AUTO DIAGNOSTIC    Cape Town   South Africa

        Import Agency for more than 100 Diagnostic Tools and Equipment to the Motor Trade     

                                                                                  Inquiries or sales  

              Cape Town - Chris Mengel:    Tel. 021 556 0146     074 240 6404     e-mail:

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Diagnostic data/equipment are divided into 3 (three) categories;     

1. Technical Information and specs, only from a book or CD/DVD on computer.  

2. Interface tool/software, connected via PC/laptop to vehicle to be able to read data.  

3. Diagnostic tool/scanner, it has it's own computer with software built in to read data from vehicle.

The first one will give you technical information/service specs. and data etc.  

The second one will do diagnostic functions via a PC/Laptop. It connects to the vehicle. 

The third one is a computer that can diagnose faults and erase faults on a vehicle. It connects to the vehicle. 

Since 2004 most of the vehicle makes and models make use of ECU 'Electronic Control Units' referred to as 'onboard computers' The ECU control almost every function on a vehicle via a sensor located at the needed location, example; a 'camshaft sensor' telling the control unit (ECU) if the valve timing is 'spot on'. When a timing belt strip it will disfunction the ignition and there will be no 'spark' at the plugs and the vehicle will switch off.

Looking at fuel consumption there is a 'Lambda' sensor located in the front peace of the exhaust system telling the ECU (computer) to increase or decrease the fuel supply.

Different makes and vehicles use different fittings (connectors) to connect to a vehicle’s computer plug. A code reader will allow you to 'auto scan' the ECU by connecting via the DLC fitting 'Data Link Connector' This adapter or plug is the place where you connect to the vehicle with the 'code reader' to get readings from the ECU (or main computer) The most popular one is called an OBDII fitting - size 20mm x 40mm with 16 pins. OBD meaning; ‘On Board Diagnostic’ II (2) meaning; 2nd of the series.

1.  Data on a CD or DVD

Autodata is technical specifications, example; tightening torques and diagrams showing the route of fan belts and timing belts/chains etc. This data is software data used on computer or by CD/DVD. Most books have been replaced by computer media.

2.  Hand held Scanner/Code Reader (example; Launch Creader VIII)

This is an entry level scan tool that can read data from the ECU (Electronic Control Unit – onboard computer) A code reader/scanner  like the Launch Creader VIII can pick-up ‘fault codes’ on a vehicle via the DLC (data link connector – plug where the scanner connects to the vehicle).

The code reader/scanner has to have software for that specific make and model pre-loaded (sometimes on a SD card) to be able to read the data from the ECU of the said vehicle. From time to time the ECU can get the wrong readings from different sensors and develop what we can refer to as a 'fault code'.

OBD2 Codes Explained:

OBD-II codes are devided into a number detail. Letters mentioned in front of the numeric digits.

Following is what each letter and digit means. For Example: P0171

The  FIRST letter is related to the trouble code.

P =  Powertrain (engine or drive train)

B = Body

C = Chassis

U = Undefined

This will allow the vehicle not to perform well. Fault codes can only be picked up by a 'Code reader/scanner'.

3.  Full House Diagnostic Tool/Scanner Kit (example; Launch X431 Diagun II, Maxidas DS708, Autoboss V30 and Launch X431 3G GDS etc.)

This is a top of the range diagnostic tool set (scanner kit with fittings for most cars). These large scanner kits normally cover a large range of vehicle makes and models. The Maxidas DS708 does not have batteries but power - up via the DLC (data link connector - where the scanner plug connects to the vehicle). This scanner can ‘auto scan’ and check all the sensors and pick - up’s via the ECU.

4. Key Cloners/Programmers (example; T 300, M V P and ZED Bull key programmers.

Most of the vehicles from 2004 use a ‘computer chip’ on the key (inside the plastic part of the key). The chip in the key will connect to the ECU wireless or bluetooth, to activate the starting system. If the chip is de - coded the key will allow the engine to spin but it will not start (de - activate the spark) The key and the ECU can not communicate, this is when a key programmer/coder will be used.

