I often get questioned about the cost of diagnostics. The most common question I get is, “why are you going to charge me when the part’s store does it for free? I took it to Billy Bob’s Auto Parts, and he put it on his machine for free and it said I needed new spark plugs.” Well yeah, BUT….. But the machine (also known as a diagnostic scan tool) does not test anything, it simply tells you there is a failure in a certain system. Then it tells you what could be the cause. This is what happens at a parts store. At a repair shop, we are here to solve problems. Not just replace parts. We do not sell parts, we do not change parts, and we do not fix parts. We solve problems. Here’s what I’m saying. If your car is running poorly, we need to know what is causing it to run this way. Yes, we put it on the machine, but that is only the start. The machine only tells you what trouble it sees, but it does not know the cause of this issue is. That is where a properly trained and certified technician comes into play. Notice I used the word TECHNICIAN. This is a person who is well trained and well versed in tracking down the root of all evil, as far as your car is concerned. He has spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours training, and practicing the techniques to finding problems.
Let’s say you have a misfire. The machine at Billy Bob’s Auto Parts said it was the spark plugs. OK, great. You drop it off at Jimmy’s Auto Repair, he replaces all 8 spark plugs, $266. You pick it up, head home and it is still running the same. You stop at Billy Bob’s again, machine says plug wires. Back to Jimmy’s, $281, new wires and the same issue. Back to Billy Bob’s, machine says ignition coil #4. Back to Jimmy’s, $235, new ignition coil, and THE SAME ISSUE and there is a total of $782 gone from your bank account. Finally, you bring it to The Smart Guy’s Auto Shop. He charges you $100 to test it. You’re not happy because at this point you are $782 into this, and your car is still running poorly. The owner assures you he will find the problem, and fix it. He calls you an hour later and says it is the connector for the #4 ignition coil connector. $303, and the car is finally fixed and running great.
Now, let’s look at the cost of this repair. Testing, $100. Parts, and labor, $203 for a total of $303. But, you opted for the free testing from Billy Bob’s Auto Parts, so this repair cost you $1085!!!!! All of this because you didn’t want to pay the $100 testing fee. This story is made up, for sure. But this is something that I see here all the time. People feel like they should get free testing at the repair shop because the part’s store does it for free. Well, the issue is this, testing takes more than this magical machine. It takes someone who can decipher what this machine is telling them. Someone who can take the information, and perform tests to find the problem causing your issue. In this case, the customer still had to pay the $100 testing fee, but was able to have the issue resolved. In the end, trying to save $100 ended up costing and extra $479!! Is it worth it to be cheap?
Professional Scan ToolThe "MACHINE" at many auto parts stores