There 6 important things to consider when looking at different types of scan tools, or diagnostic tools. 

Before we get into the specifics, let’s establish some terminology. When you search for scan tools you’ll quickly learn that there are different terms used for diagnostic tools. Here are some of what you might see:    

  • Truck diagnostics scanner 
  • Heavy duty truck scanner with DPF regen 
  • Diesel scanner Tool 
  • Truck diagnostic tool 
  • Heavy duty scan tool  
  • Truck reader 
  • Truck diagnostic scan reader 
  • Diesel heavy duty scanner 
  • Semi-truck scanner 
  • Truck diagnostic scan reader 
  • Diesel scanner 
  • Truck scanner app

Questions to ask yourself when picking out a scan tool 

  1. Will the heavy-duty truck diagnostic scan tool work on my vehicle? 
  2. Is the truck diagnostic scanner easy to use?  
  3. What are top 6 functions to look for in a scan tool? 
  4. Is the scan tool subscription based or a one-time purchase? Which one would be better for me? 
  5. Does the company I am purchasing from offer reliable technical support? 
  6. Are software updates included? 

Question # 1 - Will the heavy-duty truck diagnostic scan tool work on my vehicle? 

Every truck manufacturer has specific requirements for connecting and reading data from your truck. You must make sure the tool that you purchase is designed and tested for your vehicle.  

We don’t recommend trying tools that are designed for the automotive market because you can cause bigger issues.  

Issues with connecting the wrong tool to your truck include:  

  • Can bus errors 
  • Blowing the diagnostic fuse, causing fault codes in other sub systems such as ABS, TCS, airbag and more.  

For example, if you drive a 2015 Volvo truck with a D13 then only connect a tool capable of communicating with your OBD port. There are a lot of tools that exist that do not communicate to the proper channels. Automotive scan tools DO NOT accommodate for Volvo trucks.

Another example, 2017+ Peterbilt’s / Kenworth’s with Paccar MX-13 engines. These trucks have a green diagnostic ports that change the communication channels from channel 3 to channel 1 in order to read data from the truck. So, on these trucks you need to run an adapter, or adapter harness that allows the tool to talk on the right channels to work. The Kenworth and Peterbilt dealer level davie 4 software all require this adapter to be used.   

It's important that the heavy-duty scan tool has all the required adapters or harness for your specific vehicle. 

Question # 2 - Is the truck diagnostic scanner easy to use? 

Having a tool that is easy to use is one of the most important components to look for in a scan tool.  

Scan tools can be overly complex and difficult to use, and it can be overwhelming if this is your first time using one. 

I recommend watching instructional videos and testimonial videos to see how easy it is to use the scan tool you are interested in before making your purchase. 

Having a good understanding of a product before making a purchase can help you overcome the fears of doing your own diagnostics or DIY repairs.  

Question # 3 - What are top 6 functions to look for in a scan tool? 

A very important part of a heavy-duty diesel scan tool are the functions that it performs. Does the tool you are considering have all the capabilities that you are looking for?  

The following are functions that you should be on the look out for:  

  • Read active & inactive fault codes 
    • SA / SPN / FMI / OEM numbers: These are the numbers that correspond with the fault codes.   
    • Detailed Fault Code Information: Explains what is going on with the vehicle. This can include repair information, symptoms and troubleshooting steps.  
      • Having this information will point you to the right location to see what you must do to fix the problem. 
  •  Read live data  
    • This data will help you troubleshoot problems or fault code issues. 
  • Perform Advanced commands 
    • Start a forced DPF regen  
    • Reset fault codes at the dealer level (same capabilities as the OEM laptop) 
    • Reset aftertreatment systems, engine power derates, 5mph derates. 
    • Reset DPF filter replacement. 
  • Perform parameter adjustments such as road speed and cruise control.  
  • Track the history of the fault codes. 
  • Print a report on the vehicle.  

There are many other things to looks for in a diesel scan tool depending on your needs so make sure you choose a diesel scan tool that can perform functions you are looking for.  

Question #4: Is the scan tool subscription based or a one-time purchase? Which one is better?  

There are 2 common pricing models with truck scan tools, or truck diagnostic software. We’ll go through them below.  

Subscription based software – Reoccurring subscription model  

The value: 

  • Constant product updates and improvements.  
  • Cloud storage so you can see the history of your vehicle. 
  • Ongoing product support, which can help keep your operations going. 
  • Coverage so you get a wider variety of vehicles that your scan tool works on.  
  • More features constantly added so you can do more without paying for more.  

Something to know:  

  • You need to pay annually for the subscription to continually use the tool.  
  • If you cancel the subscription you won’t be able to use it anymore.  

One time buy – Only purchase the scan tool once.  

The Value: 

  • Tool will continue to function for many years after purchase. 
  • No additional costs.  

The Issues:  

  • Usually not upgradable. 
  • Improvements to your tool can’t be made.  
  • Limited support, if any. 
  • Your coverage is limited to the tool that you have. 
  • If the company expands on the functions it offers you won’t have those added functions to your tool, so you’ll have to purchase another tool.   

FYI - All truck dealer level software are subscription based. The cloud services and storage of all the history of the vehicle really help troubleshooting and diagnosing ghost codes, which can help up-time. 

Question #5: Does the company I am purchasing from offer reliable technical support?   

3 examples of why support is something often overlooked. 

  1. Let’s say your heavy-duty scan tool is not connecting to your truck, then you need to contact some level of support to run you through the basics to ensure proper connectivity.  
  2. Having someone to guide you through fault codes or troubleshooting can help steer you in the right direction.  
  3. You can have someone walk you through the product. Does the company offer some level of support to help you through the process?  

Support can come in many different forms, such as FAQ sections, chat wizards, support tickets, phone calls, and YouTube videos.  

When purchasing a scan tool, you need to know that if you have an issue you can contact someone in the company to get that issue resolved. 

Question #6: Are software updates included? 

A scan tool will require a software update whenever there is an issue that is discovered, or an improvement is made.  

  • Does the scan tool allow you to update? 
  • How often do you see an update from the manufacturer? 
  • Do you have to pay to get the update?  

We have seen companies that offer heavy duty scan tools require you to pay to get the update. Be sure you know what updates you are going to get when purchasing. 

Bonus Question: Does the company offer a money back guarantee? 

I have a hard time with heavy duty scan tools that don’t offer some level of guarantee that this product will work for your vehicle. When looking at heavy duty scan tools make sure that there is an option to be able to return the product if it doesn’t work for your vehicle or if it’s not what you expected.  

The last thing you want is a tool that doesn’t work or doesn’t bring value to your operation.  

We just covered the 6 different things to look for in a heavy-duty scan tool. The more information you have the better you can choose the right tool for your operations.  

Let us know if we can help you! We are more than happy to offer help just give us a call at 586-799-4375 

As always, be blessed and stay safe!