As vehicle technology has evolved, so too have the scan tools we use to diagnose vehicles.
But even the best scan tool can’’ do everything. Many independent shops will have multiple tools. Tool A may have a feature that Tool B doesn’t. But Tool B might have a feature that the other doesn’t. Between the two, or more of them, they cover most of what is needed to get the job done. And, sometimes, the only tool that will do the job is the factory scan tool. It may not be often, but it does happen.
Just like aftermarket tools, factory scan tools have evolved. Many vehicle manufacturers offer subscription-based versions of their scan tools that are compatible with J2534 pass-through devices. You can use the same universal J2534 device used to reprogram modules to also access factory-level scan tools in independent shops.
Many of them are available with short-term subscriptions. If you already have a compatible J2534 pass-through, the cost is very reasonable.
Factory scan tools continue to evolve. Some vehicle manufacturers have shifted from downloadable software to cloud-based, which requires an active internet connection as well as a subscription for the scan tool to function.
For example, the wiTECH 2.0 scan tool used by FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) requires an active internet connection as well as a current wiTECH 2.0 subscription for the tool to work. You will also need an interface device, either a microPod II, the factory VCI (vehicle communication interface) or an approved J2534 device. This system was adopted for security reasons, so you need to set up an account and password for authentication to access the software. Because the scan tool can only be accessed via a live internet connection, vehicle road tests will require a mobile device with internet access.
With the addition of Infotainment systems as well as Internet access to vehicles, it’s critical to isolate vehicle onboard networks from outside sources. The use of cloud-based scan tools is one way to reduce the risk of unauthorized access to critical onboard systems.
As manufacturers add more and more electronic features to their vehicles, new networks also need to be added to accommodate the increased data traffic. These networks need to be faster than the current CAN network. Faster networks may also require new VCIs to accommodate the higher data transfer rates.
Yet another new tool we need to add: Starting with the 2021 model year, FCA will be introducing a new network topology — Atlantis High architecture — on limited models. Atlantis High architecture incorporates two new protocols: CAN-FD and Ethernet (DoIP, diagnostics over internet protocol). These changes necessitate the introduction of a new VCI, the MDP (Mopar Diagnostic Pod) to replace the microPod II which is not compatible with the new higher-speed networks.
The new MDP does support all vehicles currently supported by the microPod II as well as Atlantis High architecture vehicles. The microPod II will continue to be supported by wiTECH 2.0 and wiADVISOR and is compatible with vehicles not equipped with Atlantis High electrical architecture. The initial rollout of the MDP to North American dealers is the fourth quarter of 2020.
Other vehicle manufacturers have also introduced new scan tool software. Ford still has the IDS (Integrated Diagnostic System) but also has added FJDS (Ford J2534 Diagnostic Software) as well as FDRS (Ford Diagnostic and Repair System).
FJDS, as its name implies, is for use with J2534 compatible VCI, including Fords. VCM2 or VCMM provides module reprogramming software for 1996 to select 2018 vehicles as well as complete dealer level diagnostic software for all 2018 to present Ford and Lincoln vehicles.
FDRS is Ford’s next generation cloud-based diagnostic software and provides complete dealership-level diagnostic coverage for some 2018 and later vehicles. The FDRS software license is shared with IDS or FJDS. Access to FDRS is included with either IDS or FJDS software licenses and is J2534 compatible.
Toyota has also had a subscription-based J2534 version of their Techstream scan tool software available for some time.
Nissan has a J2534 compatible version of their Consult III available for download with a subscription. Honda has a J2534 version of their i-HDS software available with a subscription.
Perhaps one day we will see vehicle-based scan tools similar to the old diagnostic systems on some vehicles where you used the climate control panel to access data and codes. As displays and touch screens become more common, perhaps a diagnostic tool will be integrated into these devices. Instead of purchasing a scan tool, we may simply purchase a subscription giving us access to the onboard vehicle diagnostic system.
The aftermarket scan tool will be around for a long time but as technology evolves there will be more cloud-based systems. Tool manufacturers will need to adapt to this new technology.
In this trade, we have chosen “change is the only constant.” But one thing is sure: It will never be boring.