The right scan tools to tackle the truck service job

If you consider how many different vehicle configurations are on the road today it will give you an idea of how advanced diagnostic and repair solutions must be, notes Scott Bolt, director of product management at Noregon.

If you consider how many different vehicle configurations are on the road today it will give you an idea of how advanced diagnostic and repair solutions must be, notes Scott Bolt, director of product management at Noregon. “Those tools should allow you to work on all makes and models of commercial trucks and simultaneously diagnose all electronic components on a vehicle,” he says. “Maintenance and repairs drive uptime, so it’s critical for technicians to be able to find all issues on an entire vehicle before putting it back in operation.”

The heavy-duty industry is not standardized, points out Victor Rivilla, marketing director at CanDo International. “Scan tools should have the scalability to be used on Class 4 to 8 trucks,” he says. “That means having the ability to add software and connectors to address many different makes and models of equipment and connections.”

Scott McKinney, senior product manager at Bosch Automotive Service Solutions, says that scan tools should have strong coverage for the vehicles seen in your shop. “As vehicles become more advanced, the use of scan tools continues to rise,” he relates. “Even basic maintenance procedures can require the use of a scan tool. Scanning is like taking vitals on a new patient. You need to know what’s going on to do any type of diagnostics.”

An important characteristic of scanning tools to consider, according to Chris Freeman, director of sales/training HD at Autel, is bidirectionality. “Asking what years are covered by a tool narrows the field tremendously,” he says. “In addition, the more OEM-like the tool is bidirectionally, the more value it brings.

“The question is, which tool gives you the most coverage for your initial investment?” Freeman adds. “Some companies claim superior coverage, only for you to find out that they only serve as a vessel for additional OEM software that is needed just to do normal diagnostics.”

Freeman also notes that most manufacturers require keeping scan tool subscriptions current. In that regard, it is important to ask if the software shuts off without a subscription, and what charges you will pay for reinstating an elapsed subscription.

CanDo’s Rivilla says that there is always the need to further develop and refine scan tool and diagnostic software capabilities and coverage. “Protocols are not standardized, so code libraries and definitions have to be constantly updated,” he explains. “Scan tool manufacturers have to be able to develop their products to meet changing requirements and serve their customer’s needs in a timely manner. 

“That means constant development and release of updates by the scan tool manufacturer and updating of tools by the customer,” Rivilla adds. “Tools with subscription-based updates will fare best in today’s heavy-duty environment.”

“Any diagnostic and repair solution worth considering will include major updates throughout the year,” Noregon’s Bolt says. “These updates ensure that there is coverage for the latest vehicles, plus new features that simplify the diagnosis or repair process.

“Shop managers should feel confident that as they add new assets, their diagnostic tools will keep pace,” Bolt continues. “This can be accomplished through periodic updates. In addition to improving the product’s functionality, updates should also ensure the software is protected from the latest cybersecurity threats.”

Users should consider how diagnostic software and repair information come bundled in one subscription, notes Bosch’s McKinney. “The first year can even be included with the purchase of the tool,” he says, “and you should expect coverage updates a number of times per year, which constantly adds new functionality to diagnostic tools.

“The multitude of subscriptions can add up so a good gauge on ROI for shop managers is to consider the overall cost of ownership,” McKinney adds. “That’s not only for scan tools and software updates, but the costs for access to repair information as well.”

It is also essential that scan tools come with educational features and training resources that teach technicians to perform most of their work within a single application, relates Noregon’s Bolt. “Your diagnostic and repair tool should be as intuitive as it is advanced,” he adds. “With guided diagnostics, it should empower entry-level technicians to do more than basic repair jobs and let experienced technicians focus on complex jobs instead of being pulled away for triage activities.

“By purchasing an all-makes-and-models solution, you can reduce the number of diagnostic tools needed in the shop,” Bolt continues. “Doing so reduces expenses, decreases the number of updates you have to manage per year, and drastically cuts down on concerns about keeping technician training up to date. Switching between applications is costly and requires training.

“Consider how often all-makes-and-models diagnostic tool can keep technicians resident in a single application and calculate the cost savings,” Bolt adds. “We’ve found that users save more than ten minutes per repair job compared to those attempting the same repairs with software specific to one make of component. Additionally, consider the reduction in vehicle comebacks after switching to a comprehensive all-makes-and-models solution. Any downtime that can be avoided by more thorough diagnosis in the shop is going to directly impact profitability and ROI.”

With scan tools and diagnostic software, notes CanDo International’s Rivilla, fleet shop managers can quickly see what jobs had to be sent to an outside service provider that can now be performed in-house, and take into account the savings from less vehicle downtime.

“Scan tool technology is becoming more of an overall diagnostic resource for shops and technicians,” says Bosch’s McKinney. “With more information available to technicians, the ability to have everything needed to diagnose, research and repair vehicle issues regardless of age or model can take your shop operation to the next level.”