DIY repairs are nothing new; they are a part of the American culture. For some, it's about saving money, for others it's the pride of actually accomplishing a job without any professional help. Cost is the big factor of course, ask any DIY'r about a project and the first thing they'll tell you is how much money they saved by doing it themselves.
These days car repair is slowly going away as one of those DIY repairs. The cost of the specialty tools is the leading factor, however, it's not just the cost it's the constant change, updates, and proper procedures that differ from one vehicle to the next. Years ago, if you had a couple of screw drivers and a box of wrenches you could pretty much take any carburetor apart from any manufacturer. All you needed was a diagram, a rebuild kit and a place to lay it all out. Not so today, each manufacturer has their own software, their own procedures, and their own individual "unique" way of "diagraming" all that info.
A manufacturer level scanner is the ideal scanner for most repairs. These scanners are almost all internet based these days and are constantly updated to insure the latest information is available. The same is true with a lot of aftermarket scanners, keep in mind; the cheaper off-the-shelf scanners can leave you with only partial information. Not all scanners are the same. I haven't seen one aftermarket scanner be able to handle all the functions that a manufacturer scanner can. Cost vs. quality, or in this case "content" is always an issue. That's where the problem can start, especially for the consumer trying to do things themselves.
Keep in mind what the original purpose was for those aftermarket tools. Most were designed to answer a certain market need and not be an overall tool to perform every function. For example; I have a lot of scanners that will read air bag codes on just about every manufactured vehicle out there, however I only have certain scanners that will perform the passenger seat presence reset (and that's only on certain makes and models). Without the reset the air bag light will stay on until that procedure is performed.
Not to mention the way the scanner shows the information. Some scanners may show a certain sensor as a voltage reading, others might show it as a percentage. The DIY'r has to also consider the different ways the information is listed in the repair manuals even that can be a challenge.
Here's a guy at home, in his garage, with a Toyota (for example) and is about to change a certain part he has found a problem with. He's done his research through the internet or a shop manual, and is confident in his abilities of making the proper repair. But there is one little thing holding him back, he needs to flash or reprogram some part of it in order for the vehicle to recognize the new part, or even perhaps to allow the car to start. But, our illustrious DIY'r doesn't want to spend the money or the time to purchase the manufacturer's software, data base, and yearly subscription needed. Hmmm, what to do now?
The answer, take it to the dealer. WRONG! An independent shop has the appropriate aftermarket scanner or manufacturer scanner. A lot of DIY'rs look at independent shops as parts changers, similar to what they can do in their own home garage, and the dealer is some greater than thou place of ultra-sophistication that cannot be obtained by the mere auto technician at the corner repair shop. WRONG AGAIN! This is where the time, the talent, and the training all come together.
At every manufacturer website I've been to there is a section for training and or helpful hints on how to perform diagnostic test, scanner usage, and reprogramming. There are even more on line training, video training, and night classes available for the modern technician. All of which is a must do, and even more important than ever before. It's all a matter of time and money of course, but it's all doable.
Auto mechanics have always had to adapt to new technologies and lately it's the computer software and reprogramming. It doesn't matter if it's the dealer tech or the independent tech… they both have to do exactly the same procedure to accomplish the same goal. Laptops, manufacturer software, cables, and subscriptions are just another tool for that matter, but definitely an expensive one.
If you noticed I never once called the manufacturer scanner the "dealer scanner". That's because it's not a dealer scanner, it's the manufacturer's scanner for their product. Believe me, not every dealer has a scanner for every car that comes into the service bays either. I've seen it myself at a Ford dealership while I was picking up some OEM parts. There's a Dodge parked in the service bay with a tech performing some repair under the hood. What a minute, did I say a Dodge at a Ford place… sure did, happens all the time. Mind you, some of the dealership's loyal customers are just like the loyal independent customer… they'll bring all their cars to one specific place because of the trust they have built up with them. But, what about the software issues for a car at a competitor's dealership you ask? Won't the dealership have the same problem with software flashing and reprogramming on vehicles that aren't theirs? Yes, just like an independent shop will have. Ironic ain't it…
Let's see, advanced training and classes, constant upkeep with software, meet the challenges of the new specifications and procedures, and repeat this for every manufacturers vehicle out there. Hmmm, that doesn't sound much like a DIY'r, it sounds more like what I do every day as a professional technician. It's what separates the DIY'r from the pro. So if you want to do the job at home, sure… the information and skills are out there for you, but even with all those skills, tools, and scanners… you're still not a professional at it. A profession by any other name is something you do to earn a living. Repairing one car in your driveway doesn't make you any more of a mechanic than a paint brush makes you Picasso.
I always have this "Norman Rockwell" picture in my head of a father passing his tool box down to his son. Great memorable moment, but these days dad should include a laptop in the picture with a year's subscription to the manufacturer for the family grocery getter. The tools are great pop, but they only take you so far these days.
With the cost of operating a vehicle going up at the pump, saving money on car repair is always an option. DIY'rs if you must, have at it. I know why you DIY… but I would keep the repair shop's number handy.
It's been a long time since somebody has repaired their own refrigerator or wash machine. Either they give up on them and buy a new one or they call a service man out to repair it. This is where I think... the automotive field is heading. It might take a long time to actually happen but I do believe it is the trend that will eventually happen. Even with all this talk of "right to repair" I don't think the motoring public is ready to deal with the complexities of actual electronic repairs. "Beware of what you wish for" should be the slogan...
The shade tree and the DIY'r are antiques in the world of auto repair... let's not make things worse by having a DIY'r try to reprogram their FIAT. LOL