Are you a healthy person? Or have you had many or even a few medical issues? What do you do when you experience a new worrisome symptom? Many people, including myself, do the same thing-they Google it!
This is what happened to me last fall. I had myself diagnosed with all sorts of other things. By the time I was able to see my doctor, I wondered how much time I had left to live. My doctor notated symptoms and ran tests, finding two problems, requiring a major surgery in January and subsequent medication-but neither problem was life threatening.
Women tend to exaggerate and mentally imagine the worst-case scenario. Sometimes Google is more of a hindrance than a help because we get ourselves all worked up without really knowing how serious something is. And men, what do you do with a new symptom? Tell your wife? Ignore it for a while? Google it and choose the least possible problem? Or are you like us and anticipate the worse until you finally go to the doctor? I am sure the diagnosis we've given ourselves is occasionally correct. But I'll bet if you ask many in the healthcare industry, you'll find that in most cases, we are not.
And what about symptoms your vehicle is having? Do you Google those too? Do you know what's wrong with your vehicle before you even get it to the shop?
A couple months ago, we had a call from a customer asking how much it would cost for new rear struts. As with most calls for repair estimates, knowing that vehicles need assessment in order to accurately diagnose them, we recommended bringing the vehicle in to ensure his Googled diagnosis was correct.
Upon inspection by one of our ASE Master Certified technicians, the customer's vehicle was found to have worn sway bar bushings-a repair that cost significantly less than the struts the customer wanted a quote for. That was a jackpot moment for the customer who was thrilled to have an accurate diagnosis and less expensive repair.
We often get calls from customers requesting an estimate for brakes. I have written about the complexity of the braking system in previous articles. If you've read them or know about your braking system, you know that there are several components that may be affected-pads, rotors, brake lines, calipers, fluid, etc. Without having your vehicle present for a brake inspection, it is difficult to give an estimate. A technician must assess the vehicle on a test drive and determine if the vehicle is safe to drive. After the test drive the technician will remove the wheels and assess all of the components. You could have one component that is faulty/worn or several.
Can you see the value of the inspection process? Depending on the issue, the solution may cost less. Of course, it could cost more as well. But the important thing is, with accurate diagnosis, you will understand the health of whatever system is being inspected and what it will take to fix it.
The same is true for the diagnosis of any system of your vehicle. What is it worth to you to have your vehicle assessed properly and fixed based on experience and hands-on knowledge? In-depth inspections take time by the professionals you build a relationship with and trust. Depending on which symptom(s) you are looking to have diagnosed, the cost of the inspection will vary based on which system will be inspected, how many tests need to be done and much time it will all take to perform.
There have been occasions when a customer feels the inspection or diagnosis should be free of charge. What in your profession are you willing to do for free? The technician takes time to test drive a vehicle, perform many tests based on symptoms, often using many of his own diagnostic tools, and puts together a list of parts needed in order to repair the problem. His/her time is valuable and revealing this value to the customer then charging for it allows shops to pay the technician and treat their time with the respect it deserves.
There are some shops that offer coupons for "free brake inspections" or "free check engine light analysis." Why do you think they do this? How are they able to offer it for free? Do they pay the technician for his time with the diagnosis or inspection? Or does the technician do it for free with hopes the service advisor will sell the job that the inspection reveals? Each shop is different in how they work this, but the bottom line is, in order to be in business and employ good technicians, they must charge for the inspection somehow. Likely the time is rolled into the job that is sold. Will the customer know the difference? Likely not. They perceived they were getting something for free and can then decide whether or not to proceed with the repair. Their intent of having it diagnosed in the first place was to fix it. After receiving their "free" inspection, they will likely authorize the repair with that shop.
If a free inspection is offered, the shop's intent is not to deceive you; it's used as a marketing tool to get you to come to their shop where you perceive you are receiving something for free. In the end, your vehicle is likely repaired at the same price as another shop that charges for the diagnosis plus repair.
The bottom line here is this: Inspections take time. Technicians are highly trained in order to inspect any system of your vehicle and their time is valuable. Different symptoms require a specific series of tests and knowledge to pinpoint. Your desire is to have your vehicle repaired correctly. Every reputable repair shop wants this same thing. If you trust your repair shop and value the services they offer, you will be well cared for and their technicians will be well cared for so that you will always have a trusted business to take your car to.