would ultimately lead to premature breaking of the door wiring harnesses boosting replacement harness sales.

However, most other Volkswagens electrical problems can possibly be traced back to a a troublesome ground. Water somehow enters the ground wires, in the cowling below the windscreen traveling inside the wire insulation resulting in corrosion. Always check the ground connections located  under the battery tray, or ground connections underneath the air cleaner box, or located inside the windshield wiper cowling or in the engine compartment, or the ground connections on the steering column or behind instrument cluster.   Covering the ground connections with battery terminal grease should offset the corrosion, if any, Remember poor ground connections, can cause a multitude of problems if it they become loose, can cause anything from cam sensor codes, to instrument cluster problems like erratic speedometer display, to misbehaving fuel gauge, to a dead gear indicator light, to non operational windshield wiper,  to a flickering digital clock , etc. 

Volkswagens that are equipped with air conditioning  are subject to high ambient temperatures which often causes the battery to get drained whenever the radiator fan kicks in at full speed with the ignition shut off.  Under high heat conditions, the gas pressure of the refrigerant can activate the A/C high pressure switch, triggering the high speed radiator fan relay to activate the cooling fan. Volkswagen has subsequently recommended a replacement fan relay switch with other minor modification of the A/C high pressure switch wiring, to solve this problem.

Replacement Radiator fan control switch
Whenever your VW misbehaves and you cannot put your finger on it, the best thing to  do is to investigate every ground lug on every bit of the engine wiring harness that you can get at. Loosen it, cleaned it with a  wire brush and some emery cloth and if needs be replace ground lugs that are corroded and possible even the screw/ nut. Don't forget to retorque the nut to the requisite tension. It may even be beneficial to add a second heavy duty ground strap to decrease resistance if any. Heavy duty welding cable from a welders supply store is far more  tolerant to vibration than your average cheap jumper cable wire. Starting difficulties can often be traced / associated to a poor ground connection. 

Remember when repairing wiring harnesses that soldering is not the recommended nor the appropriate method of repairing  it.  Solder joints are not flexible and tend to break after  while due to vibration.  Always use insulated crimp lugs and bullets like these below on connecting terminals especially at ground distribution points.

Lugs, bullet and spade connectors for repairing ground connections.
There is a tendency among car manufacturers to  miniaturize the physical size of electrical connector contacts and thereby the oversize of the connector. The problem is that the surface area of contact is remarkably reduced and are thus prone to intermittent contact under vibration. This has now become very evident on the wiring loom connectors that interface with the throttle body and the accelerator pedal to the point that they need to be replaced when they go intermittent. Don't bother to spray them with contact spray, just replace them. they are cheap enough to buy rather than suffer constant EPC issues and they are even available on Amazon, ebay, DHgate, and other online auction.

Friday, June 9, 2017

On-Board Diagnostics

All about On-Board Diagnostics

On-board diagnostics are here to stay and any amount of wishing will not make them go away. Virtually every  car on the road today is fitted with one. The main objective behind having on-board equipment installed in automobiles is to control and  limit the level of harmful emissions emitted by these cars. Eco friendly motoring is the new way of keep the global carbon footprint to a minimum. Every motorist is responsible for their own. So when the check engine turns on, the on-board diagnostic equipment is trying to tell you that your car is failing its emission test and that it should be repaired before its going to drive properly again.

best obd scanner - There is no such thing as the best OBD scanner. But there is the best OBD scanner for a specific brand of car. For example VCDS is the best for Volkswagen (VAG) whereas  iCarsoft i980 is better suited for Mercedes Benz and BMW Scanner v1.4.0 OBD2 / OBDII Diagnostic Interface is best for BMW. LAUNCH, VAS 5054A ODIS,  AutoBoss, TOAD, MaxiDas, etc, are multi car diagnostic systems and are more suited for workshop use than DIY. There are plenty of DIY scanners among which are Autel MaxiScan MS509, Innova 3100,  Konnwei KW820, PowerLead Cadt PL-OM580, AutoPhix OB123, Acton CP9575, and hundreds of others, any one of which would probably the best scanner for a car owner. 

bluetooth obd - most likely refers to ELM 327 Bluetooth OBD2 / OBDII for Android that works pretty well with downloadable apps like OBD Auto Doctor, OBDeleven, OBD eZWay, OBD Car Tracker, OBD Fusion and OBDLink etc. This turns your cellphone or tablet a niffty diagnostic device.

car obd - refers to the on-board diagnostic system all car makers are obligated to install in vehicles manufactured after  1996 and beyond.

car obd reader - refers to an app or a hardware device that connects to a car via an interface cable or via bluetooth or WiFi

obd - is an automotive term referring to a vehicle's self-diagnostic and reporting ability.  

