Mar 01, 2023

Truck Diagnostic Tools: Everything You Need to Know

Truck Diagnostic Tools: Everything You Need to Know

Imagine someone taking their car into a shop to figure out what’s wrong with it, only for the technician to shrug and say they don’t know.

Awkward, right? And definitely not the kind of service you want to offer at your own shop.

But all joking aside, it’s hard to determine what’s wrong with trucks and heavy equipment if you don’t have the right tools. Yes, a “check engine” light can let you know there’s a problem. But without a way to accurately translate what that means, the best you can do is guess. With a driver’s safety on the road at stake, a guess just won’t cut it.

Truck diagnostic tools are absolutely crucial in any diesel repair shop. Some of these tools are more capable than others, and it can be hard to find the right software for your needs if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Before you pick a diagnostic tool for your shop, here’s everything to keep in mind.

Importance of Diagnostics

When you already know there’s a problem with a customer’s truck, diagnostic tools are handy for zeroing in on the issue and spelling out exactly where the issue is. They also play a key role in discovering issues no one knew about when the truck pulled into the bay.

Running complete inspections and diagnostics for each truck may require extra effort, but that work will pay off before you know it. By diagnosing new problems with a client’s truck, you’ll be able to fix these issues—and make more money in the process. Plus, there’s a good chance your clients will appreciate your attention to detail and commitment to keeping them safe on the road.

As a side note, we’d strongly encourage you to bill your customers for diagnostics. True, many truck shops avoid charging people for this service, preferring to use free diagnostics as a way to get potential clients in the door. But like any automotive service, diagnostics take time and effort for your valued technicians to complete. By charging for your hard work, you’ll be appropriately compensated for what you do—and your techs won’t feel pressured to rush through the diagnostic process.

Tips for Picking Your Truck Diagnostic Tool

Truck diagnostic equipment is great, but there’s more than one option on the market and you’ll need to find the right tool for the job. Make sure any truck diagnostic tool you’re seriously considering excels in terms of:

  • Compatibility. You already know what types of heavy-duty trucks your shop specializes in (at least, we certainly hope you do). Having a diagnostic tool that’s ready to work with these trucks (and any other heavy equipment you regularly work on) is crucial.
  • User-friendliness. Your technicians are busy people, and they deserve diagnostic equipment that won’t slow them down. While you’re researching diagnostic tools, prioritize software that works fast and is easy to use and read.
  • Durability. A heavy-duty repair shop is no place for delicate, fragile things. Investing in strong cases for your technicians’ phones and laptops won’t cost much in the grand scheme of things, but it could help you avoid expensive repairs.
  • Power options. If your shop offers mobile mechanic services in any capacity, you’ll need diagnostic devices that can work in any environment. Take into account how you’ll supply power to your diagnostic equipment while on the road.
  • Updates. Nowadays, you can’t afford to use diagnostic tools that don’t change with the times. Search for diagnostic software that is updated as new truck models are released.

Important Diagnostic Software Features

Once you’ve found some possibilities that meet your basic requirements, it’s time to narrow down your options. That means the fun stuff: features.

While you’re comparing different truck diagnostic tools, look for a product that offers:

  • The ability to read codes. Put simply, your diagnostic software needs to be able to read fault codes. No matter how many other features it has, this is at the heart of any successful diagnostic program.
  • System performance measurement. The ability to look at live performance data for a truck’s various systems can provide valuable insight into efficiency and performance.
  • Code tracking history. You’ll never know when you need to check on the situations a truck has dealt with in the past. That means it’s best to choose tools that can check a vehicle’s fault code history.
  • Tech support—that is, support for your techs. Truck repair and maintenance can get challenging for even the most seasoned technicians. Pick diagnostic software that can give your workers some assistance in the form of system and wiring diagrams.
  • Additional abilities. These are far from the only features your diagnostic tools can and should include. Other abilities to keep an eye out for include resetting fault codes, adjusting parameters like cruise control, and printing vehicle reports.

Do What You Do Best

When you’re wondering if it makes sense to purchase truck diagnostic tools, just remember a bit of time-tested advice: “Knowing is half the battle.”

(Now that we think about it, this may actually be a quote from the old G.I. Joe cartoon. It still counts as “time-tested” if it’s from the ’80s, right?)

The point is, you’ll need to know what’s wrong with a customer’s truck before you can start fixing it. Taking some time to research high-quality diagnostic software is invaluable for ensuring your tool of choice is up for the job.

After that, it’s the other half of the “battle”—the process of fixing clients’ trucks. That’s where Fullbay comes in. With our service order workflow, your technicians will get step-by-step guides to walk them through all kinds of maintenance and repair jobs. Find out more about this and other ways Fullbay can take your shop to the next level by setting up a demo today!

Emilie Vecera