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The Latest in Diagnostics

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Researching and purchasing scan tools can feel like a daunting task, especially if you’re long overdue for new equipment. According to data from MAHLE, the average shop uses a scan tool roughly 30 times a week, and Snap-on says its data shows that more than half of all repair jobs require the use of a diagnostic tool. New updates, software and tool launches can make it difficult to weed through the market and zero in on the most significant launches. 

Although there is no one-size-fits-all tool and it’s necessary for every shop to go through their own process of ensuring its technicians are equipped with the right diagnostic equipment, looking at the latest launches can help identify trends in the scan tool market. 

Ratchet+Wrench took a look at some of the latest diagnostic scan tools launched in the past 15 months, along with capabilities, cost and expected return. 

LAUNCH Tech X431 Pad II

The Cost: $1,699

The Capabilities: The new LAUNCH professional line series is Android-based and wireless. The new 2014 tools include the X431 Pad II, LAUNCH ScanPad 101 and LAUNCH Scan ad 071. The drop-tested tablets include coverage for Asian, European and domestic vehicles, live data and graphing and a new glitch capture feature.

The system also features a built-in customer management software, link to the company’s online user community, Auto-ID available on vehicle systems and modules, code search and a high-resolution camera with still and video capabilities.

New in the last quarter of 2014 is an integration with the company’s GOLO CarCare telematics device. The device connects to the OBD-II port in any 1996 and newer car to remotely transmit real-time live vehicle information to service stations. The device transmits live data via Bluetooth through the car owner’s cell phone app and works with LAUNCH Android scan tools. GOLO transmits real-time live enhanced data regarding troubleshooting, diagnostics and check engine lights to the shop’s diagnostic tool.

Whom it’s Designed for: LAUNCH says the tool is designed for a general-repair shop looking for OE-level functionality.

The Return: LAUNCH says that the GOLO allows shops to slow down attrition and increase the customer base by giving customers immediate access to the shop.

“The GOLO application gives the shop the ability to keep a closer relationship with the customer through a voice to text interface,” says Scott Gompper, director of marketing at LAUNCH Tech USA. “Customers think of the shop when the car has a problem.”


The Cost: $400, with an annual subscription cost of $1,200

The Capabilities: Marking the company’s foray into diagnostic scan tools made exclusively for the aftermarket, the MAHLE TechPRO touts the ability to complete a full vehicle scan in roughly 30 seconds. According to Jim Markle, manager of business development at MAHLE Service Solutions, the speed is due to decades of end-of-line testing for vehicle manufacturers.

“Every vehicle produced in the world since 2003 is scanned and diagnosed with the MAHLE scan tool,” he says. “When building vehicles, they don’t measure things in minutes, they like to measure in seconds. Over the course of years, we have figured out how to do that.”

Markle says MAHLE’s work with manufacturers also means that the company doesn’t reverse engineer any data, and instead purchases OE data and manually converts it into a workable format for the software. The tool currently features data from 2007 to the present, with plans to continue working backward.

When designing the tool, which is due for launch in mid-2015, Markle says convenience was also a priority. The tool has eliminated hardware purchases by switching to a subscription model.  It can run on any existing Windows-based system. This also allows the system to automatically download and perform all updates. The only hardware necessary is a Bluetooth-enabled vehicle communication interface (VCI).

TechPRO also features J-2534 pass-through capability for reflashing and reprogramming. Other functions of the tool include cylinder balance tests, compression testing, key relearn and misfire graphing.

Whom it’s Designed for: Markle says the tool is designed for a shop with a broad reach of Asian and domestic vehicles. He notes that it is not yet suitable for European specialty shops.

The Return: Markle says that a high-volume shop with a $100 labor rate can save 3–5 minutes per correct diagnosis per vehicle using the tool, leading to increased revenue of $13,000 per year.

MicroPod 2 by wiTECH

The Cost: $2,995, with an annual subscription cost of $1,495

The Capabilities: The MicroPod 2 is the same interface that the Chrysler dealerships use to diagnose and repair cars. 

