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Your Comprehensive FAQ Guide To Automotive Scan Tools

  • 8 min read

Welcome to our comprehensive FAQ guide on automotive scan tools! Whether you're a seasoned mechanic or a DIY enthusiast, navigating the world of diagnostic scan tools can be daunting. This guide aims to answer all your burning questions, from choosing the right tool to understanding its features and maintenance. Whether you're considering your first purchase or looking to maximise the potential of your current tool, we've got you covered.


General Scan Tool FAQ's:

How Do I Know Which Scan Tool I Need?

Choosing the right scan tool depends on what you need it for. Here’s a quick guide:

  1. Specific Task on One Vehicle: If you need a scan tool for a specific task on one vehicle, a single-brand scan tool is usually the most cost-effective.
  2. Multiple Vehicles: If you need a tool for various vehicles, we recommend models like the Autel MK808S or Topdon AD900BT.
  3. Starting Mechanics: For new mechanics who need a tool for a range of vehicles, good options are the Autel MK900, MP900, or Launch Pros V5.0.
  4. Professional Mechanics: If you need a tool that can do relearns, coding, and all maintenance functions, the Autel MS906 Pro or Topdon Phoenix Smart is a great choice.
  5. Light and Heavy Vehicles: For both light and heavy vehicles, the Launch Pro3 Apex with SmartLink C is a solid option. The Topdon Phoenix max is the best option for light and heavy vehicles with the biggest range of coverage.

For more detailed information, please check out our blog here.



What Features Should I Look for in a Diagnostic Scan Tool?

When choosing a diagnostic scan tool, consider these key features:

  • Compatibility: Ensure the tool works with the vehicles you need to diagnose.
  • Functions: Look for essential functions like reading and clearing error codes, performing relearns, and conducting various system tests. Ensure the tool supports the functions you need.
  • Updates: Look at the free update period. Consider if you want a tool with free lifetime updates or a tool with 1-2 years free updates. Also, check the cost to update the tool annually. It is important to remember that any tool with free lifetime updates will be rather basic in terms of functionality. If you are paying for your updates you know the engineers are investing time into the software updates and the tools are much more comprehensive.
  • Ease of Use: Choose a tool with a user-friendly interface and clear instructions.
  • Connectivity: Consider if you would prefer a cable connection or Bluetooth connection for ease of use. Bluetooth scan tools will always be a little more expensive than cable connection scan tools.
  • Support: When you buy from Premium Diagnostics you know you are getting the best aftersales technical support and we are here to help you and guide you.


What Are the Benefits of Using a Professional-Grade Scan Tool Over a Basic One?

Professional-grade scan tools offer several advantages over basic ones:

  1. Advanced Diagnostics: They provide in-depth diagnostics and can access all systems and modules in a vehicle
  2. Comprehensive Functions: These tools can perform complex tasks like relearns, coding, programming, and advanced system tests.
  3. Accuracy: Professional tools offer more accurate and detailed information, helping you diagnose problems more precisely.
  4. Time-Saving: With faster and more in-depth diagnostics, they can save you time during diagnostics and repairs.
  5. Updates and Support: Professional tools come with regular software updates. Having a professional tool also allows us to remotely access your tool, allowing for better support!
  6. Durability: They are built to withstand heavy use, making them more reliable for professional mechanics.

Our most popular professional-grade scan tool is the Topdon Phoenix Max Professional Diagnostic Scan Tool 12/24 V With Or Without Truck Adapter Kit

The Phoenix Max features a 4-channel oscilloscope, compatibility with ADAS, and a Topology Mapping system that displays all vehicle systems in a single view, along with 24V software tailored for trucks and machinery. Its enhanced VCI supports J2534, CanFD, DoIP, D-PDU, and RP1210 protocols, enabling professionals to carry out more intricate repairs on a wide range of automotive and heavy-duty vehicles.


How Do I Know If My Scan Tool is Compatible with My Car's Make and Model? 

To find out if your scan tool is compatible with your car, you can check the list of OBD2-compliant vehicles and their manufacturing years here.

