Popular Mechanics has a great article on how car customization is changing with the introduction of the ability to modify your car by writing code. What they don’t touch on is just how technical and computerized auto repair has become.
So many systems in a car are run or at least supported by a computer that much of the diagnosis of problems can be done by accessing that computer. OBDII* – the original big standard in auto computer communication – became standard in 1996, that’s 17 years ago!
For at least 17 years engines have been controlled and monitored by computers. As you can imagine, in the years since, cars have just gotten even more high-tech and computer controlled. That control has made it possible for a few lines of code to have a tremendous affect on how a car functions.
This change has made it possible for a tech to approach a car with a scan tool, enter the passenger compartment, hook up the scan tool and run diagnostic tests without even getting a finger dirty. Now, very few cars get fully diagnosed without some actual work but that work is increasingly electrical rather than mechanical.
Welcome to the future!
*Amazingly the standardization to OBDII was a government mandate but it was arguably the best thing to happen to independent auto repair. Ever.