We have all had it happen to us. We’re driving down the road, singing our heart out to the song on the radio, when the little amber icon on the dash suddenly appears. You scratch your head, thinking “that light looks familiar, I know I’ve seen it somewhere before.” So you take it to your local mechanic and tell him the sad story and ask him to let you know what the problem is. He informs you that there is a diagnostic charge (most shops will tell you around $100 or more) to pin-point your issue. To which the most common reply is, “Why do you charge so much to plug in your computer and tell me what it is?” “I heard that the auto parts store will check my codes for free.” Well, I am glad you asked.
Reading the codes is not a diagnosis; it’s just the first step. The auto parts store uses a “Code Reader”. This is an inexpensive tool that will read and display only the engine fault codes resulting from an emissions failure. These tools cost anywhere from $49 up to $150. They have their place. They are useful for a quick check for faults or to recheck for faults after a repair has been made. But they are not well suited for diagnostic work.
Professional diagnostic computer scanners usually start at around $5000 and can cost as much as $15,000 or more depending on their functionality. Then there is usually a software maintenance fee of around $200/month to keep the scanner current with the new models. These scanners have the ability to scan the entire computer network in the vehicle and display a list of fault codes from every module in the car. They can also show in “real-time” the live data of what is actually happening in the vehicle’s computer systems.
Here at Import Automotive we have professional level computer scanners and technicians who are trained and experienced in their use. Based on the data from your car, the way the vehicle is functioning, and the technician’s expertise, the technician will determine which components need to be tested in order to determine the source of the problem. We will always keep you informed about our testing strategies and their associated costs.