Diagnostic Tool Software Updates

It is always nice to have a shiny new piece of equipment in your workshop. Increased productivity, efficiency, new abilities and reliability are often reasons that drive business owners to reach into their back pockets. 

Scan tools are as essential as elementary hand tools in a modern workshop. You need to have one or it's difficult to do much with a vehicle. 

Even simple servicing can now require writing data into onboard service systems on many vehicles which can be quite time consuming and add to servicing costs.  Tyre pressure warning systems, electric park brakes and battery coding have also been with us for a while now all requiring diagnostic equipment for what used to be considered fundamental low-level jobs. 

I have encountered more than a few rear brake lining jobs where during deactivation of the electric parking brake, a worn actuator motor has burned up the parking brake control unit. This can be difficult to get your vehicle owner to take responsibility for, unless you have prepared them for this possibility  before undertaking the job. 

When a new scan tool is purchased, it will come with a current software license. It is often marketed as “free for X years”. I personally don’t like this as the cost is definitely built into the price of the tool. The industry standard period is often around 2 years on passenger vehicles and 1 year on commercial vehicle tools. 

If you strip the hardware away from a scan tool it is the software that is left, but decent hardware is important:

  • A screen that is easily viewable for long periods of time, including in direct sunlight 

  • A processor that can carry out commands quickly and stream live data accurately

  • Sufficient memory for future software updates, storage of diagnostic data and customer records. 

We also send commands to turn components on/off, change settings and program the vehicles computers with this tool. There is  a lot going on in these tools.

We focus on the things we can see while its actually the software that is doing the business for us behind the scenes. Remember that “free” stuff I mentioned earlier?

When you consider that the software is controlling the hardware it becomes more obvious how important it is. Around two thirds of the cost of a scan tool is software cost. 

Software updates are happening continuously and to maximise that benefit tool owners need to access newly written software files from the manufacturing company.

Not every scan tool manufacturer has the same abilities. Bigger companies have bigger engineering teams able to develop and deliver new model and function data to tool owners with a current license. 

Let’s not also forget the need at times to repair or “patch” existing flaws in the original software.

Once updates are downloaded you can do jobs you could not before, your tool can become more useful, therefore become potentially more profitable for its user. 

We simply have to adopt continuous improvement strategies to keep pace with this technology. 

In light of the above points, we should be racing to carry out any software updates available to us. This could typically be 6 to 20 Launch update files per week on a Launch scan tool.On a Jal Test Heavy diesel tool the updates are every 4 months and can last for hours, even with a good internet connection. 

AECS are distributors of both brands and we often see users hampered by functionality issues that are linked to not updating tools. Some updates have embedded files your system needs to remain operational. Not staying on top of regular updates minimises scan tool capability and reduces return on investment. 

The solution is literally at your fingertips and it is a small, regular time commitment that will maximise your scan tool capability. We have seen the worst case scenario fairly regularly, scan tool slows, drops functionality then fails to work at all. 

More often the scenario is failure to communicate with a vehicle. When regular updates are not carried out your scan tool fails to recognise any model of vehicle released later than your scan tool purchase date. 

To be fully aware of your tools capability it is valuable to know what you are actually uploading during the update process. You will generally get the brief description as below as a minimum. 

If you want to go next level and commit some time, some manufacturers run release webinars so you can see the new software in action. 

I hope this article has increased motivation to dive into the update section of your tools and take advantage of what a whole group of highly dedicated people produce for their customers. 

The outcomes of optimal scan tool functionality can be witnessed as increased technician productivity and efficiency. Expert level scan tool use could also be the first step on the staff professional development pathway, leading to increased retention. Increased tech effectiveness and retention can then be factors attributing to increased business revenue.

Hamish Van Lier

Technical support engineer

AECS Equipment 


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