The physical size of South Africa can present problems in terms of service and repair accessibility for auto repairs, also adding to the length of time required to effect the work.
Toyota South Africa has launched a group world first by establishing 14 Toyota Repair Support dealerships in strategic locations to reinforce the role played by Head-Office-based technical staff in providing assistance to other dealerships – as opposed to one national hub.
Designed to support and enhance the aftermarket experience of its customers through the dealer network, the Toyota Centre of Technical Excellence (TCOTE) based at the Toyota South Africa Motors Sandton Head office is the most advanced Toyota-owned facility of its kind on the African continent.
The Technical and Repair Support Centre is a state-of-the-art facility, purpose-built to assist the regional dealer network with the swift and efficient resolution of diagnostic challenges in particular, including remote diagnostics. (The latter is not exclusive to the 14 Toyota Repair Support dealerships; it is open to all 200+ dealerships within the Toyota and Lexus family.)
Repair support group technicians attend regular, bespoke training seminars, ensuring the universal maintenance of high diagnostic standards; the centre also conducts and supervises vehicle quality evaluations and research when required.
Andrew Kirby, President and CEO of Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM), says: “The reason this centre is such a pivotal part of our business is because automotive diagnostics are critical in our aftersales strategy.
“It benefits the entire production and sales cycle, from the original equipment manufacturer all the way to the service centre, resulting in reduced service time at dealer workshops, the timely resolution of vehicle issues and even the prevention of possible technical issues in the long term. Think of it as an early detection centre for vehicles that are new to our region to ensure that we are ready for whatever issues that may arise after a model been released to our market.”
The technology employed at TCOTE encompasses the many facets of vehicle maintenance and research.
The core focus areas include:
- Crash Data Recovery or CDR
- Radial Force Variation
- Remote Diagnosis including Pico-Scope Analysis
- Injector Analysis
- Dynomometer Measurement
- Crash Data Recovery
TSAM makes use of the most sophisticated Crash Data Retrieval tools to obtain recorded data from a motor vehicle’s electronic components when a collision occurs.
Much like the so-called ‘Black Box’ data recorder on an aircraft, the Crash Data Retrieval or CDR tool, can provide valuable, unbiased information, when reconstructing exactly what happened, before an event.
The CDR is connected to the motor vehicle’s electronic system, from which it continuously records driver inputs and the performance of all electronic components, as well as other crucial data.
Factors such as accelerator and brake pedal inputs; vehicle and engine speeds; and crash impact data, can be extracted via the CDR to a computer for analysis after a collision. Stored files may be analysed later, depending on requirements or customer requests.
Not only is this data vital in assessing such elements as braking performance and air-bag deployment, but the information may also be used for the vehicle-owner’s convenience, and is admissible as evidence in a legal case.
- Radial Force Variation
TCOTE makes use of the world’s fastest Radial Force Variation (RFV) Machine, a highly specialised form of dynamic wheel analyser. What makes a RFV different from a normal wheel balancer is the ability to simulate real road conditions courtesy of the roller and the employment of lasers to detect any tyre and wheel deformations, as well as wheel deflection and abnormalities.
3. Remote Diagnosis / Pico-Scope Analysis
The rapid advance of sophisticated technology in motor vehicle control systems, presents complex diagnostic challenges when a fault occurs.
An On-Board Diagnostic or OBD scan tool is essential equipment for modern vehicle maintenance but, while a ‘fault code’ can indicate a specific area for further functional tests, it rarely isolates the specific root cause of a vehicle fault.
With an integrated video connection, users nationwide (from any one of the 200+ Toyota and Lexus dealerships) can now consult with TCOTE specialists in Sandton to quickly resolve complicated technical issues.
For example, TCOTE uses the latest four-channel Pico-Scope oscilloscope – the X-ray machine of diagnostics – which transforms a laptop or PC into a powerful diagnostic investigating tool.
By mapping the electrical activity in circuits, the oscilloscope allows users literally to view the changing signals inside wires.
More than 150 guided tests – ranging from simple ignition and injector tests, to more complex electronic circuitry testing – are integrated into the latest software, enabling the Pico Automotive Diagnostics Kits to measure and test virtually all electrical and electronic components and circuits in any modern vehicle.
4. Injector Analysis
Electronic fuel injector operation is critical to the smooth running of both petrol and diesel engines, affecting performance, fuel economy and emission outputs.
Even the slightest irregularity in the fuel-spray pattern can have a negative effect on engine components and/or performance, but with no specific cause identified.
Detailed investigation of injector performance includes the injector’s response to miniscule changes in engine revolutions, as well as examination of the injector’s fuel distribution and atomisation.
The Injector Diagnostic tool is capable of testing standard manifold port, top feed, and side feed injectors on petrol engines, as well as the complete common rail system on diesel engines. It enables technicians to simulate car spray patterns and flow rates, as well as conduct injector-inductance tests on electro-magnetic circuits. These advanced diagnostic tests cannot be performed in standard on-car testing procedures.
Due to their unique structure, these diagnostic machines can test all fuel-related components, while off the vehicle, by simulating pressure and fuel delivery, thereby shortening diagnostic time, as well as minimising repair costs.
- Dynomometer Measurement
Derived from the Greek ‘dunamis’, the word ‘dynamo” means power in motion. A dynamometer measures this power.
Engines generate power and deliver it to the transmission/transaxle, whereby it transfers the power to the differential, which powers the drive-shafts, which in turn are coupled to the wheels.
When being transferred across these mechanical devices, power is absorbed in the process, delivering substantially less power to where it matters most: the wheels. All motor manufacturers specify engine power on the engine flywheel.
A chassis dynamometer simultaneously measures power or “rotational force” and speed of rotation at the wheels. From this input data, it calculates engine power at the actual point of power delivery, as opposed to power at the engine flywheel.
This power difference sometimes causes confusion amongst tuners and even some dynamometer manufacturers. Power-loss across systems can vary substantially between vehicles, depending on multiple factors, such as transmission type, front/rear wheel drive, width and size of tyres, or temperature.
A dynamometer is therefore useful, both for measuring actual power delivery to the wheels, as well as for diagnostics when the vehicle is stationary in the workshop, where engine data logging can be done, away from public roads and traffic.