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What You Need to Know About Choosing a Scan Tool

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Scott Brown, owner and technician for Connie & Dick's Service Center Inc in Claremont, Calif., entered the industry during the time of the population of computer controls on vehicles. 

 "At that time I made an observation where a lot of guys that were in the industry at that time were basically not interested in learning these computerized controls. So so I saw that as an opportunity and I began taking every bit of training I possibly could," Brown says. "Primarily from General Motors in their Los Angeles training center. I took probably every class they offered through GM AC Delco."

Brown also went to school about 15 years ago to learn how to do engine calibrations on race cars. 

He outlines what you need to know when it comes to choosing a diagnostic scan tool.

1. Most of the OEM scan tools that the dealership technician uses are available to the aftermarket.  Now, they can run on your own PC and the technician just needs an interface to connect the PC to the vehicle. Due to OBD regulations, most of that can be done through the standard scan tool interface. 

"Most of the time they can access everything the dealership technician has," Brown says.

2. When it comes to engine performance there is a generic On-Board Diagnostics (OBD)-mandated, data list that are reported by the system that a generic scan tool can pick up. Most scan tools have a generic function. 

"I find a lot of the times, I go to the generic side to pick up data because on the OE side they filter out some of those parameters or make it inaccessible," he says. 

3. The OEM scan tools can get access to items that the aftermarket scan tools might not have access to. Those items could include power sliding doors, actuating certain devices, motors, etc.,

Brown recommends a technician get acquainted with the scan tools he or she has and know what it can do and what it can't do. Then, question the data you're looking at and grab another tool to evaluate.

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