The world of diagnostic scan tools can be a challenge to understand what you should have in your shop. These tools can be purchased from a long list of automotive suppliers including parts houses, mobile tool dealers, online tool companies, and many more. Not only are there multiple places to purchase this diagnostic equipment but there are also multiple brand names of aftermarket scan tools. The all-in-one scan tool concept historically speaking has been the only answer for aftermarket repair shops as generally these tools will communicate to a broad range of makes from USA, Asian, & European. The down side to ALL aftermarket scan tools is the hit and miss or limited software content outside of the Engine & Transmission. This makes it extremely challenging to finish the repairs on ignition lock repairs, air bag replacements, Instrument panel replacements, etc... There are also times where in the Engine side a throttle body replacement is needed and the idle air relearn is simply not in your aftermarket scan tool, especially on European models.
Steps you should take so that you don't get caught making a bad purchase decision?
1) Don't let the Marketing efforts of a company be the reason you purchase, look at the total package from Tool to Support.
2) Talk to more than one shop about what they use and why, reason is every shops capabilities are different.
3) Don't look at only the price, sure everyone doesn't want to overpay but service after the sale is everything.
4) Repair info in scan tools is typically basic and becomes out dated quickly. Also aftermarket companies that offer repair information can be confusing and also generic. This can sometimes lead to issues when the information provided doesn't match the tool you are using.
Analyzing your current scan tool offering and what is a good first line of attack?
1) A High quality general purpose to specialty aftermarket scan tool - Must be quick, easy, and dependable in most situations.
2) A OE Scan Tool based by car count to justify the expense. We usually start with the Big 3 USA Automakers, Big 3 Asian, then European.
3) A J2534 device and a computer built for automotive shops. This would be a rugged Laptop with a partitioned hard drive for multiple car makes and no virus protection plus enough power to be quick and reliable for years to come. Remember this computer is for automotive repair not an ebay or Amazon machine.
Who should I align myself with to help my shop be the best it can be in the Diagnostic arena?
1) Just like when a customer is looking for a shop to work on their car when a shop is looking for a supplier to purchase their diagnostic scan tools they should be looking for someone who really understands the tools and their capabilities. Also the supplier needs to have aggresively good technical support so that the shop can get full benefit of the scan tool.
2) Look for a supplier that offers the best aftermarket scan tools and also factory oe scan tools. We will never see an all-in-one scan tool be able to do every function, relearn, & reinitialization so having a factory OE scan tool bridges this gap for the shop.
3) Shops need to understand that even manufacturers of tools don't understand how to repair cars. Their engineers are challenged to do one thing typically and that is to write code inside of a tool to populate and poll data plus actuate any components that are available. This is far from understanding how to repair the car, so aligning yourself with a supplier who does understand how is instrumental in getting the most out of your tools.
This is just a broad overview of what to look for... Questions and comments welcomed and encouraged!