Computers for Auto Techs and Mechanics

Computers for Auto Techs and Mechanics

4th May 2017

Here at Bob Johnson’s Computer Stuff, we receive frequent requests for information about rugged laptops that can be used for car and truck diagnostics. To be honest, our knowledge about the process of automotive diagnostics is limited...

Meme "check engine light comes on-check's engine- still there"

However, what we do know is that we’re downright impressed at the skills required to be a mechanic and the investment of time and money required to do it. We also know that you have a few more tools in your toolkit than there used to be in order access those mysterious things under the hood and elsewhere. Automotive diagnostics is an ever-evolving, increasingly digital art (with changing software). 

At the same time, as a mechanic, you still need basic wrenches, ratchets and socket sets and you get your hands dirty because, well, you know, cars and grease are like, a requirement. Garages, mechanics, diagnosticians, and overall automotive magicians do tough work- meaning the average laptop just won't cut it. Have you ever tried swiping your iPad with a greasy finger? Better yet, can you imagine what the damage would be if you knocked it off of your tool box and onto the concrete floor? Oof. We've used the pretty stuff too. It just isn’t always practical.

Save yourself the headache and get a rugged computer. Rugged computers do what you need, keep you working, and are less apt to suffer injury in your work environment. To make it easier on you, and to get you back to fixing our car problems (please!), the results of our in-house research come down to a few models:


For a refurbished option, we recommend the fully rugged Toughbook CF-19, and the semi-rugged Toughbook CF-53. Both of our refurbished recommendations include Wi-Fi capability, USB ports, an option of Windows 7 or Windows 10, memory expansion, hardware upgrades and a limited lifetime warranty with the option to enhance the coverage. 

Fully Rugged

CF-19 Toughbook front facing

The CF-19 model is a powerful tool, has a bright display, a fast Intel Core i5 processor and has the versatility of tablet adaptability and touchscreen capability. A fully rugged model, it will handle everything you need it do in a garage environment, and then some. The CF-19 has a smaller keyboard and weighs in at slightly less than 5 lbs. Its compact size and fully-rugged build make it the perfect workhorse in every area of the garage and on the road.


CF-53 Toughbook front facing

If you’re looking for a laptop to perform double duty in the office as well as the garage, and if military grade ruggedness is less of a concern, we’ve also found that the CF-53 model works for our mechanical friends. Listed by Panasonic as a semi-rugged model, it also has the features needed to perform car diagnostic work. Utilizing a more traditional style laptop design, it will easily have its place in your tool box. You may prefer the larger screen size, lighter weight and the size of the keyboard and it still has that great Intel Core i5 processor.


If you're looking for a new rugged computer, however, we recommend the fully rugged Durabook Z14I and the semi-rugged Durabook S14I. Our new computer recommendations also include Wi-Fi capability, USB ports, Windows 10 (standard), memory expansion, hardware upgrades, and are covered under Durabook's 3 year warranties(Z14I is covered by their accidental warranty, whereas the S14I is covered by their standard warranty).

Fully Rugged

Durabook Z14I front facing

The fully rugged Z14I is the toughest laptop in Durabook's lineup, but it's also pretty sleek. The Z14I features a 14 inch, high definition, multi-touch display. Additionally, under the hood is a Intel Core i5-8250U 1.60GHz processor, 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM. Not only that, but the options on this brand new computer are extensive-you can "soup it up" to your heart's content.  


Durabook S14I front facing

Last, but not least, is the semi-rugged Durabook S14I. This model also has a 14 inch, high definition screen. The (standard) S14I features an Intel Core i5-1135G7 2.4GHz - 4.2GHz processor, with plenty of options to upgrade. If you don't need the brute strength of a fully rugged computer, but also need something tougher than a typical consumer-grade laptop, and you want something new and shiny, this is a great pick.  

Still not sure of the right choice for you?

Don't worry, we know rugged computers like you know cars. Fill out our Selection Assistance form, and we will make sure to get you on the road with a rugged computer that truly goes the distance. Until then, rock on, automotive wizards! Thank you for being there when we need you. We’ll be here when you need us.

Updated (10/01/21)

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