“Plain and simple, it is the OEM diagnostic tool,” says Joey Hendrich, owner of AE Tools & Computers. “No hit or miss, swiss-cheese scenario.” 

It handles all diagnostics, programming and coding of modules, and security and immobilizer-related issues. This tool offers complete coverage on all CAN Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Fiat-applications.

The small device plugs into the OBD-II port and then directly to a laptop via USB. It requires no special cables or drivers, and completely takes the place of multiple Chrysler tool applications.

Hendrich says the tool is designed for a shop that wants to have the same capabilities as the Chrysler dealer, including diagnostics, reflash programming and key programming capabilities.

He says the company will introduce a suite of training videos available on the MicroPod 2 in late 2015, covering setup and installation for specific applications. 

Whom it’s Designed for: It is designed for a shop that commonly works on 2004 and newer Chrysler and Fiat applications. 

The Return: Hendrich says to calculate ROI on the tool, start by calculating how many times a month you see a check engine, ABS or SRS light, or a repair that needs re-flash programming. Next, check your payables to find how much you spend at a dealership during a typical visit to get the malfunction indicator lamp (MIL) light corrected. That money, he says, could have stayed with the shop if equipped with the right scan tool. Hendrich says a shop could earn enough to pay for the tool in as little as three months.

OTC Encore

The Cost: $2,000, with an annual subscription cost starting at $800

The Capabilities: Ed Lipscomb, senior product manager of Bosch’s diagnostic systems, says the capabilities of the OTC Encore boil down to three key points: Ease, coverage and speed. The tool is the first integrated diagnostics Android tablet with an onboard battery. 

“The Encore is integrated, so the technician just walks to the car, plugs the scan tool in, it powers from the battery and works like that,” he says.

The tool’s coverage goes back to 1980 and includes domestic, Asian and European coverage for that time period.

Besides the coverage, it also has general specifications, key reprogramming and battery disconnect procedures.

Bosch partnered with IDENTIFIX to integrate the company’s more than 30 million experience-based repair solutions in the tool. It also features one-touch AutoID, which automatically detects controller area network (CAN) vehicles 2005 or newer to set up year, make, model and engine, one-touch DTCs to get codes with access to confirmed experience-based fixes and embedded training videos. Finally, the tool also features a customer browser home page with access to popular technician forums and Google searches.

“What we’ve done is, at the car and on the tool, we have connected [the technician] to repair information to help him fix that car,” Lipscomb says. 

Whom it’s Designed for: Lipscomb says the tool is directed at a high-volume general aftermarket repair shop.

The Return: A shop with a $100 labor rate that charges one hour of diagnostic time on a job could recoup the cost of the tool in four or five weeks, if used every day.

Snap-on SOLUS Edge 

The Cost: $3,895, with an annual subscription cost of $749

The Capabilities: Snap-on’s full-function scan tool, the SOLUS Edge features the new addition of the SureTrack expert information system. The tool connects via Wi-Fi to the SureTrack database, which shows real fixes and verified parts replacement records gathered from previous successful repair orders. The tool also allows access to Fast-Track Troubleshooter, which includes experience-based troubleshooting tips and timesavers.

“Our scan tools are full-function, covering codes and data for the initial diagnosis, adaptations and relearns to complete the installation of the new part and functional tests and bidirectional controls to verify completed repairs,” says Mark Schaefer, director of marketing for Snap-on Diagnostics. 

The tool’s coverage includes more than 40 makes (21 domestic, 14 Asian and 11 European) as far back as 1980 and the software is upgraded and expanded every six months. When upgrades are made, the company also publishes a 90-page book that lists all of the new coverage.

The SOLUS is Windows-based. Schaefer says the compatibility allows the operating system to run more quickly. 

Whom it’s Designed for: Schaefer says the tool is well-suited to a shop that sees a wide range of repairs and vehicle makes.

“We design our coverage to handle the jobs that shops see most, based on nationwide RO data,” he says. 

The Return: Snap-on has an online ROI tool to help shops judge the value of potential diagnostic tool or software investment at 

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