How to diagnose faults using OBD device and fleet tracking system?

Posted by Raja Naidu on Nov 10, 2017 9:23:41 AM


It is rare but not unusual to see warning in a vehicle's dashboard. Some of the faults can be diagnosed easily by observing the behaviour of the vehicle. For eaxmple, misfiring of the cylinders will result in unusual noises coming out of the engine. However, minor faults are often impossible to identify visually and diagnosis by qualified technician can reveal the exact status of the vehicle accurately. Most modern vehicles are equipped with a lot of sensors and analysing the data continuously can complement the visits to the garage so that any evolving trouble can be addressed immediately and avoid expensive repairs during periodic maintenance schedule.

Diagnostic trouble codes available to auto-mechanic.jpeg  

What is fleet tracking and why do you need it?

Fleet tracking is an incredibly useful management system which makes use of GPS to monitor and track the activities of various selected assets (typically vehicles and equipment). Fleet tracking operates through the use of telematics technology, which enables the system to collect data from a fleet of assets in real time and transmits it to a server for further processing. This data is then used by fleet managers who can make strategic decisions regarding vehicle operations.

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In addition to GPS tracking, fleet tracking software capable of accessing the car’s computer in real-time can be useful for obtaining diagnostic reports regarding vehicle condition and provide diagnostic trouble code(s) which reveals the technical fault(s) in the car. 

Efficient fleet tracking necessitates sensitive and hi-tech fleet tracking and management software which will intelligently interpret enormous quantities of data coming through the fleet (one or many vehicles), and convert that complex data into easy-to-use understandable reporting dashboards and exception alerts. These alerts can help in taking preventive maintenance action to avoid a small trouble evolving into a bigger, expensive problem.   

The OBD device from Tracars is a sophisticated, state-of-the-art fleet tracking equipment with advanced software which also provides users with valuable diagnostic trouble code data obtained from the car's computer. This data is provided to the user in a comprehensive yet uncomplicated report via e-mail so that the user need not wait until the next service to fix their car. The OBD (which literally stands for On-Board Diagnostic System) device delivers valuable vehicle usage information, including mileage and remote diagnostics.

Diagnostic and functional features

The OBD device can communicate with most vehicles in real time (configurable to every second!) to record critical vehicle management information directly from their computer. This OBD-GPS tracking device is far more sophisticated and smarter than the simplistic GPS vehicle tracking systems. In addition to providing the diagnostic trouble code and their meaning, the fleet management system powered by Tracars OBD device provides more capabilities such as:
  • Trip tracking including Speed monitoring

  • Fuel consumption monitoring (mpg, kmpl, l/100km, etc)

  • Idle time monitoring

  • Ignition status

  • Provision of critical vehicle diagnostic data

  • Low battery warning and alerts

  • Provides maintenance and service reminders and alerts

  • Provides real time alerts for speeding, idle time, stops, and odd-hours activity

  • Provides reports on driver performance

  • Can locate the car on demand unlimited number of times

  • Easy visualisation of speed violations including date/time/miles gone over as well as the location of violation

The OBD device can be configured to notify the user by sending alerts directly to their smartphone or tablet. For example, automatic e-mails are sent from Tracars fleet management system whenever a new trouble code is generated by the vehicle. It is possible to lose the mobile signal at remote locations. Whenever the vehicle loses the communication to the cloud server, the data is stored in a local memory and is sent as soon as the vehicle enters the area where cellular network becomes available.

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How does it work?

This OBD device is powered by an advanced hardware and software Fleet Tracker solution developed by Tracars. The OBD device is plugged into the OBD port of the car. The in-built software solution is integrated with cloud storage and real-time monitoring to enable the user to access their account and obtain vital vehicle diagnostic information from any device connected to the internet irrespective of the location of the vehicle. 

This fleet tracking software does not require any expensive and complex cellular contracts – for example, the cheapest device Tracars 101 can be operated using smartphones and tablets via Bluetooth connection and existing data allowances available from mobile phones can be used to reduce overall costs. The OBD device is essentially a real-time plug-and-play device which can work with most cars built since 1996. The device can be plugged straight into the OBD port for obtaining data directly from the car. Optionally, extension cables can also be used to connect the OBD port with the Tracars device. 

The fleet tracker OBD device works by transmitting the data it reads from that car’s internal computer back to cloud storage and server through a mobile network. Position updates are obtained at regular short intervals whenever the vehicle is in motion using GPS technology. At any time, the user can also demand the precise mapping and location of a vehicle in real-time, and the location is displayed on a map.

Trouble codes

The OBD system is capable of monitoring all emissions-related functions of the care, included emission control systems (e.g. PCV, EVAP and EGR), engine misfires, ignition and fuel systems, and catalytic converter. The OBD system also runs periodic self-tests.                                                        

In the event that a component or system of the car is not functioning normally or fails a test, the OBD system registers one or multiple Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTC) which are a short form to describe the fault/s, and the Check Engine or other relevant warning Light is turned on. This light remains on until all the existing trouble codes are cleared or the technical fault in the vehicle is fixed.  

Note that this light does not reveal anything regarding the specific problem which triggered the code, all it does is inform you that it has detected some fault in the car. The only way to understand why the warning light is on or blinking is to plug in a scanner that is capable of reading and interpreting the computer code. 

Also note that all trouble codes are not severe and the warning light goes up only for certain types of alerts. Tracars OBD device is capable of detecting even minor troubles and remember more severe trouble evolve over time so taking action for even minor faults can save time and money in the long run..   

The OBD device acts like a scan tool in real-time and it acquires the trouble code(s) from the vehicle. The Tracars Fleet Management System converts the trouble code into a format that is more easily readable one line description of the code, explaining which fault prompted the warning, for example: 

Trouble Code - P0420 Catalyst System Efficiency Below Threshold  

Trouble Code - P0171 System Too Lean  

The code informs the user which system or sensor is experiencing the problem. Some of the OBD devices available in the market can also be used to erase the trouble codes off the vehicle’s on-board diagnostics system once the problem has been fixed. OBD devices manufactured by Tracars do not allow interfering with the vehicle’s electronics or ECU (Engine Control Unit) as the aim is to provide useful information to the owner so that a qualified technician can attend to fix the problem in a professional manner.

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Topics: gps tracker, tracking devices, gps tracking device

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