The early days of diagnostics were focused strictly on fixing a vehicle. Scan the vehicle, get the code, figure out the problem and fix the car. They were complicated electronics with a simple job – read the code and help technicians fix faster.
Since then, we’ve evolved into more functionality and features in scan tools, including many today operating on the Android mobile platform for speed and versatility. One of the biggest changes though is the inclusion and sometimes necessity of the scan tool in routine scheduled maintenance.
Twenty years ago you would never pull out a scan tool during an oil change unless a customer mentioned a dash light and they were willing to pay the diagnostics fee some shops charged. Nowadays, there are at least 6 system resets and processes needing a scan tool in many vehicles. They include battery/charging, brake service, service light resets, steering service/alignment and suspension service.
Some OEs integrate light resets into a combination of processes, including turning the key on and off, pushing on the accelerator and moving other parts of the vehicle, but most understand it’s much faster and more efficient to allow techs to use their scan tools to reset.
As vehicles continue to be more reliable and grow in technology, system resets and electronic communication outside of diagnostics will create an increased use-case and need for scan tools. This already exists with J2534 reflash/reprogramming for vehicle software updates or the mentioned system resets.
So as you look for your next scan tool purchase, check the accessories in addition to what the tool itself can do from a DTC standpoint. Does it have optional or integrated system reset tools, and on how many vehicles do they work? Some of the most common are tire pressure sensors relearn/reset, battery reset tool required after changing or disconnecting a battery, and the oil life monitoring system reset.
What else have you seen in the evolution of scan tools since OTC invented the scan tool in the 1980’s?