So, my last basic scan tool is long gone now, and I've procrastinated replacing it. Like most things, I've started doing some research... but in this case, no clear winners have been emerging. In fact, it seems to be one of those areas where there's a lot of mushy information that's not really easy to quantify.
However, in the short time I've been investigating, it looks like there are a few vendors bubbling to the top - one of which, Autel, appears to bridge the gap between lower end consumer devices all the way up through multi-thousand dollar professional devices that I've seen professional mechanics reviewing. However, on the consumer side, there also appears to some interesting choices, with companies like BlueDriver offering a mobile app w/ dongle (not necessarily new) but setting themselves apart with deep reporting that appears to be almost like a crowd-sourced database of possible fixes. The professional counterparts, however, offer integration with services like IntelliFix, but I expect the subscriptions are beyond anything I'd care to pay as an enthusiast versus mechanic.
Nonetheless, as I've been researching, I've been intrigued by the capabilities of the higher-end tools. Most of them come in tablet form - usually running Android or Windows operating systems - and they have some fancy capabilities:
- Multi Vehicle Support - most of them will support nearly any vehicle brand (within reason), including auto VIN detection, mapping appropriate control modules, etc.
- Deeper Diagnosis - instead of simple codes and two word descriptions, the fancier tools also appear to get into lengthier descriptions of the problem, also linking into their propriety databases as well as third parties.
- Real Time Data - most of them appear to offer some kind of real-time data analysis from any of the car's sensors (e.g. oil temp, RPMs, oxygen sensors, individual cylinders misfires, etc.) and then offer graphing and charting of the data.
- Service Capabilities - most of them appear to offer service capabilities like resetting service reminders, SRS/airbag systems, brake bleeding, TPMS, etc.
- Bi-directional Communications - the fanciest among them also seem to be fully bidirection, able to send control signals to different modules (e.g. telling the oil pump to prime), etc, as a means of testing various systems.
On the downside, these fancier tools are significantly more expensive (ranging from $500 to many thousands for all of the bells and whistles), and the updates to stay current can be expensive annual subscriptions. That said, as a techie, I'm intrigued, and they actually look to be able to provide real insight and diagnosis versus a lot of the small scan tools that only give cryptic codes. I particularly like the service and bidirectional communication capabilities, which seem invaluable if you're trying to really diagnose a problem.
In any case, I'd love to hear some feedback from the board here - what scan tools are you guys using, and in particular, does anyone have any experience with some of these fancier tablet-form units that are primarily targeted at the pros?