Las Vegas shows present game-changing technologies

With the winter holiday approaching, it’s a good time to sit back and reflect on how we can seize the opportunities that await us in the coming year. Both the AAPEX and SEMA shows had record attendance in November, thanks to many time-saving innovations presented on the trade show floors. Many veteran attendees noted this year marked a turning point in tool and equipment innovation.

There are a lot of new, time-saving features in many of the scan tools, pneumatic tools, battery chargers, fluid exchangers, leak detectors, gas analyzers, meters, lab scopes, camera probes, coil-on-plug testers, hand tools, storage solutions, shop equipment — you name it. (Go to page 30 to see the Editor’s Picks from the show).

Innovation is moving so fast in both vehicle technology and in aftermarket tool and equipment technology that one has to wonder how the shop and technician community will adapt to the changes taking place. As vehicles have become more computerized, aftermarket tools and equipment have also evolved. The tools have gotten more complex.

Innovations in some tool categories, such as hand tools, storage solutions, leak detectors, battery chargers and meters will make technicians’ jobs easier and faster.

In the more capital intensive areas such as scan tools and vehicle reprogramming equipment, the training and capital outlay required pose bigger questions. How can a technician possibly become adept at using the many different scan tools needed to diagnose problems in today’s vehicles? The bigger question, according to many, is how can a technician cover the capital outlay for all the different diagnostic tools they need? This is the subject for a different column.

These questions have been on peoples’ minds for some time. The recent trade shows simply drove the point home harder. New scan tools on display in Las Vegas feature wireless communications. Some allow technicians to work on tablets and smartphones. Some work on the Android operating system.

Some of the new diagnostic tools carry lower price points, a trend that hopefully will continue. Over time, technology costs usually decrease.

But in the meantime, shops and technicians face some serious questions posed by the training and the capital outlay needed for scan tools as more and more post-1996 vehicles populate repair shops. Most shops and technicians can’t wait for technology costs to fall.

Technicians and shop owners alike need to think seriously about how they will make use of the new diagnostic tools.

The fall trade shows also offered updates telematics, a technology that allows transferring car-generated information via telecommunications from a vehicle to a remote device. Carmakers are

A changing landscape awaits the aftermarket heading into 2014. Stay tuned to for daily updates.