Every once in a while we encounter some confusion about vehicle diagnostic charges. “You mean I have to pay for you to tell me what needs to be repaired? Even if you don’t fix anything?” Or, “I still have to pay for a diagnostic even though I get it fixed by you?” Diagnostic charges are sometimes a topic of debate. But they shouldn’t be. You don’t see people upset about paying their doctor for their yearly physical exam.
It takes education, a whole lot of experience (I’m talking YEARS), and talent to be a really good mechanic. And it’s not easy. Having problems with your vehicle solved and fixed is a valuable service that saves you a lot of headache. Proper equipment, experience, and training are required to consistently and accurately diagnose the cause of vehicle problems. These people have invested their time and money into becoming experts so that you don’t have to!
“But I already know the code of my check engine light, what else do you need to do?” Running a code at AutoZone is kind of like Googling a medical problem: you have symptoms and you find online a list of possible causes of these symptoms. WebMD is like many automotive forums: it attempts to offer a diagnosis more specific to your situation. Sometimes the diagnosis is accurate and allows you to take further steps to solve your problem; sometimes it isn’t. Let’s say the check engine light comes on your dash, you go to AutoZone, have the code read and you get: P2232. When you research possible causes for this code for your specific vehicle, let’s say a 2001 Honda Civic EX, you uncover that possible causes could be a faulty MAP sensor, O2 sensor, vacuum leak, etc. Paying for vehicle diagnosis is like paying a doctor for a medical diagnosis. It is a service that is worth the cost because you’re working with an expert, which really does save you time and money.
The other option to avoid diagnostic charges is to gamble with “guessing” what caused the issue your vehicle is having. We call it “throwing parts at it”. It’s a strategy that was often times used back in the day when vehicles weren’t run by fancy computer systems. You would replace parts until the problem was solved, wasting money on unneeded parts and stressing a lot along the way. By confirming the cause of the issue, we are then able to warranty the work performed. Ultimately, paying for diagnostic charges puts the ball in the shop’s court so they are then responsible for fulfilling their half of the bargain: correctly diagnosing the problem.
Check out the associated teal links to learn more about different perspectives on this issue.