A laptop automotive scanner is the way to go if you already have a laptop, android device or even a PDA. My view on this has recently changed. I own several hand held auto scan tools and I've been resisting the purchase of a ELM type interface tool. ElM is a standard used to translate OBDII language to something a PC can read
The reason I never bought one before is because I don't own a laptop. But the agency that I worked for in conjunction with an overwhelming vote from 12 mechanics, purchased the elm scan 5 with the Bluetooth option. The people I work with think I'm a computer whiz. I was assigned to install and test the diagnostic tool and included software package.
To set the record straight I am in no way shape or form a computer whiz but I let them believe that I am because compared to some of the mechanics I'm a computer science major.
Our shop laptop is a tough book that already has Cummings insight software and a few other diagnostic programs installed. The tough book runs Windows XP professional and is abused regularly by all of us.
The elm laptop automotive scanner is a nice package that comes with basic software, instructions and cables needed to get the diagnostic program going. In about 20 minutes I was scanning the first vehicle for a check engine light problem.
As I mentioned above I am no stranger to using a laptop scan tool on all kinds of vehicles. In fact The Cummings insight auto repair software program is almost identical to using the elm scan program.
But with one big difference. The Cummings diagnostic program uses the serial port for connecting to the vehicle via a cable. This can be a problem when you are trying to view data in the direct sunlight. You are also limited by the cable length as where you can set up the laptop to start your diagnosis.
Serial port connections have a much slower data transfer rate then a USB based or blue tooth wireless connection. The obd II laptop automotive scanner interface that we purchased has the Blue tooth option. The claim is that you can scan the vehicle from 300 feet away.
I don't know if this is true but I must have been at least 100 feet from the vehicle while running through the diagnostic procedures. The vehicle was outside in the direct sunlight and I was in the shop where I found it extremely easy to read the screen.
Since our shop is located in South Florida most of the repairs are done outside. This Bluetooth feature may not be as important for people in other areas of the country that will be performing all of the diagnosis and troubleshooting inside of a garage or shop.
If this is the case then I would not purchase the Blue tooth option since the standard elm scan laptop automotive scanner does the same thing for less. Note: Two reasons to go for the SX (RED) option. The SX comes with the OBD-wiz software suite, Not the troublesome freeware that is floating around. Number two is OBDLink (Red) features upgradable firmware. These product enhancements and updates are free for life!
What is the main difference between using a laptop and a hand-held scanning tool for diagnostics? This is a very good question. The answer is that there is almost no difference at all in the information that is available to the user.
But the over all capabilities of the units depend on the options included in the software. The big advantage of the ELM type OBDII laptop interface is the ease of use when it comes to reading the display screen.
You can also display more information at the same time on the laptop as opposed to a hand-held scanner. Will I be purchasing this laptop interface for my own personal use? The answer is no I will not. The reason being is that I do not own a laptop nor do I wish to.
Although I would be able to connect the Blue tooth unit to my personal desktop computer. I already own hand held scan tools that do a good job. In fact you can see reviews of my automotive scan tools here.
But for those of you that have a laptop or PDA. These laptop automotive scanners should be considered. I don't want to get in trouble by naming other brands.
From what I could tell the elm scan unit when you get the SX option (comes with OBDII WIZ software) has all the drivers and software you need to get it up and running within a few minutes the box is opened. Some of the other brands require internet downloaded freeware to get the diagnosis going.
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This reference guide is very complete and perfect for diy car mechanics. Learn about hand-held diagnostic scan tools and software that turns PCs and Palm Pilots into powerful automobile scanners.
Not only can a laptop automotive scanner be used to fix cars but they can also be used to maximize your vehicle's performance and fuel economy. This book covers what each code means and how to use the power of the scan tool to quickly troubleshoot and repair check engine lights.
The guide is illustrated with photos and diagrams to help you understand OBD-I and OBD-II systems. As well as how to read the information they record in snap shot mode. It also includes a complete guide to online information sources as well as a comprehensive list of codes, common failures and troubleshooting tips. The book on the left also has a section dedicated to getting the most from a mobile PC scanner.
If you need more information about diagnosis and repair of check engine lights I got you covered. This next link takes you to more of my check engine light help articles.
Depending on the diagnostic trouble code that is stored in memory you still may need a service manual to diagnose the codes. See my video about the factory car repair manuals I recommend.
Learn more about the auto mechanic that built this car website and also what is covered here on the YouFixCars.com Homepage.