Which service information system is best?

April 10, 2022
Accurate information access is 33% of what it takes to diagnose and fix cars correctly and efficiently. At times each source will leave you high and dry.

What you will learn:

• Access to accurate service information is crucial to the efficient diagnosis and repair of any vehicle

• Even the OE level information sources are incorrect, at times

• Having multiple sources of information is an investment worth making

During my average week, I encounter and speak with dozens of maintenance/service, repair, and diagnostic technicians. I spend almost equal time conversing with shop foremen, managers, and shop owners, as well. Regardless of their role at their place of employment, a common question always seems to arise.

“Which service information system should we invest in?”

That is a very valid question to ask as it takes these three ingredients to ensure an accurate and efficient diagnosis and repair:

  • A solid understanding of the physics involved with the component and/or system you are facing
  • The proper tools to evaluate the component and/or system performance
  • Adequate service information to properly understand how the vehicle-specific system functions

My answer to this question is always the same. All service information sources have value. I happen to have access to five of them. It might seem a bit excessive, and most times, it is not necessary. However, every now and again, I’ll encounter an issue finding what I need. Or worse, encounter incomplete information and/or incorrect information.

I recall being challenged with a BMW with faulty redundant steering wheel controls. Accessing information from the BMW Factory OE website gave me (what I assumed) was the correct and complete information. Pursuing an analysis with this information led me to draw a diagnosis. I condemned (what appeared to be) the faulty component and replaced it. I discovered the same fault to be present after the part replacement, shortly thereafter.

Retracing my steps multiple times, inevitably, I always came to the same conclusion. I reached out to “phone-a-friend” and ask for his professional input, as I was gaining no ground. His perspective was from that of an aftermarket source of information. After he viewed the wiring diagram, he enquired about a component of that system, I was not aware of.

After I viewed the same wiring diagram he was, I discovered the suspect component was inadvertently left out of the factory service information. After discovering this new information, I proceed again with another analysis. Troubleshooting now with the correct and complete service information, I quickly discovered the fault to be internal to this component. I completed the replacement, and all was functioning as designed.

Having access to a good source of information is crucial to accurate and efficient diagnosis and repair. However, not every service information source will always have the complete information you need. Having access to multiple sources will get you out of a jam many times.

The problem I described above; I have experienced will all to the following sources of information:

Many of the OE information sources (dealer level access)

Don’t get hung up on which source is best. I find when one lets me down (regarding a specific vehicle manufacturer) another will be available to save the day. But, on another line of vehicles, one of the other info sources will be there to pick up the pieces. So, to answer the original question directly,

“All sources of service information are good."

Sponsored Recommendations

Snap-on Training: ADAS Level 2 - Component Testing

The second video for Snap-on's comprehensive overview of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), covering the fundamental concepts and functionalities essential for automotive...

Snap-on Training: Intro to ADAS

Snap-on's training video provides a comprehensive overview of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), covering the fundamental concepts and functionalities essential for automotive...

Snap-on Training: Guided Component Tests Level 2

The second video for Snap-on's comprehensive overview of Guided Component Tests, covering the fundamental concepts essential for diagnostic procedures.

Snap-on Training: Data Bus Testing and Diagnosis Part 1

Learn the basics of vehicle data buses and their diagnosis with Snap-on's Jason Gabrenas.

Voice Your Opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Vehicle Service Pros, create an account today!