I work daily with various scan tools. Some of them cost thousands of dollars and have some pretty powerful features. But most of the time a simple engine scan is all that is required and since our company has a dozen vans out on the road it wouldn’t be very economical to have a $4000 scan tool in each van. But it also isn’t very efficient when the guys have to drive back to the shop and collect a scan tool each time they are out on a job and realise they will need to scan something, or they are on the other side of town and get sent to a different job that requires a scan tool.
This is where budget scan tools come in, and we have tried various tools and options for an economical solution to the need for everyone to be able to have access to a scan tool in their van. Introducing the Autel ML529HD [Heavy Duty] car and truck scanner. At around US$99 the bargain of the century.
If you’re in the USA you generally just pick a scan tool that matches the colour of your toolbox and you’re done - because almost everything there from 1996 is OBD2. In many other countries, New Zealand especially, it’s not that simple. We have cars from Japan that are JOBD and only go OBD2 from around 2005, vehicles from Korea are KOBD, several Chinese models, European cars that only go EOBD from 2002, plus all the rest which gets even more complicated in a large auto-electrical company that does trucks and earthmoving equipment as well. Even today, 25/06/2019 I checked the 10 cars that were in our yard for work - only one of them was OBD2, even though they all had the standard OBD plug, only one was OBD2 compatible.
Fortunately as the older cars ‘die off’ everything will be OBD2 and many of our customers are replacing their older trucks with models that are more compatible with budget scan tools - because if you want a tool that does everything we get it costs big money, even then there is no one scan tool that does everything so you need several to cover all your bases. Otherwise, the market is basically ‘growing towards’ total OBD2/EOBD as the older models become scrap metal
Having a 12v budget OBD2 scanner in a van is asking for trouble because one day it is going to accidentally get plugged into a 24v vehicle. I also tried a “V500” HD car and truck scan tool which comes with 6 and 9 pin adapters, and I was assured by the supplier that it would work on 24V vehicles - until it made a horrible ‘ticking’ sound and flashed the screen off and on when I tried it on a 24V truck. I received a 50% refund on that one because it only did half what was advertised - 12v only [it still worked after the 24V incident]
Enter the Autel ML529HD 12 and 24v marvel. It does OBD2, EOBD and J1939 and J1708 on 24V trucks.
What is really interesting about the 24V OBD mode is that it does multiple systems. The Autel MD802 at US$175 is the worlds cheapest full system scanner for 12v only and costs almost double - there’s something about the 24V systems that makes it easy enough to access multiple systems with a budget scanner. The other day we had a 2012 Scania in the workshop and plugged in the $5000 G-scan2 that we had on loan to test. It couldn’t get into the Scania through its model selection or through OBD mode. The Autel ML529HD got into it easily and showed results for multiple systems!
Of course it won’t have bi-directional control and reset functions and advanced graphing features like the serious scan tools do and I wouldn’t take any faults it records as the final say on a matter - even expensive scan tools can sometimes be misleading which is why you always need at least 3 scan tools so that if there is a disagreement between two of them the third can help decide which is wrong. Even then I’ve seen two wrong and one right before.
With regard to the graphing features - it only has the option for one graph which is pretty weak considering something half the price has 4 graphs - but it does the graph well and it moves nice and quickly and smoothly across the screen - unlike the cheaper ones that take 4 minutes to move across the screen and have the patterns all on top of each other.
Then there is the record function - it can either record a series of live data, which plays back in numbers only, not a graph, or you can set it to ‘record on dtc’ which takes a sceenshot of the live data as the fault code is registered. Another nice feature is the green-amber-red lights that show you if there are no fault codes, a pending fault code, or an active fault code. What is really handy about them is that you can be watching a live data graph and see the light change from green to red as a fault code appears, without having to go to the “read codes” menu.
The tool comes with 6/9 adapters for American trucks as well. One word of caution though, I wouldn’t bother trying to update it because the one negative I have seen with Autel scanners is trouble with updates, the language changes to ‘machine code’ or icons disappear etc. I’ve seen it on multiple models. Rather buy another one with the latest updates in 2 years time, they’re cheap enough.
We bought half a dozen of them and in the 3 months they have been in the vans there are good reports coming back, several saying they got into trucks the expensive tools couldn’t do [Including a $4000 Fcar]. Of course we charge for a ‘scan’ and basically 3 scans pays for the tool - after that it’s all profit and convenience. They won’t do everything and occasionally we will want to plug in one or two expensive scan tools to verify the results but so far they haven’t let us down - and of course they work on 12V cars and trucks as well and the tool is the perfect size to have on the seat next to you while doing a test drive and recording a graph of fuel trims or coolant sensor [to look at after you pull over of course]. If you have read this far - all I can say is “just get it!”