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8 Vehicle Issues Automotive Technicians Detect with Thermal Cameras

Monday Apr 4th, 2022

One of the most significant time sinks for automotive professionals is diagnosing problems they can’t see with the naked eye. For that reason, many mechanics and technicians are using thermal imaging cameras to expedite the process of pinpointing any hidden issues.

From a parasitic power drain to engine misfires, you can uncover a myriad of problems with the right tools. To highlight how automotive technicians can leverage the power of thermal imaging, TherCam, a leading infrared solutions provider, is here to help. This blog post will look at eight common vehicle issues technicians can detect using thermal cameras.

What is a Thermal Imaging Camera?

Before digging into the many problems that technicians can detect with thermal imaging cameras, it’s important to first understand exactly what this emerging piece of technology is. A thermal imaging camera is a contactless device that detects an object's heat signature (infrared energy).Auto technician working on car

These devices create an image by converting infrared (IR) radiation into an image that is visible to the human eye. This process is called thermal imaging. From firefighters to healthcare workers, various professionals use infrared cameras to discover issues, solve problems, and keep people safe.

Vehicle Issues a Thermal Imaging Camera Can Detect

While it may seem strange to use thermal technology as a diagnostic tool, know that you'll be able to spot issues in a fraction of the time. Plus, with the ability to take pictures and record videos, you can reaffirm to your customers that you fixed their problems. With a thermal imaging camera in hand, automotive technicians are equipped to rapidly expedite the process of detecting issues such as:

1. Parasitic Power Drain

Repeat battery failure is super frustrating for vehicle owners. Resolve your customer's issues quickly by using your thermal camera to detect a parasitic power drain. A parasitic power drain occurs when a vehicle's electrical system pulls energy from the battery, even after you turn off the car. With your thermal camera, you can determine if this issue is causing the dead battery or if the battery is simply a dud.Aut technician working on a car engine

2. Bad Thermostat

There are many different issues that could cause a car's engine to overheat. With a thermal imaging camera, you can look at the exact temperature of the vehicle's radiator and determine if it's too hot or has cold spots. Cool spots can be an indicator of a clog or that the thermostat isn't opening or closing correctly.

3. Locked Brake Calipers

If the car's handling feels off when you hit the brakes, chances are good there is an issue with a sticky caliper. Before taking anything apart, check the temperature of each brake caliper to see if one is significantly hotter than the others. If yes, then you know you have an issue with that particular brake. This problem may stem from a locked-up caliper piston, locked-up side pins, or a clogged flex hose.

4. Hot Exhaust

If your customers are complaining about a shaky car, the smell of exhaust while driving, or their car's fuel efficiency is plummeting, see if they have an exhaust issue. You can use your thermal imaging camera to quickly determine if the exhaust's temperature is too high. A piping hot muffler could signify that the fuel injector isn't operating properly.

5. Heated Seat Issues

Everyone loves heated seats, which means when they break, customers want them fixed fast. Do a quick check with your thermal imaging cameras to determine if the heating element is burned out, the plug is broken, or a fuse is faulty. If all those parts seem to be functioning correctly, examine the thermistor, which regulates a car's seat temperature.Working on pistons

6. Pistons Misfiring

Even if you're without a scan tool, you can still check for misfiring pistons with a thermal camera. With the car running, look at the exhaust manifold's temperature to see which cylinder is cold. This temperature difference immediately indicates a piston misfire. 

7. Electrical Shorts

Electrical shorts build up a lot of heat. So, with a thermal imager, you can quickly find hot spots in your engine by examining each one of your relays, connectors, and switches. Once you find the hot spot, you can determine if there is a loose or dirty connection, corroded part, or a blown fuse.

8. HVAC/R Problems

Whether coils are plugged up, or the car has venting issues, you can use your thermal imaging camera to identify the problem. Be sure to check for blown fuses, failed switches, and engine control unit (ECU) misconfigurations.

Auto Technicians Need TherCam

Having a thermal camera in your toolkit can take a day's worth of diagnostic work and shrink it down into a matter of minutes. When time is money, this technology can rapidly boost sales for your service center or auto shop. If you're interested in learning more about our products, please visit our store or reach out today.