I want to talk a little about automotive diagnostic costs and how they get passed on to the average consumer along with the reasons behind this. The inner workings of Automotive service centers are very similar in some aspects and very different in others. Some service centers really try to give the best customer service available while others will charge you for every bit of time that they can scrape up and not even look back.
- Not all Automotive diagnostic strategies are equal.
The truth about diagnostics is that technicians will not always treat them the same way. There are always different points of view and unfortunately just because you recover a certain fault code, the part it points to may not in fact be the failed part. The technician will use his own experiences to diagnose the problem and not necessarily the "text- book" method depending upon the skill set of the tech.
- Technicians need to feed their families.
The technician, like anyone else, needs to feed his family and in the automated service profession the techs are paid by the book hour. This means that they receive a small amount of time to diagnose the problem and the standard "book" time to replace the part. This is where things tend to go wrong as the technician is forced to "beat the clock" to diagnose and repair your vehicle.
- Parts Swapping
When the technician is faced with a fault that is unusual and has to spend a fair amount of time on it, this is where you start to pay. It is not that the technician is untrained or inexperienced, but rather that he or she may have to ask for extra time or start swapping parts which you may end up paying for.
- Paying for more than you needed
Nobody usually minds paying a little extra if the technician has run into a problem and needs more time, but it is when the fifth part that was replaced has fixed the problem and you are faced paying for the other 4 possibly unnecessary parts. This happens because the technician must fix the vehicle as promptly as possible to get paid and move on to the next job.
- Be smart about your repairs
When you bring your vehicle in for diagnostic work such as a check engine light, air conditioning, abs light, air bag light, etc. always and I repeat "ALWAYS" tell the service center to call you after they have put an hours worth of time in and convey to you where they are at the vehicle at that time. At that point you can make a determination where the technician is at diagnosing your vehicle and you can then decide how much more time you are willing to let him spend on it. Do not be afraid to push the service advisor into telling you whether he is close or not.
- Paying for parts you did NOT need
There are many instances where the technician will put 2, 3, or 4 parts on the vehicle and say that they were all contributors of the problem and it seemed to get a little better as each one was replaced. From my experience this is possible only when the vehicle is just so old and neglected or there was consequential damage as something took out a multitude of parts and it usually was not any of the parts but some other undering problem. Again you should instruct the service advisor to call you as soon as they suspect a part and want to replace it and if it is not the problem you will be charged for that part.
- Generally dealerships will treat you better
Automotive service dealerships usually will be more expensive, but are large enough to usually work with you on possibly splitting the time of the diagnosis. If it was an extensive diagnosis they may consider "eating" some of the time and NOT charge you for any parts that did not fix the vehicle. There are many independent service shops that will grant this negotiation to you, but in my experience there were not as many.
Everyone needs to get their vehicle serviced at some point or another and being aware of the situation will greatly help you in the long run. If you experience a situation that you are not so sure of and need a little advice, be sure to drop us a line at the company website.