obd adapter - is normally a cordless bluetooth enabled adaptor that plugs into the car's 16 Pin DLC much like the ELM327 does. There are severa dozen manufactures who make them, amongs which are the Ozzy Gear OBD2 Scanner Bluetooth, Hikeren OBD2 Bluetooth Module, iAutomobil OBD2 Bluetooth Module, Foseal Mini OBD Bluetooth Scanner Adapter, Panlong Bluetooth OBD2 Scan Adapter, BAFX Products 34t5 Bluetooth OBDII Scan Tool.

obd android - there several OBD android devices. Vgate Bluetooth 4.0 OBDII is a Code Reader for both IOS & Android,  Hikeren Mini Bluetooth OBD2 is another  Car Scan Tool for android and HH OBD Advanced ELM327 OBDII V1.5 is yet another android Bluetooth Diagnostic Tool.

obd bluetooth - is the bluetooth enabled version of the scanner described above which is commonly used with a cell phone / tablet apps, and can also work with a bluetooth enabled laptop.

obd bluetooth adapter - is just another term use to refer to an OBD android / bluetooth adapter or  obd bluetooth android adapter.

obd cable - is a physical interface that plugs into the car's DLC. For example, VAG-COM V409.1 OBD OBD2 USB Cable is an OBD cable and so is KKL OBD2 USB Diagnostic Cable  both used specifically for Audi, VW, SEAT and SKODA.

obd car - Any car with either and OBD-I or OBD-II system installed. There are older cars that are completely devoid of diagnostics.

obd codes -  Are On-Board Diagnostic Codes, sometimes referred to as fault codes

obd code reader - is a handheld DIY device that purely extracts data from the ECU bus but can alter the data nor write it back to the ECU.

obd connector - refers to the DLC fitted under the dashboard close to the drivers seat. It can easily be identified by its light purple colour in VW's.

obd deviceBMW motorcycle combo - OptiMATE  canbus connector is an OBD device and so are most of the adapter, cables and bluetooth connectors mentioned above.

obd diagnostics

obd reader - normally a hand held deice capable of reading OBD data from the car's ECU but not able to write back to it.

obd system - is a standardized microcontroller based system installed in cars that continually monitor its emission control systems, by using engine mounted electronic sensors and feed back from the catalytic converter 

obd diagnostic interface - refers to the USB to 16 pin DLC cable, that connects between the car and the laptop computer used to interrogate the ODB system.

obd interface - as above

obd i scanner - OBD I scanners are used on pre 1996 cars. It's been succeded  by OBD II.

obd ll - sometimes called OBD eleven, but its just a play on OBD-ii in upcase Ls. There is a bluetooth android device named ODB eleven.

obd ii - Is sometimes written as OBD 2 and is the current version of automotive vehicle On-board Diagnostics introduced in 1996 which superceded OBD 1 used in cars prior to that.

obd ii scanner  - refers to any an all devices capable of interfacing with the On-Board diagnostic system of a car used to read error codes.

obd port - The connector  fitted under the dashboard or behind the ashtray inside the car where the bluetooth adapter or the OBD inerface cable plugs into.

obd scanner - can either be a handheld  hardware device or a laptop based software /software device that interfaces with  the car's DLC, capable of reading the ECU, displaying DTCs, etc, and can either be OBD1 or OBD II.

obd scan tool - see obd scanner above.

obd tester - is an OBD scanner, that can take the form of a dedicated handheld device, or a computer based scanner or cellphone or tablet based scanner.

obd tools - refers to a collection of either diagnostic software or 

obd wifi - a codless device much like a bluetooth ELM 327 but that is rather WiFi enabled.

Monday, May 22, 2017



The word chip has entered our vocabulary by force and is loosely used in everyday speech but it has absolutely nothing to do with deep fried thin potato slices or potato wedges. A chip in this sense refers to a mico-chip, as in monolithic integrated circuit, or micro computer chip, or micro processor integrated chip or just IC for short. Integrated Circuit chips or IC's first appeared in the 60's as a complete electronic circuit etched onto a small piece ("chip") of semiconductor material, embedded in a dual inline plastic package. It essentially replaced much of the circuitry dominated by silicon transistors or entire silicon transistor circuits, which started replacing vacuum tubes just a decade previously. In a nutshell, a single IC can contain hundreds or thousands, or millions, or even billions of transistors on a single piece of silicon just the size of an adults "pinky" nail, subject to its level of integration. The level of integration range from small scale integration, to large integration (LSI), to very large scale integration (VLSI), each using up to as many as a  million transistor to form logic gates, flip-flops and multiplexers.