For specific functions and vehicle compatibility, you can use the following vehicle coverage checkers:

If you're unsure about compatibility, please reach out to us, and we'll be happy to assist you.

What is the Difference Between OBD1 and OBD2?

OBD1 and OBD2 are different systems for diagnosing vehicle issues:

  1. Introduction:
    • OBD1: Introduced in the 1980s, it was the first attempt to create a standardised system for diagnosing vehicle problems.
    • OBD2: Introduced in the mid-1990s, it is a more advanced and standardised system used in all vehicles made after 2006 in Australia. Some vehicles built prior to 2006 in Australia may be OBD2. Please check our list here https://premium-diagnostics.com.au/pages/obd2-car-list
  1. Compatibility:
    • OBD1: Each manufacturer had its own version/ protocol, making it less universal and harder to use across different brands.
    • OBD2: Standardised across all manufacturers, making it much easier to use a single scan tool on different vehicles.

Please note that professional scan tools will read all OBD1 and OBD2 protocols.


What Are The Most Popular Uses For A Scan Tool?

Scan tools are commonly used for:

  1. Reading Error Codes: Identifying and interpreting diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) when a warning light comes on.
  2. Clearing Error Codes: clearing the code and clearing stored trouble codes after repairs are made.
  3. Live Data Monitoring: Viewing real-time data from various vehicle sensors to diagnose ongoing issues.
  4. System Tests: Performing tests on different systems like the engine, transmission, ABS, and airbags to ensure they are functioning correctly.
  5. Relearn Procedures: Conducting relearn procedures for components like the throttle body or crankshaft position sensor after replacement.
  6. Programming and Coding: Configuring new or replacement modules and components to work with the vehicle.
  7. Maintenance Reminders: Resetting maintenance reminders and service lights after routine maintenance.


Are There Any Subscription Fees for Using Certain Scan Tools?

Basic scan tools will generally have lifetime free updates.

Professional scan tools, on the other hand, often require subscription fees. Depending on the brand and model, you typically receive 1 to 3 years of free updates. After this period, you don't have to pay for updates unless you choose to do so. If you opt not to update the tool, you will lose any online programming functionality and features that require an internet connection to the servers (note that not all scan tools have these functionalities). Additionally, you won't be able to install new software updates. However, if you choose to update your tool, you will continue to receive new updates and stay current with the latest vehicles and diagnostic procedures.

Before purchasing, check the tool’s requirements to understand any potential ongoing costs.

You can purchase software update subscription cards for your Autel, Topdon or Launch Scan Tool here!


How Do I Choose Between a Wired and Wireless Scan Tool?

This choice comes down to personal preference. Would you rather a cable connection tool or Bluetooth so you can move around the vehicle? Things to consider – Bluetooth dongles can be left behind in a customer’s car. This can be a costly mistake. Bluetooth tools will generally be more expensive than the wired option.

Choosing between a wired and wireless scan tool depends on your personal preference and needs. Consider the following:

  • Mobility: A wireless (Bluetooth) scan tool allows you to move freely around the vehicle without being tethered by a cable.
  • Cost: Bluetooth scan tools are generally more expensive than wired ones.
  • Risk of Loss: Bluetooth dongles can be accidentally left in a customer's car, which can be a costly mistake.

Think about your specific needs and work habits when making your decision.

Here at PDE most of our customers prefer a quality wireless scan tool. We recommend the Autel MaxiSys MS906 Pro Bi-directional Professional Scan Tool
for its advanced diagnostics, user-friendly features, and affordability. This tool offers comprehensive vehicle diagnosis, advanced ECU coding, and bi-directional controls. It boasts an 8-inch high-resolution touchscreen, fast Exynos Octa-core processor, and long-lasting 11,600mAh battery. Running on Android 10.0, it provides a smooth, responsive experience with updated functions for 2022/2023 vehicles. Additionally, it includes cloud services and specific software for Holden and Ford, making it a top choice for mechanics seeking a reliable and efficient scan tool.


How Accurate Are Diagnostic Scan Tools?

