Tool Reviews

Tool Review: MAHLE TechPRO

The TechPRO VCI and the Surface tablet. The tablet measures 11 1/2 x 8 x 3/4 inches.
<p>The TechPRO VCI and the Surface tablet. The tablet measures 11 1/2 x 8 x 3/4 inches.</p>

There are scan tools, and then there are scan tools, and then there is MAHLE’s TechPRO. When the company’s ads tout the “game changer” aspect of this system, they were not blowing smoke or employing over-stated hype.

After playing with the TechPRO for only two days, my reaction is simply a resounding “wow.” (I wish you could see how far my jaw dropped). This “scan tool” is much, much more than the term implies. It’s absolutely incredible.

The system I played with included the VCI (vehicle communication interface), which lugs into the vehicle’s diagnostic port, along with a really sweet Microsoft Surface Pro tablet that looks and feels as though it was designed for use by NASA for the space shuttle. We’re talking slim, heavy-duty and robust. This isn’t a toy by any stretch — we’re talking OE level serious.

Live data is viewable for every module-connected circuit on the vehicle. Access to any mode (DTCs, data stream, etc.) is incredibly fast.
<p>Live data is viewable for every module-connected circuit on the vehicle. Access to any mode (DTCs, data stream, etc.) is incredibly fast.</p>

Plug the VCI into the vehicle’s data port and fire up the tablet or laptop. The system automatically identifies the vehicle and every module and power accessory. There’s no need to answer a bunch of questions, such as “Does the car have an automatic transmission?; Does it have a power moonroof?; Does it have heated seats?, etc.). It reads the VIN and knows everything about the vehicle (probably including the last time the owner washed it). OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it’s not that farfetched.

I am the first to admit that I’m not a diagnostics expert. Our magazine takes advantage of knowledgeable techs who work in the field on a daily basis to write in-depth system diagnostic/driveability articles. My specialties include internal engine and chassis. But, if I could begin to figure out how to use the TechPRO and benefit from its use, believe me, anyone can.

NOTE: You will need to connect the tablet/laptop to the Internet, otherwise you won’t be able to do anything. In other words, you need WiFi access. My shop WiFi connection can be spotty at times, so I don’t always have a good connection. You absolutely will need a solid Internet connection to use the system.

The outer skin of the Surface Pro tablet is very tactile, offering you a solid, no-slip surface.
<p>The outer skin of the Surface Pro tablet is very tactile, offering you a solid, no-slip surface.</p>

Access to the MAHLE site is a subscription-based service. As far as I’m aware, the fee is about $1,200 per year.

My only initial criticism was in regard to the size of the type. On many of the displays, the type was so small that it was difficult to read, even with my reading glasses. Then I realized that down at the lower left of the screen, I could simply tap on a “plus” symbol to enlarge the type enough to make it very easy to read (just part of the learning curve).

Due to the relatively small size of the VCI (4 5/8 inches x 1 7/8 inches x 1 inch), it’s not unreasonable to expect a busy tech to forget to retrieve it and leave it in the customer’s vehicle. However, the little guy blinks and BEEPS when plugged in, as a reminder to take it out when the job is done. That’s a nice feature.

You can use the VCI with any number of display/control devices such as a laptop, tablet or even a smartphone. However, using MAHLE’s fold-open tablet (complete with a real keypad) is the way to go. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s built like a tank, yet slim and comfy, with a built-in adjustable kickstand, lockable in various positions. It’s designed for use in the shop. It’s also multi-functional and can be used to access the Internet and perform in every way like a top-notch PC, and even features a built-in camera. The outer skin is very tactile, it’s not slippery so it won’t slide out of greasy fingers.

A sturdy aluminum built-in kickstand is click-adjustable in several positions.
<p>A sturdy aluminum built-in kickstand is click-adjustable in several positions.</p>

One small feature that I really like is the power connection. Instead of a plug-in connector that has little pins that can be tweaked, the power lead is a slim little deal that inserts easily and is secured magnetically, something that I find very cool.

When searching the Internet (as you would with any PC), the Surface Pro was incredibly quick. No delays whatsoever. I could use the built-in mouse pad, or I could use my finger or the included “pen” to click on anything my heart desired, with blindingly fast results. I wish my office PC was this fast.

The keyboard can be folded up against the tablet when not needed. You can manage   selection with your finger on the touchscreen, or use the supplied pen for more accuracy when making your selections.
<p>The keyboard can be folded up against the tablet when not needed. You can manage&nbsp;&nbsp; selection with your finger on the touchscreen, or use the supplied pen for more accuracy when making your selections.</p>

The capabilities of the TechPRO are mind-blowing. Yes, you can scan for DTCs, as you would expect. But it does so much more. You can choose ANY system in the vehicle and view recorded or live data, force actuators to actuate, view graphs or “gauges,” view live throttle position sweeps while viewing voltages and percentages, etc.

Want to recognize the vehicle’s VIN? The system grabs it in a heartbeat. This thing is quick. You can also reflash modules (J-2534 pass-thru capability for reflashing and reprogramming), along with having full Internet access to manufacturer update software, service sources such as Identifix, All Data, etc., and even Google to search downloaded diagnostics and repair procedures, without the need to walk back to the office and fire up the PC. The wireless capabilities of the Bluetooth-enabled VCI are said to be 30 to 100 feet, depending on shop conditions. It’s important to note that MAHLE has a history of developing advanced scan and programming tools for OE customers. The firm is now using that knowledge in developing tools for the aftermarket.

The VCI (vehicle communication interface) plugs into the vehicle data port and communicates with the tablet via wireless Bluetooth or USB cable (your choice).
<p>The VCI (vehicle communication interface) plugs into the vehicle data port and communicates with the tablet via wireless Bluetooth or USB cable (your choice).</p>

The TechPRO’s capabilities seem (at least to me) to be almost unlimited. Each time I play with it, I discover more information. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that it tells me what a customer ordered at a McDonald’s drive-through on a specific day and time. You can seamlessly move from reading codes, viewing real-time fuel trim, remotely commanding the power convertible top to go up or down, checking OE specs for cylinder head bolt torque/angle, checking out the status of an ABS, to Googling a source for a cam sensor, a set of brake pads or ordering a pizza for lunch. Or, if you have the down-time and the inclination, you can play a game or search eBay for your kid’s upcoming birthday gift. The potential seems limitless.   ●

The keyboard is accessible when desired.
<p>The keyboard is accessible when desired.</p>

ADVANCED CAPABILITIES:

Speed of decode

Speed of diagnosis

Low cost of entry

Subscription-based model

Real-time RMI (repair maintenance

interface) data streaming

Seamless, real-time updates

Wireless connectivity

Navigation

Flexibility

Easy visibility

Multi-device capabilities

Integrated VIN decoder

Internet browsing

Data collection

Reflashing/reprogramming

For more information on TechPRO and its features, see the firm’s website at:

www.servicesolutions.MAHLE.com

Waveforms are clear, crisp and easy to read. Screen resolution is outstanding regardless of the display mode.
<p>Waveforms are clear, crisp and easy to read. Screen resolution is outstanding regardless of the display mode.</p>

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