When we St. Peter residents get a car repair bill, we really shouldn’t be surprised to find “diagnostic fees” as one of the line items. When we get a computer fixed, there is usually a charge for the time it takes to diagnose the problem. When we go to a medical doctor, most of his fee is for his ability to diagnose what’s wrong. It’s no different with our vehicles.
Some diagnoses are fairly simple. Brake repairs at Autotronics of St. Peter usually require only a visual inspection, for instance. But other problems are much more difficult to diagnose. An intermittent engine problem, for example, takes time and expertise to pinpoint.
Modern vehicles have multiple computers that monitor a variety of sensors throughout the vehicle. When one of those sensors has a reading that is higher or lower than the standard parameters, the computer turns on the Check Engine light. Technicians at a service center such as Autotronics of St. Peter in St. Peter can scan the engine’s computer for a trouble code. This code tells the technician which reading is too high or too low.
That’s where some St. Peter residents get confused. They think that this reading concludes the diagnosis, and they don’t understand why the diagnostic fee is as much as it is when all the technician did was to scan the computer. But the truth is the trouble code is only the beginning of the diagnostic procedure.
Remember, the trouble code only tells which reading is out of parameter. It doesn’t say what is causing the reading to be too high or too low. Your Autotronics of St. Peter service technician still has to find the underlying problem. It’s a lot like going to the doctor. He can take your temperature and discover that you have a fever, but that doesn’t tell him what is causing your fever.
Automotive diagnostic technology can cut down the time it takes to figure out what’s wrong with a vehicle that isn’t running right. But it doesn’t do away with the need for your friendly and knowledgeable Autotronics of St. Peter service technician to make a proper diagnosis. Car care, like medical care, still requires the human touch.
There’s a reason we use the word “diagnose” when we talk about fixing cars in St. Peter. Figuring out what’s wrong with your minivan has a lot of similarities to figuring out what’s wrong with someone who is ill. Vehicles are a mass of complex systems that can produce a variety of symptoms when something goes wrong. As with human diagnoses, a specific symptom may be indicative of a number of problems, and figuring out the specific cause takes training and experience.
Sometimes the diagnosis of your minivan’s trouble comes down to a matter of trial-and-error. This can be frustrating for St. Peter motorists because time and money are on the line. You may feel you should only be paying for repair work. Of course, you only want to pay for the right repair – and a proper diagnosis is part of getting it right. Like at the St. Peter doctor’s office — some of what you pay for is the doctor’s time and effort to figure out what’s wrong with you, not for the actual cure.
The good news is that St. Peter motorists can do a lot to help out their knowledgeable Autotronics of ST Peter service professional in figuring out what’s wrong with their minivan. Again, the medical office is a good analogy. The more information you can give your doctor about where it hurts, when it hurts and how it hurts, the more quickly he will be able to help you. In the same way, the more you can tell your St. Peter service technician about when the problem occurs, what is sounds like, how often it occurs, where it occurs, etc., the more efficiently he will be able to get you back on the road.
If fluid is leaking from your minivan, you should note the color of the fluid, where under the car the puddles form, and when they form (e.g. only when it’s parked for a while, only if the engine’s hot, when the weather turns cold, etc.). For example, if your minivan is making an unusual sound, you should indicate where the sound is coming from, what kind of sound it is, and when you hear it (again, be very specific). The more details you can give, the more helpful you will be. “I hear the sound when I turn left” is more helpful than “I hear the sound when I turn.” After a few conversations with your Autotronics of ST Peter service professional, you should get a feel for the kind of information he needs.
If you drop your car off, leave a detailed note describing information about your minivan’s problem. A quickly scrawled “Making a funny noise” will only lead to frustration for both your technician and for you. Good communication leads to better car care for St. Peter drivers.
If your minivan is occasionally stalling or sputtering, you may need a little more patience than with other types of car trouble because these types of problems are intermittent. In order to fix the trouble, your tech often finds it helpful to reproduce the symptoms. And if the problem is intermittent, it may take a while to do so.
In these cases, specific information can be invaluable, as it can significantly reduce the time it takes for your knowledgeable technician to get your minivan to misbehave. For example, if you can tell your technician that the vehicle only acts up after it’s been driven for 20 minutes and over 50 mph, it will allow him to quickly reproduce your problem, greatly reducing the time it will take for a car diagnosis in St. Peter and then get it fixed.
Good preventive maintenance goes a long way to keeping your car out of the Cleveland repair shop, but if you need to get it corrected, good communication will get you back on the road quickly.
