Should You Pay for Auto Diagnostic Service?

mechanic using auto diagnostics tool

Chances are good that you’ve dealt with the check engine light, but unlike other problems, the check engine light can seem like a mystery. For example, if you have a squeaky serpentine belt, the solution is often quite obvious – replace the serpentine belt. If you have a brake pedal pulsation, it usually means you have warped brake rotors. The check engine light isn’t quite so self-explanatory.

While the engine in your vehicle is quite similar to that made a century ago, the engine control module (ECM) makes it possible to extract power more efficiently. The ECM is also critical for keeping vehicle emissions as low as possible. The ECM monitors the engine, constantly tuning engine output to driver demand, such as passing power or cruising fuel economy. Let’s say your check engine light comes on, but you don’t really notice it because the car seems to run well enough. Still, no matter how the car feels, an illuminated check engine light is telling you that the ECM has detected a problem somewhere in the system.

What is Real Value in Auto Diagnostic Services?

The problem you now face is what to do about the check engine light. There are literally thousands of diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) that the check engine light might refer to. The only way to even get started is to connect a scan tool. Some auto repair shops charge for auto diagnostic services, but some places, such as autoparts stores, offer to scan your vehicle for free. You are probably wondering, “Why should I pay for auto diagnostic service when someone will do it for free?”

Today, it seems that more people are “price shopping” than ever before, but this doesn’t really help anyone. As the saying goes, “You get what you pay for,” and this is especially true in the auto repair field. If you don’t pay for auto diagnostic service, such as offered by various autoparts stores, what exactly are you getting?

Free Guesses Usually Cost More

The truth is, at best, you’ll get a printout of the DTC and a “guess” as to what the problem might be. It’s an autoparts store, after all, and their business is selling parts, not necessarily fixing cars. At worst, you might buy parts that don’t end up fixing the problem. In the end, you got a “free” auto diagnostic check, but you wasted time and money on unnecessary parts. Where’s the value in that?

On the other hand, if you pay for auto diagnostic service (the average is between $100-$120) where’s the value in that? Most auto repair shops employ ASE-Certified technicians, who spend thousands of hours in training and working on cars every day, and also maintain thousands of dollars in modern auto diagnostic and repair tools. If you have a check engine light, trained technicians use state-of-the-art diagnostic tools to give you an accurate diagnosis.

Case Study: Check Engine Light On – Fuel System Too Lean

Essentially, the ECM is telling us that the air-fuel ratio is incorrect, that is, it is detecting too much air or too little fuel.

One of the most misdiagnosed DTCs, because it’s an “oxygen sensor code,” many simply jump to the conclusion that the oxygen sensor needs to be replaced – perhaps all of them “because you need to be sure.” After spending a thousand dollars on oxygen sensors, the check engine light comes back on. Again, you got a “free” auto diagnostic check, but you wasted time and money on parts that didn’t fix the problem.

Diagnosing the fuel system includes testing everything related to air and fuel, including fuel pressure, intake and exhaust, and electronic testing of the air metering system, to name a few. It’s time well-spent, because the technician finds an intake air leak skewing oxygen sensor readings. For the $114.95 auto diagnostic fee, the shop probably won’t even charge you to replace that broken vacuum line.

Auto Diagnostic Service at Dobbs Tire & Auto Centers

True, this is just one example, but it goes to show that paying for competent auto diagnostic services is worth your time and money. The next time you are in need of and auto diagnostic check, ask yourself if “free” is the same as “value.”

For a modest fee, just $114.95, ASE-Certified auto repair technicians use professional diagnostic tools to positively identify the problem – this is the real deal, not a guessing game. Then, we’ll give you an estimate of any parts or repairs needed.

Dobbs Tire & Auto Centers is Here to Help

We think you’ll agree that, for auto diagnostic services, Dobbs Tire & Auto Centers is worth your consideration, where we offer real value for your time and money.