Vehicles are composed of complex systems that many times depend on one another to function properly.  When something goes wrong it is not always obvious as to what is the problem is.  In a system of many connected components, which one has failed and is causing the problem?  Nobody can look at a problem and tell what the source of the problem is with absolute certainty unless they are a magician.  One way to identify the problem is through effective troubleshooting.  Let’s start with a definition of troubleshooting:

Troubleshooting is a systematic approach to solving a problem and is commonly used to find and correct issues with complex systems such as electronics, hydraulics, pneumatics, computers, networks, etc.  The largest consideration to understand is that it takes time to effectively troubleshoot an issue.

The first step in troubleshooting is to gather the necessary information on the issue, information such as the undesired behavior or the lack of expected functionality. This is usually supplied by the customer when dropping off their vehicle.  Additional, important information will include related symptoms and any special circumstances that may be required to reproduce the issue.

Once the issue and how to reproduce it are understood, the next step is usually to verify and eliminate individual components in the system and verify that the issue persists, this also serves to rule out incompatibility and third-party causes.

Assuming the issue remains after step 2, the troubleshooter will most likely check common causes. Depending on the particular issue and the troubleshooter’s experience, he/she may have some ideas about components that usually fail.  They may also check product documentation and/or conduct research with the vendor or on the web.  Some manufacturers provide extensive or even good troubleshooting information, Workhorse is one of these; however, most manufacturer do not provide much if any troubleshooting information, sadly, this is especially true in the RV field.

After all the common causes of the problem are ruled out, the troubleshooter may resort to a more systematic and logical process of verifying the expected function of the individual parts in the system.  One effective method is the split-half approach.  With a problem resulting from several possible components in series, the troubleshooter tests half-way down the line of components. If the middle component works, he/she splits to the middle of the start and the middle component just verified.  If the test finds a problem at the mid-point, he/she does a split towards the start of the line until the problem component is found. The split-half process can save time in complex systems that depend on many components.

Once the problem part is identified, it may be repaired or replaced as needed. Evidence of effective troubleshooting is obvious when the issue is no longer present, and proper operation is restored.

The success of troubleshooting often depends on the thoroughness and experience of the person troubleshooting the issue and the information available to him/her.  Troubleshooting is as much an art as it is a skill.