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View Diary: Of First Cars and First Loves: Sorry, Nan, this Diary is About my '69 Beetle (114 comments)

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  •  No you don't. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlogDog, Rick Aucoin, jakedog42

    Per US law, all vehicles manufactured since 1996 must be OBD-II compliant for the powertrain and pollution control systems.  Generic OBD-II code scanners are available at autozone type places, usually in the sub-$100 range.  Some of these will even give access to the CANBUS where you can play with non-powertrain stuff.  

    For my VW, I use a software package called VCDS.  I run it on my Mac laptop using Windows on Parallels.  It's free to download.  It will allow certain basic functionality from a basic VW/Audi interface USB cable that you can get on eBay for $20.  If you want the full version of VCDS with all the bells and whistles (this allows access above the OBD-II diagnostic program and allows you to mess around with the CANBUS system), you must use a Ross-Tech cable, since the cable "unlocks" the software.   One of those cables is about $300 brand new online.  On the VW forums, people who own the cables will often let you borrow them for free.

    Which brings me to my next point:  no matter what kind of car you drive, there is a forum for it.  And chances are, once you get past the fluff discussions about what is the best leather treatment product or which wheels look best, you'll find a hardcore group that know how to fix anything on your car.  On the VW TDI forum I visit, no matter what the job, there is at least one person who has done it.  In many cases, that person will take photos of the job, and write up a document with pictures, illustrations, parts and tools lists, and a step-by-step narrative on how to make the fix.  There quite literally is nothing on those cars that someone on that forum has not taken apart and documented.  There are even master TDI mechanics that normally charge $100 per hour who hang out and give free advice to Do-it-yourselfers.

    The "The Compleat Idiot's Guide To Keeping Your Volkswagen Alive" still exists -- it's online.  And there is now a version for every car imaginable.  All you need is the Google.  
         

    •  Thanks for dispelling my ignorance! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RerumCognoscereCausas

      Not only is my uncle a monkey, some of my best friends are monkeys!

      by CodeMonkey on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 11:25:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  There are some proprietary systems... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jakedog42

        ...so you're not totally wrong.  But Basic powertrain and pollution controls have to comply to OBD-II, which is an open, universal standard.  The government did that to prevent manufacturers from "locking down" their cars engines and pollution control systems, effectively preventing independent mechanics and do-it-yourselfers from working on cars unless they purchase expensive proprietary systems like you mentioned.  

        Where there are sometimes proprietary systems are in the CAN system -- car area network.  In the old days, when you opened the door, a switch was opened, and the interior light came on.  When you pressed the window down button, the switch closed, sent a signal to a relay, and the motor that rolls the window up or down was powered.  All analog technology.  These days on many cars, all that is controlled by a car area network.  When you press the window button, it goes to a computer which processes the signal from the switch, then relays a signal to another part of the network to make something happen.  It's actually possible to re-map switches this way.  As a practical joke, you can map the Driver's door window switch to operate the passenger window.... If a power window switch goes out and you replace it, it may be necessary to log into the CAN system and "Log the switch into the system" and map that switch to the desired function.  

        CAN stuff may be proprietary.  Mostly the European manufacturers are doing that.

        I also own a newer Toyota along with the Volkswagen TDi.  It uses a CAN system, but it's not a locked one.  I once had a broken switch for the power window that I replaced.   It didn't work for a couple hours.   When I went on a Toyota forum, they told me to just press the button a bunch of times.  Eventually, the car's computer "learned" it was there, and it it began working.        

        There is actually a political movement called the "Right to repair" movement.   The US Government is in the process of coming up with a new law for the net generation of OBD systems.  Some manufacturers are lobbying to have the new OBD system be locked by the manufacturer.  This will basically give the consumer no choice but to take the car to the dealer if it passes, since you'll need the factory password to read the cars on-board diagnostics.

        That would be a disaster for independent mechanics, and consumers.  Imagine a world where the only place you can get service is the dealer, at dealership hourly rates and parts prices.

         

        •  Another downside (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RerumCognoscereCausas

          is if everything is locked down, what happens if you are on a trip and break down hundreds of miles from a dealer.

          •  Yep. (0+ / 0-)

            With the open nature of OBD-II, if you have a problem, you can stop at a auto parts store (like advance or Auto Zone) and they can pull the code for you for free with a hand-held scanner, and sell you the part. (Unless you have a VW/Audi like me, in which case they most likely will order the part for you)

            With a locked-down system like some manufacturer's are pressing for, you'd have no choice but to find a dealer, or an indy mechanic that paid for the proprietary system.  That may not be a problem east of the Mississippi, but in a place like Wyoming, if you drive some EuroCar, the nearest dealer may be in Denver or Salt Lake City.  

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