Maverick discusses using dealer diagnostic tools

Maverick discusses using dealer diagnostic tools

Andy Brooke, managing director of Maverick Diagnostics, shares his thoughts on unlocking profitability and efficiency in the workshop using dealer tools in automotive diagnostics.

Vehicle technology is moving at an enormous speed and for many businesses, the path ahead is unmistakably clear: embracing dealer tools and diagnostic platforms is no longer optional but essential. The launch of SERMI in 2023 has further eased the accessibility of these systems, offering a unified portal for accessing platforms from multiple manufacturers.

In this feature, I will spotlight the top-selling dealer tools in the UK and explore the enhanced profitability they offer, chosen as they cover a staggering 90 per cent of the vehicles currently on British roads.

The financial merits of using dealer tools come from the ability to charge a premium diagnostic rate when independent garages are using them. However, profitability naturally hinges on proficient use of these tools, which is why all independent workshops should take basic tool training as a minimum, with advanced training as the next step. Workshops that have embraced dealer tools, usually specialising in specific brands or vehicle types, have enjoyed solid customer bases and increased hourly rates.

Tool Spotlight: ODIS

The off-board diagnostic and information system (ODIS) is a comprehensive application that covers Volkswagen, Audi, Seat, and Skoda. ODIS requires a high-specification laptop and a VAS 6154 VCI, although a rated passthrough dongle like the Mongoose VAS cable can also be used. Each brand has its unique identifying key and a stringent security process for tool application and usage.

ODIS comes with an integrated suite of technical data and offers fully guided diagnostics specific to each brand and we’ve found that ODIS delivers an exceptional return on investment. Workshops typically charge significantly higher hourly rates when using ODIS, as it consistently and efficiently solves automotive issues. When used by properly trained technicians, ODIS not only covers a wide range of brands and models but is also userfriendly, making it an excellent investment. ODIS’s strong return on investment and expansive brand coverage make it a vital tool in any workshop’s arsenal.


Jaguar Land Rover: specialised but lucrative

By the nature of the beast, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is not for everybody, but for those who own these vehicles, keeping them running smoothly is a top priority. JLR offers two different software platforms running on a single laptop: For models up to 2017, SDD (Symptoms Drive Diagnostics software is used in conjunction with the JLR-VCI tool. TOPIX Cloud was introduced in 2022, for vehicles after 2018 and replaces the older Pathfinder platform. While the standard dealer tool goes by the name Bosch VCI, there are alternative options such as the DPD-U tool, which offers exactly the same functionality.

When it comes to cost, JLR software is most economical when purchased on an annual basis. TOPIX also offers a separate subscription for documentation, allowing you to buy only the necessary documents on an hourly rate.

Maverick discusses using dealer diagnostic tools

BMW ISTA: a comprehensive platform

BMW is probably the best value platform but can be frustrating as it’s so vast and many believe the whole car needs to be updated with each module change. In this discussion, I’ll focus on BMW’s ISTA workshop platform and the Kasio key reading system, aiming to simplify their intricate functionalities.

Firstly, investing in a high-specification laptop for ISTA is crucial; better hardware leads to optimised system speed. The primary device used with this platform is known as ICOM A. Optional addons are available for older vehicles with 20-pin connectors and for most bus communication. It offers comprehensive features such as mapping, tyre pressure monitoring, and fully guided diagnostics through a system called AIR.

Kasio, on the other hand, is the key reading system. It enables technicians to extract all key data from a vehicle, upload service information to BMW’s cloud, and then rewrite this information back into the vehicle. Once integrated into your workshop, Kasio can reduce BMW service time by 30 to 40 minutes.

As for costs, both ISTA and Kasio operate on an hourly token basis. However, we have found that tokens can often last longer, particularly if you are in the middle of programming. This also applies to ODIS; a one-hour token can potentially last all day.

Be prepared for frequent updates; BMW is known to update their systems as much as three times a month which can challenging for technical support teams. Despite frequent updates, its effectiveness and speed make it indispensable for BMW servicing.

Maverick discusses using dealer diagnostic tools

Ford’s multiple options

Ford’s diagnostic landscape is somewhat complex, largely due to the vast number of models available globally. The primary tool is called the VCM3, with its dealer-specific variant being the VCMM which includes built in measurement capabilities. It’s worth noting that VCMM isn’t used in the aftermarket; we’ve had a customer purchase only to realise they wasted their money.

Ford offers multiple software options, the details of which I am not going to delve into here. The most well-known is the IDS (integrated diagnostic software) which serves as the foundation for Ford’s other diagnostic software. IDS is most effective and provides a great return on investment. US licenses can be bought on a yearly or hourly basis, and this will also cover the FDR system which is generally the only other system independent operators in the UK and Europe would need. As you would expect for a global platform, it is user-friendly but should you require extra documentation or guided functions, you’ll need to use the PTS system and pay an hourly fee.

Maverick discusses using dealer diagnostic tools

Vauxhall, Opel and the PSA Group

For Vauxhall, Opel, Peugeot, Citroën and DS, two tools are mainly in use sharing the same diagnostics box platform: the old Vauxhall GM MDI for programming and diagnostics of Vauxhall vehicles up to 2021, and the PSA XS core tool for PSA vehicles from 2004 to the present day. The PSA XS now includes Vauxhall which are all PSA based from 2021. To further complicate things, Stellantis, who now own all the above, also owns Fiat jeep Europe which uses an entirely separate platform.

Mercedes Xentry: a premium offering

Mercedes offers three types of Xentry systems, each with its own set of features and access levels: Xentry PassThru, Xentry Lite, and Xentry Kit 4. The PassThru version is designed for diagnostics on vehicles compliant with Euro 5 standards and newer. Xentry Lite caters to a broader range, covering all vehicles back to those meeting Euro 4 standards. Xentry Kit 4 not only provides the same coverage as Lite but also includes additional information and add-ons. It’s important to note that Mercedes maintains a stringent application process for these software versions. While the application process is stringent, the comprehensive functionalities of these systems justify the investment.

To conclude, dealer tools have transformed from being optional luxuries to essential investments for independent workshops aiming for profitability and efficiency. If you are contemplating adopting these tools, the financial incentives and technological advantages make them indispensable for your future success.

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