Technical Training and Research Newsletter

Technical Training and Research Newsletter

We are excited to announce the 1st quarter of 2018,  Technical Training and Research Newsletter. This newsletter contains helpful information that can benefit Emergency Road Service staff. If you’d like to sign-up to be alerted to future editions of the newsletter, please email with the subject line ‘Newsletter’.

Intro to Mobile Charging Course

Take a Test Drive of Our ‘Intro to Mobile Charging’ Course

We’re proud of the info we have about our services on the site, but sometimes it’s better to just let the courses speak for themselves. With this ‘show rather than tell’ method in mind, we’ve made one of our course modules, ‘Introduction to AAA/CAA Mobile Charging’, available for your viewing pleasure. The purpose of the course is let users step into the shoes of a Roadside Problem Solving Technician to learn how they assist members who drive electric vehicles.

We developed the module using the rapid e-learning authoring tool, Articulate Storyline, and designed the course for use on mobile devices, specifically tablets, but the course works on all platforms. So, what are you waiting for? Just contact us for a demo, and we’ll send you a link to view the course online.

Ready to see the course in action? Just drop us a line and we’ll send you a link.

Won’t You Be Our SME?

You might be asking yourself, “what is an SME?”, “what’s in it for me?”, or even “why did I read the post title in the voice of Mr. Rogers?”. All valid questions.

Firstly, SME stands for Subject Matter Expert. In short, an SME is someone who is quite knowledgeable about a particular topic who works with a training expert to create content based on their training needs. The training expert takes the raw info provided by the SME and formulates it into an effective training course utilizing training best-practices, memorable scenarios, and various types of media.

SMEs and training experts are essential to the success of each learning course because without the SME, the training expert’s subject knowledge would limit the course’s cohesiveness, and without the training expert the SME wouldn’t be able to communicate the material as effectively in a learning environment. The use of SMEs allows us to create effective training for nearly any topic such as automotive, travel, HR, call center, on-boarding, and the list goes on.

So what’s in it for you? Well, as our SME you’re able to provide us with the specific content that your learners need to know, and we’re able to take it from there to produce effective, AAA-specific training materials that are custom-made just for you. This means your learners are learning faster, remembering more, and applying what they’ve learned more successfully in the workplace. This means a high ROI for you, and your learners will thank you for not making them sit through another boring Power Point or read through a never-ending PDF.

As for the last question.. Well, that’s on you.


Ready to be our SME? Let’s start creating a custom course to fulfill your training needs.

Bugging Vehicles

Instructor’s Guide to Bugging Vehicles


Having well thought out and properly prepared vehicles is the key to a successful hands-on field exercise. This guide will provide the basic instructions to install simple bugs in most makes and models of vehicles.

Training Concept 1

Learn how to properly test and swap a relay, check for blown fuses, and to test circuits and components with a DVOM and logical diagnostic routines. These exercises are intended to reinforce electrical circuit knowledge, test equipment usage, and relay operation and pin identification. Application of diagnostic steps and on-the-go solutions for the fuel, ignition, cranking and charging systems also will be reinforced using these same bugging techniques.

Methodology to Reinforce:

Create an open circuit inside the relay to be tested, or in the external circuit that switches the relay on and off. Have the trainees perform appropriate diagnostic tests according to the RPST Participant’s Guide troubleshooting chart. Bugs of these types may be used to create a variety of “no-crank/slow crank” or “cranks, no start” scenarios, depending on what components are available and accessible on the vehicle one is working with.

Tests and fixes include:

• Basic visual checks
• Check for blown fuses with a test light or DVOM
• Check for voltage to the relay with a DVOM
• Check for relay “click” when turned On
• Identify relay pins connected to the operating circuit according to the Participant’s Guide or Quick Reference Guide charts. Test for power to the relay with the DVOM, swap relays to operate the component temporarily.
• Identify identical, non-critical relays and swap with the suspect relay.
• Identify relays that should not be swapped and left installed in a different location, such as the cooling fan and horn relays.

Bugging options:

• If using a spare relay, gently pry off the cover and cut one wire leading to the hold-in coil. Reinstall the cover so it cannot be seen that the relay was disturbed. The relay will not “click” when it is turned “On” and both the control circuit and operating circuit will remain open.

• If the relay must be returned to service, gently pry off the cover and place a small piece of thin cardboard, such as from a matchbook cover or business card, between the contact points. Reinstall the cover so it cannot be seen that the relay was disturbed. The relay will now “click” when it is turned on, but the operating circuit will remain open. The component being operated by the relay (fuel pump, starter solenoid, etc.) will not work.

