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2nd diagnostic charge

I paid $65.00 at a nationally known auto center for an engine diagnostic; the resulting report stated that it was “either wiring or PCM,” and recommended me to my local dealer. Went to the dealer today and they want another $99.00 to diagnose which it is. I stormed out intoning in my wake “this is not fair!” Is there anything I can do to avoid paying yet another steep diagnostic fee? Including tax and fees if I pay for the 2nd diagnosis, I will have spent more than $170.00 without any work having being done on the problem.

You could start by telling us what you’re trying to diagnose in the first place.

Ummmmm…If I go to 7-11 and buy a gallon of milk, but lose it on the way home is Sheetz now supposed to give me a gallon of milk for free? You know, just because I already paid for a gallon…someplace else. Or should I have to pay Sheetz for another gallon of milk? Same thing.

Your first mistake was “nationally known auto center.” Stay away from those chains and ask around for a locally owned shop with a good reputation. Take the car there. Note that many auto parts stores will read error codes for free, and you could post those for advice.

If the “nationally known auto center” printed any error codes on your report then post them here. The codes are a P with 4 digits afterward. E.g. “P1234” There is no code that will tell them it is wiring or PCM - that’s the “we have no idea and can’t be bothered” answer.

Uh. You went to two different places of business. The nationally known auto center’s diagnosis was inconclusive, however you still have to pay them for their time and effort. Next you go to another separate business, they also have to charge for the diagnosis, because they need to figure out what the problem is. The dealership doesn’t see a dime of the fee the first place charged, and they are going to have do a diagnosis as well, and obviously they have to charge for that.

Is there anything I can do to avoid paying yet another steep diagnostic fee

You can get the codes read at a auto parts store, as @cigroller mentioned, many of them do it for free. Or you could purchase your own OBDII reader, you can get a basic one for less than $100. The issue with this method is, the codes will tell you what the problem is, but not necessarily what the cause is. And if you don’t want to pay the diagnostic charges, you’re going to have to figure out what the cause of the problem is yourself, and hope your diagnosis is correct. Because if you’re wrong and you have a shop perform the repair work you specify, without the shop doing their own diagnosis, then you’re paying for the repair even though there’s no guarantee it’s the correct one. Alternatively you can attempt the repairs yourself if it’s not something terribly daunting.

I am just lucky I guess, my mechanic fixes a problem and does not even throw in a diagnostic. In fact the last issue, poor gas mileage, and the parking brake was on after an oil change when I picked it up. Now it is a give and take situation, I wanted to make sure the parking brake was not sticking, but they have to pull the wheels. I needed a tire rotation, and asked if they could check the parking brake during a tire rotation. They did, all was fine, and they even scanned for stored codes to see if there was any evidence of problems, and looked over everything. No problems found, Cold weather to blame is our final conclusion, but had I walked in off the street it would have been a $65 charge, that is what you call a good relationship with your repair choice, and a local shop that will help you out when you work with them.

You go to your dentist with a toothache, and he does an exam and takes x-rays. His conclusion is that you need some work that is beyond the scope of his practice and refers you to an oral surgeon. She is going to do further examination and perhaps an MRI to determine the full extent of your dental disease.

Are not both the dentist and oral surgeon entitled to their examination fee? Fees, which by the way, are far more steep than auto service charges. $99 dealer diagnostics is less than any dealer in my area.

Nope. No shop is going to take the word of another shop to determine the problem. Either wiring or PCM leaves a lot of room for error. Now if you told them to just change the PCM, the risk is on you and you wouldn’t have to pay the diagnostics.

Your thinking is way off base. The dealer should not consider for one second the replacement of parts or repairs based on an iffy diagnosis given to you by someone across town.

If someone told you that your abdominal pains were due to an appendix or a gall bladder problem would you expect to march into a surgeon’s office and demand one or both be removed without any diagnostic tests?

Would you storm out of the doc’s office intoning how unfair life is to you? The only thing the dealer should do at this point, if you go back, is decline to even bring the car into the shop. Some cars are best left untouched.

I’ll add another example…if you buy a Whopper at Burger King and don’t like it…why should McDonald’s give you a Big Mac for free. I’ll echo @ok4450 here and say…“Your thinking is way off base.”

@Bjalady–You can count me as one more person who disagrees with you.
In fact, I believe that your reasoning ability/thought process…at least as it relates to this situation…is irrational.

@VDCdriver Yes, OP’s thought processes are irrational to say the least.

Unless you can get the “nationally known auto center” to forward to the dealer the $65 you paid him, how do you expect the dealer to get compensated?

And besides, no reputable mechanic would repair a vehicle based on someone else’s diagnosis. A good shop will do their own diagnosis.

I do side jobs in my garage from time to time. The customers often come to me, after a shop told them such and such. I always verify the accuracy of the shop’s diagnosis before I get into it. There have been instances where the shop’s diagnosis was wrong.

@db4690, a wrong diagnosis? what a surprise!

A diagnosis is part of the repair price at a mechanic and a requirement. Some state its free however its simply incorporated into overall repair price. Unfortunately the first shop was useless and charged you for nothing.

For the folks who say get a code reader that does little if you end up at a shop. Also bad idea since they still need to diagnose the problem and not look foolish the “solution” given by a customer is wrong.

Sorry to pile on, but the others are right. The first shop was unable to pinpoint the problem (they probably got a communication error when trying to scan for error codes), and you need to pay for someone else to do more diagnosing of the problem.

Didn’t come here to be analyzed by so many “psychologists.” Was hoping for helpful answers. My railing I realize was born out of frustration with the automotive repair industry which routinely charges customers a huge fee for an hour’s worth of labor when the problem was actually solved in a matter of a few minutes. Finger pointers: check out three that are pointing back at you.

Not psychologist, mechanic. Many of the opinions you read were from people that make their living repairing cars, or are retired from repairing cars. You hit a raw nerve and got appropriate responses given the subject.

Raw nerve is an under statement!

@Bjalady, there actually were several helpful responses in amongst the raw nerves. To summarize, and maybe add a few points:

-Avoid national chain auto repair stores in future
-When the “check engine” light comes on, you can have the codes read for free at a local auto parts chain
-Write down the code in “P0123” format and report/ask about it here before going to a shop for repairs
-Every shop will (rightly) want to do their own diagnostics and (rightly) be paid for it
-You can avoid multiple diagnostic charges by finding a trusted local mechanic and sticking with him/her
-Find one near you in the “Mechanics Files” area of this website

Do come back with any future problems. Believe it or not, many of the guys here are extremely knowledgeable and helpful and can save you lots of $$ and aggravation. And best of all: no charge!