Selecting the right scan tool

March 2, 2017
If you’re looking for a new scan tool, remember to keep a few considerations in mind.

With the right scan tool, you’ll be able to identify vehicle issues faster, helping you to fix more cars and make more money. Whether you are looking to make your first scan tool purchase or you’re looking to upgrade your current tool, it’s critical to consider the features and capabilities that will ultimately provide the biggest benefit for you and your shop.

A good place to start in the process is to consider the vehicle coverage you’ll need. The vehicles that you frequently see provide a good indicator of the demands of your customers, so you’ll want to ensure that your scan tool covers these makes and models.

You’ll also need to think about what capabilities you need to successfully diagnose vehicles. Do you use repair networks, wiring diagrams or need to reprogram modules? The OTC Encore and Evolve offer more than 30 million fixes right on the tool, with millions more available through direct linking to Identifix and other repair networks. OTC automatically transfers vehicle data, including YMME and DTCs to help expedite your search. The Evolve also includes a J2534 capable VCI for ECU reprogramming.

Consider what you’re looking to spend on the tool. This is a major factor in the decision-making process, as scan tools can range from a few dollars for a code reader to thousands for a professional scan tool. Think about how long it will take for you to earn that money back at $50 or $80 a vehicle to diagnose customer complaints. When will the tool be profitable for you?

To maintain your tool, you’ll also need to consider what type of software updates and subscriptions are required, including the frequency and any additional related charges. Software updates are a necessary expense to stay current, and may be required at certain intervals in order to continue the use of your tool. OTC does not force you to install updates on its scan tools, but recommends that you do so to keep your tool up to date to cover newer vehicles you may see.

The operating system is also an important consideration, and can be a matter of preference between Android and Windows. Various scan tools offer both operating systems but an Android operating system is more universal and typically offers faster speeds, giving you the ability to access data faster.

If you frequently find yourself jumping between your scan tool and your computer to analyze wiring diagrams, consider the importance and potential benefit of having these diagrams available on the tool. The OTC Evolve is the only scan tool that offers full color, full system wiring diagrams for vehicles 1986 and newer, available directly on the tool. The Evolve’s exclusive on-tool wiring diagrams cover nearly 50 passenger vehicle systems and some medium duty truck systems.

Some scan tools offer additional options such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to allow connections to printers and wireless networks. These options can connect your tool with repair networks, wireless printers, TPR tools and more.

A scan tool may look like the perfect choice on paper, but there’s nothing like hooking it up to a vehicle to see if it works for you. Ask your mobile tool distributor or see if the manufacturer will give you a demo unit to test.  

Good customer service is an essential benefit in selecting the proper scan tool. As a major investment for you and your shop, the tool must continue to operate as intended and proper customer service support can ensure this happens. Overall customer service including technical and field service provides an immeasurable advantage for a shop.

The warranty included with your scan tool could mean the difference in seamless operations in your shop and downtime that costs you money. If a tool is damaged and must be sent back for repair, some warranty policies will offer a loaner tool during service.

Whether you’re new to scan tools or are looking to continue to hone your skills, training offered with a scan tool provides the benefit of ongoing education. OTC offers dozens of training videos to teach you how to use your tool. Videos include how to access and use special tests, bidirectional controls, data stream parameters and more. Your new scan tool may offer new capabilities, or may have a slightly different format than your previous tool, and good training helps the transition process while saving time and offering a dependable resource.

Future proof your tool. How? Purchase a scan tool that will continue to be useful and relevant in your shop for many years. This means that the company behind your scan tool is integrating the product with tools in a manufacturer’s lineup and is committed to software updates covering new vehicles and model years. This ensures that your investment will continue to be worthwhile in the long term.

As you consider your needs and what will add the biggest benefit to your shop, you’ll want to compare tools to find which one may be the best fit.

So if you’re looking for a new scan tool, remember:

  • Check the tool’s vehicle coverage and requirements for software updates
  • What is the cost versus how long before it pays for itself?
  • What on-tool repair assets are included?
  • What additional features do you want or need?
  • Can you try the tool in your shop before you buy it? 

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