Running a Shop Shop Floor Tools and Equipment

Pico Technology PicoDiagnostics NVH Kit

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THE SHOP:

Matt Fanslow is the diagnostic technician at Riverside Automotive, a 10,000-square-foot shop in Red Wing, Minn., with four technicians and a service advisor that work on 120–130 vehicles a month. As the diagnostic technician, Fanslow’s job primarily revolves around figuring out what’s wrong with the vehicle, he says, particularly complex problems. That’s why he says he makes it a point to equip himself with the tools and technology needed to diagnose any problem vehicle that comes through the shop. Although he has been using oscilloscopes, such as the PicoScope, for years, he says he was interested when the new noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) diagnostics kit became available last fall.

HOW IT WORKS:

Using the display of a laptop, the system quickly captures and analyzes vehicle data with easy-to-read presentation of results and action. It’s raw data, Fanslow says, which you sometimes need (over the interpretive data of a scan tool) to properly figure out the problem. The kit allows the technician to directly check sensors, actuators, systems and wiring for noise, vibration and harshness problems. To use this kit, you need four pieces of equipment: a laptop, USB connector, Pico diagnostic kit and either a two- or four-channel Pico oscilloscope in the 4000 series. The kit comes with an accelerometer, BNC cable, sensor extension lead, microphone and NVH interface.

The interface connects to the oscilloscope (which is plugged into a laptop with the USB cord) with the accompanying BNC cable. The cable will then be connected to either a microphone for noise diagnosis or an accelerometer—a vibration sensor—for vibration diagnosis. Both pieces have a magnetic sensor that attaches to a solid part of the car, such as the seat frame. Using the Pico Diagnostics software, which is free to download on the website, the technician walks through a series of prompts before recording for up to 500 seconds. The software will then show vibration frequency and forces of gravity, a unit of measurement for how harsh the vibration is, in either a bar graph, frequency chart, 3-D frequency chart, RPM order or road speed view. The higher the spikes go, the more severe the vibration is, Fanslow says.

From there, Fanslow is able to isolate multiple vibrations and noises and the software offers help and advice on causes and fixes for dynamic driveline balancing. For example, he may find the vibration frequency with the highest amplitude that the customer is complaining of on the road test, see how high the amplitude level is and after fixing it, verify the G force level is significantly reduced or totally eliminated.

THE RETURN:

Vibration diagnosis is not guesswork, says Fanslow, and it should be very precise. However, if you don’t have the proper tools, he says it’s easy to waste a lot of time.

“This is the proper tool,” he says. “It is expensive but less expensive than guessing and wasting your time and money throwing parts on the vehicle. This software will help you eliminate that wasted time and putting parts on that won’t do any good.”

Fanslow says this tool isn’t right for every vehicle—it’s truly for complex problems—but he says you can recoup the cost in one expensive job, not to mention the efficiency gains and time savings. Fanslow notes that his shop does charge a minimum one-hour diagnostic fee, which has helped offset the cost.

More than anything, though, he feels the benefit of the tool is capability.

“We need to be marketing capability,” he says. “What’s the work I win because I had it? It’s about reputation, it’s about capability. It’s about being the place to do it and do it right, be accurate and be efficient.”


Interested in knowing the impact of a particular auto care product in the shop? Send your suggestions to thereturn@ratchetandwrench.com.

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