Charge for diagnostics

Recently my wife brought our 2000 Infiniti Q45 to the dealer when the Check Engine Soon light came on. They wanted to charge her $150 to “do a diagnostic”. This would not be deducted from repairs. Is this typical? Fair? It involves plugging a device into the car’s Centronics port and reading what comes up.
Seems to me for $150 I can buy a good diagnostic device.

Yes, you can buy a diagnostic device for $150, but will you have the experience to know what to make of the codes?

Infinity is a luxury make, so yes, this is normal.

In other news, I am going to start wearing flip-flops with my tuxedo.

The $150 charge should be a complete diagnostics, not just a code check. The should be using the diagnostics chart in the factory service manual or equivalent. That means they start with the code, then they go to the diagnostics chart and follow the instructions to pinpoint and confirm the exact problem. Sometimes this is simple, sometimes not.

The diagnostic device that they use will certainly be more complex and more expensive than the one used at McParts stores and the mechanic using it ‘should’ be well trained and experienced in diagnosing Infinitis. And like the clerk at the %th Ave men’s wear store told the customer who was obviously financially challenged, “If you must ask the price, you can’t afford it.”

You should ask the dealer exactly what the diagnostic charge is for. It should include reading the codes, evaluating the Infiniti database for likely causes, and additional troubleshooting to verify that what they believe is wrong really is wrong. That way you spend as little time in the shop as possible and lose as little time without the car as possible. Yes that’s an ideal, but shouldn’t they strive to be the best, just as we all should?

Without any auto background you won’t be able to do it.

Use this as a word picture.
The diag scanner will point you down the correct highway but will not tell you which exit to take.

Yes, its a $20,000 piece of equipment plus the technician cost and training. It cost me $119 to diagnose a bad plug wire and the deal was if it was a warranty issue, the diagnosis and repair would be free, otherwise I had to pay. Same thing with an EKG and the doctor reading it-gotta pay for the machine time and the talent.

“my wife brought our 2000 Infiniti Q45 to the dealer” Dealer then thinks we have a woman that does not know cars and we maybe they will try to take advantage of the situation. Your dealer may be fine or may not. Don’t assume that every dealer is honest.

“… when the Check Engine Soon light came on.”

That CEL (check engine light) is just a kid in class waving her hand trying to get you attention because she has the answer. You need to have the codes read. Some places will read them for FREE. Try Autozone or Advanced Auto Parts. Get the exact code (like P0123) not just their translation into English and post it back here.

The charge is normal, but any shop I have ever been to deducts the cost from the repair. Are you sure someone did not mishear or miscommunicate?

You could also try a Nissan dealer–might be slightly cheaper for the same service. An Infiniti is pretty much a Nissan with leather seats and a better stereo.

In todays auto-repair world, first, you must ante-up, like any card game…In your case the ante is $150, chump-change in the world of auto repair today…

Make mine another vote that the charge is normal and reasonable. It’d be hard to find a shop that’ll look at a car in thoday’s world without a diagnostic charge of at least $100, and $150 for a luxury dealer’s shop would be normal.

Think of it this way: you need to get the car diagnosed and repaired anyway, so if you decide to have them do the work you’ll have gotten the diagnosis as part of the work. The charge actually protects the shop against losing money should you have them do the diagnosis and then go shopping for the cheapest repair quote. You have, after all, utiilized their shop tome, their bay, their equipment, and their expertise. They’ve had to make quite an investment for those things.

The neurosurgeon who did my neck surgery a few years back charged me 300 bucks for the initial visit which consisted of about 5 minutes of "yep, you got a problem. I’m sending you for an MRI."
This was before he even entered the diagnostic highway.

The 150 sounds a bit high to me for a basic code scan but maybe they went further than that and maybe that’s just company policy. ?

You can get the car scanned for codes free of charge at chain type auto parts houses.
Good luck if you’re armed only with that code, or codes.
Keep in mind that cars can suffer performance problems that will not set a code at all and that makes it even murkier.

It might help for the OP to understand that the “diagnostic device” is only a tool, one that needs to be used along with expertise, shop time, and other tools in order to determine the cause of the symptom(s). It no more diagnoses the cause of the problem than a ratchet repairs the problem. Both have to be used in concert with other things. It’s that expertise, shop time, and other equipment that the OP is paying for.

All good advice. I would add that as part of that diagnostics, it may actually come down to them pulling parts of the vehicle apart to verify their findings - you can’t see everything just from the outside. It’s not just reading a computer code and saying “Bam, It’s X”. Time, expertise, training, investment in tools, specialized machinery and computer diagnostics, skill to see it through to a proper resolution (or at least identification), this is all normal, and to be expected.

Also, don’t forget that same $150 will cover from the most minor of diagnostics to the most major. If it takes them 15 minutes to figure it out, you’ve paid a $600 an hour fee…if it takes them all day, it’s more like a $18.75/hr fee. They take their chances in that they can figure it out quickly…they could be wrong. Some electrical problems, for example, can be tricky to find.

I would double-check the quote, though…as mliech said, every shop I’ve been to would also deduct at least a portion of the fee once you order the work done. Since they’ve already diagnosed it, they have less to do except actually perform the repair.

Only way to really cut down that cost is DIY it. If you have the skills, go for it. I suspect if you did, you wouldn’t have posted. :slight_smile:

Good luck, in any event.

Edit: My math is having issues today. :frowning: