Choose the Correct OE-level Tools for Your Business

The most common question we get at CARQUEST is, “Which scan tool should I buy?” In this edition of Ready, Set, Service!, we’re going to use this question as the basis for recommendations on original equipment-level tools you should have in your shop so that you are ready to service your customers’ vehicles.

In simple terms, OE-level tools means having tools and equipment that allow your team to perform the same level of analysis, diagnosis and repair as the OEM dealer. In many cases, this means purchasing the same exact tool that the OEM dealer uses, but in other cases there are aftermarket tools that will perform the same functions with the same or better results for more than one manufacturer. The trick is to know when you need an OEM tool or when an aftermarket tool will suffice.

But that is just the first consideration you need to make to be ready to service your customers’ vehicles. You need to invest in the training or consultation to make the right decision about any tool purchase. Let’s look at how to put an OE-level tool program together.

Tips to start tracking

Pull a report from your regular customer list showing which vehicles you work on. Then, identify the services your team has had to outsource to a dealer over the past year. If you don’t have this data, start tracking information such as:

• How many vehicles have you sent to the dealer?
• How many times have you not been able to communicate with a module on a car?
• How many times have you found that a vehicle needs reprogramming, but you don’t have the tools to do the job?
• How many times has your team had to improvise with a puller, seal installer or suspension service?

Perhaps you’ll see that you work on more Toyotas than Chryslers or that you send more Nissans to the dealer for reprogramming than you thought. You might notice that your team services a lot of timing belts on Hondas but struggles with seal removal and installation. You might also discover that you have more comebacks pertaining to check engine light diagnosis than you thought. These data points need to be tracked and compiled to provide direction.

Next, consult your technical trainer or find a neutral party that’s up to speed on current technologies to help analyze the data. A technical trainer who is not associated with a tool company can provide insight on which tools to consider. Notice I said, “consider” – I didn’t say, “buy” – based on the trainer’s insight.

Then, gain access to the tools recommended by your team and trainer. Most tool companies provide a demo unit for a couple days. And you can find OE-level scan tools in the aftermarket. Gather some examples of vehicles you work on and create a list of functions you perform regularly, as well as of vehicles you’ve sent to the dealer. Have your team compare the tools without influence from the salesperson.

Before purchasing, validate the functionality of the tools you select to ensure they’ll make you service ready. Be sure to compare, using the OE tool that’s standard. The most common deficiency found in an aftermarket tool is the inability to communicate with all modules on a vehicle. Servicing the onboard diagnostics (OBD) side of the vehicle is not usually where you’ll find the difference. It’s usually the rest of the modules that preclude you from being service ready.

Note all your findings to learn which tools fit your needs.