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Choosing a tool for diagnostics
01-24-2017, 11:55 AM
Post: #1
Question Choosing a tool for diagnostics
Hi everyone,

I am new to your guys forum, so glad to be a part of it!
I cannot say that I am a real master in mechanics, but I fix my vehicles by myself. I've got 2 vehicles - a 2011 Impreza and a 2014 F-150.

My question to you guys - what kind of diagnostics scan tool would you recommend me to pick? Are MSD scanners fine? As my wife presented a $100 card of one store, and they sell only MSD scanners. So I was wondering whether you recommend getting one or, if it's so-so, I will buy it elsewhere and save the card for some parts...

Thanks, your feedback on these things is highly appreciated!
Cheers!Cool
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01-24-2017, 11:17 PM (This post was last modified: 01-24-2017 11:18 PM by Rupe.)
Post: #2
RE: Choosing a tool for diagnostics
I have no experience with the MSD units so can't speak on them.

For the average DIY type I would say to stick with something more than a code reader but way less than a full function tool, as they are expensive and you will never get a return on your money, especially if you keep vehicles less than 10 years. There are units to cover this in the $100 range that will do several years back and usually work ok for the next few model years. Higher priced tools (several thousand dollars) have the ability to update software but that's big bucks to start and more in the future. (annual update can be $1,000) That's fine for a shop where it's used several times daily and they can charge for diagnosis.

My personal choice for my small fleet shop is one from Actron, which goes deep enough to get live data, pending and enhanced ECM codes, plus has the ability to reset the engine light after a fix. The one I have only does engine and driveline, which covers some transmission codes too... BUT does not do anything for ABS systems or BCM problems. They sell other "stand alone" scan tools for those items. The beauty of going this route is you don't feel cheated when the thing is 10 years old and becomes out of date. Hey, it was only $100 and saved me that much in aggravation with one or two jobs. The rest was gravy!

BTW, the Actron unit I have (forget the model number) was bought cheap on a close out sale (way under $100) and lists all OBD-2 starting in 1996 up through 2005, but seems to be ok up through 2010 for general trouble shooting, and does read Asian vehicles most of the time. (it has a general setting that I use here instead of specific make / model) If you really get stuck the work case is you spend a few $$ and have a shop read what you can't. (and be $$ ahead in the long run) Odds are you will never go that route if you own a basic unit and get familiar with it.
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01-25-2017, 05:49 AM (This post was last modified: 01-27-2017 04:54 AM by TheMechanixx.)
Post: #3
RE: Choosing a tool for diagnostics
Thanks, Rupe!
Just wanted to tell you that I decided to save the card for future and get that Actron. And, will give up the idea about those MSDs for now (https://www.carid.com/diagnostic-scan-tools/). Tonight will check on ebay and probably order the thing. And yes, sure thing I do not feel like speding thousands for the scanner, as it's just for my personal usage. Plus, I am sure all code meanings may be found online, and I also saw cheap apps for a PC that have all the decodings.
Again, thanks for replying and sharing your experience, man.
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01-25-2017, 10:20 AM
Post: #4
RE: Choosing a tool for diagnostics
Now that you mention it, I have seen listings on Amazon.com for cable adaptors that will plug into a USB port with software you can use on a lap-top, if that's something you might consider.

All of these will tell you the codes and their meanings but wont tell you what to do about it. This is where "live data" may come into play. At that point you can punch the code into Google and that will bring you to various forums (like this one) where people discuss what direction to take on the repair.

Still in all, I lean toward a stand-alone scan tool for my work. Call me old fashion, but it's so much easier to walk out in the parking lot and take a gander with something like that.
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01-26-2017, 05:11 AM
Post: #5
RE: Choosing a tool for diagnostics
(01-25-2017 10:20 AM)Rupe Wrote:  Still in all, I lean toward a stand-alone scan tool for my work. Call me old fashion, but it's so much easier to walk out in the parking lot and take a gander with something like that.

You know, man, if I needed something for work, I would consider something more professional, at greater budget. But as long as I just want to know where to search for the problem if I notice that something's wrong, a simple thing will do that. And you're right, there are many ways on how to read those codes. A friend of mine installed an app both on his cell and laptop. First he selects the year, make and model, then types in a code, and gets the details on what that code stands for. But the tool he's got is from some unknown chinese supplier, with constant glitches... So I will keep seeking for a good thing at good price.

Have a good one!
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01-27-2017, 06:51 AM
Post: #6
RE: Choosing a tool for diagnostics
Sometimes you can get a good deal on high end scanners if you keep an eye on them for when the new models are coming out. Tool trucks and even Amazon will cut the price way down to sell off old models. The old ones are a downgrade for a shop but an up grade for the average guy.

Thanks for using the forum,
Garner

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