My old grandpappy once told me “boy, there are no free lunches, and if they are free they probably ain’t worth eating”. My Gramps was a very wise man and that statement is actually very deep antidepressant lexapro. Let’s see how that relates to today’s automotive repair world.
People call DR. Automotive about every day asking about the charge for diagnosing the check engine light on their automobile. When I tell them there is a fee, some are taken aback and quickly reply they will go to one of the auto parts stores and get it done for free. I quickly explain we don’t do the same thing. DR. Automotive will diagnose the reason for the illuminated warning light. The parts store will tell you the code that has turned the light on. Here is the definition of the difference by example.
A customer called our shop and told us he needed oxygen sensors and asked if he should pick them up for us to install. The codes had been read at an auto parts store and they had the parts in stock to “fix” his problem. I told him we would do whatever he wanted, but to guarantee his car would be fixed we preferred to look at it first. Having done business with us before, he entrusted his vehicle to us to examine. There were two faults indicating lean fuel mixture conditions. These conditions were causing the oxygen sensors to not work correctly. In going through the diagnosing process a vacuum leak was discovered. The vacuum leak was repaired and the car was fixed.
Due diligence is required in diagnosing the check engine light. Simply looking at a code does not tell the entire story. It provides a starting point to begin the examination. Auto parts stores are happy to provide a “parts selling” guess to anyone that will listen. If their first guess is correct, great for you, if not they will be happy to guess again…at your expense. Recently a man came in and told me he was so confused because he had gotten a different diagnosis from different people and was not sure what to do. He asked me if there was a charge to diagnose and I explained our process. When I asked him who had been doing the diagnosing the check engine light problem he named off three different auto parts stores and each tried to sell him something different to “fix” his car.
The bottom line here is there is no all-knowing, all-telling machine that tells exactly what is wrong with a vehicle based on a code pulled from the on-board diagnostic system. The check engine light will illuminate because something is not within the parameters pre-set from the factory. It takes time to figure some of these things out and there is a process to a proper diagnosis. Simply plugging up to the on-board diagnosis port is not diagnosing, it is just pulling a trouble code. At DR. Automotive we may ask you to pay for that process, but we do stand behind our diagnosis if the repair is authorized.