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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
    kudos on a good post

    have you thought about writing a troubleshooting post about how to trouble shoot system noise? would be quite helpful for others around here.
    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!

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Red GTi VR6
      kudos on a good post

      have you thought about writing a troubleshooting post about how to trouble shoot system noise? would be quite helpful for others around here.

      Sure, I had about 10 mins to kill while waiting. I was going to send that to you for your post but saw it was locked. Feel free to add it on if you like.

      I will write up a lil guide on noise reduction when i have a few.
      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.

      Comment


      • #4
        that would be sweet! might be able to get it to be a sticky too!

        maybe add it on to this one and see if DP would make it a sticky for this forum?
        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!

        Comment


        • #5
          Stickied.
          Have you looked in the FAQ yet?
          How about the Wiki?



          Under normal circumstances, a signature would go here.

          Comment


          • #6
            Sweet!
            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!

            Comment


            • #7
              Hmmm, tool I can live without...

              A good set of wire strippers, I know a lot of people that use knives etc.., but I prefer a good set of wire strippers so I dont damage the wire. I also use my soldering iron a lot, with some good lead-free silver solder!
              Hey Laserlips, your momma was a snowblower!!

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by adaminc
                I know a lot of people that use knives etc..
                Knives, ha, I've seen some ghetto *** people use their teeth to strip the wires.
                "In the beginners mind there are many possibilities, but in the experts mind there are few."- Shunryu Suzuki
                "Do it right or don't do it at all"

                PROGRESS:
                [-------90%-] (New Car=New Build)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by pancit175
                  Knives, ha, I've seen some ghetto *** people use their teeth to strip the wires.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by pancit175
                    Knives, ha, I've seen some ghetto *** people use their teeth to strip the wires.
                    i've never done that

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      My top 5:

                      Multimeter: god at the shoddy wire runs i would have went insane over if i didn't have one to test things out with. Such an invaluable tool not only in the car but aroudn the house.

                      Wire Cutters: keep a few various sets around with me, a few snub nosed with long handle for the 8 - 2 gauges, and a normal pair like Will had in the 2nd pic for the smaller gauges. Also carry a small razor blade to cut insulation on the big gauges.

                      Soldering iron: Not just for soldering! Sometimes you get that client whose old dash plate was just a wee bit sun warped, and theres no way in gods name i am bending that fragile plastic without having a little give in it, Great for the heatshrink for your splices after your done soldering thing up... and the occasional time where somehow, you've misplaced those wire cutters,

                      Assortment of bits and hand tools: Sure wire cutters are hand tools, but with as many as they make, and as valuable as they are, they get a cat of their own. My kit has suck things like: torx bits, star bits (with saftey punch) 90 degree screw drivers (for those tight spaces), sockets and drivers, as well as the usual screw drivers. When you start messing with all the manufacturers various ways of doing things, your learn quick that they can be screwey with things.

                      Cleanups: Split loom, zip ties, fasteners, and the likes. When i get done i want my install to look like it rolled off the line that way. No shortcuts. It may have taken an extra 30 minuites to fish the wire in that manner and fasten it under the dash.. but did you know it was there till i told you? Didn't think so,

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I would add that if possible, the multimeter should be able to measure at least 10 amps, and preferably more, though they tend to get expensive when they can measure that much amperage. If not, you can buy a Panel Mount Amp Meter (from someplace like www.allelectronics.com) for about 15 or 20 bucks, and just use that.

                        Also, a lighter. You use the lighter to shrink heat shrink tubing, though there are better or other ways, a lighter is pretty easy, cheap, and easily replacable.

                        A small socket wrench, with extensions. You may not need a bunch of sizes, since 10mm seems to be a very common size that one works with on a car, I would get at least a set with 14 mm being the biggest, going down to at least 4 or 6 mm.

                        My .02,
                        Michael
                        ...I love the French language...especially to curse with...Nom de Dieu de putain de bordel de merde de saloperies de connards d'enculés de ta mère. You see, it's like wiping your *** with silk, I love it.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I would add to this list,
                          a nice tone/probe generator, this tool helps with tracing wires in a bundle, great underneath the dash, as well as in home theater, where its a godsend.

                          and probably the best tool radioshack sells, a small butane soldering iron

                          this guy is cheap, works great especially stuck underneath a dash, best 20 bucks I ever spent.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Pick tool for getting panels off or all sorts of things.

                            Battery for checking speakers/polarity and other uses that I can't remember for now. Just make sure you know they are speakers wires before hand with a DMM by checking for resistance first. Otherwise see next post.

                            Here is a good example. You have a factory amp you just removed. You want to use the speaker wires and you have located the speaker wires via testing with DMM. Then you can use a standard battery to check which speaker wires go to each speaker by essential "popping" it with the battery.
                            Attached Files
                            System always under construction


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                            • #15
                              power probes are a really bad idea in the hands of an untrained installer / diy'er.

                              I know of too many airbags set off by power probing the wrong wire.

                              Testing a wire for OHMS is usually a good way to see if its your wire first (2,4,8 are all numbers you should see pop up), then using a power probe on those wires to see which ones would be a good idea, just test first...

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