Think TechCentre

I have seen 2 versions of Think TechCentre, and they are almost exactly the same, except the I believe the second version lost some live data capability.  Otherwise the differences are just aesthetic.

First, connect the VIM to the car and to the computer that will be running TechCentre and turn the key on.  Order is not important.  (A few years ago Hondas were very finicky about what got plugged in first.)

Only after everything is connected and the car is on (can be key-on or ready-on), then start the Think TechCentre software. You will see a splash screen and then the home screen, but it may take a good 30 seconds or a minute to load/start-up.

If all your software/drivers are operating correctly and the car is generally working properly, the first indication of communication with the car is the list of control modules available for you to select.  If there is no communication the list will be long; it will include BMI, maybe two PCUs, PATS (Passive Anti-Theft System) there will probably be a scroll bar on the right.  (Try opening TechCentre without any hardware connected; you’ll get the same list.) If communication is normal the list will be shorter; you may still have a scroll bar, but you won’t see BMI as an option, you’ll only have one PCU, etc.  (I think BMI stands for Battery Management… Interface?  But I’m pretty sure that it’s the equivalent of Enerdel’s BMS (Battery Management… System?) for the Zebra batteries that we don’t have in America.)

Far and away, the most frequent use of Think TechCentre is to check diagnostic trouble codes and then clear them.  This is done for one ECU (electronic control unit) at a time.  The general procedure for this is to select an ECU, ABS (anti-lock braking system) for example, from the home screen by clicking on it so that it is highlighted/selected, and then clicking on the second tab toward the upper left of the screen that reads, “Faults,” or something like that.  The Faults screen will start blank; you have to click on the magnifying glass icon/button on the right side of the screen to actually query the ECU if it has any trouble codes.  After clicking on the search button (magnifying glass), you may see a list of codes or you may get an alert that no faults were found.  The list of faults includes 2 columns: The first is some alphanumeric coded mumbo-jumbo that has absolutely no meaning to me.  The second column is a description, and that is what I record.  Typically I attempt to erase the code after I’ve made my notes; this is done by clicking on the eraser icon/button in upper right, right next to the magnifying glass button.  After attempting to erase trouble codes you will get either an alert that the codes were cleared successfully or an alert that some codes reset or couldn’t be cleared or something like that.

If multiple fault codes are stored in a control unit, each code will be listed on a separate line.  The background colors of the lines alternate; this can be really confusing if you’re using the program for the first time and only have 2 or 3 codes.  You might be left wondering, “Why is the second code a different color than the others?”  There is no reason except to make it easier to follow the lines across when you have many, many codes.  The colors of the codes may change as you mouse over them and certainly when you click on them, but there is no functionality to selecting trouble codes (that I know of anyway).  You can’t clear them selectively; when you click on the button to erase codes it clears all of the codes from that control module.

While you are communicating with an ECU you may notice functions related to that ECU are affected.  For example, the red brake warning light will turn on and the ABS light will flash when you check for ABS faults, and they will continue to flash until you communicate with another ECU or exit TechCentre or cycle the key off and on.  While communicating with the GEM (generic electronic module) the dome light will turn off (if it is set to Door and a door is open) and the intermittent wiper functions won’t work.  I’m getting ahead of myself.

So let me list some details about each specific ECU:

First of all, never try to communicate with/retrieve trouble codes for EPHS (power steering) nor RAC (Remote Acquisition, aka Mind Box).  The Thinks I am acquainted with do have power steering (electric motor with hydraulic pump/rack), so I don’t know why there is no communication with that system.  But I have never met a Think with RAC.

ABS (Anti-lock Braking System):  Normally there are no trouble codes.  As mentioned above, the ABS light will flash and the red brake warning light will be on from the time you search for codes until you communicate with another control unit– it’s normal.  I don’t know of any pattern failures for ABS, though I have had to replace a control unit once.  I think I also had an open circuit in a wheel speed sensor wire once, but that was an issue with the wire harness more than the ABS.

BMS (Battery Management System): The important thing to know about this control unit is that you cannot clear the codes using Think TechCentre.  You can click on the eraser button and it will tell you that the codes cleared but some are still present.  Don’t believe it.  The codes did not clear at all.  You have to switch over to the PCAN hardware and then use CommTool to clear the codes.  I don’t know why.  For most fault codes the battery will operate normally once the fault condition is resolved and the code is only historic.  But there are some fault codes regarded as serious enough that the battery will not operate until a service technician repairs it and clears the codes.  (The one that I can think of is “Contactor detected stuck closed.”)

