Vehicle-Specific Diagnostic Equipment: The Future Is Here -

Vehicle-Specific Diagnostic Equipment: The Future Is Here

While reviewing our shop equipment needs for an upcoming move to a new location, we decided it was time to look at our diagnostic equipment to see what was new and decide if we needed to update it. Again. What we discovered made my day!

By Frank Scandura
Frank’s Mercedes Service

While reviewing our shop equipment needs for an upcoming move to a new location, we decided it was time to look at our diagnostic equipment to see what was new and decide if we needed to update it. Again. What we discovered made my day!

The OEMs are moving over to a platform that utilizes a laptop computer in place of the ­traditional scanners. In essence, the shop owner purchases the OEM software, plus a subscription for the appropriate factory website for updates, service bulletins and repair information. The website gets the updates, so the information supplied is always the latest. Visit the ­National Automotive Service Task Force website for a list of links to the OEM sites at

I know that some of you are thinking there’s no way you want to get a new laptop for each make you service, but think about it — all the factory information, programming, wire diagrams and more are at your fingertips. No more missing information, and no more “Oh, I guess the new scanner we just got doesn’t do that system.” Yes, it’s expensive to purchase each subscription and system. Yes, there will be a learning curve navigating each of the OEM sites. But having the correct and latest information is priceless.  There never was one aftermarket scanner that could handle all systems, much less all vehicles, so the way I see it, this way of servicing cars is way overdue.

This may be the perfect time to decide if you want to concentrate on two or three vehicle makes. Most shop management systems will allow you to see how much a certain car line is worth to you in dollars per visit. Run your reports by vehicle make and check with your staff to see if they have a preferred make. Now, you can concentrate your marketing on those cars instead of throwing a blanket over the entire vehicle community and hoping for the best.

Because we specialize in European cars, it’s very easy for me to justify the cost associated with this many systems. We already subscribe to the factory websites for information, as well as have a number of scanners and laptops. 

I’ll tell you what we’re doing and you’ll want to check the OEM website for information for your application. The first system we got was the Toyota Techstream Lite, which is for 1996 and newer Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles; the full version will service older cars. This system was the best value yet. We were able to purchase our own laptop that Toyota specified and install the software they sent us.

Then, we purchased the Toyota ­subscription and logged into the website. We had a pickup truck in the shop with a noise in the transmission and found a bulletin within minutes about an updated clutch release bearing — information that we couldn’t find in our normal ­research.

Now we’re looking at the SPX site for Jaguar. It’s a little bit of a complicated ordering process, but that’s OK. Here you can chose the laptop from them, Toughbook or Toughbook light, as well as other options. We chose the Toughbook light. In my 11 years at this location, I have yet to see one of our laptops flying across the floor, so I think we’ll be OK with the less-rugged version. We should have ours soon. It’s ordered and on the way.

Mercedes-Benz is working on a new platform to be released later this year or early next year, and rumor has it that it may be tablet based. Yes! We’re looking forward to this new way of servicing these cars.

Next was BMW. We ordered the ISTA with the laptop and related components, purchased our subscription and away we went! This is the way to go.

Warning! Get training. If you’re going to program these complicated car systems, be prepared for long programming times where correct battery voltage is critical. If the battery voltage gets too low, damage can occur to some of these computers. 

It’s becoming more important than ever to have the correct equipment and the latest updated information for the cars we work on. Imagine a car that’s in your shop getting a control unit ­update with outdated equipment, and not starting now. It happens. Let’s all do what we can to get the job done right the first time. It will build credibility with your customers as they tell their friends about you.

Frank Scandura is owner of Frank’s European Service with locations in Las Vegas and Henderson, NV. The 33-year industry veteran boasts the shop’s Golden Wrench Service Commitment – providing customers with the safest and most reliable auto maintenance and repair services possible. His shop specializes in M-B, BMW, Jaguar, Audi MINI Cooper and VW, with an emphasis on driveability.

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