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What is a diagnostic scan tool and why is it used on vehicles?

A diagnostic scan tool is a very sophisticated electronic device that connects to the diagnostic plug in your vehicle to read any fault codes stored in your electronic control unit (ECU). The scan tool enables mechanics to check the operation of electronic sensors, components and wiring in your vehicle. This leads to a faster, more accurate diagnosis of a vehicles problem.
It's a bit like a heart patient being hooked up to a heart monitor - a doctor can better diagnosis what is happening with a patience's heart as opposed to only using a stethoscope