• Using a wiring diagram and/or the vehicle owner’s manual, determine if there is a fuse that will disable the control circuit for a given relay. For example, the “Crank” fuse found on some GM models will disable the starter relay, causing a no-crank condition. The “Ignition” fuse on some Ford models will interrupt several circuits, including the starter relay, warning lights and other functions wired through the ignition switch. Using jumper wires, short a spare fuse across the battery to blow it. Then, install the blown fuse in place of the good fuse in the vehicle fuse panel.

• Disconnect the Neutral Safety Switch (Range Selector) on the automatic transmission or clutch pedal on a manual-shift vehicle. The starter will not crank and the starter relay will not click, but a jumper, such as a screwdriver blade, may be used to bypass directly at the starter solenoid, if accessible. This bug may also be used to demonstrate shift interlock override techniques, as the shifter will not release from Park on most models. Depending on the exact vehicle model, it may or may not be driveable with this malfunction, even if the engine is started.

Training Concept 2

Learn how to identify poor connections and open circuits at the vehicle battery connections. These exercises are intended to reinforce electrical circuit knowledge, test equipment usage and visual/tactile inspection techniques.

Methodology to Reinforce:

Create an invisible open circuit at one of the main battery connections or a main fuse. Have the trainees perform the “Slow Crank/No Crank” series of diagnostic tests according to the Participant’s Guide troubleshooting chart.

CAUTION: This bugging procedure may erase stored memory codes for the radio, some accessories and possibly the PCM as well. It should not turn on the MIL, however. If you are bugging a vehicle that is to be returned to service, be sure to capture and record any radio or other security codes. Also, write down the preset radio stations on all bands. At the conclusion of training, reset the clock and radio presets before returning the vehicle to its owner. Offer to assist in reprogramming sliding doors, sunroof, etc. Double check to make sure the MIL is not on when the vehicle is running. If it is, reset the trouble codes using a scan tool/code reader or offer to have it done at a local repair facility.

Tests and fixes include:

• Basic visual checks
• Testing for blown main fuses or fuse links with a DVOM
• Voltage Drop testing with a DVOM to identify an open or weak connection
• Testing for battery power to starter, fuses, and battery cable clamps with a test light
• Retrieve and reset radio presets and security code(s)
• Reprogram electronic accessories

Bugging options:

• Using a vehicle with a post-type battery. Disconnect one battery terminal. Then, place a layer of Scotch tape around the exposed battery post. Gently reinstall the cable clamp over the tape. In most cases, this will provide a completely open battery connection. Occasionally, a very small connection may exist, which will provide even more fun, as the instrument panel lights may light when the key is switched on, but everything will go “dead” as soon as cranking is attempted. This situation actually happens quite commonly in the field, but not usually with what appear to be clean and tight terminal connections!

• Identify a main fuse that supplies power to numerous circuits including the cranking system. Blow a spare fuse as described previously in Training Concept 1 and place it in the fuse panel in place of the identified main fuse.

• Identify and disconnect a main “feeder” connection leading from the battery to a fuse/relay panel. A good example is the in-line connector found near the battery on older model Chrysler products, which leads straight to Battery Positive. These connectors can be backed out just enough to open the circuit, but still appear as though they are connected.

Training Concept 3

Learn to check ignition system operation on designs with distributor, coil packs with wires, and coil-over-plug.

Methodology to reinforce:

Create no-spark conditions on a variety of vehicles to allow trainees to experience as many design variations and problem causes as possible. If possible, include at least one vehicle of each basic ignition system design: single coil with distributor, coil packs with no distributor, and coil-over-plug.

Tests and fixes include:

• Basic visual checks
• Testing for spark into and out of a distributor cap
• Visual test for distributor shaft rotation
• Determining the order of ignition system tests, depending on accessibility of components
• Testing for blown fuses, open circuits, disconnected components
• Temporary electrical “short to ground” repair with nail polish

Bugging options:

• With a single coil and distributor ignition system, drill a hole in a spare rotor underneath the center contact to simulate a rotor that is shorted from burning through to the distributor shaft. Have the trainees use an inductive timing light and/or spark tester to check for spark “in” and “out” of the distributor cap. Disassemble the distributor and use nail polish under the rotor to effect a temporary repair. The same spare rotor may be used repeatedly by scraping off the dab of nail polish and re-drilling the hole.

• With a single coil and distributor ignition system, disconnect the ignition module or install a blown fuse in the PCM circuits to “kill” the coil’s ability to trigger and fire the plugs, but still have power supplied to the coil positive (+) terminal. Have the trainees use a DVOM check for power to the coil.

