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FAQ: Tools you must have to troubleshoot.

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  • FAQ: Tools you must have to troubleshoot.

    Please add other tools as desired...

    I'm not claiming to be an expert on the matter, but i do have over 10 years of experience in A/V troubleshooting/Installation/repairs/sales. The most stimulating has to be the troubleshooting. Its a puzzle with scientific reasoning behind the system. Its a beautiful thing when you can locate and isolate an issue, fix it yourself and then help your friends when it pops up again.

    I have weened off of it in the past few years as my career has moved towards Geographic Information Systems and less A/V but there are still a handful of tools that i will never, ever be rid of...

    First off: The multimeter...


    You MUST go out to Radioshack and buy a multimeter. They come in many sizes, shapes and price ranges. I recommend digital, somewhere between $50 and $100. Its up to you how much you want to spend but I have had mine for 10 years - through rain and snow. It is the backbone of every good troubleshooter. It will allow you to test voltage at components (is there really 12v at the amplifier? is the remote turn on working?). It will test the impedence of speakers to see if they are blown. It can check for good grounds and shorts. It can even check current to see how much your system is drawing. Its the brains of the opperations and a must have. If you are coming at this forum with a troubleshooting question, I will assume you have already taken the first step and purchased a multimeter

    Secondly: Crimpers...



    My god, I have had my crimpers at my side for all 10 years. You will use them to cut and strip wiring. The imaginative things I have done with them is beyond belief... I have bent steel, unscrewed bolts, cut carpet and even crimped once or twice. They are cheap and effective. They come in two styles and I recommend the kind pictured in the second picture but thats only after you have some experience with them.

    Third: Speaker popper...

    This is so simple and such a great tool. Grab an old used 9v battery and solder on a piece of speaker wire. One wire to the plus, one to the minus. Make the speaker wires about 12 inches long and make sure one of the two wires is significantly smaller than the other so they cant easily short. You will use this when you are trying to tap into factory wiring or decipher factory wire codes. Look at it this way... you have 16 wires in a factory loom. You know that 4 pair go to speakers... You have used your multimeter and found pairs that equal 4 ohms. You may have found 5 or 6 pair that equal around 4 ohms. So which pair goes to which speaker? Hook up one of the leads on the speaker popper to one wire and quickly tap the other wires together. You will hear a pop. That will tell you which speaker's leads you are holding. Run that around all your pairs and you now know which is which.

    Just dont hold the wires together... you want to quickly scrape the lead like you have seen on movies where people hot wire cars.

    Fourth: Snap-on rathceting screwdriver with tons of bits...


    This is pretty self-explanatory but I have had mine (minus the bits) for over a decade. It has never let me down. Grab one and love it.

    Fifth: Shorting plugs


    Shorting plugs area pair of RCA ends that have had the inner and outer wires soldered together. These are used to test an amplifier. If you have some sort of issue with an amp (noise, popping, etc), remove the RCAs and plug in your shorting plugs. If its still doing it then you know its either the amp, or something from the amp out to the speakers. Amplifiers require a signal to turn on the output. Shorting plugs "turn on" the output while eliminating the actual signal (which may be the issue in the first place). They are a quick and easy way for you to determine if the problem is before, after or in the amp. Search for "shorting plugs" for more information


    I will come up with a troubleshooting handy guide in a bit but please add on new tools that you think are a MUST have. I know guys and their tools, so please dont list everything out there. Im more interested in the top 5 tools you could not live without.
    Take my advice: Do not try to build a system that includes EVERY feature. Start with the basics, build it to a bug free state, and THEN add on.

  • #2
    Moved to the FAQ Emporium & cleaned up.
    Have you looked in the FAQ yet?
    How about the Wiki?



    Under normal circumstances, a signature would go here.

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    • #3
      One of the most desireable

      Originally posted by Will Albers
      Please add other tools as desired...

      I'm not claiming to be an expert on the matter, but i do have over 10 years of experience in A/V troubleshooting/Installation/repairs/sales. The most stimulating has to be the troubleshooting. Its a puzzle with scientific reasoning behind the system. Its a beautiful thing when you can locate and isolate an ................
      Click image for larger version

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      Paul Huijgens


      Audi technician
      former Saab technician


      Mp3Car.com Forum
      SaabCentral forum
      Dutch Carputer forum
      Navplus forum

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      • #4
        Test light!
        stupid simple tool that has served me so long.

        While those from Snap-On cost a king's ransom, I have one that's been around for almost thirty years. Now, of course, they have all manner of uber-cool test lights to indicate polarity, voltage level, presence/absence of current, etc.

        If you're too cheap to buy one, they are easy enough to make.

        Another tool I use often is a cigarette lighter plug with stripped wire ends. Provides a known good source of both +12VDC and -12 VDC and the ability to have a known good ground while using the test light is pretty indispensible.

        PT
        Watch out, I have a soldering iron and a ham radio license (it's worse, it's an extra class license too!) and am not afraid to use them!

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        • #5
          Would it help to have one of these:

          (Click the photo to go to the article)
          Have you looked in the FAQ yet?
          How about the Wiki?



          Under normal circumstances, a signature would go here.

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          • #6
            I've found it handy to have an extendable magnet to pick up lost screws, etc.
            And a magnetic parts dish to keep me from losing screws, bolts, etc.


            Another helpful tool is to have my tiny LED flashlight to view those tiny automotive areas.
            Attached Files

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            • #7
              I found this a much much much better crimper. It strips wires in a flash with no headache. I got mine for $2.

              Ampie Case
              2.5" Hard Drive 80GB Samsung 5400RPM
              256 MB DDR2 PC5400
              Xenarc 700TSV - VGA Monitor
              Intel D945GCLF Motherboard
              M2-ATX-HV

              2005 Honda Civic

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              • #8
                What Paul H said above, and the ability to and use ... it's not enough to just - you have to be able to understand what's going on to be an effective troubleshooter. If you don't understand, you're not going to be able to ask yourself (or anyone else - including ) intelligent questions.

                I personally am a huge proponent of soldered and taped connections, as I've had bad luck with crimps becoming corroded over time in an automotive environment, but again - just a personal preference. Granted, a crimp is much faster, but I'm not concerned with how fast I can get the job done.
                To find your favorite restaurants in Houston, check out http://www.thehubgrub.com.

                If it's not fun, you're not doing it right!

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                • #9

                  You really need one of these.

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                  • #10
                    kriby - read the original post again, I believe that's the FIRST picture he posted....
                    Jan Bennett
                    FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

                    Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

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                    • #11
                      I have that EXACT multimeter (the UNI-T one) o_O...

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                      • #12
                        I'd also recommend sears/craftsman for multimeters; I think they're a better deal than the radioshack ones, and I never really trusted rat shack products anyway...

                        I've been using the model #82139 for years, and it does everything you'd ever need in the carPC world, and it's only $30. Even has the protective rubber boot.
                        But don't take it from me! here's a quote from a real, live newbie:
                        Originally posted by Viscouse
                        I am learning buttloads just by searching on this forum. I've learned 2 big things so far: 1-it's been done before, and 2-if it hasn't, there is a way to do it.
                        eegeek.net

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