Small integration (SSI) and LSI Analogue and digital Chips 

Over three decades, IC's metamorphosed from a meager 8 pin dual inline package, for example the analogue NE555  timer chip, to the digital but now obsolete 132-pin package i386 processor, to several other surface mounted low-profile quad flat packages (LQFP).  But within  a few short years we surpassed the Pentium 4 chip and arrived at the Intel Core i7  Thin Quad Flat Package (TQFP) processor. The most current Intel chip to date, is the  LGA 1151 Socket, Coffee Lake Quad Core Computer Processor. However, somewhere between theses two extremes, PLCC's, ROM's, PROM's, EPROM's, EEPROM's, RAM, SRAM, DSRAM, PSRAM, Flash Memory, PROFET Highside Power Switches, Microprocessors and 32-bit microcontrollers  evolved.

Some specifically designed for the automotive industry, for  use in Engine Control Module's (ECM), Electronic Control Units (ECU's) Transmission Control Units (TCU's), Anti-skid Braking System ABS units and so many other automotive controllers.  Automotive Chips have been around for several years, but is currently in great demand, and to say that this technology has evolved, is probably the understatement of the century. In fact Automotive  Chips  advancements progressed rapidly,  improved unequivocally, matured almost instantly and  became largely scalable and highly integrated. Software programming gave these Automotive Chips a degree of artificial intelligence, most of them configured by car manufacturuers for average performance to extend engine and transmission lifespans so that they would last through the warranty period. 
Stainless Steel Exhaust Downpipes 

Since Automotive Chips are programmable and configurable, many have ventured into  chipping them. Chipping an ECM / ECU for some means removing the ROM containing the ecu's stock maps and replacing it with a new chip containing maps altered for enhanced performance. However, a ECU dump can be changed with a hex-editor and the ROM can be reflashed with diagnostic software like, REVO Stage 1 Performance Software, TOAD, RomRaider, EcuFlash, VAG CAN Pro (VCP), Winols, Galletto, etc, using the appropriate Chip Tuning / Flashing InterfaceHacking an ECU  can be pretty straight forward, especially with VAG COM diagnostic tools, which permits you to find  where the various maps reside in memory, then filling them with new or experimental values. 
K&N VW Polo air Filter induction kit

This procedure is not as simple as it sounds and is best left to the tweekers who have some knowledge of MISRA C.  MISRA C is a software development standard for the C programming language specifically developed by the Motor Industry Software Reliability Association. Since ECU programming is a very specialized business, any errors or accidental changes can prove disastrous and scramble your ECU permanently, unless you have a saved ECU dump to revert back to.  ECU maps can be found strewn all over the internet especially those for older cars. But be forewarned, they may not work as expected.
Carbonised Valves before and after

Having said that, many car enthusiasts  want their cars tweaked for more power, cleaner emissions, better fuel economy and better performance, expecting at least 20% more power and at least 20% more torque. But these are not realistic expectations for non-turbo cars with a standard engine. Also chiptuning is subject to climate and atmospheric pressure meaning a engine tuned for top performance at sea level will not perform optimally at high altitudes and vise versa. Also remember that tuning for performance is at the other extreme to tuning for  economy.  According to my son, whose VW Golf 7 R was optimised  with RaceChip One for Increased Acceleration & Performance with a 76mm stainless steel downpipe, Intake Induction kit & Intercooler upgrades,  Blow Off Dump Valve Adapter Spacer Kit, DPF & EGR Removed and fitted with a Bilstein B12 Eibach 30mm/30mm Lowering Suspension Spring Pro Kit, when he speeds he can actually see his fuel level decrease as the needle races towards empty. Definitely money not well spent.

There are several chiptuning workshops strewed throughout South Africa, some better than others and some not worth their salt, all offering Volkswagen  ECU Remapping and Chip Tuning services for older and newer models. Among them are, Alpha Performance Inovation, Chiplogic, Tuned2Race, ATM Chiptuning, CPI Performance Innovation, DTE Systems SA, Wulfchiptegnik, Unichip Performance Tuners and GT Performance, etc. I've have several friends who had their VW's Chiptuned but they are definitely not happy with the results, saying that ECU Remapping and Chip Tuning is just a ripoff, it's like pouring money down a drain. 