5.  Key Cutting Machine (example; GL203 and KL717EL Key cutting machines)

If a customer looses his vehicle’s keys, this machine can cut new keys from template or blank keys. Key chips can also be fitted to the key and must be coded/programmed before it will work.

6.  Dashboard Programmer/Speedo/Mileage Correction (example; DigiPro III and Digimaster II) If there is a problem with a function on the speedo cluster (instrument panel) this is where the dash programmer will be used.

Things to remember:

1.  ECU - Electronic Control Unit (onboard computer)

2.  DLC - Data Link Connector (where the scanner plug connects to the vehicle)

3.  OBDII - On Board Diagnostic, II stands for 2. You get OBD, OBDI and OBDII

4.  The diagnostic tool  has to have software to be able to communicate with the ECU of the said vehicle.

5.  Diagnostic tools has to have the right connector (plug) to fit to the DLC of the vehicle.

6.   Interface Diagnostic Tools have to work via an or laptop/office computer, the required software will then be installed on the laptop or computer.

There are about 80% of workshop owners/mechanics in South Africa that does not know anything about diagnostic equipment and tools, some let alone, know nothing about a standard office computer. The above is not a detailed description of diagnostic tools and equipment but only a guide.

Kind Regards

Chris Mengel


The difference between a ‘code reader’ and a ‘diagnostic analyser’ (scanner) is:

1. A diagnostic code reader can only ‘read’ fault codes - no software.

2. A diagnostic scanner can ‘read and clear’ fault codes - with software.

So there are two basic types, one has diagnostic software and the other does not. The slang term for an Automotive Diagnostic Analyser is "Scanner" because it will scan the vehicle's ECU (engine control unit). 

Code Reader:

The diagnostic code readers ‘with - out diagnostic software’ are referred to as a ‘code reader’ or code retriever. For home or personal use a code reader is much cheaper and some of the units will provide a lot of information. These units will pull fault codes only if the check engine warning light is on. Some of these will provide freeze frames of the sensor readings. Warning light does not have to be on for this feature. If it refreshes the freeze frame automatically, they some times refer to it as "live data". Look for the speed of the refresh rate, the faster the rate, the closer to real time viewing. This can be a helpful feature for intermittent problems.

Look for one that will cover the vehicle you are working on. Vehicle models 1983 to 1995 are known as OBD I, most of the code readers will only cover the domestic vehicles; Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. This is because each vehicle, in this year frame, has a different plug and software program, so most of the code readers will not cover the Asian or European vehicles. You would need a separate reader for each make and model.

Vehicle models 1996 to current year are known as OBD II. This is on all vehicle manufactured for the European, American and Asian market and is a universal system used world wide, with some difference in some countries. In 2008 it was mandatory for all vehicle manufactured for the American market to have C.A.N. (Controlled Area Network) software. Look for these features if your vehicle falls within the year frames.

Diagnostic Analyzer:

When a code reader has given you a fault code, and you replaced the sensor it indicated and the problem or light still exists, a Scanner with diagnostic software is needed. These units cost a lot more money. These are more for the professional technician or repair shop. They will do everything the code reader will do and the warning light doesn't have to be on. These units usually come with cables for both OBD I and OBD II European, American and Asian vehicles. These units are equipped with software to help direct you through flow charts to determine the real problem. 

Some good features to look for in a diagnostic scanner are;

1. Bi - directional control; meaning they can actuate certain sensors on the vehicle to see what the other sensors will do to compensate.

2. Larger coverage on the vehicles like ABS, SRS, Transmission and Body code diagnostics. Some of the code readers are coming with ABS code retrieval but they still have no diagnostic features in that area either.

3. PC accessibility is a helpful feature to allow storage of customer vehicle information. Also the unit back up software.

4. Updating capabilities - this can get very costly. Some manufactures will not allow you to skip a year, they charge for each year missed, while others will include the catch up at no additional charge.

5. How long has the unit been on the market - technology is constantly changing and scanners seem to be discontinued every 4 or 5 years.

Remember when looking for the best deal; make sure you are not losing beneficial features with the price cut. Buying from a company that will be there to support you is a good practice also.

The above is not a detailed description of diagnostic tools and equipment but only a guide for beginners.

Kind Regards

Chris Mengel

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