Gaining Confidence in the Repair Process-Part 2

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That dreaded check engine light came on.  You call your local repair facility and they ask you to bring your vehicle in for diagnosis.  Diagnosis is one of the terms we use in the automotive industry quite often.  Just as though you were going to the doctor, occasionally your car needs to go to the car doctor to see whats going on under the hood.  Unfortunately the word diagnosis has become one of the negative words in our industry.  Today, I wanted to take the opportunity to educate you on what to expect when you take your car in for diagnosis.

Be prepared

Let the shop know when your light came on, what the car was doing when it came on.  Were you driving down the interstate at 80 mph, or were you in stop and go traffic for 30 minutes?  Did you just get gas?  Did the light come on when you pressed your brakes or accelerator?  Did the car start running differently?  How long did you drive with the light on?  Did the light ever flash and if it did, how long did you drive it with the light flashing?  A great shop will take the time to interview you about your check engine light.  These questions save you time and money in the diagnostic fee.

Schedule the appointment so you can leave the vehicle

Diagnostic services can take several hours.  Often, the technician must wait until the car completely shuts down all computer monitoring systems before they are able to start testing.  This cycle can happen several times before they are able to adequately pinpoint what’s going on with your car.


There is a difference between “having a code read” and diagnosing a vehicle.  Many auto parts stores will read your code at no charge.  This is a disservice to the industry and has been outlawed in California.  This gives them the opportunity to sell parts that may or may not work to alleviate the problem. A code is just a code.  Accurate diagnosis uses the code as a starting point.  Rather than throw parts at a vehicle and hope for the best, the technician will test and research to narrow down what exactly that code means and what is causing the code in the computer system of the vehicle.  Most shops will charge between a half hour to an hour of billable time for an accurate diagnosis.  In most instances, this fee should be separate from the cost of repair.

Why so much?

Oftentimes we are asked why diagnostic services are so expensive.  Most shops use their highest level technician, utilizing the most expensive tools the shop has.  This technician has invested years into their education so they are a master of their trade.  That person is the person you want working on your vehicle.  The person with the most experience, education and resources to pinpoint what your car needs.  Your car is a very important part of your daily life.  An accurate diagnosis keeps your car on the road, doesn’t leave you stranded and makes sure your family is safe.

What’s next?

Next month we will discuss the process of repair.