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DRIVING/TOWING - RECOVERY TECHNIQUES

YOU NEED A SCAN TOOL
Modern vehicles bristle with electronics and diagnosis is impossible without one.

 

Back in the good ‘ol days of bush breakdowns you checked for liquids and ignition and you were set, but now it’s very, very different.

 

 

I can remember one morning, a few years back, in the Northern Simpson Desert, climbing to the top of Geosurveys Hill for the mandatory dawn shot over sand ridges that stretched to the horizon. 

I looked back at our almost insignificant campsite and saw my then bush mount, a Land Rover Discovery 3, just catching the early sun’s rays and thought, ruefully:

“Boy, I hope you start.”

Back then, we were all adjusting to the presence of electronics in modern 4WDs, but the reality hadn’t yet sunk in: if a fault code or icon appeared that knobbled vehicle performance we had no way of diagnosing it correctly, or of repairing, or bypassing it.

As the years went by, we had more and more unfortunate experiences with electronic faults.

Another vivid memory is trying to control the downward plunge of an automatic-transmission Jeep Wrangler from the top of Mount Pinnibar to Tom Groggin in the High Country. We’d snagged an ABS wire on the rear axle and that threw up an expected ABS fault code. What we didn’t expect was a cancellation of low-range selection! 

We reconnected the ABS wire, but low range still wasn’t available and, without low-range engine braking, that slippery slope was highly dangerous. We survived, with periodic cool-offs of the red-hot brakes, then canned the test and came home.

The logic that links vehicle electronic functions doesn’t correlate with what you’d expect: why would a lack of ABS also eliminate low-range, for example? If we’d had some means of accessing these electronics it’s possible we could have reset the ABS system and hopefully restored the needed gearing.

 

 

One of our OTA website donors popped in to see us at home, in a VW Transporter campervan, with an ABS-check light on the dashboard. It was still under warranty, but our local dealer was too busy and so was one an hour away. He finished up doing a six-hour drive to find a dealer who could look at the problem.

The dealer’s scan tool showed up a faulty ABS sensor that was a simple, half-hour replacement. If the VW owner had a scan tool, we could have found the problem and picked up a new sensor from the VW spare parts counter.

That’s where a scan tool can come into its own. Of course, you still may be up the proverbial creek without a paddle, but at least you’ll know why!

 

 

We wouldn’t undertake any remote-area trips in a modern 4WD without a scan tool. (Our trusty, 30-year-old 75 Series don’t need one!) Anyone leading a convoy of current-model 4WDs in the scrub is nuts if they don’t have some means of diagnosing bypassing interfering, cross-linked electronic functions.

The range of scan tools spaces the $200 to $5000 range, with some workshop-quality devices in the $500-700 band.

What scan tool you buy is up to you, but we’d recommend a look at the Car Care Nut’s videos on YouTube.  

We’d suggest staying away from units that rely on a phone app that needs mobile phone reception, because phone coverage in 90-percent of Australia’s land mass is non-existent.

 

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