What is an automotive scope?


Micsig ATO1102

The automotive scope is in some sense a standard oscilloscope but has an added functionality designed for the testing and troubleshooting of cars. It is a diagnostic tool which graphically displays key features of a car.

Why would you buy it?

An automotive scope is an essential tool for almost any car workshop. Cars get more and more complex each year with an increasing amount of electronic and electrical components. Standard measuring tools won’t be sufficient anymore for troubleshooting and this is where the automotive scope comes in. Automotive scopes are not only interesting for the newest cars but also for older ones (think of standard components like a dynamo, engine starter, bougies etc.).

Why not use a standard oscilloscope?

Automotive scopes offer, in comparison to ordinary oscilloscopes, specifically designed features which are optimized for the automotive sector. Automotive scopes feature special software which helps the user to interpret the output of the oscilloscope and perform specific car-system tests. For instance measuring pressure in multiple cylinders simultaneously. Also the handheld capability which these scopes offer such as a Wi-Fi function and a battery is a strong positive factor.


Picoscope and its features

What can an automotive scope do?

The possibilities of automotive scopes are huge and increase with every new software update and generation. Some key features are for instance: testing the charging circuits, the start process, the ignition process, testing different sensors, perform actuator tests, perform pressure tests and test the CAN- and LIN Bus communication.

Key specifications to look for

Automotive scopes are quite similar to ordinary scopes in terms of specifications because they require roughly the same things. Some key specifications are:

The difference between a handheld and a pc scope is huge, handheld scopes (scopes with a battery) are far more popular and practical. Another popular option is to combine a USB scope with a laptop.

Number of channels
The required number of channels available on the scope depends what you want to use them for. 4 channel-scopes are the most popular ones.

The bandwidth of a scope determines the maximal frequency it can measure. A good bandwidth for almost any practical application would be 100MHz.

Memory depth
You typically want a memory depth as large as possible so you can store as many datapoints as you want.

One parameter of this is the number of bits of the embedded analog to digital converters. Usually a vertical resolution of 8 bits is sufficient for all automotive applications.

Other specifications to look for are the storage capabilities and included probes of the automotive scope. Also worth looking for is how you can transport your scope: does it come with a suitcase (or something similar) in which you can store all your equipment?


Hantek automotive probe


To use an automotive scope to its full potential one can combine it with an automotive probe. We offer a Coil-on-Plug probe from Hantek, which uses revolutionary technology to measure ignition waveforms without going into the motor itself. Other useful accessories could be current probes, which can be found here.


We offer a few dedicated automotive scopes, such as:

From Micsig we offer the ATO1102. This is the 2-channel version in the Micsig ATO1100 series scopes. The series has a variant which offers 2 channels and one which offers 4 channels. The scopes in this Micsig series are handheld devices which have a working time of about 5 hours and have a robust design with protective screens etc.


Pico diagnostic kit

For more professional diagnostics we offer the Pico diagnostic kit. The Pico diagnostic kit is a very elaborate kit because a lot of accessories are included. We have 3 different models, all of them have the same automotive scope but come with a different number of accessories. The software from Pico is marvelous and is really dedicated to tuning and analyzing vehicles. The Pico kit comes with a suitcase to store all the components.

Other handheld scopes can also be used effectively for automotive purposes.

For the ones among us who would like to do some analysis on the car but don’t need the special software, we offer some Siglent handheld models such as the SHS1102 or the SHS810. Both models are ordinary 2-channels handheld oscilloscopes.

An alternative for the people who don’t need special software for analysing cars, is the Owon XDS-2102A. This scope comes from the Owon XDS-series, which are ordinary scopes, so they are in terms of dimensions a lot bigger than the previous discussed scopes. The Owon XDS scopes can be extended with a battery so they can be used for automotive purposes. Also, the XDS2102A has CAN-decoding.

The full automotive oscilloscope category can be found here!