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Reader’s Choice: Is There One Automotive Scan Tool That Will Do It All?

Is there one tool you can purchase now that is easy to use that will do most all pre- and post-repair scans with printouts for the insurance companies, plus recalibrations?


Mitch Becker has been a collision industry trainer for 30 years and an I-CAR instructor for more than 25 years. Contact him at (763) 585-6411 or [email protected]

“Is there one tool you can purchase now that is easy to use that will do most all pre- and post-repair scans with printouts for the insurance companies, plus recalibrations? A live video of that process would be nice. The problem I’m having is that the scanners I use are geared more for the service techs, and it’s like an Easter egg hunt for the body shop to figure out when something won’t reset or calibrate. Waiting on a service tech takes too long and driving a car to another dealer is too long and too expensive, and sometimes it’s just a simple body tech error that could easily be fixed.” – Jerry Shapley, body shop manager, Fort Bend Toyota, Richmond, Texas

I wish I had a simple answer for you. The answer is no, there is not one miracle tool that does all scans and recalibrations on all cars and all years. With that being said, there are ways to make your job easier based on what you actually need.

Factory Scan Tool

On any particular given manufacturer’s vehicle, the only tool that can pre-scan, post-scan and recalibrate is their factory scan tool. The factory tool has the ability to see all modules and do all scan and recalibration features. Since they’re updated frequently, they can work on all brand-new vehicles. The drawbacks are the cost of buying, updates and that it only works for one vehicle manufacturer. You would need to buy one for every vehicle you currently work on. The factory tools are also capable of doing recalibrations, too; however targets may need to be purchased separately for these functions, which adds to the cost to purchase. Also, to perform the recalibrations, a shop will have to accommodate for some specific conditions, such as space and lighting, in order to correctly perform these required procedures.

Aftermarket Tools

Aftermarket tools service a broader range of vehicles. However, they do have one big drawback: the new vehicles. Updates for these aftermarket tools can lag up to a year or even more, which prevents them from servicing newer vehicles as they cannot access all control modules. This creates a problem, as you may have a number of codes still set, but the tool does not have access to them. This means you can’t repair what you can’t see is wrong. Another flaw is that many aftermarket systems cannot access control modules to do recalibrations.


So you have some options, but judging from your question, you are not fond of some of them. One option you did not mention is the internet services for scanning, which can send you a device to hook to the vehicle and then to the internet. They then scan the vehicle remotely using factory scan tools for that vehicle. Once scanned, they send you a report showing the results. This is a great service for shops such as yours…but it is not perfect. If a problem is found, it’s up to you to repair the issue. These companies have limited on-the-ground support for problems or troubleshooting. They’re also limited on recalibrating sensors, as this, too, takes a qualified person at your shop to set up targets for the recalibration. If you were to combine a remote service such as this with a mobile service for recalibration, then you would be able to service more vehicles. You would still have a wait for a technician as you mentioned before, but on less vehicles. You could also throw an aftermarket scan tool in the mix. It all depends on how much you want to spend.

So, in essence, there is no current tool on the market today. Tomorrow, who knows!

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