There are three codes associated with the most common Think failure, precharge resistor burn-out: “Contactor precharge timeout fault,” “Max number of precharge retries exceeded,” and less frequently, “Short circuit detected at precharge.”  Seeing any combination of these does not necessarily mean that the precharge resistor is completely failed; in fact, it’s almost kind of rare to have a car come in for a regular service without one of those stored in history.

The BMS sets fault codes in three conditions, “Latched,” “Historic,” and “Temporary.”  So if you actually do have a Think with a blown precharge resistor you will probably see the same codes listed three times in a row.  Most codes will just be “Historic.”

There are several fault codes that will set in the BMS due to the 12V battery discharging over weeks of inactivity.  These include, but are not limited to: “12V input under voltage fault” and “Contactor 1 (or 2) detected stuck open.”  It’s not stuck open; it just didn’t have enough power from the 12V battery to close.

CDCM: Usually the only fault codes are “Front demist 1 (and 2) open circuit.”  That’s okay– these cars don’t have that circuit, so it should be open.  When there are other faults you might see “Inverter CAN timeout.”  Otherwise it’s unusual to have useful trouble codes in TechCentre for this ECU.  But that doesn’t mean that the CDCM doesn’t cause trouble!

EPHS: Didn’t you read above that you’re not suppose to check this one?!  It will just give you an error.

GEM: There are no pattern failures with the GEM that I can think of.  It might tell you if you have a warning light out somewhere… It might tell you if your windshield wipers aren’t functioning properly, but that might be due to a blown fuse.  As mentioned above, when you search for fault codes the dome light will go out and wipers won’t work normally– it’s okay, it will go back to normal after you stop communicating with it.  Don’t waste time trying to troubleshoot those problems before you cycle the key on and off– don’t ask me how I know.

PCU:  First, you aren’t going to be able to clear codes from the PCU while the car is ready-on.  If you try you will get a communication error.  But you can still read codes with the car ready-on.  To clear codes from the PCU the condition of the car has to be key-on only.

Next, you will often see “ABS is not operational.” You can clear it all you like, but it will keep coming back with no pattern that I can discern.  We have tested the ABS on cars with this code, and it does indeed function properly.  My guess is that there is probably a periodic readiness message sent from the ABS ECU to the PCU and occasionally that message gets crowded off the CAN bus by messages of higher priority, the code sets and then just doesn’t clear.  The PCU doesn’t have trouble codes categorized as “temporary,” “latched” or “historic” like the BMS does.

In general, PCU error codes are not very useful in diagnosis.

RAC: How many times do I have to tell you not to check this ECU for trouble codes? It’s not installed in your car already! Fine.  Go ahead and check it… I’ll wait… What did you get?  An error message?  No kidding! How interesting! Just kidding, sometimes I still check it as I’m zoned out and going through all the control modules.  It would be nice if Think built in a function to check all fault codes in all control modules with one click like Toyota’s Health Check or Honda’s All DTC Check.

SRS: The Supplemental Restraint System includes seat belts, pretensioners, and air bags.  We have seen a few faulty SRS components and the SRS ECU gave us helpful trouble codes to indicate which components need replacing.  I think this ECU can also set a code for PAD (Passenger Airbag Disabled) warning lamp open circuit.  This light is the leftmost of those on the center console and you can verify that it works during bulb check when yo first turn the key on.  I suppose you could also verify it by disabling the passenger airbag by turning the key in the keyhole next to the fuse panel (where you might normal expect a glove box).  I think the only reason for disabling the passenger airbag would be if you had a child seat installed in the passenger seat.

VCU: This one throws up false codes for several warning lights just like the PCU’s “ABS inop” and the SRS’s “PAD open circuit,” but it has many more. Most of them indicate that there is an open circuit for a certain warning light, and you can verify that they are spurious by checking to make sure those lights turn on at bulb check when you first turn on the key.  I’ll admit that there are a few that I can’t verify are erroneous fault codes, like “Crash Line Open Circuit,” but they have no other symptoms and do not return after clearing, so I assume there is only some momentary glitch that causes them to set.

And once you read the post regarding transponder relearning you will be a Think TechCentre master.  Congratulations!

Wait, what’s that? You want to know about the live data functions and actuators you can control through TechCentre?  I essentially never have any use for them.  But there is some data and stuff there.  If you find something really valuable anywhere else in the program please let me know.

I intend to put some screenshots in here, so if someone reads this post several months after the last update and I don’t have any screenshots of TechCentre included, please send me a friendly reminder.  Cheers,