Scan Tool Review: Volkswagen/Audi
To work on Volkswagen-Audi Gelelschaft (VAG) automobiles, a technician must first understand “measuring blocks.” This is the primary way information is displayed with VW software. This can be difficult for the technician because often the “blocks” are not specifically labeled with anything beyond their block number. Having good service information is critical for any Audi/VW technician so they can look up which measuring block is which. Technicians can access factory Audi service information at: https://erwin.audiusa.com and VW service information can be found at: https://erwin.vw.com.
The VAG 1551/1552 were the early OBD-I tools for VW/Audi. These tools offered the capability to check measuring blocks and change coding where applicable. Because VW was late to the software update scene, these tools never offered the capability to program software or keys.
The 1551/1552 did offer OBD-II coverage with the same capability up through about 2000, when they were shelved in favor of the 5051/5052. Because these went “end of life” so early, I would say this may not be an ideal investment for a technician looking for OEM VW/Audi capability.
In mid-1999, the Siemens-built VAS 5051/5052 was released. Like its predecessors, these were complementary tools with the VAS 5052 being a handheld tablet package that lacked external measuring ports for scope and meter functions. The VAS 5051 was built into a cart and offered these features and more. Unlike the earlier tools, these bring real programming to the table, including coding encrypted keys. These platforms introduced us to Guided Fault Finding, which in conjunction with the VAG server – geheimnis und komponentenschutz (GeKo) – allows a technician to scan all modules and set up a plan of attack. The VAS 5052A was an upgrade around software release Base 17 and although it is currently supported by VW it is no longer available for purchase.
Unique to VW/Audi operation is theft key coding. With the NASTF agreement for SDRM (secure data release model) and the creation of the LSID secure access, VAG now allows a technician to gain a certificate via http://www.keys-vw.com that allows access to GEKO for key coding and other programming tasks..
The most current tool is a laptop-based (Toughbook) VAS 6150. This is basically a continuation of software from the 5052A and picks up around 2011, at version Base 18. It has all the same capability and has completely replaced the VAS 5052A tool in every way with new (2014) software called ODIS. I think anyone serious about VW/Audi diagnostics should have this tool, no exceptions.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big fan of factory scan tools for all makes. That being said, I would be remiss if I did not mention one aftermarket scan tool when talking about factory VW/Audi tools. Ross-Tech (www. ross-tech.com) of Lansdale, Pa., offers an inexpensive yet relatively capable scan tool called the VCDS. For the occasional VW/Audi technician, this can be a viable option. It offers coding and calibrating capability, but does have some coverage gaps and does not support key or module programming. It also lacks guided fault finding and while many eke by without this feature, it is one that makes the OEM tools quite valuable. So for a shop that does occasionally work on VW/Audi (even if you just do oil changes), the VCDS is a great tool with a next-to-nothing cost. Many VW/Audi technicians actually use this tool as their fast, quick-hitter tool and use the VAS platforms when the VCDS runs into a coverage gap. One of the best aspects of the VCDS is the ready access to label files, which define the measuring block data fields and provide info as to expected values.
Ultimately, I believe any technician who is serious about VW/Audi and wants to be fully prepared to work on vehicle systems at an OEM level should make the investment into the VAS 6150 as it allows for complete coverage.
A special thanks to Steve Brotherton from Continental Imports in Gainesville, Fla., for helping with the accuracy of this article.
Editor’s Note: To read more about scan tools, be sure to visit ASA’s new Scan Tool Resource Center at www.scantool resource.com.