What are “Diagnostics” or “Computer Diagnostics” on a car?

Ahhh, the most misunderstood term in Auto Repair. The dreaded “D” word. To most people, “Diagnostics” means “computer diagnostics” which leads them to the understandable mistaken conclusion that the computer in question is the thing that is actually doing the diagnosing. Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy.

Here at Pro Auto, we don’t say “Diagnostics” in that sense because of that very misconception. We say “Testing and Troubleshooting” because that more accurately reflects what happens when we work to figure out what is wrong with a vehicle. The technician does the diagnosing; the computer is a tool in their toolbox. 

We have 5 levels of testing and troubleshooting, each building upon the last, and each including more advanced testing techniques. Everyone in our business can perform a Level 1 effectively, but Levels 4 and 5 are reserved the challenging cases!

To Begin With…

We established a process for troubleshooting that starts with accurately assessing where the vehicle is at drop off. This is vital because you cannot know where you’ve gone if you don’t know where you started. This includes a check in with photos, and an initial walk-around, as well as a quick chat with the driver or owner about what the concerns are. We document the mileage, the presence of any warning lights, and the condition of the vehicle. 

Our process continues with a technician taking a short test drive to verify any concerns and also verify certain systems are working. Brakes, wheel bearings, transmissions, and many other components can only be verified by operating the vehicle. 

The DVI, it’s a game changer!

We then follow the checklist outlined in our tablet based Digital Vehicle Inspection system, where the technician will visually inspect the lights, horn, HVAC, under hood fluids and filters, belts and hoses, the wipers, cabin air filter, spark plugs, brakes, frame, and suspension. The technician will also perform an “All-System Scan” with a factory compatible, fully up-to-date scan tool. This is the part often referred to as a “computer diagnosis”. Aftermarket hand held code readers often will not read and report all codes- this is why a fully functioning factory equivalent tool is needed. Photos are taken of the relevant items and the report is sent to the advisor for initial review and to begin the estimating process. The DVI system is instrumental in effective communication with our clients.

This completes the 1st Level of troubleshooting at Pro Auto, we have FIVE levels! Next week, we’ll chat about Level 2!

See you soon! 

Michael Leech