Q: What is important to know about accessing the raw electronic data from the scan tool?
The raw data is managed by several different specifications and can be characterized as languages that the vehicle must adhere to in order to communicate. You need a tool that can speak these languages. The software adopted by all OEMs allows the independent aftermarket the ability to reprogram, diagnose and access data from the electronic control units (ECUs) without the need for a dealer-only tool. The OEMs provide the scan tool application programs available for independent purchase with user license agreements.
Q: Why should a shop always conduct research?
A: For every single repair, research is required. That can be sourced from the OEM as well as third-party suppliers that purchase the service information and repost it. There will be times you’ll have to go to the OEM direct subscription to obtain the latest updates. You must review every repair and procedure performed on a vehicle to identify calibration or programming procedures that will need to be performed with a scan tool and also to determine that the scan tool being used is capable of the procedure.
Part of this is knowing that most times, scanning a car is not going to alert you that a calibration is needed or must be performed. This is almost always found in the service information. The only exception is if a component has been replaced that has never been calibrated. In this instance, we’ll often see a code set for a calibration requirement, but you can’t count on it.
It’s imperative that you review the repair procedures and find out if a calibration needs to be done. You’ll then need a capable scan tool and, in many cases, additional equipment such as targets or seat weights to execute that calibration.
Q: Is it common for a scan tool to miss a DTC?
A: With the complexity of today’s vehicles, there is always the chance for a scan tool to miss control units or DTCs during a general health check. There are two distinct reasons for this.