Buyers guide – Intro to guides

Vehicle diagnostic tools are considered a “big ticket” item

This is to say that they are vital for work to be done correctly, but cost a large amount. Picking the correct big ticket item for you is tough for those exact reasons – there are lots of things to consider. To help speed things up for you, we have created a series of guides which will help you to choose the perfect tool for what you need! This guide is the first step in getting to the perfect choice for you, but if you already have an idea of what you need,

Why not jump to the correct guide for you?

• The A-Z guide of automotive diagnostics

• The KeyTronix locksmith guide - Coming Soon

• The ADAS buyers’ guide - Coming Soon (For more information on ADAS, click here)

Scanner Coverage FAQ

From 1996 in the USA and 2001 in Europe, all vehicles had to follow stricter specific emission standards, this is known as OBD2 or EOBD software. This is able to test and monitor emissions-related components on the engine. Some entry-level scanners can access this system to read fault codes related to engine emissions only. The engine is only 1 of up to 150 different ECU’s (electronic controlled modules) that can be accessed by a scanner.

Vehicles from the 1980’s up to 2001 have their own unique design depending on the manufacturer. This is called an OBD1 plug. When OBD2 standards were introduced all plugs were standardized to the 16-pin style. So if you are planning on working with vehicles older than a 2001 year model, make sure the scanner you are looking for either has OBD1 plugs included or the option to purchase them as extras.

The OBD2 software will cover all* manufacturers as it is the law that all manufacturers have to implement that access to their systems. Diagnostic Scanners that are able to cover more than just the engine ECU system have software called “Manufacture Specific Software”, this is specific software for the different manufacturers, as the ECU system communications are different from manufacturer to manufacture. So make sure the Scanner covers the manufactures you plan to serve. 

*Not all brands of diagnostic tool cover all brands of vehicle

Scanner functions and benefits

Some scanners will only give you the fault code and no description, this then creates extra work for you to go and find out what the fault code means. Make sure your scanner gives you both! (e.g. Code P0171 – System Too Lean Or Code 51 – Misfire Detection Cyl 5)

Also, make sure what systems the scanner can access. Sometimes scanners are limited to only certain control modules (e.g. only Engine, ABS, SRS & Transmission – no Instrument cluster, aircon and other body control, chassis, communication modules)

Oil Reset, EPB, BMS, SAS, DPF etc…

The Live Data function shows real-time values of the vehicles PID data such as engine temperature, engine speed, throttle position, oxygen sensor rich/lean indication, mass air flow etc…

Some vehicle spare parts come with ‘coded’ numbers that have to enter into the ECU in order for it to recognize and/or accept the new (or second hand) part. ECU’s, Injectors, spare keys, radios and even starters are now coming out ‘coded’. This function is indispensable if you need to change those vehicle parts.

Key coding is a broad topic – ranging from doing a spare key to coding a brand new replacement key. If you are looking for a machine that will do specialised key coding, then you will need to look into a key coding unit such as the MaxiIM range from Autel – which also offers diagnostic capabilities.

Some scanners can only read fault codes, make sure it can erase the fault codes as well. Erasing certain fault codes after a problem is fixed will remove the warning lights on systems such as the engine, ABS and airbags.

Yes! An important benefit that most workshops need is to be able to provide their client or the insurance provider with proof-of-work. It is often best to provide a before and after diagnostic report to your client to prove that the work has been done and to eliminate any uncertainty.

Some ECU’s permit you to actuate (switch On/Off, etc.) some of their operating circuits in order to diagnose the functionality of the relevant actuators, for example relays, fans, door locks, lights, injectors, A/C, clutch, etc.

Certain vehicles come with Tyre Pressure Sensors, and this requires TPMS software to manage. It is important to take note whether or not you require this function, or will require this function in the future when making your purchase.

ADAS is a very advanced system, requiring higher level diagnostic tools to perform the tasks. This does limit you slightly in your options, however there is still a large range of tools to choose from.

Have a better idea of what you need? 

Now that you have an idea of the functionality you need, let us help you narrow down the options for the diagnostic tool you need in one of our more detailed guides:

• The A-Z guide of automotive diagnostics

• The KeyTronix locksmith guide - Coming Soon

• The ADAS buyers’ guide - Coming Soon (For more information on ADAS, click here)

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