What diagnostic tool do I need? OEM, Multi Brand.. ODB Code reader
“One accurate measurement is worth more than a thousand expert opinions” – Admiral Grace Hopper
I feel the same could be said regarding vehicle diagnostic tools. The world of vehicle repairs has drastically changed. Modern vehicles are now electronically demanding with complicated electronic systems controlled by a variety of Electric Control Modules. Without the correct diagnostic tool there are many expert opinions and no accurate measurements. Not having the correct diagnostic tool will not only waste your time trying to find the faults, but you will have to clear these codes somehow after repairs. Having the correct diagnostic tool will allow you to work effectively.
Diagnostic tools are a given in today’s automotive repair industry. Your workshop spanners and diagnostic equipment go hand in hand. The issues now are the huge variety of tools on the market, there are many different types of tools and brands. Some are good and some are shocking. I have taken the time to write this blog to share my knowledge and hopefully answer some common questions that I have on a day to day basis. Investing in diagnostic equipment will improve your business and vehicle repair ability and speed. These tools are an asset not a liability, and a necessary investment to grow and accurately work on modern vehicles.
There is no one particular tool for everything and if you ever hear these words, be cautious of the person selling you this idea… Keep in mind Diagnostic Tools.. Key word here “Tools” you will always add to this range of tools, as with any other type of tool in your workshop. I will start with basic code readers – OBD 16 pin scanners and then move onto multi brand as well as cover OEM. I will also discuss grey imports, Chinese equipment and the importance of using a dedicated supplier.
OBD (16 pin)
Is the standard now used for onboard diagnostics. Basically OBD runs the emission system of most vehicles from 2003.. This may vary with certain brands.. So the low down of this is that the OBD runs tests on the engine to make sure its fueling correctly. Here you can take a closer look at the history of OBD – OBD Description
OBD code readers will allow you to read fault codes on the emission system. You can also clear fault codes and depending on the tool you can read live data and freeze frame data on the emission system only.
The development of multi brand tools stems from a demand in the industry for aftermarket workshops to carry out diagnostic scans. There was a time where OEM tools were just not available. Companies such as Texa, Launch and Snapon started developing these tools and the industry blew up. The multi brand diagnostic tool industry is now a multi-billion dollar industry.
These tools now offer an across-the-board solution for workshops. These tools have become trusted names and deliver excellent results. In the words of Equiptech’s motto.. The power of fast and accurate diagnostics back into the hands of the consumer! This is exactly what these tools offer.
There is no one multi brand tool that covers everything, these are aftermarket developments. Investing in these tools is undoubtedly the way forward for workshops and individuals working on multiple vehicle brands. Keep the tool upgraded and add other brands to fill in the pieces. There are some tools in this class however that you need to be careful of. Insist on a complete system coverage list. Stating brands which the tool “covers”, does not count for anything. Review the tools exact capabilities before you buy anything.
Original Equipment Manufacturer. This is cut and dry. These tools are dealer tools and do everything that the dealers do. OEM Tools are great for workshops or technicians wanting to have full brand specific diagnostic capabilities. This will give you a competitive edge over anyone and allow you to not have any down time on repairs.
Below you will find my product review for the above mentioned CAR Diagnostic Tools with a few positive and negative views
I have had a good run with the Launch Creader series. These tools are always upgrading.. We are on the 8th Gen of this tool now. I would recommend an OBD code reader to anyone. They are easy to use, quick and handy. Would I say they are the only diagnostic tool you will need? No.
They are very basic. Currently Launch Creader VIII is doing some additional systems like ABS and gearboxes fault reading and clearing. I enjoy this tool and find it is great value for money. This is very basic, however it is a cool gadget and easy to take out on a break down or whip out to quickly check a code.
Things to keep in mind when buying an OBD code reader… Check the protocols are correct for the vehicles you work on. Launch is a safe bet. We always choose quality over anything here, so my recommendation is The Launch Creader. Great tool, battles with some of the local South African VW polo’s and Ford Bantams. The weird local ECU’s that are fitted here are the cause of this issue. Apart from that not to many missing pieces.
Well here is can of worms! Wow the industry has so much to offer and even fewer capable of actually scanning systems and having good vehicle system coverage. This being said there are a few tools worthy of talking about. The power players of the Multi brand diagnostic world. Let’s start with cars…
Launch X431 Series
This is a tool that is proven. Launch has done a fantastic job with the development of this tool on Asian and European Cars over the years. China born Launch has grown into a brand name that makes competition shake at the mention of the word, X431. The tools success is due to how seriously Launch Tech has taken software development. Launch has a software development monster. Offering daily upgrades, the machine constantly is improving and is “The tool that CAN” Launch offers coverage of about 70 vehicles.
General systems coverage across the board: Engine, Gearbox, SrS, ABS, immobiliser etc… The tool does basic settings, coding, key coding and many other awesome features such as activations and live data. Though not perfect, it’s about the closest you will find to a one tool solution. It also comes with everything you need in the box. When original, it comes with 1 year’s worth of daily online upgrades from the official Launch website.
The negative of Launch
Everyone sells it, mostly not knowing anything about the industry. We also have the issues that pretty much every tool, worth anything, China will clone. My list of negative things for this tool is not generally about the tool but about Launch Tech allowing this to happen to their product. You can pick these tools up for a few bob online. Lacking support, upgrades, repairs and warranty. You will be promised the world and get nothing in return. You will end up having a tool that cannot be upgraded.
I can’t stress how important the upgrades are. This is a tool to improve your workshop right? Upgrades are for ALL years’ models and makes of vehicles. Launch, as with any multi brand tool develops on ALL years at any given time. We have done our best to keep the cost of Launch down due to these copy machines… Chat to me about a Launch before you buy one. I have worked with this product for 10 years. In RSA and Europe, the story never ends well dealing with these internet clowns. You will be saving pennies and losing pounds.
This tool, funnily enough, was the development of a software developer from Launch. He was the head of Launch Tech’s Merc and BMW software development team. I met the owner in Germany at the Automechanika and got chatting. Not sure how many people actually know this. Given this info the Autoboss is better on BMW and Merc in some coding abilities when up against the launch X431.
This is not here or there because Launch develops and will fill in any missing gaps in upgrades. I do not supply this tool and it’s not generally because I dislike the tool. The Launch is a better tool in my personal opinion and it’s in the same price bracket. I know Autoboss changed their system a while ago and stopped upgrades to all old units. I did not like this at all as customers invested in these tools. If they offered trade assistance against the new tools, I’m not sure. I know the latest tool had some issues with the hardware and there were a few cases of down time for repairs. I’m sure this is now sorted out. However I have had good feedback on the tool and there are customers that swear by the Autoboss.
Here we have hassle free scanning, there are no grey areas. You will have full dealer functionality, in fact, you will not have a system you will not be able to work on. These tools offer dealer scanning. This is ideal for workshops who can afford buying a scan tool per vehicle brand, or for those who work only on 1 brand.
Buying dealer tools for every vehicle will be very costly, it’s a serious investment. There are also tons of copies out there, some work some do not. If it runs on VMWARE player, golden rule is, keep away from it. Try deal with someone that has a business selling these tools who can back up repairs and software updates etc.. Be sure to ask this question – How and when do I get upgrades? Keeping away from Chinese internet companies is not a bad idea when buying OEM.