How to Choose the Right Scan Tool

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The keys for ensuring that your service department has the most ideal scan tool

It was, quite simply, “a catastrophe,” Nick Chinopulos recalls.

It was the early 1990s. Chinopolus had just realized his dream of running a dealership, and the prospects of the facility—Crossroads Peugeot, in Olive Branch, Miss.—seemed promising. Then, a regrettable purchase of a scan tool soured the experience.

“I bought a scan tool, and updates,” Chinopulos explains, opting to withhold the product’s brand name. “Within two years, that unit was obsolete, and I couldn’t update it any longer—I was really disappointed.”

In retrospect, he feels he put a bit too much trust in the sales pitch of a vendor, and failed to do the requisite due diligence before investing roughly $1,200 in the scan tool.

While most dealerships can withstand an ill-advised equipment purchase now and then, Chinopulos felt like he couldn’t afford to be wrong at that time. And it’s a feeling that remains in the back of his mind these days, whenever he needs to purchase tools or equipment in his current role as fixed operations director for Acura of Jackson, in Ridgeland, Miss.

While Chinopulos has built up career equity at this point—as he wraps up his 35th year in the auto industry—he still feels the need to get it right when purchasing equipment like scan tools. After all, his current employer deals with some 600 repair orders per month, and its eight technicians use scan tools quite frequently.

 

The Issue

Years later, that short-sighted scan tool purchase, made in 1993, remains unsettling for Chinopulos. He can still recall purchasing the tool’s European, Asian, and domestic updates and then, in just a matter of months, seeing that tool rendered obsolete.

Looking back, Chinopulos wishes he would’ve researched the product more extensively prior to purchase.

“I really was relying on the person that I was purchasing it from, probably innocently,” he says, recalling that old scan tool. “Just got taken down a wrong path.

“There was no Internet like we have today, where you can look up anything and see. I mean, the manufacturer of these [scan tools] puts out YouTube videos, and you can see it work.”

 

The Answer

Consider Chinopulos’s lesson learned.

That experience back in the early 1990s was resolved through good, old-fashioned exhaustive research. By seeking the insight of his contacts throughout the industry, Chinopulos was able to find a far more reliable, and versatile, scan tool for his old facility.

“I went to Snap-on at that point, and I had the same unit for about 10 years,” he says.

In recent years, he has stayed true to that company. And, not long ago, he made sure his employer also added a new Matco scan tool.

Nowadays, his technicians can swiftly read codes on Mercedes, BMWs, or Hyundais being prepped for resale. The Mississippi dealership has five total scan tools—representing an equipment collection that includes three laptops with interfaces from Acura that connect to Acura/Honda products, in addition to the Snap-on and Matco scan tools that work on all the vehicle models that roll through the facility.

Chinopulos says that the Snap-on and Matco scan tools help Acura of Jackson cover all necessary bases, and that the two products together essentially form “the perfect tool.”

Over 25 years ago, Chinopulos’ scan tool required convoluted, cumbersome adapters. Now, he notes, his current scan tools have plugs that are aided by a WiFi connection, making things far more convenient.

“They’re basically a wireless operation,” he says, “and we didn’t have any of that in prior years.”

 

The Outcome

In 2018, Chinopulos has developed a refined process for finding new products like scan tools. In addition to considering factors like the tool’s speed, or clarity of on-screen diagrams, or potential for added overall convenience, he seeks the opinion of numerous industry peers.

Chinopulos now spends roughly three days researching new tools and equipment, especially via the Internet. He’ll pour over dozens of Google results for products like scan tools (while using measured skepticism to sift through, “a lot of the junk on the Internet,” he adds.)

Chinopulos also makes phone calls to trusted colleagues, like a friend who owns a Christian Brothers repair location, another friend with nearly five decades of automotive experience, and seeks the input of a master technician from Nissan.

And the process appears to be working, judging by the amount of vehicles that Acura of Jackson’s service department addresses each month, along with the facility’s 94.5 CSI rating, which tops the dealership’s district.

In Chinopulos’ opinion, the answer to finding the ideal scan tool is really rather simple.

“Look at what other technicians and professionals say about a particular brand,” he suggests, “and really tap into [the insight of] people at other dealerships, people at other repair shops. I see what their experience is before I go and make a move.”

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