Diagnostic scan tools are generally very accurate, but their precision can depend on several factors:

  • Quality of the Tool: High-quality, professional-grade tools tend to be more accurate than basic models.
  • Regular Updates: Tools that receive regular software updates are more accurate as they stay current with new vehicles and diagnostic procedures.
  • User Expertise: The accuracy also depends on how well the user understands and interprets the data provided by the tool. A scan tool will help you locate and pinpoint faults however sometimes manual fault finding/ testing and the process of elimination might also be required

Overall, a good diagnostic scan tool will give you precise and reliable information to help diagnose and fix vehicle issues.


Can a Scan Tool Damage My Car?

Using a scan tool correctly is generally safe, but there are a few things to keep in mind to avoid potential issues:

  1. Compatibility: Make sure the scan tool is compatible with your vehicle. Using an incompatible tool can cause communication errors.
  2. Correct Use: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Misusing the tool can lead to incorrect settings or data, which can cause problems.
  3. Professional Features: Advanced features like coding and programming should be used with caution. Incorrect programming can affect vehicle systems. Always use a battery stabiliser for any coding/ programming work
  4. User Expertise – When carrying out any programming or coding its essential to know what your doing. If you complete the steps in the wrong order or select the wrong vehicle model you can cause serious damage to computers in a vehicle.

If you’re unsure, it’s best to consult a trained professional to avoid any risks. You can give our experts a call on 07 3180 6771.


Do I Need Internet To Use My Scan Tool?

No, you don't need an internet connection to use a scan tool for most functions. However, you'll need internet access to set up the tool and perform software updates. If you have a professional scan tool and need to do online programming, an internet connection is required. Otherwise, the tools can be used offline without any issues.


Questions About Heavy Diesel & Truck Scan Tools:

We have a whole blog dedicated to answering your questions surround heavy diesel and truck scan tools. Explore this blog here.


Questions For Those Who Have Already Purchased A Scan Tool:

How Do I Update The Software on My Scan Tool?

To update your scan tool's software, follow these steps:

  • Connect to the Internet: Ensure your scan tool is connected to the internet.
  • Access Updates: Open the diagnostic application on your tool and find the updates section.
  • Check for Updates: In the updates section, check for available updates. If this is your first time setting up the tool, there will likely be many updates.
  • Install OS Updates: Start by installing the operating system updates one by one. Your machine may restart during this process.
  • Bulk Update: After the OS updates are complete, you can perform a bulk update for the remaining brands and functions. This process can take several hours.
  • Regular Updates: Once your tool is up to date, check for updates weekly or monthly and install them as they become available.
  • Automatic Updates: You can also set your tool to automatically update as new versions are released.

Following these steps will keep your scan tool current with the latest features and functionalities.


How Do I Interpret the Error Codes from My Scan Tool?

    When your scan tool displays an error code, it will come with a brief description of the issue. If you need further clarification, you can use the "code lookup" or "code search" feature on the tool. This feature functions like a Google search, providing additional information about the code, including potential causes and fixes shared by others. This can help you better understand and resolve the issue. 


    What is the Typical Lifespan of a Diagnostic Scan Tool?

      The lifespan of a diagnostic scan tool can vary depending on several factors:

      1. Quality: High-quality tools from reputable manufacturers tend to have longer lifespans than cheaper, lower-quality tools.
      2. Frequency of UseTools used frequently may wear out more quickly than those used infrequently.
      3. Technological Advances: As technology advances, newer scan tools with more features and capabilities may become available, prompting users to upgrade their tools.
      4. Memory/Storage Space: The main reason we see scan tools not accept updates is because the memory is full and the tool will no longer update. Its important to clear out the memory on your tools storage and delete files and vehicle history that is no longer required.

      While there's no fixed lifespan for a scan tool, with proper care and maintenance, a good-quality tool can last 8-10 years.


      We hope this guide has provided valuable insights and clarity on the complexities of automotive scan tools. Armed with this knowledge, you're better equipped to make informed decisions and confidently tackle vehicle diagnostics. Whether you're just starting out or a seasoned professional, Premium Diagnostics is here to support all your automotive maintenance needs. If you still have questions, feel free to give one of our experts a call on 07 3180 6771. Happy scanning!

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