Tool Review: General Technologies TA500 Smartach+COP Multisystem Ignition Analyzer

The General Technologies' TA500 SmarTach+COP Multisystem Ignition Analyzer is designed to test and diagnose ignition systems on engines using an inductive pick-up. It will measure spark voltage, burn time and rpm (frequency), and it will also display min/max readings in real time. Since it uses an inductive pick-up to detect voltage and current, it will work with coil-on-plug (COP), coil-near-plug, distributorless ignition (DIS) conventional distributor ignition systems and even magneto ignition systems. The TA500 requires no special adapters or cables; the tool is completely self-contained. All data is presented digitally on a large display screen. 

The Review

The tool was reviewed for us by Rollin Hansen, lead tech at Auto Tech and Body in Roselle, IL. In his first opportunity to use it, he wasn't sure what to expect because, like many techs, he hadn't read the instructions yet. Even so, while looking for a dead miss on a V8 engine with COP ignition, he said the TA500 found a bad coil right away, "I probably spent more time understanding the tool first time out than actually finding the bad coil."  This speaks well for ease of use and timesaving features of the tool.

This experience prompted Rollin to read the instructions, which he said were helpful: "I saw that it shows burn time too. Now I'm looking forward to trying it out again." Other techs in the shop have used it, and according to shop owner Chuck Benhart, "My guys don't want me to return it (to the company)."

Rollin doesn't think the tool will let him do anything he couldn't do otherwise, "because there's always another way, but it certainly is convenient. You just wave the magic wand and there's your reading. The inductive pickup works great."

The TA500 comes in a molded plastic case, which Rollin says is not just a shipping container but a real, useful storage case.

Rollin said what he likes most about the tool is that it saves a lot of diagnostic time. He said it would be particularly useful on non-automotive applications like tractors, boats or other engines where using a scan tool is not an option. His only suggested change is the buttons. "I feel like the most commonly used function should be easier to select. If I could just push one 'GO' button for kV (firing voltage), that would be nice, (but) I could recommend this tool. I'm planning to use it some more." 

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