Okay. You went to your local St. Peter car wash and while your minivan was under the dryer, the check engine light started flashing. Panic! What did you just do? Something is seriously wrong with the minivan! You head for the nearest St. Peter service station, but on the way, the check engine light stops flashing, and just glows red. Hmm. Maybe things aren’t as bad as they seem. You decide to wait until payday to take your minivan in to get serviced. In the meantime, the check engine light goes off. What? You decide the light must be faulty, or that when it comes on it doesn’t mean anything, or that it’s just in your minivan as some sort of scam to get you to pay for unnecessary expensive repairs. You’re glad you didn’t take your car to the St. Peter repair shop and resolve to ignore that engine light in the future.
Whoa! Let’s look at what really happened. Your minivan was under an air dryer. Your air intake sensor measured too much air running through the engine. It sent its report to the engine computer, where a warning was triggered: there shouldn’t be that much airflow when the minivan engine is idling. This is a serious problem that could cause permanent engine damage. Warning! The check engine light starts flashing, letting you know you need to take immediate action to prevent that damage.
You drive out from under the dryer, and the air intake sensor sends a new message to the computer. The computer realizes that everything is normal and tells the check engine light to stop flashing. The minivan doesn’t need immediate attention; but there was a problem, and it should be checked out by your service advisor. After a few days the computer senses that the problem is gone, so it turns off the warning light.
You may think this story illustrates the uselessness of a check engine light, but you should remember that a computer can’t think for itself, it can only follow its programming. It doesn’t know the difference between a car wash air dryer and a serious malfunction in your minivan engine. That doesn’t make it useless. It just means you have to be the smart one.
Being smart doesn’t mean ignoring your minivan check engine light. It lets you know when something is wrong, and you can prevent a lot of damage to your vehicle by paying proper attention to it.
Your engine computer is constantly collecting data about what is going on inside your minivan engine. It knows what parameters are normal, and when a reading may indicate a problem. It uses the check engine light to let you know when something isn’t right. It then stores a code in its memory that a service professional can retrieve that indicates which reading was abnormal.
The technician uses this code as a starting place to find out what’s wrong with your minivan. It’s like going to the doctor with a fever. The fever is the reading that is abnormal — your temperature is too high — but the doctor still has to figure out what’s causing it. It’s probably an infection, but what kind? Sinus infection? Appendicitis? Flu? The problems and their solutions are quite different. But a fever also tells a doctor what’s NOT wrong with you. Fevers don’t accompany stress headaches, ulcers or arthritis, so there’s no sense in testing for those conditions.
Your St. Peter technician responds to a trouble code in your minivan’s computer in the same way. The code doesn’t say exactly what’s wrong, but it does give the technician a good indication of where to start looking —and where he/she doesn’t need to look.
Now, you wouldn’t consider diagnosing yourself with a serious medical problem; good medical advice — unless you’re a doctor. So you shouldn’t consider trying to diagnose your vehicle’s troubles by yourself; good auto advice — unless you’re a trained mechanic.
There are cheap scanners available on the market and some St. Peter auto parts stores offer to read trouble codes from your minivan engine computer for you, but these are really not good alternatives to taking your vehicle to a qualified service center such as Autotronics of ST Peter in St. Peter. Your engine’s computer has both short-term and long-term memory, and there are some codes that are specific to a particular make of vehicle. Cheap scanners can’t read an engine computer’s long-term memory nor can they interpret manufacturer – specific codes. That’s why manager Arvin Vander Plas at Autotronics of ST Peter spends a lot of money on high-end diagnostic tools.
It’s as if you had a choice between a doctor who had a tongue depressor and a thermometer and one who had all the latest medical diagnostic equipment on hand. Honestly, which would you choose?
Getting your codes read at your Cleveland auto parts store isn’t really a money-saver, either, unless you’re a trained mechanic. You’ll end up with a code that tells you a symptom. What usually happens next is that the Cleveland parts store sells you something that directly relates to the symptom. It may or may not fix the problem. It’s actually cheaper to just go to the Autotronics of ST Peter in St. Peter and get things fixed right the first time.
Remember, a fever can indicate a sinus infection or appendicitis. An antibiotic may be okay for that sinus infection, but it won’t help your appendicitis. Is it really wise to wait around to see if the antibiotic helps when you might have appendicitis?
Part of good car care is knowing where you can get a problem fixed, and fixed right. Preventive maintenance goes a long way to keeping you out of the repair shop, but eventually, we will all have a problem that needs fixing. Let’s do it right the first time at Autotronics of ST Peter. In the long run, it’s actually the less pricey choice.