What should we consider before buying a diagnostic scan tool for our shop?

Feb. 25, 2015
If you had a scan tool that could save you just five minutes per accurate diagnosis between providing VIN decode, DTC’s, testing, proper diagnosis, etc., you would save 130 hours per year.

Speed is critically important. If you can save a few minutes per job, you can earn many thousands of dollars more per year. Look at the speed of the tool before you purchase. A recent aftermarket study found that on average, technicians use a scan tool more than 30 times per week. If you had a scan tool that could save you just five minutes per accurate diagnosis between providing VIN decode, DTC’s, testing, proper diagnosis, etc., you would save 130 hours (over three average work weeks) per year. At the nationwide shop labor rate of approximately $100/hour, that means up to $13,000 of additional revenue (not counting parts sales) for a busy shop.

Vehicle-wide DTC scan is one of the most useful features that can be found in a scan tool. The majority of the time a scan tool is used, it is used to find the diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) that may exist. Instead of guessing and going module to module looking for something, it is better to have all modules report quickly so you can see all codes that exist. This saves an enormous amount of time and can help you determine what is wrong with the vehicle much more quickly. Most scan tools take many minutes to report all DTCs. Look for one that takes 20-30 seconds or less on average. Technical support should be easy to reach. Skilled personnel should be able to guide you with proper operation of the tool, assist you with a proper diagnosis of the tool over the phone, and ship you a replacement or needed service items, if needed. Also, vehicle repair support should be available to help you zero in on the right fix.

Always-on data recording provides a better way of capturing events that lead to proper diagnosis and repair. Without this feature, a vehicle may exhibit an intermittent symptom where you want to see what is happening, but you cannot see it because you may not be in recording mode. With always-on data recording, when a tool is connected to a vehicle, it is always storing what is occurring so you can bookmark the time you hear or feel that sporadic symptom and play it back to help diagnose the vehicle. The success of test drive flight tests are greatly improved with this feature.

Based in York, Pa., Jim Markle serves as the business development manager for MAHLE Service Solutions.

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