Diagnosing Hybrid DTCs with Your Scan Tool

Diagnosing Hybrid DTCs with Your Scan Tool

A scan tool allows you to communicate with the vehicle, and can be an efficient source for TSBs and safety information.

It would be an easy argument to say that the advent of hybrid and electric vehicles has brought with it the single biggest change in history to the automotive repair industry. And as the number of hybrid vehicles on the road steadily increases, so does the number of them that will need service. While they are anything but new, they are still new to a lot of us when it comes to repair.

My first experience with a hybrid was for an oil change. I figured it would be no problem, and it really wasn’t, I just stayed miles away from any orange cabling. That’s all I knew about them. Then I discovered I had no idea how to start the engine to check for leaks, and I realized how different they were going to be.

So, when it comes to diagnostics, now, more than ever, your scan tool is your first tool. You might be thinking that’s been the reality for a while, and you’re right it has, but on hybrid vehicles, due to their advancements and safety concerns, it’s just an absolute necessity to start with your scan tool – no more tinkering and tugging on wires.

Technician using diagnostic tablet

If you follow a strict diagnostic process that utilizes manufacturer flow charts and service information, you’re already on the right path, but you’ll have to get used to a whole new set of codes and terminology. Whoever thought motor electronics coolant, drive motor temperature or generator temperature would be things we would ever associate with auto repair?

There is an endless list of codes that you’ve never seen before, but more important is the safety aspect that is involved. Early hybrid vehicles operated on voltage between 150V to 300V. Now we’re commonly seeing 500V to 600V – and even higher voltages are on the horizon.

If you’d rather walk barefoot through a pond full of snapping turtles, you’re not alone. That was my first reaction. But though it sounds dangerous, if you follow OEM safety procedures and you wear the proper personal protective equipment, you can virtually eliminate the danger.

A procedure that you will become familiar with, but that differs between manufacturers, is the de-energization of the electrical system. Many of these procedures begin with a scan tool, and there can be additional safety implications based on the trouble codes that are present. The procedure and steps are specific, and it’s important not to miss one. There will also be a wait time for capacitors to discharge, and in many cases the requirement to check for voltage.

electric vehicle engine

A hybrid vehicle also has an internal combustion engine, and many aspects of diagnosis will not be different in that regard, but there is a lot to learn about hybrid vehicles and the different technology that they utilize. Not only is a scan tool the only equipment that will allow you to communicate with the vehicle, but it can also be a source for technical service bulletins and safety information.

Orange is a common color for high voltage cables on a hybrid vehicle, but it’s not always. There are other colors utilized too. The bottom line is to utilize OEM information from your scan tool or another source if needed and follow it to the letter. Overall, the diagnostic process hasn’t changed, but the cars have. Your scan tool should be up to the challenge. TS

You May Also Like

Tech Tip: Honda Intake Manifold Explodes

A loud noise, smoke and fire under the hood of a 2007 Honda Pilot.

The Vehicle:  2007 Honda Pilot, 4WD, V6-3.5L, Automatic Transmission/Transaxle

Problem: The Honda Pilot was towed to the shop after the intake manifold exploded. The owner said he went to the gas station and filled his fuel tank. As soon as he restarted the car, he heard a loud noise and then saw smoke coming out from under the hood. He quickly opened the hood to find the intake manifold was on fire. He smothered the flames with his coat. Prior to this, the engine had been running fine.

Tech Tip: Kia Rio Engine Races When Clutch Pressed

The engine races when the clutch is disengaged on a 2012 Kia Rio with no DTCs.

Tech Tip: F-150 No Crank, No Start

A 2010 F-150 has a DTC P0690 with an intermittent stalling, no-crank, no-start condition.

Transmission Diagnostics

A full-function scan tool is the most valuable tool you can have, especially when it comes to transmission diagnostics.

Difficult Diagnostics: A Rough Running Toyota

Difficult repair-ability did not stop the owner of a Toyota from having serious engine repair done.

Other Posts

Snap-on Adds ZEUS+ Training Modules to Website

The training helps technicians navigate the features and functionality of the new platform.

Snap-on Lights the Way

Snap-on lights provide techs illumination in dark spaces.

ADAS Calibrations: Ford As-Built Manual Programming Procedure

When ADAS components are repaired, there are additional steps that need to be taken for the calibrations to be complete.

Inductor Max: Experience the Power of Induction Heating

Rapidly heat components while eliminating the dangers of an open flame.