I have probably talked about this earlier, or at least talked about how I learned electronics design on my own.
But I wanted to revisit the topic. This time in the form of automobile diagnosis.
About three years ago I noticed that my turbo isn’t boosting as it should. So I queried around to get an offer to have it fixed. But the only offers I received were “we can look into it”. And because no one offered me any concrete paths, I knew it would cost a lot of money to have it checked.
So what I ended up doing was I began to seek knowledge what could it be. Of course this was extremely difficult because I had no knowledge even of the words! The words that describe parts and systems. So how do you began? Well I began trying to find the solution for the problem. As in: why turbo isn’t boosting. Literally, Google: “why turbo isn’t boosting.”
That led me somewhere, but couldn’t answer me because I couldn’t understand the role of each of the parts in the system. None of it made any sense to me. I couldn’t use reasoning because I couldn’t understand the parts and the system as a whole.
But slowly, slowly the research went into direction of simply wanting to understand the turbo system. What parts is it made of.
And then, after understanding each part in the system, and comparing that to my vehicle; what it had; what it did not have; I could began to parse together a diagnosis. And that is another important thing: what my vehicle has, and what it does not have. Because not only is “turbo system” an abstract concept of forced induction, but there are variations within.
So in my mind I now have understanding of what happens at each point when the pedal is pressed.
And I was able to reason, that the problem could be the wastegate control solenoid. And I asked mechanics to check it. And it was leaky indeed.
But the problem remained. So I learned there is something called symposer in the system, that may also become leaky. So I bypassed that system. But the problem still remained.
So now I thought it could only be the bypass valve or if not, then it would have to be the turbo itself, which I didn’t believe it would be as it boosted yes, but not the way it was supposed to; so the turbo unit itself did produce forced induction, but only at very high revs (airflow).
I went to a specialist whom agreed to change the component. My usual mechanics wouldn’t touch it. And I understand why: the placement is “tricky”.
The specialist had his doubts because he had never seen that part fail. But after more than 2 hours of fiddling, the car flew down the road exactly like it did some 60 000km ago.
So. It is possible to do diagnosis on your own. Is it smart? In a direct sense of the word perhaps yes but, did it come any cheaper? That is debatable. I ended up changing one unnecessary part. But one of two parts which were faulty was replaced with aftermarket upgrade. And the one part which wasn’t faulty, too, was replaced with aftermarket upgraded replacement.
So in doing the diagnosis myself, I was able to improve the vehicle performance; had it been diagnosed not by me, I would have had to have paid for 1) the diagnosis and 2) the replacement of the parts, while the car would have either been unusable waiting for the parts, or I would have had to pay more, as it would have required more visits to the shop, and, it may have not gotten the upgraded parts.
And now I understand the turbo system. And many more automotive systems. I have learned the ins and outs of my own power system. And I can do more diagnostics. And keep the vehicle in top performing condition.
So yes, autodictatism is perfectly valid method. And can be applied to automotive diagnosis with enough patients.