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Launch/Matco scantool issues to be aware of

  #1  
Old 08-04-2016, 10:49 PM
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Default Launch/Matco scantool issues to be aware of

I know we have several pro mechanics on here, just wanted to give everyone a heads up on an expensive issue with these scantools.

EVERYTHING on a car these days has a computer module controlling it and without a a scantool to retrieve codes and access the datastream you are literally working blind. So getting a full featured pro model is essential, and I just found out how the after sale support is even more important!

About 3 years ago the Matco tool truck had a MAXIMUS scantool they were selling, essentially just a re-branded LAUNCH brand unit. It is a touch screen tablet in a large rubber encased case. The main feature that sold it for us was it was wireless. Not only could you access the shop wifi to print out code reports and data graphs to show a customer and keep on file, the connection to the car was wireless as well. The little bluetooth adapter that plugs into the car's OBDII data port is not much bigger than the connector itself and sits in a little recess in the top of the scantool when not being used. The wireless adapter lets you connect to the car and work under it while watching the data without a long cord, you can walk into the waiting area and show the customer live data on his car out front, etc. Very handy.

When we bought it the dealer suggested buying a second adapter as it is so small a momentary attention lapse means it's going down the road with the customer instead of being put back in it's storage slot on the scanner. We bought a second adapter. So of course one day I go to use it, slot is empty. Can't find it, so no big deal grab the spare and use it, right? Nope, apparently the adapter has to be "married" to the scanner and only one at a time can be paired with it. No big deal really, call up the 800 number, give them some serial numbers, then re-download the software keyed to that adapter serial. 15 minutes later back in business.

So a few weeks go by and a customer brings in the old adapter, he finally noticed it was still under the dash while cleaning out his car. Great, we got a spare again! Goes in the drawer and luckily we never had to use it. Until 3 weeks ago.

Adapter disappears again, so I grab the old one and call the 800 number expecting to use it again in 15 minutes. Nope, customer support informs me once an old adapter is "Divorced" it can NEVER be used again! Matco confirms this and the only way to keep a $4,000 scantool operational is to order in a new adapter. So we pay extra to the tune of almost $300 total for them to overnight it to us. 5 days go by, man that's a slow overnight! Call Matco, where's our adapter? Now we are informed that the adapter that they stock at their MATCO warehouse has to be sent back to LAUNCH to be factory programmed to our scanner! Since the LAUNCH factory is in China...

You would think something that has to be sent BACK after buying it to make it work would be shipped direct instead of stocking it, but apparently all this is new to MATCO as well. Launch informs them they went to this setup because the adapters were showing up used on Ebay and they "didn't want to be bothered" marrying them to a scanner? Talk about a crappy attitude!

Now a full 2 weeks after we ordered it, the dealer shows up and HE has the adapter. So we paid extra for overnight service to HIM, which means a few days were added until his route took him here. So after two weeks of driving cars to another shop to have them scanned, ours is alive again! Well, sort of.

It's running Windows 7 and ever since we downloaded the new software keyed to this adapter, the hard drive is down to less than 100 megs of free space! Of course it is now slowed down due to this. Nothing added to it, only the scantool software it came with is installed, along with the factory updates. Still waiting on a call to fix that issue!

$300 for an adapter that turns into a paperweight if you ever use a different one is outrageous. Especially when the exact same type of wireless adapter is sold on Ebay and Amazon for $10-30 for using with your smartphone. And beyond the cost in $$$ we had a 2 week wait to get it replaced.

We were looking for a new scanner anyway, this little adventure just served to knock MATCO and LAUNCH out of any future purchase decisions. If any mechanics out there are considering a new scantool purchase, be forewarned!
 
  #2  
Old 08-05-2016, 08:52 AM
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If I were setting up a shop today (with several technicians working at the shop), or "modernizing" an existing shop I'd own exactly one high end fully cabled scan tool for the shop (for a very large operation, maybe 1 for every 6 to 10 service bays), and every technician would have a cheap android tablet with a molded rubber case, a cheap-ish (<$30) bluetooth OBD2 connector and a license for Torque Pro or some other decent OBD-II app for the tablet. If funds permit, I might even have a coder-geek on retainer to develop "plugins" and customizations for things that I'm dependent on the high end tool for.

Controlling loss of the scan tool is an issue. At the last dealership I worked at, where I was parts manager, we kept the Tech-IIs and the Genysis scan tools (for used cars of other makes) in the parts department, under lock and key. Senior techs could check one out on their personal parts ticket for the day, and turn it in when they left for the day. If they kept it out overnight on payroll processing night, the thing came out of their paycheck. That generally only happened once at most per senior tech. Line techs/junior techs would check out the scan tool on the repair order, and the customer would have a charge on the bill for the full price of the scan tool. That charge would be removed when the tech returned the scan tool and it was returned to inventory in the parts room. Before that policy, we lost 3 scan tools in the first year the dealership was open. That's when the scan tools moved behind the locked parts room door, and we never lost another scan tool after that. We had the odd call from the front service counter saying "I can't charge this customer $3,500 to tighten her gas cap," followed by a page on the PA system for the tech involved to report to the parts counter immediately. But we never lost another scan tool.

