Losing the ability to troubleshoot

August 26, 2016 // By Scott Deuty
Scotty Deuty bemoans the lost art of troubleshooting and making do from first principles. He describes the loss as an American problem but perhaps it is just a consequence of advanced functionality born of complexity.

A recent breakdown of a friend’s vehicle made me really start thinking about America’s troubleshooting capabilities. It is a well-known fact that America is losing its leadership as innovators; however, our ability as troubleshooters is in jeopardy as well. Like innovation, this is due in part to foreign competition. As with the rest of the world, this is also due in part to the increase in technology in today’s products.

It’s no secret that as products gain intelligence, the ability for the average Joe to troubleshoot them gets more difficult. What was once solved with a voltage gauge, ammeter, continuity tester, and timing light is now left to software and logic that’s buried so deep, one can’t see beyond the many layers of technology between your view from the outside and the actual problem. Case in point is the breakdown I referred to at the opening of this blog.

The vehicle that broke down would turn over nicely and not fire. The mechanic inquired as to whether any abrupt bumps or contact with an object occurred. I knew what he was thinking. Perhaps the vehicle had killed the fuel pump due to a jarring motion. This is a safety feature that is built in so your fuel pump doesn’t keep pumping fuel in case you are in an accident and a fire occurs. Typically an accelerometer senses impact due to a rapid deceleration in the same manner deceleration triggers an air bag. You could hear the fuel pump working to a point where it primed when the key was turned to a run position. Therefore, I didn’t think the fuel safety shut off had been triggered.

Sure enough, the initial diagnosis came back as, “The ignition control module indicated a problem. It had to be replaced to see if the coil was bad.”

Really? So you just start with a basic code indication of the ignition control module, replace that,