Several readers of my blog have asked me the same question: do I recommend purchasing an oscilloscope specially optimized for the automotive industry?

In this entry about one of them: CarScope Viso

Link to the manufacturer’s web:

At first, I want to emphasize the differences between the “regular” oscilloscope and the automotive version. The automotive oscilloscope:

a) has to be battery powered. Normally – it has to have a possibility to charge by 12V;

b) accessory kit should have additional accessories (signal needles, clamps, meters, etc.);

c) the oscilloscope menu should contain standard pre-settings for most popular signals, to save time by setting voltage, timebase, etc.;

d) in the Help list of the oscilloscope should contain technical information, how does the signal of one or another car hub should look alike;

e) finally – there should be a convenient internet forum and set of the technical base, maintained by the manufacturer, where the users can find answers and ask questions in case of any problems (a good example – picoscope).

As you understood, the automotive oscilloscope is not radically different from the “regular” oscilloscope. As if insignificant options/differences, these can significantly improve the performance (especially – for the beginner).

But – let’s come back to the current oscilloscope.

I want to mark immediately – I have not used this current oscilloscope. Accordingly – I have no information regarding the software errors, true battery time, etc. specific things. My verdict will be based on the information from the manufacturer, assuming that everything works perfectly. In real life, of course, it is not happening so easily. 


a) first and most important – the Bandwidth of this oscilloscope is the only 2MHz. It means that it will not be possible to correctly see the data of the 500Kb CAN. FlexRay won’t be visible at all. For me, this is a key argument. I turn to the oscilloscope when it is not enough with “regular” tools (multimeter, control bulb). Typically these are exactly more complicated cases. This oscilloscope will not be helping by identifying problems of the data buses!

b) Memory depth: 8K points. It will be practically impossible to find any sporadic defect with such a short memory. You will watch the screen for a long time but will not see the damaged impulse in the continuously incoming data;

c) other objections: 8bit vertical resolution (the picture will be very grainy); no 12V charging adapter.

In short, about accessories. This is one of the most important additions for the automotive oscilloscopes. Let’s move to the Products:

a) current clamp: useful tool both for measuring AC and DC current by a contactless method. Plus: possibility to connect to the oscilloscope to see the shape of the current impulse;

b) connector BNC to banana + crocodile; a convenient tool for the GND (Ground) connection;

c) dividers 1:10; 1:20; AC decoupling – usually included in the standard set of the “regular” oscilloscope. “Regular” probes allow switching the sensitivity 1:1/1:10, but AC/DC choice is included in the oscilloscope itself. Here, to measure the AC sources or a larger voltage, you (as a buyer) will have unjustified additional expenses!

d) capacitative pick-up clamp: a tool for observing the signal of the secondary chains of the ignition. True thou, it will work only for old or technologically undeveloped cars. For the last 25 .. 30 years, BMW uses the concept “each cylinder has its own ignition coil” – this tool is out-of-date;

e) Nr1 cylinder Trigger pickup tool: a tool for old cars to identify the ignition of the 1-st cylinder. Not suitable for BMW’s of the last 30 years;

f) needle probe set: a convenient set of needles;

g) coil on plug and COP tools: accessories to measure secondary chains of the ignition. It is theoretically possible to see the secondary chains of the ignition using these tools, but… Due to the tiny memory of the oscilloscope, you will not notice separate misfires;

h) USB insulator. The critically necessary tool, if you want to charge your oscilloscope and at the same time – work with it. But – you are overpaying again! The power supply of the oscilloscope should be insulated! But it is not. So, due to the badly developed oscilloscope, you have to use one additional transition: USB insulator, and one ore: converter 12V to 5V. Is it really the automotive oscilloscope?


From all tools: the needle set is good. Voltage dividers and AC/DC tool – additional costs, which you “saved” by purchasing the current simplified oscilloscope and cheapest probes. AC/DC clamp clips – a good tool but are not specifically connected to the current oscilloscope. All ignition tools – quite useless for modern cars. Power supply and safety – described above. 

Unfortunately, bandwidth and memory depth is not enough to diagnose modern cars. The manufacturer does not give any additional service (internet forum, wide information database, diagnostics examples).

Do I suggest to purchase such an oscilloscope? No, I don’t.