However, for the DIY car enthusiast with an older 2.0L VW Citi Golf, weber 40mm sidedrafts, a 300deg cam  and a  solid lifter head, is a feasible performance investment that can deliver 112kw 207nm.  Add a Blow Off Dump Valve Adapter Spacer Kit to vent   extra boost air into the atmosphere instead of sending it back into the engine's intake manifold besides the WHOOOSHH sounds is really awesome!!
Blow Off Dump Valve Adapter Spacer Kit

ECU Remap via OBD port, ECU Reprogramming & Software upgrade & Chip Tuning, Injection timing, injection quantity, injection pressure, boost pressure and air mass flow, Better Throttle Response, Optimized Fuel Efficiency. Enhanced Throttle Response, GTI VW Polo GTI, VW Golf 5, VW Golf 6 R, VW Golf 6 GTI, VW Golf 7 R, VW Golf 7 GTI, VW Polo TDI, VW's Audi A4/A5/S5 Audi S3 8V Audi S3 8P  Audi RS3/TTRS Audi RS5 / RS6

Monday, April 24, 2017



Have you ever taken your under warranty car to your service agent after experiencing extreme EPC Light and Engine Light activity, only to be told "No problem found"? Does the inside of your under 75,000km  car sound like an aviary when you turn-on it's fan? Or, do you constantly have to top-up your oil level between oil changes or at least every 1500 km? How do you handle it, when you go to the agents, to complain about excessive oil consumption, only to be  told that, “all cars use oil and oil consumption is a normal part of a car’s operation, beside oil consumption issues were disclosed in the vehicle owner’s manual". Has your car behaved like a washing machine during a rinse and spin cycle while driving on the freeway, misfiring, shaking and scaring the living day light out of you? If yes to any of the above, then you must be driving a VAG Car - VW, Skoda, Audi or Seat. Yes, when those injector coils go faulty in mid travel, it really frightens you because the car feels like is going to fall apart any moment.  

This also happens to VW, Jetta, VW Caddy, Volkswagen Jetta, Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen Beetle, Volkswagen Passat, Volkswagen Touareg, Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Amarok, Volkswagen Caddy, Volkswagen CC,  Volkswagen Fox, Volkswagen Gol G5,   Volkswagen Golf Mk6,  Volkswagen Jetta, Volkswagen Scirocco,  Volkswagen Sharan, Volkswagen Tiguan, Volkswagen Touareg,   Volkswagen Touran, Audi A3, Audi A6, Audi A7, Audi A8, Audi Q5, Audi Q7, Volkswagen Phaeton, Volkswagen Polo, Volkswagen  Lupo and Volkswagen Passat.

I've experienced the radiator fan blades disintegrate while driving, and the unbalanced rotation caused the same, exact, identical, engine shake. Then I've also experienced starting difficulties, irregular idling, poor fuel economy, hesitant acceleration, engine misfires and engine stalls. Not to mention the the constant, "in your face" red engine  warning light. All of which turned out to be components of the charge air path, especially the Mass Airflow Sensor (MAF).

When the "No problem Found" response became unbearable, it was time for self discovery. So what I've come to realize is that a mass air flow sensor, is integral part of every modern VAG engine and is normally situated somewhere inside the intake air duct, between the air filter and the engine. 

I've owned several cars, amongst which were Renault, Opel, Mercedes Benz and Mazda yet never ever had the need to replace a MAF even after several years. However with VW, it needs to be cleaned or replaced regularly every 2-3 years. Cleaning a MAF is cheaper than replacing it though replacing a MAF sensor is just easier. It is DIY job because the MAF replacement cost at a VW dealers averages about R1500,00. 


VAG engines require a "perfect blend" of air and fuel for absolute combustion. This "perfect blend" is known as stoichiometric or Lambda = 1, which essentially means "the mixture is right" in mechanical jargon. The vacumn caused by the turbo blower and the pistons down-ward travel creates air charge. The main aim of the charge air path is to provide a smooth increase in torque, and to deliver high efficiency throughout its  operating ranges. This air charge is measured by the MAF, so by implication a  properly functioning MAF is absolutely crucial to a smooth ride. But in modern Engine Management Systems their are several components that contribute to maintaining this "perfect blend" among which are:-

1) The Electronic throttle control (EPC)
2) Charge air pressure sensor G31
3) Mass Air Flow (MAF) sensor G70
4) Barometric Pressure (BARO) sensor F96
5) Intake Air Temperature (IAT) sensor G42 / G299

So any fault in the Mass Air Flow (MAF) sensor G70 will trigger the EPC light, because the Motronic engine control unit (ECU)  uses it as an engine load signal and as a reference data to calculate the  signal plausibility of other sensor inputs, when and how much fuel to deliver, and when to generate a spark for the relieve cylinder. At the same time, it will also trigger a DTC in memory. The MAF also works in conjunction with an O2 sensor that provides a “closed-loop” feedback  known as short term fuel trim (STFT) / Long term fuel trim (LTFT), in order to make corrections to that predicted air mass. If the air filter isn't replaced on a regular basis, a build- up of impurities in the MAF will cause it to start failing when it gets too dirty to do its job and trigger the EPC light.