Log in


SAE OBD Symposium – Anaheim California, September 18-20, 2012 
A Service Perspective
By Kathy Kedzior, Manager MAHLE Test Systems, Chair of SAE’s Service Technology Program Committee and ETI Member

Vehicle on-board diagnostics was introduced in 1985 and helped to standardize the way in which vehicle emission systems could be monitored. By 1988, most cars and light trucks were equipped with OBD. SAE designed a standard connector plug also know as a Data Link Connector as well a set of test signals to go along with the system. The EPA applied this new technology to make the servicing of the vehicles easier, allowing a mechanic to monitor the running of an engine and also to test for faults using a diagnostic scan tool. On Board Diagnostics have come a long way since 1985. The OBD system and requirements on vehicles have proven over time how valuable it is not only to reducing emissions but to vehicle technicians as well. OBD-II provides access to data from the engine control unit (ECU) and offers a valuable source of information when troubleshooting problems inside a vehicle.

Recently I, along with many of my industry colleagues, attended the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) Symposium in Anaheim California. Held every year, the SAE OBD Symposium focuses on On-Board Diagnostics methodologies, regulations, requirements and standards. Experts from worldwide automotive manufacturers, suppliers and academic institutions come together to share their collective knowledge concerning the latest technological innovations, issues, concerns and challenges.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) team, along with other experts in the field of On-Board Diagnostics, presented at the event to educate attendees on the latest U.S. regulations and regulation changes and how these will impact OEMs, suppliers and other industry professionals.

This year, Paul Baltusis, OBD Technical Leader from Ford Motor Company, did an interesting presentation on the history of OBD and the symposium.  Prior to an organized event, CARB had the first OBD-II workshop in 1989 that introduced requirements for catalyst, misfire, purge, EGR, O2 monitors and I/M readiness, among other emission related functions. In 1991 the OBD symposium started out as a technical workshop and was held in Romulus Michigan. In 1999, Heavy Duty Truck OBD was added. Since then, it has grown into a full conference symposium that spans 3 days of presentations, panels, breakouts and discussions.

This year’s presentations included:

  • Light Duty vehicle updates from CARB
  • OBD Experience perspectives from Ford, Chrysler, GM, Toyota and VW/Audi
  • Worldwide OBD
  • OBD in Hybrids
  • SAE Standards updates
  • Various OBD sensor updates
  • A full day's review of heavy duty OBD updates
  • Service Readiness

During the Service Readiness panel presentation I had the honor to present the Jack Heyler award to Mr. Jonathan Riggle, a diagnostic specialist shop foreman from Arizona. The Heyler award provides working technicians with travel assistance so they may participate in leadership training and opportunities. Heyler’s influence in the automotive industry has been significant because of his activities in service technology and in particular the development of industry standards for OBD systems. 

The Service Readiness presentation included a panel discussion followed up by two breakout sessions. The panel members consisted of SAE STPC members Randy Bernklau, Automotive Environmental Systems Technician from Colorado Dept. of Public Health, Mark Saxonburg , Manager Toyota Alternative Fuel Vehicles, Environment & Industry Relations and Sheila Brennan,  Program Manager, IDC Manufacturing.

During the presentation the panel reviewed how the industry is addressing the Service Readiness challenge for aftermarket service providers. Randy addressed Inspection and Maintenance (I/M) data from Oregon that showed retest rates along with repair time significantly increasing as the vehicles aged. Shelia then reviewed empirical data collected by IDC showing independent technicians often lack scan tool or information/training while the dealership technicians often have to wait to use a diagnostic scan tool. Mark then reviewed how ASE, Automotive Service Excellence, is working on the challenge of finding and training the qualified vehicle technician workforce of today and tomorrow. Mark also presented Toyota’s solution to addressing the Service Readiness gap, including their service support portal, open standard scan-tool and technical assistance.

During the breakout sessions representatives from the industry, including Mr. Riggle, attended to help facilitate and answer questions on the topic. Service support models for General Motors and Toyota were reviewed. Brian Herron from Drew Tech and a member of ETI reviewed the challenges tool providers have in addressing service readiness. He stated the goal should be to provide affordable factory tools to independent shops. A universal pass-thru vehicle communication device helps with this. Affordable flexible subscription models are also helpful and could generate more revenue for the OE’s long term.


Some of the challenges that were brought up in the breakout session included:


      The older a vehicle is, the less tools there are to help service it

      Some items may not get flushed out in warranty. Warranty issues are mostly infant mortality issues, not issues that will happen later in the life of vehicle

      Is the industry delivering service information in the right format (i.e. technicians looking to YouTube for “just-in-time” training)?

      Currently there are no real service standards on electric vehicles. Should there be more involvement from a regulatory stand point?

      What about the Do-it-Yourselfer? How can the industry ensure they get the most accurate information to service their vehicle?

The presentation and breakout sessions were positively received by the OBD Symposium attendants. It is hoped that is will become a regular area of the Symposium in years to come.

Today vehicle systems are more complicated than ever and there is a variety of diagnostic equipment available to both the OEM and aftermarket.They all vary in ability.  Making sure they represent and have the most up-to-date accurate information to fix a vehicle is an on-going challenge.  SAE has done an excellent job in developing training, standards and events to help educate the industry in on board vehicle diagnostic development and service. With continued discussions like the ones mentioned here, the industry will continue to work with government legislative bodies in developing safer, cleaner vehicles.


Copyright 2006-2024 Equipment & Tool Institute

37899 W. 12 Mile Road, Suite A-220, Farmington Hills, MI 48331  Call: 248-656-5080