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Discussion Starter #1
I need one to use on my 01 PT Cruiser. My lap top computer is my current code reader and works well for emission and engine performance diagnostics, but doesn't get down to the level I need. I need one that operates like the DRBIII that the factory service manual refers to but can't spend the $2k or more for one. Anyone aware of one?
I have an intermittent problem on my 10 PT Cruiser that the dealer can't seem to fix so that's why I'm asking.
 

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it depends on how deep you need to go, but I like my old SnapOn MT2500. It wasn't cheap, but a lot cheaper than a DRB. It monitors lots of stuff and has troubleshooting functions built in. The trick is finding one with the cartridges, cables and OBDII personality keys needed for your car. The MT2500 support ended around model year 2003 and it was replaced by a newer model. The MT2500 interfaces with the engine, transmission, ABS, body and airbag computers I believe. I'm not 100% sure on the airbag one but I've used it for all the others.
 

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What issues with the PT? Maybe we can help.
The dealer can release the car to you with the Co-pilot. All you have to do is press a button when it acts up and the Co-pilot will store module data from the last 90 seconds.
Back at the shop that data can be analyzed to see what did or didn't happen.
I'd keep at them. Get every visit and communication documented for your protection. You may have to go higher up the ladder.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I'll call them and ask about the Co-Pilot. My problem is that my speedometer will drop to zero and then shoot back to 100 or more, then drop back to actual or lower. When it shoots to 100 the engine turns off for an instant and makes the car buck. It has not completely stopped so far. It seeemed to get much worse today so maybe it will be easier to diagnose now. The aribag light started coming on a while back. It ran fine for at least two weeks with the airbag light on before this problem started so the problems don't seem to be related. The dealer replaced the ORC module to fix the air bag light but couldn't duplicate this problem. Before I took it in the panel diagnostics ran with no errors. Now when I run the panel diagnostics everything looks correct but at the end I get a message in three steps, one word at a time, "Panel", Inpue" (spelled like that) "Open", which I take to mean panel input open, indicating a missing signal to the dash panel. I checked the output speed sensor and it and the wiring seems to be fine so I am at a loss as to where to go at this point and the dealer charges $149.99 just to hook up the DRB3. That is the reason for my original question about an affordable DRB3 tester.
 

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I agree that the 'panel input open' is probably causing the momentary stall. It could be an interruption of the communication bus. There may be 'loss of communication' fault codes stored in modules other than the PCM.
The speedo and engine dropout are just a symptom of this.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I forgot to mention that this problem started before the "panel input open" message started appearing. I only started getting that message after I got it back from the dealer. I didn't run the panel diagnostic immediately when I got it back so can't say that it started when they worked on the car. They did have the dash panel out.

I hooked up my laptop to the car again today but could see nothing out of the ordinary since the information that I can get deals with engine performance and emission problems only. There were no stored codes in that area. I use a program called OBD-2 that has a "Dash" setting that simulates the dash gauges including the Speedo and Tach. The speedometer input is labeled VSS which I assume is vehicle speed sensor. I drove around with my computer attached and when the car speedo dropped the speedo on the computer screen followed it. I think this is indicating that the problem is not the cluster itself, rather an input to it. I'm now thinking either the transmission controller or the main engine controller could be the problem. When they had the car in the shop they told me a cluster would cost $900 if it needed one. At this point I have exhausted all of the possitilities that I have the means to check so will just call the dealer back for an appointment. I'm an electronics person and I hate to admit defeat but I think I'm at that point since the car is no good like it is.
The main computer on this car was swapped under warrantee at about 70K miles due to an internal problem. I noticed it had "rebuilt" stamped on it then.
 

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The only thing that I can find close to 'panel input open', is the instrument panel dimming open fault. Does te dimmer control work smoothly from off to full brightness with no flicker or dropout?
Do you remember the fault code that they replaced te ORC for?
 

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I don't know about the "Panel Input" issue but my cruiser has been having a similar issue.The PT will idle at a couple hundred RPM low and the idle will roll or run rough.When running at speed everything smooths right out. I have a scanner and I'll try it this weekend but I don't have a lot of hope. There are no codes in the thing with the key flip check.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
The only thing that I can find close to 'panel input open', is the instrument panel dimming open fault. Does te dimmer control work smoothly from off to full brightness with no flicker or dropout?
Do you remember the fault code that they replaced te ORC for?
My invoice says " Cluster messsage mis-match and no right SIACM message" but doesn't specify a fault code. They replaced the right side airbag module and that fixed the air bag light problem but then they said they couldn't re-create the speedo peoblem. When I got it back it did work fine for one day but then started acting up again.
The dash light dimmer control works smoothly. When I took it in the dash lights were fine. When I got it back some of the dash lights were out. I took it back to them and they said that two of the bulbs were blown, and they replaced them with no labor charge but I had to pay $6 for the bulbs. This whole thing has been a real PITA and makes me want my 87 Diplomat back that I got rid of to get this car.
 

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If this code has not returned after the ORC was replaced, then the problem may have been inside the ORC module.
There still may be intermittant connector/circuit board solder issues causing a PCI-bus 'loss of communication' between modules that may be causing the speedo dropout/engine buck.
This would be the cheapest and simplest thing to rule out first. A detailed factory service manual may serve you better right now to diagnose this than a DRB III.
MIC = Mechanical Instrument Cluster
ORC = Occupant Restraint Controller

ORC, CLUSTER MESSAGE MISMATCH (STORED)

When Monitored: After the MIC bulb test is completed, the ORC compares the Lamp
Request by ORC (On or Off) and the Lamp on by MIC (On or Off) PCI Bus messages. Each
message is transmitted one time per second or when a change in the lamp state occur.

Set Condition: If the Lamp Request by ORC (On or Off) and the Lamp on by MIC (On or
Off) messages do not match within 6 consecutive seconds, the code will set.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
One more thing that I forgot to mention about the problem I'm having. When I run the panel diagnostics, immediately after it cycles the odometer through all i's through all 9's, it posts "684084" and then I get the "panel inpue open" message. Then the gauge and bulb tests all run correctly. I can't find any reference to the 684084 message so I don't know what it might be telling me. Anyone have a suggestion as to what it might mean?
 

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Discussion Starter #13
My good news is that my PT Cruiser is well now and running as it should. The bad news is that it cost me another $908 to have the PCM replaced. This, btw, is in addition to the $566 that it cost me earlier this month to have one of the air bag controllers replaced. I can't make a connection between the two problems as the air bag light started staying on a few weeks before the speedometer started having it's problem, so I'm just writing it off as a coincidence. This is the third PCM that this car has had. The first one went out under warranty and was replaced with a rebuilt one. The second one is the one that was just replaced with another rebuilt one. The first two lasted approximately 70K miles each.
 

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I'm glad that it's fixed.
Was the PCM killing the bus? How did they diagnose the PCM as being the problem?
I'm sure that it isn't related to the previous right SIACM fault. Sorry that this became expensive.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I took it to a different dealer that is farther away from my home. I had already spoken with the service rep and explained that the problem doesn't show up until the car has been driven a distance and the PCM has warmed up. It started failing about five miles before I got to the dealer so as soon as I got there he took it to the service bay which is two or three hundred feet from the service entrance, and he said it actually did it on the way. He had a technician check it immediately and he was able to determine that the PCM was causing the problem.
 
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