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Scan Tools vs Code Readers pt 2

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Scan Tools vs Code Readers pt 2

JD Durham (SubmitYOURArticle.com)
May 3, 2011


Copyright (c) 2011 JD Durham

In the previous part of this series it was clearly shown that Code Readers do have a place in the industry but they are more of a sales tool for parts stores than anything else. Scan tools were shown to be a necessary tool for the professional mechanic, and the enthusiast will find their capabilities superior to a code reader. More importantly the cost savings by purchasing a code reader are not worthwhile as compared to a generic scan tool.

In this second installment we will start examining some of the multi vehicle brand Enhanced Data Scan Tool capabilities, warranties, construction, cost to purchase, cost to upgrade, potential problem areas, and more.

The multi vehicle brand Enhanced Data Scan Tools are available in the similar two formats handheld and laptop. Some of the handhelds have become so large that they really are not handheld any more. These tools can weigh more than a laptop and have dedicated operating systems. Many of the handheld type are the OEM tools built by companies like OTC and Snap On for the vehicle manufacturers. These scan tools can easily cost upwards from $1500, and the lifetime expense has been known to top $25,000.00. These tools offer the bidirectional control and have a serious learning curve. Most have some form of video or print training for the purchaser. They are upgradeable, sometimes by a software subscription, or a hardware addition or both. Warranties are usually 1 year and strictly enforced. The annual upgrades typically start around $500. It is really unknown whether the designers' obsolescence plan their tools or are just too focused on profits to care about the purchasers. Software upgrades are usually performed by internet download and virus contamination possibility exists here also.

Laptop versions are known by many names and we will cover the best known three, B&B Electronics' AutoTap, Auto Enginuity, and Car Code by Alex Pepper.

The B&B Electronics Autotap had an enhanced data tool and software package for GM, Ford & Chrysler for around $400. This enhanced kit has been replaced by a generic data package that focuses on helping with diagnostics. This new package for the DIY market is a little cofusing as it appears to be "CAN protocol" only, but the company states they still have coverage built in for pre "Can Protocol" vehicles. This generic data kit starts at $228.95 for current software owners. They offer 3 additional products to aid in diagnosis.

The previous offerings are no longer being marketed, but the company offers a discount for anyone wishing to trade in their enhanced tool for a generic tool. They plan on adding some limited enhanced capabilities on the new tool, but no definte relaese date is available. The previous software had a steep learning curve. The tool is dependable. Support is really good.

OBD-2 Vehicle Explorer Scan Tool & Car Code is a software and tool package from Alex Pepper. The tool appears to be a product of Paul Bowen (a pioneer in laptop scan tool design). The tool is a "COM, DB9 serial port" design with a USB adapter cable. It is a very dependable tool, but very clunky in design. Unfortunately this design has to remain for the enhanced data coverage on European and Asian vehicles.

The software is free to download and works with this tool only. The software has a really small window and can't be enlarged through the software. Resetting screen resolution offers some help. The software has numerous vehicles in its database. The software has one exceptional quality, it communicates with the Crash Data Recorder (CDR) module, which is currently only being offered by Bosch corporation. This capability is needed IF you perform any body work for insurance companies. The cost of this package is around $250 and is a steal when compared to Bosch's CDR tool. Support is good.

Auto Enguinity has a tool and software base package (Generic Data Only) for $249.95 that requires an additional purchase per auto manufacturer (starting at $149.95 to $229.95) and can drive the cost to more than the OEM tools. The base package must be purchased as a starting point. Their Bluetooth version is very clunky in design and appears to be almost an after thought by the company or engineering has never heard of "Ergonomics".

The PDA tools were originally manufactured by Paul Bowen and I believe the early "COM, DB9, serial port" tools were as well. Shortly after they originally teamed up, Auto Enginuity shifted production to another company and I understand it was not a reliability issue. Auto Enginuity has changed tool manufacturer several times and it is becoming an issue for professional mechanics.

The chip part numbers are ground off to obscure the manufacturer and excessive adhesive is used to secure the covers. Both of these cause heat to be retained in the tool. The company uses a heat sink under chip J17 (power supply ?) so they understand heat is a problem. Some of the tools are plagued with quality and failure issues. The software changes quite frequently and they are considering a "software subscription" model. Their software learning curve is better. They strictly adhere to the 1 year warranty. Support is quick to respond but poor otherwise. The records management is poor as the customer continually has to prove the purchase for support and they do not know which tool from which manufacturer was sold to which customer.

There are quite a few new single vehicle brand Enhanced Scan Tools entering the market. We will cover these in the next article

JD Durham is a World Class Technician, an Automotive Hall of Fame honoree with 45 years experience in the automotive service and repair industry. He is a staff writer at http://straighttalkautomotive.com where you can find other articles tools and information to help you with maintaining your vehicle.

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