Oh, and for the "high end" scan tool, I'd have at least 3 criteria for that tool.
  1. It must fully support all diagnostics for every vehicle I reasonably expect to have in the shop. That includes ABS, SRS (air bag), HVAC and BCM diagnostics.
  2. It must be fast enough to read and update graphs for 100PIDs per second in Mode 6 "data stream" operation. That means 8 to 10 updates per second for 10 to 12 displays/graphs.
  3. It must be in stock at my local vendor, preferably a vendor who delivers to my shop. If I call and say, "I'm out of business until you get here with a replacement," I should see another one in 2 hours or less.
 

Last edited by Racer_X; 08-05-2016 at 09:11 AM.
  #3  
Old 08-05-2016, 04:39 PM
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Well, Our MATCO/LAUNCH unit has pretty good coverage of all makes and systems, although being translated from Chinese you do occasionally get some funny messages popping up ala' "All your base are belong to us". And lately I've noticed some of the code definitions are completely wrong, like an O2 sensor code defined as an internal PCM error. And the VW stuff beyond code reading is pretty much unusable as it has no documentation with it and to view a data stream you have to enter a "channel number" with no idea what number is engine rpm, for example.

Criteria 2 is not happening since the bloated software update filled the HD. Wasn't too bad before but not quite as speedy as you would like.

Criteria 3 is a big HELL NO, you can't even buy a spare adapter now and get it up and running without sending it back to LAUNCH for programming.

We are seriously looking at the top of the line Snap On unit, but at almost $14K with all the extras and $10K for the basic package that's a pretty major investment.
 
  #4  
Old 08-07-2016, 10:51 AM
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I wasn't applying that to your current situation. I was suggesting that for a future purchase.

Criteria 2 depends a lot on the adapter. Most cheap bluetooth or WiFi adapters are good for up to about 30 PIDs/second. Some don't even get to that. There are a few that can do 100+ PIDs/second, but those aren't the <$30 ones yo use on Amazon and eBay. The fast ones cost $70-$200.

The good news is, you might be able to pair that "divorced" bluetooth adapter to an Android tablet running Torque Pro or a similar app, and have another, slightly less functional scan tool that will work for a lot of jobs. It's also likely that your "divorced" adapter is one of the faster ones. The "write once" permanent serialization function of the ELM327 chip is one of the things that is poorly implemented or left out of the pirated Chinese clones, and I think the later version, genuine ELM327 chips are the ones that perform the best. Generic Android apps don't care about that feature, so they should work even with a "divorcee" serialized adapter.

My third criterion is the toughest. It tends to limit you to more "mass market" units. The up side of that is they tend to have a much larger installed base, so the bugs get worked out quicker. Nobody keeps a $10K+ unit on their tool truck.

Have you looked at the Bosch OBD-1300 unit? It's a DIY/Consumer product, but it's fairly extensive in its support. That's the in stock "loaner/free code scan" unit at every O'Reilly Auto parts store. It's only about $300, and it seems fairly full featured. It doesn't have much for VW/Audi and Mercedes Benz support beyond "generic OBD-II" drivetrain data, but neither did your Matco/LAUNCH unit. One thing about the Bosch unit is that it talks/listens on the old ALDL data pin, so it can get Airbag and ABS info from the early GM cars that use the old ALDL serial data (pin 9, otherwise unused on OBD-II) for non-drivetrain communications. It also reads the 16 pin ALDL on some 1994-1995 GM models. I think it comes with the earlier 12 pin ALDL cable that works with earlier "OBD-1" GM vehicles, and some other "OBD-1" cables for other makes.
 
  #5  
Old 08-07-2016, 12:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Racer_X View Post
I wasn't applying that to your current situation. I was suggesting that for a future purchase.
Yeah I figured, just pointing out that the MATCO/LAUNCH unit only meets one criteria and fails at the other two. If anyone was considering one.

Our Snap-On dealer does have one of the $10K units on his truck, along with the 2 lower tier units. Just the scanner though, the large tool cart with the big screen monitor and accessories that bump it up to $14K has to be ordered. I think we could get by without the big screen and a $140 harbor Freight tool cart would probably hold everything just fine. Now we just gotta get the owner to stick a prybar in his wallet and get it open...

Speaking of HF, if you need a decent cheap tool cart the HF unit is a surprisingly good buy. I grabbed their 5 drawer tool carts for about $170 a year or so ago and so far it's held up fine. It was replacing a similar Snap-On unit I bought about 10 years back for almost $500. The casters look a bit flimsy, but are a cheap replace when they go. They actually have lasted longer than the ones on the Snap-On cart if you can believe that. I had to replace them due to flat spots after about a year and the HF ones show little signs of wear so far. The Snap-On cart would have stayed in service but when I came back from vacation it was a little flattened. Apparently some idiot was borrowing it and left it under a lift when they lowered it.
 
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