Your reference for key scan tool specs

This edition of PTEN includes our first Scan Tool Spec Guide. Included as a separate supplement with this issue, this 16-page guide offers a comparative summary of key functions and features of 26 aftermarket scan tools from 19 tool manufacturers. The guide is designed to assist in selecting the scan tool that best meets your needs.

OBD II scan tools have become increasingly important to technicians and repair shops as OBD II vehicles grab a larger share of the aftermarket.

Equipment manufacturers have improved scan tool capabilities in recent years and introduced more offerings. With enhanced capabilities, aftermarket scan tools make it possible for techs to diagnose trouble codes faster and access repair information more easily. With enhanced OE information in many of these tools, techs can diagnose vehicles without having to invest in a lot of factory-authorized tools, which strains the average tech’s budget.

The growing number of scan tools that have been released in recent years, coupled with a surge of new features and capabilities, has made it more difficult for techs to stay up to date on available offerings. In response to this challenge, PTEN organized this guide to help technicians stay informed about this multi-faceted and increasingly vital tool segment.

Equipment manufacturers and experienced techs agree the scan tool purchase decision requires a fair amount of study on the part of the buyer.

PTEN consulted with scan tool manufacturers, diagnostic technician specialists, diagnostic educators and shop and technician members of the magazine’s editorial advisory board. These advisors allowed PTEN to develop a list of the most critical features and functions.

The features and functions in this guide do not provide a complete list of considerations techs will encounter when buying a scan tool. Instead, they are intended as a starting point.

This guide contains two sections: OBD II generic and OBD II enhanced. OBD II generic tools provide emissions-related powertrain coverages, on all 10 Modes (Modes 1 through 9, and 0A). OBD II enhanced tools provide coverages beyond this, such as OE-level data stream, diagnostic trouble codes, bi-directional controls for supported systems and more. Enhanced OBD II diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) are those codes unique to a vehicle of a specific year, make, model (and possibly engine size). Enhanced DTCs are assigned by the vehicle manufacturers to cover situations not already covered by a generic DTC.

Due to space considerations, the guide does not include all tools from the participating manufacturers.

The Scan Tool Spec Guide provides a handy tool for techs embarking on one of the most critical purchase decisions they will make in the near future.