• On a vehicle having a distributorless ignition system with plug wires, disconnect the crankshaft and/or camshaft position sensor. Have the trainees test for spark with the inductive timing light or spark tester and follow diagnostic steps shown on the Participant’s Guide troubleshooting chart.

• On a vehicle with coil-over-plug ignition, install a blown fuse or bugged relay to disable power to the ignition coils. Have the trainees use the inductive timing light to check for spark, and follow general electrical troubleshooting procedures to find the bad fuse or relay as in Training Concept 1 above.

How to Build a Practice Electrical Circuit

Materials Needed for Each Circuit

• Primary wire in red, black and a third color to use for control circuit from switch. 20 Gauge wire is recommended. 18 Gauge may be used, but it is more difficult to insert into small switch and LED terminals to wire them. For each circuit, about 12 inches of red wire, 6 to 8 inches of black wire and 6 to 8 inches of a third color wire are needed, if a prewired LED is used. If not, about 18 inches of red wire and 12 to 16 inches of black wire are needed, to allow extra for wiring the LED.
• Female spade terminals suitable for wire size being used, 4 each
• Eyelet terminals suitable for wire size and screws being used (see last bullet), 3 each
• Shrink tubing for wire size being used and one size larger for three-way connection (typically 1/8” and 3/16” tubing). Placing shrink tubing over all soldered connections will help to resist broken wires from repeated use of circuit in training, as well as preventing possible short circuits.
• 9-volt battery pigtail or 9-volt battery box to hold the power supply battery
• Fuse holder using an ATC (blade) type fuse
• 5 or 10-Amp ATC fuse
• 9-volt LED. Preferable compared to a light bulb because LEDs draw very little current and extend battery life. LED’s are available pre-wired or unwired.
• A toggle switch with “On” and “Off” positions marked.
• A 12-volt mini-relay, typical of those found in automobiles for controlling the starter, cooling fan, fuel pump, headlamps, etc. (Don’t worry; they will operate on 9 volts!) The relay cover should be attached with locking tabs so it can be removed (refer to instructions, next page). Either a 4-pin or 5-pin relay may be used, but the circuit is only wired to 4 pins.
• A small plate or bracket, such as the type sold by Home Depot and others as a “mending plate,” to serve as a common ground. #8 or #10 by ¾ inch machine screws, nuts, washers and wing nuts, 2 of each, are needed to attach the ground connections.

Building Your Practice Circuit

Click here for step-by-step picture instructions to follow along with

1. Build common ground components.
2. Wire switch and connect a female spade terminal to one wire.
3. Wire LED. Check polarity by connecting to a 9-volt battery. Reverse polarity will cause the LED not to light. Attach an eyelet terminal to the negative wire and a female spade terminal to the positive wire.
4. Build relay ground wire. Attach a female spade terminal to one end of a six-inch length of black wire and an eyelet terminal to the other end.
5. Prepare relay by carefully cutting or filing down retainer tabs so cover can be easily removed to view operation of the contacts.
6. Connect power supply, one side to ground using an eyelet terminal, one side to fuse holder with a soldered connection and shrink tubing.
7. Tie remaining fuse holder wire to remaining switch wire and a six-inch red wire with a soldered connection and shrink tubing. Install a female spade terminal on the red wire.
8. Connect red wire from fuse holder to relay constant power terminal (numbered either 30 or 1).
9. Connect switch wire with female spade installed to relay switched power terminal (numbered either 85 or 2).
10. Connect positive side of LED with female spade terminal installed to relay operating terminal (numbered either 87 or 5).
11. Connect eyelet terminal of black relay ground wire and negative LED eyelet terminal to common ground. Connect other end of black wire to relay ground terminal (numbered either 86 or2).
12. Install 9-volt battery in holder. Circuit is now ready to test.


• If relay does not “click,” test voltage across battery terminals. Reading should be above 9 volts DC. Check connections to be sure everything is properly wired. Test voltage at relay switched power and relay ground terminals. If connections are correct and battery voltage is present, relay is defective. If battery voltage is not present, test voltage at switch and common ground. If no voltage, there is an open circuit in power supply.

• If relay “clicks,” but LED does not light, test voltage at relay constant power terminal (numbered either 30 or 1) and common ground. If battery voltage is present, the LED is defective or wired in reverse polarity. If battery voltage is not present, check all connections to be sure everything is wired correctly. If connections are correct, relay is defective.

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