The Diagnostic Truth
Why do we charge for looking at your car? A legitimate question most shops don’t like. To answer the question, we need to understand what we do. We are a service industry that sells 2 things : Parts and Labor. A part is bought and sold and labor is bought and sold. Most customers understand this as they come in with a problem, for example a water pump leaking. Shop purchases (part), replaces (labor) pump and no more leak. A physical problem that can be seen is fixed; a mechanical problem no one has a problem paying for.
Our industry has evolved and is ever changing, and thus is requiring more and more trouble shooting. Cars and trucks today are not only a mechanical machine, they encompass computer networks that must interact with each other. There are automations in actuators and sensors that must work with the still present mechanical side. So a mechanic today really is a Technician. He has to be as proficient in networking as an IT specialist, understand electrical engineering with actuators and engine controls, and still keep up with the mechanical side. Now here comes the best part, every make is different…What do I mean different? Think about your phone Apple or Android? Two different platforms and require different tools and information to run/repair. How many Makes are there?? Doctors have it easy they only have 2 Male and Female.
All of this leads us to the Diagnostic Truth that no matter what the internet or chain stores may tell you there is no such thing as a computer that tells you what is wrong with your car. That takes a Technician with training in all 3 areas mentioned above. Even that is not enough, tools and information about that specific car(remember apple vs android) are necessary. This all comes at a cost, but unlike above with the water pump it isn’t tangible. Water pump took x time to replace…you can see it you can feel it. When a TCM can’t communicate with an IPC do to a network issue there is nothing to see or feel. It still takes time though and Time is Labor one of our 2 commodities. The hard part is time is finite. We have to be diligent and charge for it or the business does not survive. That does not mean charge whatever we want it means fees based on diagnostic levels that may change from case to case. What you should expect is an explanation of this up front. As professionals we should deliver a service adviser who can communicate with both the customer and the technician, so both understand the concern, a technician who can diagnose and pin-point the cause of the concern and advise the best plan of action to correct the concern. At that point an accurate estimate should be made and communicated with the customer. This is fair and reasonable and should be paid for.