Introduction to the PicoScope Automotive Oscilloscope

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PICO-PQ173 4225A 2-Channel PicoScope only
4225A 2-Channel PicoScope only
R 18,920.24
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PICO-PQ174 4425A 4-Channel PicoScope only
4425A 4-Channel PicoScope only
R 30,267.10
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PICO-PQ185 4823 8-Channel PicoScope only
4823 8-Channel PicoScope only
R 50,269.25

Automotive Oscilloscope Kits containing a PicoScope

4x25A 2 & 4-Channel Starter and Diagnostic Kits
4x25A 2 & 4-Channel Standard Kits
4425A 4-Channel Advanced Kit
4425A 4-Channel Master Kit
4425A 4-Channel Electric Vehicle Kit
4425A 4-Channel Vehicle Assessors' Kit
4425A 4-Channel Diesel Kit
4425A 4-Channel Engine and Hydraulics Kit
4823 8-Channel Engine and Hydraulics Kit
4823 8-Channel Professional Kit
NVH Essentials Kits

What is an Automotive Oscilloscope and why do I need one?

An automotive oscilloscope (scope) is a simple device. All it does is draw a graph of a value (e.g. voltage, current, pressure, sound) vs time. The PicoScope is a storage scope so it draws the graph (actually up to four at the same time) and remembers it so that you can study what happened after the event occurs.

Pico Tech Logo

An Automotive PicoScope turns your laptop or desktop PC into a powerful diagnostic tool. Think of it as the X-ray machine of diagnostics, letting you see the changing signals inside wires.

In order to use our automotive oscilloscopes, you will need a PC and some test leads to connect to the vehicle. Most customers purchase one of our award winning Automotive Diagnostics Kits. These money-saving kits contain everything you need. Please consider the 2 or 4-Channel Starter or Diagnostic Kits or one of the more advanced kits, listed on the right, rather than purchasing the oscilloscope on its own.

4x25A 2 and 4-Channel Automotive Oscilloscope Kits

Our 4225A 2-Channel Automotive Oscilloscope is a really good choice for specific applications that need only 2 channels as well as for those with budgetary constraints. However, please consider choosing the 4425A 4-Channel Automotive Oscilloscope or a kit that contains it, because it is far more useful and a better long-term investment. Kits can be upgraded by purchasing extra components but a 2-Channel scope cannot.

We can also supply you with a range of suitable desktop and laptop PCs. You can use any suitable Windows-based laptop or PC that you may have.

PicoScope Contents

These items are usually supplied with your PicoScope when it is bought on its own. When you purchase a kit containing a PicoScope, these items are also included.

4823 8-Channel Automotive Oscilloscope
  • Oscilloscope
  • USB Cable
  • User Manuals
  • Software CD-ROM

The 4x25A 2 and 4-Channel PicoScopes are best-suited for general workshop diagnostics use.

Also see the new 4823 8-Channel Automotive Oscilloscope and the 4823 8-Channel Professional Kit.

Learn more about how scopes work with our free, on-line, Introductory Training Courses, the PicoAcademy as well as watching some of our Videos to see the PicoScope in operation.

How does the Automotive Oscilloscope know when to draw the Graph?

By default, the Automotive Oscilloscope draws graphs continuously. This happens when no trigger is defined (select none).

You can configure your PicoScope to start drawing a graph when it is triggered. Some event occurs e.g. an injector closes (see right), the cam sensor detects TDC, the ignition key is turned, the headlights are turned on - you decide. The scope draws the graph and you can analyse what happened.

Being a storage scope, the Picoscope has another huge advantage. It continually monitors what is happening and stores and displays the graph as soon as it is triggered. This means that it can even display what happened before it was triggered. Think of a DSTV Explora or PVR Decoder which allows you to rewind live TV. Your PicoScope allows you to look back in time and find out what caused the event.

Can I control what I see?

4225 Automotive PicoScope
4425A 4-Channel PicoScope

Absolutely! You can decide how long the scope records for and how much detail you want. You can filter the graph to highlight certain events or problems and change the scale. Compare your graph with other similar graphs to highlight any differences to help you identify faults. PicoScopes have libraries of waveforms that you can access.

The trace in the case study below shows 70% of the display is dedicated to time before the trigger. Choose where to place the trigger on the display.

