As vehicles become increasingly complex, technicians need to utilize a wider variety of diagnostic test equipment to keep their diagnostic time as efficient as possible. One tool category that assists with this is thermal imaging tools.
There are two main types of thermal imaging tools available: a dedicated thermal imager designed for automotive use, or an electrical test meter with a built-in thermal imager. A dedicated thermal imager tends to be easier to aim and has a larger display, but for shops looking for a more economic option, a hybrid thermal imaging electrical meter can offer many of the same capabilities.
All thermal imaging tools essentially work the same way, says Javier Hernandez, project manager, JS Products.
“Where [thermal imaging tools] differentiate themselves is in the temperature range and thermal resolution. Both temperature and resolution will affect the cost of the unit,” he explains.
The better the resolution, the more detail technicians will be able to see. And, higher resolution tools will offer a better range, allowing users to see longer distances using the tool. Temperature sensitivity is also an important aspect of thermal imaging tools, especially for automotive applications. Choosing tools with a larger temperature range will allow the widest possible range of diagnostic capabilities.
Another factor to consider is the “distance to spot” ratio, Richard Wexler, Director - Instruments of FLIR, says. In other words, how close do you need to be to get an accurate reading? “Farther is always better,” he adds. “For example, an imager with a 1:12 ratio works best one foot away, while a 1:30 ratio provides an added layer of safety and accuracy at 30” away.”
Also consider the durability of the tool, whether it has any convenient extras such as a built-in light and laser pointer, and image storage.