Uh-Oh! My check engine light is on… Where should I go?
This is a scenario that is very likely to occur at some point(s) during your tenure of operating an automobile. So where should you take your car when your check engine light comes on? The answer is simple. A TRUSTWORTHY repair shop. There are literally thousands of reasons why your check engine light could come on. Some of them are very simple to figure out and require little to no diagnostic procedures to identify. Some reasons can call for several procedures to be performed resulting in a lot of time spent searching for the root of the problem.
A TRUSTWORTHY repair shop (in my opinion) is a shop that does in fact charge for diagnostics. When you bring your car to Brakes Plus with an illuminated check engine light, if we scan the codes and we do not have to perform a procedure to identify the problem, we are highly unlikely to charge you for diagnostics. If we have to spend time, use equipment, resources and knowledge from previous experiences then we are highly likely to charge diagnostic time. Lots of places offer “free diagnostics” as a gimmick to get you in the door or to sell you parts. Let me give you a real life example of why a trustworthy shop is the place to take your car for such a problem.
A customer of ours had a check engine light appear and took there car to an “unnamed zone of auto parts” and got a free diagnosis of the problem. The code in the cars computer that illuminated the engine light was a P0305 misfire on cylinder 5. The auto parts salesperson saw that the most common reason this code appears for that car is due to a faulty ignition coil. The salesperson sold the troubled motorist an ignition coil to solve the problem. The motorist viewed an online video of how to install the coil and pulled the job off flawlessly. Minutes later, the check engine light came back on. The car went back to the auto parts store and received another free diagnosis. Wouldn’t you know it… it had the same exact code! The salesperson saw that the second most common reason this code appears was due to worn out spark plugs. The salesperson sold the motorist spark plugs to fix the problem. The motorist went back home, installed the plugs and hoped for the best. The light came back on with the same exact code! Finally the fed up motorist decided it was time to take it to a shop. When it arrived here, we also started by scanning the code, looked up likely causes but here is where the difference came in to play. We looked up the manufacturer specific test procedures, performed the tests and correctly identified that the troubled component was actually a fuel injector on cylinder 5. Although it was not a cheap repair, our diagnostic charge was less than the amount of money spent purchasing unneeded parts. If the customer had come here first, they would have more money in their pocket and would have had their vehicle fixed quite a bit sooner.
Some places charge for diagnostic tests because they know how important they are. Some places offer them for free because they know it will get you in their doors so they can sell you other things. Just remember, most things in life of real value are not free and you always get what you do (or don’t) pay for…