Did anyone catch the foreshadowing in the title? YOUR scope.  This is the cross I’m going to nail myself to and encourage everyone that’s serious to have their own lab scope.  A very good trainer once said, “start your scope before you start the coffee pot.”

Before you start down the too expensive trail, the AES Wave uScope is $184.  It’s an incredible tool and you probably have a single ratchet in your giant toolbox that cost more than that.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with shop use tools.  If your shop has a scope and you can easily use it, by all means, use the heck out of it.  It’s just not the industry standard, you’ll find more shops without a scope than with.  And a lot of the shops who boast having one, have a Snap on or Autel Scan tool with a scope built in and the leads are still in the box.  I hate to generalize but those shops are also usually looking for a diagnostic tech.  That shop tool is being used as a code reader for every tech there and taking the shop tool for yourself to learn on may provide some friction.  Your scope can go home with you, (uScope can go home in your shirt pocket, but don’t let it wind up in the washing machine, ask me how I know) Your scope will also go with you should you need to #rollthatbox.  Your new boss should show his appreciation for your tools with money. 

So, for this portion I want to discuss some tool choices.  We’re gonna run the gambit but the key takeaway is that it’s the user, not the tool, that really matters. A savvy scope user and a $184 uScope can accomplish more than a novice with the most expensive tools money can buy.  I see posts on all of the message boards asking about which scope to buy so we’re going to try and knock out some of the heavy hitters.  This is by no means all encompassing, if you have had a good experience with something I missed, throw it in the comments, help us all! These tools are going to be listed in ascending price order, I’m not a paid representative of any brand and this article is my own opinions. 

uScope $184.  AES wave is legendary for their customer service.  This is pretty much the best bang for your buck.  Great support, lots of free education on this tool, lots of good features. It’s an All-in-one unit, small screen, great presents, great software. Takes a specialized input that required adapters. 1 channel.

Autel Maxiscope $400ish.  Autel is one of the big hitters in the aftermarket scan tool world.  Their scope is a fantastic buy.  I would recommend a USA seller (other than amazon) for the support.  This scope isn’t all in one, it requires a laptop, or an Autel Scan tool to run.  It’s a 4 channel, has lots of great automotive features, 4 channels, takes BNC leads.  If you need more than one channel, the Maxiscope is the best bang for your buck. 

USED TOOLS

I put that in all caps because it’s often overlooked for prospective buyers.  A used, out of date Snap on Modis, or Vantage can be had on eBay for a few hundred bucks.  We will get into the meat and potatoes of Snap on Scopes later but don’t forget to shop for used deals. Scopes don’t really need updated, I’ve seen 4 channel Modis Scan tools with all the scope leads for $200 on eBay, that’s a lot of scope for the money. 

MICSIG ATO 1000 $819 from Jarhead Diagnostics for the 4-channel version. I’ve never personally used but comes highly recommended form some techs I know and trust.  It’s an all-in-one unit as well. 

Snap-On.  We’re not going to debate if Snap-On tools are a good buy or not.  They are not a budget option unless maybe used.  They are affordable, they do offer financing.  Personal financial choices aren’t what I’m here to advise you on.  I’ve owned 2 Snap-On 2 channel scope/scanners.  I use one of them frequently.  The all-in-one features are nice.  The guided component tests are nice, their scopes leave a lot to be desired when compared to other models that are less expensive, but if you already have one, or work at a shop that has one, by all means get after it and use that thing!  I’ve made plenty of money diagnosing with a snap on scope.  I’m also a fan of the free Shop Stream Connect software that allows users to review their scope data on a PC and save for later reference with ease.  It’s a nice feature.  For an all-in-one tool, you can do a lot with a snap on.  You can probably do more with less money from a different source, but the ability to finance tools has really helped me in my career.  The amount of free training that Snap On produces is also valuable.  If you have a Snap On scope and don’t know how to use it, you need to figure out what YouTube is. 

Matco.  Disclaimer, I’ve never used a Matco scope, I don’t have any close friends using them either.  They’re an expensive add on to an expensive scan tool.  You need a Matco Scanner to use the Matco Scope.  If anyone is using one and likes it, please give us some info. 

TOPDON.  Disclaimer, I’ve never used the TOPDON scope, but I do LOVE my TOPDON scan tool, and their customer support has been stellar.  I would love some hands-on time with their higher end tools to form an opinion on (are you reading this TOPDON?) But they have Scope offerings with their higher end tools. 

ATS eScope.  We’re getting into high end options.  ATS Makes some fantastic tools.  I don’t own an ATS Scope, but I wish I did.  Prices vary by vendors but we’re talking about spending around $2600 for a 4 channel, more for an 8.  You’ll still need a computer to run this scope.  Lots of power user features and built-in software.  Bernie Thompson is one of the smartest diagnosticians I’ve ever met, he has some great videos using his ATS Tools. 

PicoScope.  My personal choice.  If you’re looking at spending this kind of money, I can tell you it IS worth it.  I use an Autel maxiscope, and a Snap On a lot, and if it’s not just a quick check, I’m wanting my Pico. Great support, ease of use is high, free training resources are readily available.  The fine print upgraded features are worth the read if you’re in the market.  Smarter people that me have discussed them in greater detail.  It’s REALLY hard to beat a PicoScope if the cost is removed from the equations.  But even when spending a few thousand dollars on a tool, you’ll make that back tenfold when you can use it.  If you’re in the high-end scope market, you’re probably going to do some of your own research and make the choice that is right for you.  If you’re a young tech or new to diagnostic work, don’t be afraid of the Pico.  You don’t NEED a Pico but you don’t NEED to start with a basic scope either.  Pico’s guided tests will get you a long way.  Ease of use will remove some of the early learning frustrations.  And Pico is easy to use. 

Now I’m sure I missed some options and there are definitely different opinions and things to consider.  Don’t consider this an end all be all guide to scope buying.  I just wanted to answer some of the common questions I see out there and give you some keywords to search as you do your own research.  Whatever you land on, learning how to use it is the most important feature.  The best tool is the one that you’re proficient at.    Stay tuned for Part 3, we will be talking about some learning resources.  Scope Classes offered by Mechanic Alliance, and even a few quick tests that you can do with a scope to get in the habit of using it.  **SPOILER ALERT A Mechanics Alliance Waveform Database is in the works.  Bug your favorite admin for the details!