Over the past few weeks we’ve looked at a flare nut wrench that helps to make easy work of changing out brake and power steering lines, the rivet nut, a little fastener that creates a nice, threaded hole where once there was only misery, and a ratcheting brake caliper piston spreader, a tool that’s better at the job at spreading brake caliper pistons than a C-clamp. This week’s cool tool is an advanced diagnostic scanner. These tools can offer you dealership level diagnostics in your own garage.
This suggestion comes from reader and fellow collector of nightmare diesel Volkswagens, Dieseldub. He recommends the Autel MaxiDAS DS808 and MaxiPRO MP808 for deep technological troubleshooting.
Modern cars are complex machines with an orchestra of systems all working together to deliver the performance and economy you want. But nothing lasts forever and inevitably, something will break. If you’re lucky, the thing that’s broken will be simple enough that a generic OBD II scanner will find a trouble code and you can fix your car.
If you’re less lucky, your car will be exhibiting odd behavior while your generic scanner shows nothing abnormal. Such was the case when my fiancée’s Chevrolet HHR experienced several electrical failures while baking in Texas heat. There was definitely something wrong, but generic scanners picked up nothing that we didn’t know about already.
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If you want to diagnose deeper problems you’re going to need a diagnostic tool with a bit more horsepower and picking one can be pretty overwhelming. There are systems that are specific to brands and systems that work with a number of brands.
Incidentally, this ancient IBM ThinkPad is my diagnostics tool for Smart Fortwos and Volkswagens.
I got it for free in a Smart that I also got for free and it’s been a critical diagnostic tool ever since. On its hard drive is Ross-Tech VCDS to troubleshoot Volkswagens and a huge number of programs dedicated to troubleshooting a Mercedes-Benz. The Mercedes programs can do everything from coding a fog light installation to resetting the clutch actuator.
There is a pretty huge downside to these brand-specific diagnostic tools and it’s that they’re quite expensive. Ross-Tech VCDS starts at around $250 and gets far more expensive from there while Mercedes-Benz diagnostic software can run you as much as a whole new car.
If you’re like me, you have a whole fleet to keep in shape and paying thousands of dollars for a diagnostic tool for each brand probably isn’t in the cards.
Thankfully, there are options like the Autel MaxiDAS DS808 and MaxiPRO MP808. These give you comprehensive access to your car’s systems and can do handy things like program keys, too. But the kicker is that instead of working for just one brand, they can diagnose problems with most brands of modern cars.
Check one out this review of a MP808TS model by Piyke DIYAutoworksNG on YouTube:
These tools are more common among professional mechanics, but enthusiasts can find them useful as well, especially for vehicles that are exceptionally expensive to repair.
The Autel MaxiDAS DS808 and MaxiPRO MP808 start at about $700 through an official retailer listed on its website. It’s an expensive tool, but one I think could pay for itself the first few times you don’t have to go to a dealership for a fix. The differences between each Autel system can get pretty granular, so be sure to check the specs to make sure you get what you’re looking for.
Do you know of a weird or unique but must-have tool that every wrencher should have? Do you want to see us put a type of tool to the test and see how it performs? Shoot me an email or drop it down in the comments!