Modern vehicles embody equal parts computer and mechanical technology, meaning that mechanics today must be part programmer and part auto technician. Of course, digging into a car’s computer to diagnose problems isn’t as simple as booting up your PC and clicking on the icon of the program you want to run. That’s where automotive diagnostic tools come in.
Like cars, the diagnostic tools available today are much more advanced than they were even just a few years ago. They offer significantly improved performance, and can do a lot more than just clear stored DTCs. While OBD II code readers are still out there, many diagnostic tools deliver a lot more features and performance. What are some of the most important models to consider?
The all new Bosch Automotive Diagnostic Solution series of scan tools include the 7” ADS-325 and the 10” ADS-625. Both tools are proudly engineered and assembled in the USA and feature a lifetime warranty. Both ADS scan tools feature high-resolution, optically bonded displays for easy viewing even in direct sunlight. The intuitive user interface was designed by technicians, for technicians to be the easiest to use scan tool on the market. The ADS-325 comes with an 8’ OBD-II cable. The ADS-625 is equipped with a wireless J-2534 compliant vehicle communication interface. The OBD-II cable found on both ADS tools incorporate an led light on the diagnostic connector and a battery voltage display to alert technicians to potential battery issues. The ADS scan tools include on-tool and online repair information such as confirmed fixes, TSBs, key programming procedures, maintenance procedures, tune-up specs and more. The ADS-625 includes a library of full color system wiring diagrams for vehicles 1986 to present. Both ADS scan tools support Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.
The MaxiSYS® family is pretty big, and there are actually a couple of entries from the brand’s manufacturer, Autel, in this list. The AULMS908 is an advanced diagnostic tool featuring a 9.7-inch LED touchscreen, with an A9 quad core processor running at 1.4 GHz. It runs Android (Ice Cream Sandwich), and features a 32 GB solid state drive, as well as a built-in 5 MP camera so you can easily take pictures while working on a vehicle. It offers standard OBD II connectivity, but also provides Ethernet connectivity and delivers outstanding OE-level vehicle coverage. Note that this model does not offer Wi-Fi connectivity, but does include wireless vehicle connectivity with the included vehicle communication interface. It includes a one-year warranty. Note that this model can be upgraded with the J-2534 kit to bump it to the Pro model, which does include Wi-Fi connectivity.
The Elite offers a similar form factor to the AULMS908 above, and is actually two steps up from that particular model in terms of performance and features. Like the previously listed model, this one also features a 9.7-inch touchscreen, and is powered by the Tegra 4 chip. Note that the touchscreen was designed specifically for those wearing gloves, or even those with oil or grease on their hands. It includes a 5 MP camera for taking photos, too. It does offer Wi-Fi connectivity out of the box, Ethernet and OBD II connectivity, wireless vehicle connectivity, and more. The Elite is compatible with virtually all car brands, and communicates directly with most OE software, as well. Like the AULMS908, the Elite comes with a one-year warranty out of the box.
Launch Tech X-431 Torque
The Torque is brand new for 2018, and features a lot of benefits for the professional auto mechanic. This diagnostic tool includes a 10.1-inch, super bright display so you can see everything at a glance. It offers the ability to read the VIN and identify the year, make and model within mere seconds, and is built on the Android platform. It also offers Wi-Fi connectivity out of the box with no upgrades necessary. This tool integrates with Google Play and allows you to download, install and use third party apps, as well, to offer increased functionality and ease of use. Wireless OBD connectivity is provided, and the tool communicates with pretty much all vehicles, including imports and domestics, as well as exotic vehicles, such as Bugatti and Bentley to name just two. The user interface has been designed for ease of use and accessibility from the ground up, and features intuitive commands and controls.
The Millennium HD Pro
Do you deal with diesel engines on a regular basis? Need to do a lot of evap and emissions diagnostic work? If so, the Millennium HD Pro might be the diagnostic tool for you. Compact and easy to use, this simple-looking scan tool is designed specifically for the North American market and offers full DPF functionality, as well as complete gasoline engine functionality. It allows you to read and clear DTCs, check O2 sensor functionality, read vehicle information, check I/M readiness, conduct evap tests, and more. It also supports Caterpillar coverage, and functions with heavy-duty diesel vehicles, as well. Note that this unit ships with free lifetime updates, and includes three connector types – six pin, OBD II nine pin, and 16 pin. This diagnostic tool does not support wireless connectivity (Bluetooth or Wi-Fi).
The Millennium 90 Pro
Sharing the same DNA as the Millennium HD Pro, the Millennium 90 Pro is designed to help you delve into all vehicle systems, rather than just evap and emissions related issues. It provides live data streams for the engine and transmission, as well as the ABS and SRS systems, and works on all vehicles made from 1996 to the present. The compact form factor means that this unit is very easy to use while sitting in the vehicle, and does not require mounting to the steering wheel. The screen is extra bright, and the unit offers 10 diagnostic modes, including special functions like brake bleeding, SAS reset, oil reset, and BMS reset to name just a few.
Does your shop do a lot of code checking and clearing without the need to delve into live feeds from the engine or transmission? Do you need a way to supplement your main diagnostic tool and handle simpler repairs and issues? If so, the BlueDriver unit might be the right option for you. It connects directly to the OBD II port on modern vehicles, and works with a smartphone app. While it does not communicate with all makes and models, it does work with all domestics, as well as BMW and Toyota. Support for other imports is on the way. As a note, this diagnostic tool can actually do a lot more than just read and clear DTCs, too. It offers access to dynamic data, can show recall information, perform pre-inspection emissions tests, and more. It’s also wireless, connecting to your smartphone via Bluetooth.
There you have them – some of the best automotive diagnostic tools for 2018. Whether you need something fast and basic, or something that offers in-depth functionality, you’ll find it on this list.