Why do some techs have counterfeit scan tools?

"Thou shalt not steal."

I can't remember which commandment that was, but I'm sure many overseas counterfeit manufacturers don’t remember that one either.

I am not going to defend the practice of using cloned scan tools. These counterfeits are of lesser quality, can damage vehicles and are just theft by a different name.

Yet, I know a lot of people that buy and sell cloned equipment. The question is, why?

Many technicians are very proud of their big purchases. The huge toolbox, scan tools, the line of electric power tools and so on.

I think buying tools is like buying a sports car. In a sick sort of way, it feels good to spend money on them. It just makes us happy for some reason.

So, I don't think people have cloned scan tools because they are opposed to spending money. In fact, my most tool-addicted friends are the ones with the clones. They, at the same time, just so happen to have the most legit factory and aftermarket scan tools too.

What? But that doesn't make sense!

Yes, the guys I know with the cloned stuff happen to be the best tool customers out there, with way more scan tools than the average technician. Why is that?

Well, my theory is that cloned scan tools have a market because vehicles are just growing tougher and tougher to diagnose. More and more often, we need the factory scan tool to diagnose what's wrong with the vehicle.

At the same time, the automotive business is getting harder to compete in. We're getting less gravy work than we used to and to compete, we have to send as few to the dealer as possible.

Technicians with these cloned tools are not stealing so that they can hurt someone. These technicians want to fix more vehicles the right way. Sadly, in order to do it on as many vehicles as possible the rules get "bent" a little bit.

I do see some light at the end of the tunnel. Honda's factory scan tool is useable for $10 a day; Toyota's $55 for two days.

If more OEMs move their factory scan tool interfaces to J2534 and become software salesmen, just like Sega (a popular video game manufacturer) has become, they might turn much larger profits. Then, more technicians than ever will be using factory scan tools.

However, for now, it appears clones with be a thorn in the OEMs' side.