Diagnostic software challenges us on two levels

For longtime repair shop owners and technicians, the biggest single change in recent years has been the growing importance of diagnostic software. This subject came up in a recent conversation with a 30-year veteran, Rodolfo Miskatovic, the shop foreman and son of the founder of German Auto, a Harvey, La. shop specializing in German vehicles.

This shop purchased its first OEM factory scan tool in 1999, Miskatovic recalls. Since then, he has attended numerous seminars on diagnostic software and he believes the investment and training required to use these tools is raising the bar for the independent aftermarket. He is not the only technician who feels frustrated that the capabilities of diagnostic tools are changing so fast that it has become increasingly difficult to be up to date on the latest offerings.

For the time being, Miskatovic notes three very broad levels of OBD II diagnostic software:

  1. Code readers that are relatively inexpensive and easy to learn.
  2. Scanners that produce “live” data.
  3. More vigorous tools that include the ability to program modules for OBD II vehicles.

He thinks the majority of independent aftermarket techs are capable of level 1 while the majority of OE dealerships are capable of level 3.

Independent aftermarket shops that prosper will be those that are committed to investing in the best diagnostic tools, Miskatovic says. It requires a higher level of commitment than he has seen in his 30 years. “You really have to like it more than anything,” he says. “If you think this is just another job, forget it.”

Miskatovic has no doubt that aftermarket shops can match the capabilities of OE dealerships, but they face another critical challenge beyond the one already noted.

The biggest challenge for the independent aftermarket, Miskatovic believes, is to convince consumers that the cost of owning a vehicle for several years beyond the warranty period is higher than most currently believe. Once consumers recognize this expertise is necessary for vehicle upkeep, they must be willing to pay for it. Much of that cost will be based on the investment that independent aftermarket shops make in diagnostic software and the training it requires.

This expertise required of today’s diagnostic software has segmented aftermarket shops based on technicians’ capabilities.