We asked experienced trainers how far independent workshops need to go to equip themselves with OEM scanners to complete vehicle data analysis and access all repair processes.
The question is simple: does the workshop need an original scanner to carry out diagnostics and repairs on today’s cars?
The indispensable Michel Julien of MJConsultech states that, in his experience, a workshop equipped with an aftermarket scanner is able to perform around 80% of electronic diagnostics and access the same percentage of repair processes.
“However, the aftermarket tool won’t always provide solutions for reprogramming modules,” he points out. “Some functionalities will not be found on this type of device. However, for calibration of advanced driver assistance system components, aftermarket scanners are much faster.”
In his opinion, the original scanners are complementary. It’s all about profitability. An independent workshop wishing to have all the original tools in a multi-brand approach will have to invest at least a hundred thousand dollars.
“We may see workshops specializing in certain makes,” says Julien. “Just as we used to see transmission or muffler specialists, we’ll see workshops working exclusively on vehicles from certain manufacturers.”
The trainer also points out that whatever the tool, its performance will be directly linked to the skills of the technician using it.
Wilson Almeida, Training Director for the Vast-Auto Group, shares this view. “We have to adapt to this new reality, and what aftermarket shops need above all are computer technicians. It’s not an easy situation for generalists, but with an aftermarket scanner in the right hands, at least 85% of the work can be done.”
Mr. Almeida understands that in some cases the original scanner can be complementary, but again, it’s all a question of profitability. “And even with the original tool, you have to understand the systems. Each manufacturer has its own platform, which isn’t easy. Experience and training count for a lot.”
The trainer notes the refinement of the range of high-performance scanners on the secondary market. Tools that are increasingly easy to use. However, he deplores the ever-increasing costs of access.
High-performance aftermarket scanners
Trainer and garage owner Dany Leblanc has a clear position when it comes to original diagnostic equipment. “I don’t have one, nor do I feel the need for one,” he says. “I work with two aftermarket scanners, an Autel and a Launch, to make sure I have the right communication links. All this is linked to two management platforms, Mitchell and ALLDATA for processes. This represents an additional investment, but it’s far more cost-effective than investing in an original scanner.”
Leblanc concedes that sometimes working with an original analyzer is simpler. However, the specialist believes that it’s in the nature of true technicians to want to understand, and that with experience, an aftermarket tool can do the job.
Understanding the systems
“When it comes to programming modules, it can be complex,” he explains. “But if you understand the systems and the approach, you’ll find the information. Processes are not displayed in the same way, or directives are constantly changing. You have to invest time, but that’s part of our job. You can’t be afraid of complicated things. And the more you do, the less complicated it becomes.”
He recommends that independent workshops using aftermarket scanners have a firm discipline when it comes to updating their tools. For example, in his workshop, at the end of the working week, he’ll run updates on his scanners to make sure they’re ready for the week ahead.
“Working on electronic components isn’t easy, and it doesn’t happen by itself. It forces us, as generalists, to be smarter. One thing’s for sure, with my aftermarket tools, I complete all the work and don’t send any of my customers’ cars to the dealerships.”
Billy Thomas, Training Specialist at Uni-Select, also works with a secondary market analyzer. “I have an Autel scanner that works wonderfully well,” he says. “General workshops with technicians who understand the systems and are resourceful will find the specific data they need. I like the idea of having access to two scanners from different companies, it can indeed be complementary. As far as the original scanners are concerned, we need to measure whether this is necessary and cost-effective.”
He points out that a workshop that receives a lot of vehicles from the same manufacturer, for example in fleet management, could opt for an original equipment scanner. “There are high costs to consider, but in some cases, particularly when it comes to reprogramming modules, it can make the job simpler.”