Sunday, December 1, 2013


If there is one question I get asked frequently by shop owners, technicians, and emails alike is-What scantool should I get? Or, Is this scantool good? Or, I just spent $12k on this scantool and it doesn't do this procedure on this vehicle.

I typically will follow this up with questions of my own. Such as. What manufacturer is the bulk of your work? What functions do you want to do with the scantool? What is your budget?

Without knowing the answers to those questions it is awfully hard to give sound advice. I see many shops that use a $10k scantool like a $99.00 code reader. They would have been better served spending the $9K someplace else in my opinion. Like maybe some training. If that works for you and your shop so be it.

In this age of automotive diagnostics it is nearly impossible to be "loaded for bear" on every manufacturer. Unless, you have deep pockets. Even with that are you using all the capabilities of all your tooling? Lots of aftermarket companies make boastful claims when it comes to coverage and capabilities. Unfortunately, when the tool is in your hand and need to do a function they can fall short at the worst of times. I often say that a good aftermarket tool will have 85% capability on 85% of the vehicle lines. However, that 15% can kill you.

  Here is a small example of aftermarket tooling. Any one of these are a very capable scantool. Being able to read codes/erase, view scan data, graph, and perform bi directional functions on different modules. Some do it better than others. Some are strong on this manufacturer but weaker on others. Again the 85%/85% rule. Some, I have been impressed with and others well not so much. Sometimes it is just easier to break out an aftermarket handheld tool rather than hook up a OE laptop based tool to check data or codes. Time is money. Some aftermarket tools actually graph better/faster than the OE tool for certain manufacturers.

    Here are some OE scantools. These are manufacturer specific tools. Some are handheld and some are PC/Laptop based. The world of OE tooling is a convulated and confusing world. These tools walk the walk. With these tools you should be able to have 100% capability for that manufacturer. Notice, how I said should. They have their hiccups as well. It happens from time to time. Not often though. If you want to do a procedure from start to finish and want to be sure you can do it then OE tooling is for you.
One thing to point out in this photo is the GM Tech2. There is been much chatter about the demise of this tool. Well, it had a recent update and I used it to finish up an ABS control module setup on a 2013 Cadillac CTS just the other day. Granted, there is a PC based version of Tech2 called Tech2Win that could have done the same procedure.

Here is a screen shot from Tech2Win. I still prefer the handheld to the PC based. The point here is don't get rid of your Tech2 and if you do service a lot of GM vehicles a Tech2 is still a smart tooling investment.

You have to ask yourself those three question I posted earlier when choosing scantools. Some tool companies/vendors allow for a "test drive" of tooling. That is always a smart idea take advantage of  if possible. Nothing worse than investing money in a tool that disappoints. A test drive of a week should let you know if that tool is right for you and your shop. Beware, of any tool company that claims that you will never need another scantool.

Another point to remember is comfort. A tool that everyone is intimidated to use will be a tool that sits in your toolbox making you no money. There are plenty of techs throughout the country that are diagnosing issues with vehicles with tooling that many would scoff at. It works for them and they are using that tool to its potential. Many times it is not the tool but the tool wielder. The general publics perception that all you do is plug into the vehicle and the scantool "tells" you what part is bad is grossly exaggerated. The best scantool you have is your brain. Technicians fix vehicles not scantools. Remember that always.