Scan Tool Review: Scan Tools Change

Research Before You Buy

After covering about 30 manufacturers in 12 months, most of our heads are probably still spinning. As this series closes, I’d like to take a minute to explain how it came to be.

In 2009, I realized that there was no place a shop owner or tech could go to start researching the most basic of factory tools. My goal then was to create a shareable spreadsheet, as well as let the population of iATN help vet out the accuracy and leave a publicly searchable recording of each manufacturer right on iATN forever.

The concept of this magazine series was born way back in 2011, when Donny Seyfer contacted me about the project that I had performed on iATN and informed me that NASTF and ASA were interested in taking the concept to the next level. I willingly donated all my research to NASTF and ASA, and thanks to the hard work of Donny and the good folks at Autoshop Solutions, was created and went online this past summer.

In 2013, it was clear that was going to happen and AutoInc. approached me about writing one or two articles about OEM scan tools. Because of the depth required to do this subject justice, this quickly became a yearlong series and it has been a true joy to have been the one tasked to write these articles.

Some important points worth considering as we close out this series:

• What is true today may not be true tomorrow. As technology changes, so may the truth about what we as a shop need to efficiently fix cars. In fact, even as the ink of this magazine you are holding dried, it is likely something has changed. Always do some of your own research, even after reading the other articles in this series. As hard as I worked to make sure all of my articles were accurate, the fact is: scan tool acquisition is a fluid situation and the facts are changing constantly.

• Almost all of the OEM scan tooling a shop needs is available. Most are available at a price that is pretty much in line with the cost of the vehicle. Meaning, most high-end luxury brand tools cost a bit more than the less luxurious, but more commonly seen, brands.

• Shop owners play a vital role in making sure our techs have the tooling, information and training available to them if we expect them to deliver an accurately and efficiently diagnosed vehicle.

• Aftermarket tools have their place. There are many good examples where an aftermarket tool has gotten us out of a jam or helped us solve a problem when the OEM tool couldn’t, so this doesn’t have to be one or the other. In fact, I find OEM tools and aftermarket tools are quite complementary of one another, though we will save that for a future article.

If, after this series, you feel overwhelmed, please don’t. The concept of equipping at dealer level is a relatively new one (10-15 years) and, except for in the past few years, was thought to be only attainable by the most elite in the trade. Even for the shop that is wealthy enough to go out and buy every scan tool they need to have OEM coverage, I think it is better to buy one at a time and get your techs comfortable on that tool before acquiring another. Make sure you search out training to go with your newly acquired scan tools. Tools without training are quite useless.

• Lastly, do not be afraid to ask for help. Online web sites like and, forums like and national or local ASA events like CARS, VISION and Super Saturday are great places to reach out to those who have been there and done that to ask advice. The top folks in our trade generally will offer a lot of help to a shop owner who is trying to better himself.

Now, go forward and pick a brand for your shop to become OE capable on, dip your toe in the water and take the first step toward truly rivaling the OEM dealers on the brands you service.