Why is a PC necessary?

Using a PicoBNC+ TA388 2000A Current Clamp with a 4425A Automotive Oscilloscope

Your Picoscope uses a PC or laptop computer as its display. This has many major benefits. PCs have high resolution displays and lots of storage. Examine your waveforms in minute detail and save them to create a knowledge-base. Email them if you need help and compare them to waveforms downloaded from the Internet. Print your test results to show your customers where problems were and how they were solved. You can watch training videos, follow test set-up instructions and access our comprehensive Help to increase your efficiency.

Whilst the PicoScope is a sophisticated data capture system with many functions and features, it does not have any controls. Simply think of it as the place to plug in your test leads. You only interact with the PC and everything is controlled from there.

When you buy a PicoScope Automotive Oscilloscope, you only pay for an instrument optimised for automotive diagnostics. Oscilloscopes with built-in high quality displays are very expensive. PCs are optimised for storage, processing, communication and display. We believe in giving you the choice, PicoScope allows you to build a diagnostic system that suits your business.

I use a multi-meter, why do I need a PicoScope?

A multi-meter can measure static values such as the battery voltage, current through a lamp, resistance of a coil and continuity. A PicoScope can show how things change. It can also measure things that happen very quickly, such as spikes, ignition pulses, etc.

The new Automotive PicoScopes have a bandwidth of 20MHz (20 million cycles per second) and a sampling rate of up to 400 million samples per second. 250 million samples of 4,096 levels can be accommodated in its buffer. A multi-meter has many applications but cannot replace the functionality of and insight provided by a PicoScope.

The PicoScope has enormous storage capability and can also be used to look at things that happen very slowly (e.g. hours). Find that elusive, intermittant fault by looking back through the PicoScope's waveform buffer.

How do I connect the PicoScope to the vehicle?
PICO-PP992 & PICO-PP993 Clip Sets can be used with your Automotive Oscilloscope

A large range of very high quality sensors, connectors and accessories are available to help you to make your measurements. Many are included in our range of cost-effective kits (links at the bottom of the page). Some examples include:

Injector Voltage and Current Case Study

The display shows the voltage across an injector and the current flowing through it.

Analysing the Automotive Oscilloscope Waveform

A true understanding of a vehicle's engine comes from experience and the ability to see and understand what is happening. Your PicoScope provides that ability. As you use the product, your understanding will grow naturally and we believe that you will find it indispensable.

The Injector Opens

The blue trace (voltage 8V) went low when the injector was switched on. Current started to increase and was limited to about 1 Amp (the flat top on the current waveform probably by the coil resistance of about 8Ω).

The Injector Closes

The injector was switched off and the scope was triggered (yellow diamond) by that event. The collapsing current in the inductor (the coil in the injector) generated the spike at the end but the voltage was clamped (flat top on the voltage spike) at just under 30V which protected the injector driver (i.e. the electronic switch).

Analysing the Injector's Mechanics

Certain inferences can be drawn from electrical signals that can reveal the operation of mechanical components.

When the injector opens and closes, its inductance changes which affects the current (and voltage). The small increase in the current slope at about -0.8 ms (A millisecond ms is a thousandth of a second) would have been caused by the injector physically starting to open. The next increase (-0.6ms) resulted from the injector being fully open and the injector started closing at 0.0ms (because the current was switched off) and the small 'bump' in the voltage (0.2ms) as it collapses would have been caused by the injector physically closing. This means that the injector took about 0.3ms to start opening, 0.2ms to open and to close and was open for about 1ms (-0.8 to 0.2ms) and fully open for about 0.6ms (-0.6 to 0ms).

The power of the PicoScope Automotive Oscilloscope and the importance of this level of analysis is demonstrated in the Peugeot 406 Case Study.


This trace shows simultaneous display of voltage and current. It also show how the scope recorded what happened, prior to being triggered.


The waveform was derived from the "demo device" in PicoScope 6 Automotive Software. You can download PicoScope 7 software, free of charge, from the PicoAuto website and try it out for yourself. For this example, use (200μS/div), Channel A (10x probe, ±50V) for the injector voltage and Channel B (6A Current Clamp - 20A mode, ±2A) for current.

Also see the Fuel Injector Current and Fuel Injector Voltage vs Current Guided Tests.