Tool Review: Autel MaxiSYS commercial vehicle diagnostics scan tool

March 3, 2017
The reviewer says the tool provided quick, accurate diagnoses and offered a wide range of make and model coverage.

The Autel MaxiSYS commercial vehicle diagnostics scan tool, No. MS908CV, performs enhanced system diagnostics on more than 60 commercial light duty, medium duty and heavy duty vehicle brands. The MS908CV is built on the MaxiSYS Android-based platform. The complete tool kit comes with the latest compact size J2534 MaxiFlash Elite to perform pass-thru programming function and complete an array of tool-guided maintenance services, then diagnose manufacturer specific systems, including Allison Transmissions, Bendix ABS brake systems, Detroit Diesel Engines and Eaton and Wabash ABS trailer brakes.

The review

Steve Nisenson has long relied on OEM diagnostic software and his laptop computer to diagnose a variety of issues on trucks. However, upon testing the Autel MaxiSYS commercial vehicle diagnostics scan tool, No. MS908CV, the diagnostic technician at West Babylon, NY-based fleet and vehicle auto repair shop DiBear & Sons came away impressed with the tool’s performance as a viable alternative.

Nisenson admits employing the manufacturer diagnostic software can be “cumbersome from time to time.” Therefore, he was pleased to find the Autel offering provided quick, accurate diagnoses and offered a wide range of make and model coverage.

“It was refreshing because it’s not like I needed to get an idea of what I was scanning, look at it and bring out the manufacturer’s scan tool out to dig deeper,” he explains. “I was able to do it all on the handheld tool. It didn’t leave me having to do anything else. It covered everything in one step.”

The technicians at DiBear & Sons work most often with Freightliner trucks containing Cummins and Caterpillar engines. The first opportunity Nisenson was afforded to use the MaxiSYS was on a vehicle dealing with a transmission problem.

“Normally, we have to use the Allison software to reset the shift adapts and relearn the shift parameters,” he says. “I plugged the tool in and was able to do that fairly quickly. Right off the bat, it was a huge savings in time as far as that goes.”

The amount of coverage the MaxiSYS provides was also immediately noticed and appreciated by Nisenson as well.

“For what I’ve used it for thus far, it has met or even exceeded the manufacturer scan tools,” he says.

Nisenson cited the similarities between the setup and layout of the MaxiSYS commercial vehicle diagnostics tool to those of the company’s automotive diagnostic offering as a major plus. He also appreciated some of the key features of the tool’s menu, including images of the actual vehicle and the manufacturer’s logo to help the technician ensure they are on track to get the proper information. Furthermore, the tool walked Nisenson through several processes step by step.

“Say you are doing a check engine light reset and you just fixed something and the code went inactive and you want to clear the code, it’ll walk you through the key cycle,” he explains. “You have to shut the key off, wait 10 seconds, turn the key back on and then start the engine. It lets you know all that. It doesn’t leave you guessing or give you any issues.”

According to Nisenson, the tool has been able to perform all of the functionality tests a technician would conduct using manufacturer software, and he provides a recent example:

“We had a Freightliner here last week with a Cummins and it had an exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) issue. We were able to monitor the EGR flow and also run through the regen procedure for the diesel particulate filter (DPF) and EGR system -- without even having to get the manufacturer scan tool out.”

Another aspect of the MaxiSYS Nisenson greatly appreciates is the regular updates to the tool.

“With every update, they continue to improve and touch upon areas that weren’t there before or communication interfaces that they weren’t able to communicate with,” he says.

According to the technician, the updates and coverage additions are almost constant. Nisenson also says the one year of free updates to the tool helps ensure he and the others at DiBear & Sons aren’t stuck with an outdated tool in the short term and have plenty of time to purchase extended update plans.

His one suggestion for improvement to the tool is to add a “more refined” reporting utility, as it is a feature he uses quite often in his shop.

Overall, though, Nisenson says the Autel MaxiSYS commercial vehicle diagnostics scan tool, No. MS908CV, turned out to be everything he was looking for in an aftermarket offering and is definitely on par with Autel’s automotive scan tool.

“There is nothing in the market right now that can even come close to the functionality of the Autel tool,” he adds. 

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