Making the Right Scan Tool PurchasePosted 08/13/2004
By Rolf Werner
So you're going to buy a scan tool. Do you need an OEM scan tool or will an aftermarket tool suffice? Currently, we own the OE scan tool for all Asian, domestic and VW/Audi vehicles that we repair. In making the decision to own these tools, I soon began to reap the rewards of faster repair times and accurate diagnosis. Being able to repair the vehicle the "first time" creates loyal customers and increases the customer's perception that we know what we are doing.
I am not saying that you should buy only OE scan tools because there are aftermarket scan tools that perform as well as the factory tools. The Ross-Tech scan tool will do 95 percent of everything the factory VW/Audi scan tool will do and at considerably less cost. The question you must ask yourself: Is the 5 percent worth the extra money to purchase the factory scan tool? There are shops in our area that have the Ross-Tech (we also have one) that have come to us when they need that 5 percent.
In our experience, we have found that the generic OBD-II scan data and serial data is either wrong or just different from what the factory scan tools provide. Also, my shop foreman says the information you get from the factory scan tools follows the factory flow charts better, therefore making it easier to perform your diagnosis. Another point: all the different systems that can be accessed by the OE tool may not be accessible with a generic scan tool. These systems include body functions, such as climate control, convertible tops, dash clusters, radios, security systems, heated seats, antilock brake systems, secondary restraint systems, transmission and suspension.
Before sharing my tips on what to look for in a scan tool, I would like to emphasize that it is important to consider your tech when making a scan tool purchase:
One could argue that if you don't have the proper scan tools to perform all the necessary tests, it doesn't matter if you employ the best ASE master-certified technician at your shop because he's helpless! To a certain extent, that's true. Most scan tools are going to give you the basics. It's up to the technician to interpret the data stream.
Different scanner brands are going to offer their own manufacturer-only specific tests, but many of these tests can be performed manually with component testing charts, a digital volt/ohmeter and a fused jumper wire. But what about the tests that can only be performed with a scanner, you ask? That's where the question of which scanner is the best comes into play. The quality of your technicians will probably be a deciding factor in the quality of scanner you purchase or use."
You may be thinking, "I don't want to spend a lot of money for a tool that will just sit on the shelf." Either your techs find it too hard to use or it doesn't do what it was supposed to do.
For most shops, buying a scan tool is a major investment. After all, it's not like buying a $10 screwdriver. Most high-quality scan tools range from $2,500 to more than $10,000.
If you have been following the scan tool articles that I have written for Division Dispatch, you know how I feel about scan tools and their role in a shop's repair strategy. I have a unique outlook on scan tools as I have an electronics and computer background, and my shop has almost every factory scan tool and a lot of the aftermarket tools. So this makes me an "automotive electronics geek."
Here are some questions you need to ask before shopping for a scan tool:
How am I going to use it? Is it for one make or a "one-size-fits-all" scan tool? Determine the vehicles you expect to service.
Will my techs use it? If I as an owner come in and say, "Here is your new scan tool that I bought - now, learn how to use it," I won't get much "buy-in" from the techs. They may not use it just because I didn't involve them in the buying decision. So, talk to your techs. Chances are, they may know more what the shop needs then you do.
What type of shop do you have? Now, I know this sounds like a strange question but with an increasing number of shops doing more maintenance and fewer repairs, this becomes a viable question. Let's face it: Cars are breaking down less and less, and you may not care about fixing the 5 percent of tough diagnostic problems anymore. If that is the case, a "one-size-fits-all" scan tool will fill the need. Many of these types of scan tools are improving and will do most diagnosis on most cars. Their main weak points are air bags and antilock brake systems.
What is your repair mix? Do you have a tech who has been with you a long time who "rocks" when it comes to repairing Fords? If so, use that to your advantage. Advertise the fact that you have the best Ford repair tech in town and go buy him a New Generation Star tester. He will love his new toy so much he will help bring in new business. Plus, your "almost rocking" Toyota tech will want to get better so he can have a new toy, too.
How much is it? Sure, cost is a factor, but you should be passing that on to the customer. No more free diagnosis ... repeat ... no more free diagnosis. One more thing on price: Do an Internet search and go to E-bay. Almost half of my tools came from there.
One final comment when it comes to training and learning how to use your scan tool. Most of the scan tools we have are pretty easy to use and figure out. If you have questions, just refer to the manual or any video that came with the scan tool.
I hope this helps with your scan tool buying decisions.
If I can be of any help about any of the individual scan tools we have or have tested, feel free to give me a call, and the "geek" will be happy to help.
AutoInc. Web Site |
ASA Web Site |
U.S. Supreme Court Rules on HMO Suit Limitations |
Collision Repair Consumer Protections Still Remain Elusive in Many States |
Making the Right Scan Tool Purchase |
Estimating Systems |
Steering to 'First Position in the Mind' |
Guest Editorial |
Tech to Tech |
Tech Tips |
Around ASA |
Shop Profile |
Net Worth |
Stat Corner |
Copyright (c) 1996-2011. Automotive Service Association®. All rights reserved.