While future-proofing your digital diagnostic investment is challenging in these changeable times, Rob Marshall looks into the latest news and several examples that can give you peace of mind for at least several years
As the saying goes, time is money. Therefore, while technicians have to be wary of not relying excessively on fault codes alone, having access to the latest systems is invaluable to gathering more detailed information.
However, EOBD-based diagnostics is under threat. Launch Tech UK explains that the leading recent development has been the regulation surrounding type approval to ensure continued access to information via the EOBD port by the independent aftermarket. Other changes include the use of EOBD in the enforcement of emissions regulations, and the future possibility of extending its regulatory use in identifying faults during MOT testing.
Yet, as long-standing technicians especially will attest, repairing a modern vehicle can involve interrogating, configurating, or even reflashing an ECU just as much as using traditional hand tools. Launch Tech UK admits that, overall, vehicle manufacturers do not make it straightforward to access their software, deeming everything significant as being ‘security related’. Due to recent concerns about ‘vehicle hacking’, manufacturers led by FCA, (Fiat, Chrysler Automobiles, which is now part of Stellantis, since the PSA merger) have introduced Secure Vehicle Gateways. This means that diagnostic tool manufacturers have to gain approval from the carmaker for their scan tools and the operator has to purchase a licence to access the gateway. Understandably, this involves passing costs to the garage, which in turn, has to invoice customers more.
Justifying the outlay…
While effective, clear and efficient diagnostics is essential to avoid wasting time unnecessarily, technicians require support to use the equipment to its maximum potential. All garages that wish to remain current will have to look at making a capital investment at some point. Sealey reasons that the exact sum varies between garage needs but a typical budget of between £1,850 and £2,600 is typical for sufficiently robust equipment. Coding and programming properties should be considered essential. The hardware must also possess a sufficiently fast internal processor to interpret real-time live diagnostic information, including oscilloscope displays.
In terms of OE level diagnostics, Sealey says that its VSCANP offers the best value for money. It offers both basic and high- end functions, from reading and clearing codes, displaying live data and performing actuation tests, plus ECU coding. Special functions include battery and smart alternator system configurations, DPF repair facilities, electronic parking brake communication, plus oil service reset and Tyre Pressure Monitoring System functionality. It also displays relevant technical information, when required. Costing £1,850, the package includes free updates for two years, with no lock-out functions and no additional hardware is necessary. After 24 months, purchasers do not need to purchase a replacement system, because only a small charge is made to retain the software updates needed to keep the system current. Interestingly, the chargeable updates are not back charged. Therefore, should the system not be updated for five years (an extreme scenario, admittedly), the garage will not be liable for five years-worth of updates should it wish to bring the software up to date. Only a 12-month charge will be made.
Naturally, payback rates depend greatly on the hourly labour rate charged. Sealey calculates that, with a garage charging a relatively low hourly labour rate of £50.00 – £60.00, using the diagnostic equipment up to thrice daily, making a time charge of 30 minutes per task, a Sealey VSCANP can achieve payback in 25 days and net £19,500 income annually.
Launch UK sees its latest PRO 5 Link and Euro Tab 3 as being close to a one tool solution as you can get. Its SRD facility is a system by which the technician can request a wide range of services from Launch’s UK-based remote diagnostic service. Typically, this might include advanced diagnostics, programming of replacement components, or re-flashing of control modules. Launch UK says that this negates the need for multiple tools and subscriptions, because the SRD facility combines the functions of multiple tools. Furthermore, no in- depth diagnostic experience is required, because you can call on remote experts. The company is so confident in this service that it states a user can carry out virtually any diagnostic service on almost any vehicle brand.
The PRO 5 Link is supplied with two years of software updates. Access to the Haynes PRO Electric and the remote diagnostic platform for 12 months are bolt-on options. Provided that you wished to keep the tool completely up to date for five years, the current cost would be £3,078+VAT, including continued access to Haynes PRO Electric and the Launch remote diagnostic platform. This sounds like a high spend but consider that it represents a £615+VAT apportioned annual spend.
There are more demands now on your cash than ever. Whether needing to keep up to date with digital diagnostics, the requirements of the connected MOT Test, or even the need to work with new ADAS technology, it is easy to let your basic system slip out of date.
While you may associate TMD Friction more with braking systems, the company has become the sole distributor of GaraShield, which it promotes as the first step of digital integration in the aftermarket garage environment. Benefitting from TMD Friction’s know-how on aftermarket distribution channels and workshop expertise, GaraShield is not a diagnostics platform. Instead, it is designed to make technicians’ lives easier, by identifying and documenting all service and repair requirements.
The system permits technicians to share images and video footage with the customer throughout the repair procedure, from initial inspection to the final installation. As a result, superior communication allows customers to make better informed and quicker authorisations. In addition, the cloud-based digital platform replaces paper- based systems, allowing the whole workflow to be automated, with the comprehensive documentation of every repair protecting against potential negligence claims.
GaraShield is designed around a pay per job basis, negating heavy subscription charges. While the garage also pays £1.20 per task, TMD Friction believes that the garage should charge each customer an extra £2.00 to amortise the investment. The tablets are the only capital investment required, costing £245 each plus VAT.
Meanwhile, for the technician, GaraShield has been designed not to impede busy workshop activities. On the contrary, it claims to make technicians’ lives easier, by establishing the tasks in the most effective order, providing all the required technical information and providing digital support in real-time, as you work on the vehicle.