Tool Review: Ross-Tech VCDS

March 13, 2015
Howard Pitkow uses this diagnostic tool to perform an auto scan on every vehicle that comes into his repair shop.

The Ross-Tech HEX-NET wireless interface expands Ross-Tech’s VCDS Windows PC program, freeing the technician from the inconvenience of wires. VCDS, the factory-level diagnostic tool for all Volkswagen/Audi from 1996 through the current model year, provides full access to all control modules. Factory level functions such as coding, basic settings, adaptations and output tests are fully supported. The HEX-NET also includes the new VCDS-Mobile software. VCDS-Mobile adds the ability to use virtually any smart device that has a Wi-Fi connection and a web browser as the user interface. VCDS-Mobile supports smart phones, tablets and computers running Apple iOS, Android, Blackberry, Microsoft products and more.

The Review

Howard Pitkow, owner and technician of Wagenwerx, Inc. in Wyndmoor, Pa. first began using the Ross-Tech Vag Com Diagnostic Software (VCDS) on Volkswagen and Audi vehicles about 15 years ago, while the tool was in beta testing. He likes that the software is intuitive and easy to use.

Every vehicle that enters Pitkow's shop receives a full auto scan, and the file is saved. "The main reason for this is if a coded vehicle control module fails in the future, I will have the necessary codes specific to this vehicle on-hand." He says, "I will not have to worry about trying to retrieve them from a control module that will no longer communicate."

An auto scan gives the user a report of all connected modules listing any faults.

In addition to auto scanning vehicles, Pitkow uses the VCDS to retrieve, analyze and clear stored DTCs.; re-adapt electronic throttle motors and generate readiness following repairs; reset dashboard service reminders; and more.

As a licensed Pennsylvania-state emission inspection shop, Pitkow says that he uses the VCDS when a repair has been made and a Check Engine Light (CEL) has been cleared. "Generating readiness in the service bay versus a long complicated drive cycle test drive is very valuable to me. On most vehicles, I can turn the CEL off and have it ready for emission inspection in less than ten minutes. This is a time saver and a convenience that I am unwilling to work without."

The standard VCDS is available as a download from www.Ross-Tech.com. The connecting cable or wireless adapter need to be purchased separately, says Pitkow.

The Pro Kit includes a blow molded case, software CD, OBD I and OBD II connecting cables or a wireless adapter and a printed copy of the owner's manual.

Although Pitkow has read the manual "cover to cover," he says, "For most operations, an instruction manual is not needed."

Pitkow recently used the VCDS on a Volkswagen via a Hex-Com cable. First, he tested the secondary air pump system, which allowed him to run the air pump and relay. He says, "Hearing no sound, I checked the fuse block."

The Volkswagen's auxiliary fuse panel showed a blown secondary air pump 50A fuse. Following the fuse replacement, Pitkow was able to activate the relay and air pump. He says, "Resetting the secondary air monitor and generating readiness verified the repair."

Pitkow likes the fast boot-up time of the tool, when used in conjunction with his mini PC with digital hard drive. "The tool is as fast as your computer. My mini PC boots up in seconds and its small size makes it the perfect fit for quick checks and road tests, etc."

He also likes that the tool quickly retrieves, saves and prints stored data, a feature that was not initially available with the VCDS. He says, "The software is constantly being improved and upgraded. So far, all upgrades have been free to registered users." Pitkow says that this is not necessarily the case with other diagnostic tools.

Pitkow says that the VCDS is the fastest diagnostic tool he owns. "It's noticeably faster and easier to use than the Volkswagen factory tool." 

Occasionally, a function may not have been available on a new vehicle. Last month, Pitkow was not able to generate readiness on a brand new vehicle. "A quick call to Ross-Tech support was the answer. It not only helped me, it will make it easier for all users of the tool in the future."

Pitkow says that additional benefits that this tool offers are the ability to: read and log MAF sensor GPS readings while on a test drive, set diesel pump timing following a timing belt replacement, open and close rear brake calipers to assist in brake pad replacement, reset electronic dashboard service reminders and read several measuring data blocks at one time. He says, "VCDS also provides an easy way to activate electronic devices for testing purposes."

Unable to come up with something he didn't like about the tool, Pitkow rates the Ross-Tech a 10 out of 10. "VCDS does a better job for me than the $10,000 factory scan tool."

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