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How to save, organize your diagnostics data for future repairs

Wednesday, August 1, 2018 - 07:00
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We live in the information age. We have smart phones, smart homes and smart cars. Some new cars have just as many and sometimes more lines of code than a modern jet fighter! Diagnostics have become more intuitive due to all the enhancements in information systems and scan tools. We now can do all module scans for DTCs, view log files of all the module part numbers and calibrations, view time stamp code information, record movies or snapshots while doing test drives and perform tests of components electrically using a digital storage oscilloscope or DSO. But what do we do with all this data after we record it? Hopefully we are saving some, if not all, of it.  In this article we are going to investigate the archival of our precious diagnostic data so we can easily access it later.  We will also investigate some programs and apps that will aid us in that ability.

Google Drive offers a free 15 gig cloud storage service to anyone with a Google account. This allows you to access your files wherever you have Internet service.

Save your hard work

Most diagnostic techs who have been to any class I have taught know one of my pet peeves is doing a diagnostic test drive without a scan tool hooked up to the DLC. My second pet peeve is having the scan tool hooked up and NOT recording a snapshot or movie of the test drive or capturing the failure. The information recorded gives the tech vital diagnostic information that can be reviewed safely when the tech returns to the shop.  But what do we do with data when we are done with it? Do we store it solely on the tool? Do we share it with the front desk or customer? Do we share in forums or social media? I remember, years ago, Jorge Menchu of AESwave.com had the forward vision to create a software program that was years ahead of its time. The program was called Annowave® and it was was my first exposure to a systematic way of archiving data for later use.

The good news is all this information is digital and can easily be archived on a scan tool, a thumb drive, a hard drive or in the “cloud”. Digital storage and cloud drive storage has never been more affordable. Often, there is a lot of information that goes into diagnosing a modern vehicle; vehicle DTC scans, freeze frame info, scan data snapshots, service information (SI), technical service bulletins (TSBs), wiring diagrams, scope captures etc. But what do you do with all of it?  Moreover, how do you manage it? 

I like to create a folder on my computer’s desktop named specifically with year, make and model (YMM) and the nature of the problem – “2010 Silverado 5.3 P0171 rough idle” for example. I drop all my digital data in there and sort it out after the vehicle is fixed and retain the folder for later viewing. This gives a centralized location for my data and simplifies accessing it whether on my laptop, another computer I “push” the folder to or if I upload the folder to a cloud for remote viewing elsewhere.

Want an efficient way to transfer files from one device to another? Need to share a photo or DTC record with your service writer? Try the app Pushbullet.

 “Pushing” a folder or file refers to the process where a digital file is transferred through the ether via an app. Think of this as emailing an attachment to one self without having to go through all the steps; open your email account, compose an email, attach the file and send - then open the email and download the attachment to the second device. Pushing the document is seamless - you simply click on the file and “push” it to another device using an app such as Pushbullet®, Google Keep® or something similar.  Practically any digital file or image can be “pushed” or shared between devices. Devices can include laptops, computers, tablets, and phones. Examples of data that one could push include a photo of a grooved rotor taken by a tech’s cell phone and pushed to the service writer’s computer, a TSB sent from the service writer’s computer to a tech’s tablet or a wiring diagram sent from a tech’s laptop to a second tablet. 

Saving Snap-on files

Most tool manufacturers use a specific file extension and have their own programming for viewing and storing their data. Snap-on scan tools, for example, save their movies and scope captures on the drive inside the tool. They have file extensions like “.scm” or “.vsm”.  If you tried to open this file by itself, you would receive the “Windows cannot open this type of file” prompt. Snap-on has a solution for viewing files separate from your diagnostic tool. They offer a little known free downloadable program called Shopstream Connect®. It is available for download at their website,  https://www.snapon.com/diagnostics/us/SSC

Snap-on data files use dedicated file extensions, meaning you can’t view them on your laptop without help. This is the help – Snap-on’s Shopstream Connect – and it’s free to download.

Shopstream Connect® provides the user “a practical in-shop software tool to transfer, save, manage, review, annotate, e-mail and print files that were saved or recorded on your Snap-on diagnostic platform” per Snap-on®. In a nutshell, you download this program for free and keep your diagnostic information in one place on a device other than your tool. 

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