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Diagnosis-only car shops?

I was wondering if anyone has ever heard of a diagnosis-only car shop. Since there’s an inherent conflict of interest when the same mechanic who’s diagnosing your car is the one getting paid for the repairs, it seems logical to separate the two parts of this process. Obviously, Car Talk is a great example, but I was wondering if anyone has heard of a car shop in their area that does this too. Thanks!

Ten years ago, a few people tried this concept but they soon went out of business…Consumers were not willing to support two shops to get one repair…

Back in the Early Sixties, the Shell Oil Company opened a number of diagnostic centers in various parts of the country. They utilized traditional diagnostic methods and the then-new advance of using electronic equipment to diagnose car problems. The customer had the option of just getting a print-out of the diagnosis with a list of the parts that should be replaced, or of having the Shell people do the repairs. The advantage of having the Shell guys do the repairs was an unusually long warranty (6 months perhaps?) on the repairs.

I do recall that my brother took his girlfriend’s “new” (used) '55 Chevy to the only Shell Diagnostic place in NJ at the time, in Cherry Hill. Among other things, they found that the spark plugs were actually from a forklift motor of some kind, so even though they were new, they were inappropriate for that engine.

IIRC, these shops lasted only 2 or 3 years before Shell pulled the plug on them. And, since that time, I have not heard of any diagnostic-only shops.

The problem is that it will cost more.

When I pay for a repair, the diagnostic fee is waived. I only pay diagnostic fees if I get the car repaired at a shop that didn’t diagnose it, and even they will want to confirm the other shop’s diagnosis before they do the repair.

That brings up another problem. If I think I need a new clutch, then take it in, have the new clutch installed, and it doesn’t fix my problem, who do I blame? It might have been misdiagnosed, it might have been installed incorrectly, or there might be additional undiagnosed problems. No respectful mechanic would just change out parts without confirming they need to be changed. Doing that would increase the number of unhappy customers. It would be bad for business.

AAA used to have such shops, usually to check out a used car before you bought it, but you could use it the way you describe as well. I haven’t seen them push this lately so maybe they are gone now as well.

Many people don’t want to pay for diagnostic time (and effort) to the mechanic/shop which performs the repair. The problem is with human psychology: Diagnosis is an intangible. Parts changing is tangible. People want tangible things they can understand; not, things they can’t understand. So, they (unknowingly) pay for “experimental” parts changes which don’t (accidentally) fix the problem.
The conscientious mechanic is caught in the trap of trying to, truthfully, justify diagnostic time and results, and NOT changing a number of good parts until the faulty part is found.
Contrary-wise, the parts-change “mechanic”, tells the customer, “ALL of these parts were bad”, when they weren’t. The customer will accept this (unknowing the “method” of diagnosis(?)), whereas, s/he won’t accept real diagnostic time, instead.

I don’t understand why this would be a conflict of interest.

Besides, it is often the case that in the process of repairing a malfunction one finds that more needs doing than was originally anticipated. So if a diagnostic shop said “you need ‘X’” and in the process of replacing ‘X’ the tech finds that ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ are also necessary to do a proper repair, do you then accuse the diagnostician of not doing the proper job?

And if to verify a diagnosis a diagnostician needs to remove shrouds, tubes, and other parts, do you pay him to put it all back together and then pay the second shop to take it apart again?

The Same Mountain Bike’s point is well taken. A diagnosis can take considerably longer, and with a lot more disassembly, than the repair takes (once the fault has been searched out and found). Again, you see that the diagnosis seems intangible (What did it produce?); and, the repair seems (to many) to be tangible, and to have produced something.

Mountainbike, it is similar to the conflict of interest you would have if your doctor was also your pharmacist. Her or his decision on which drugs to prescribe could be based on which ones have the highest profit margins.

There is a reason most businesses have systems of checks and balances. For example, you don’t let the same person do both purchasing and receiving, or purchasing and accounts payable.

I don’t think the OP’s idea is the solution to this problem, but there is definitely a conflict of interest. This is evidenced by shared mistrust of the profession in general, and it is a big reason trustworthy mechanics are so hard to find.

Would anybody want to be the owner/operator of a diagnosis only shop (besides the feds?) Would you have to carry some kind of insurance for a incorrect diagnosis?

Perhaps someone could present a theoretical business model for the diagnosis only shop (rules and restrictions,customer rights, insurance,that kind of stuff) Remember this is just a exercise.

How much would you charge per hour for a diagnosis only shop and when you bring your pre-diagnosed car to a mechanic should he be forced to give you a break in price?

He’s not also my pharmacist, but he does have an interest in the physical therapy group that shares the building. And when I have work done in the hospital bothe the doctors and the pharmacy work for the same organization.

And my eye doctor has an interest in the optical lab that shares his building.

Actually, my doctor’s decisions are based on what the HMO will pay for.

I dunno, I can’t see the conflict of interest here. It’s like having a TV diagnostician come and determine what part to change and paying another to come in and change it. That would make no sense to me. If I’m to pay a fella to come fix my TV (I know, I’m “dating” myself) I’d want him to do the whole job…and to accept responsibility for the whole job. Diagnostics and repair by necessity go hand in hand.

If you paid a plumber to come fix a broken commode, would you not expect him to finish the job?

Like I said, I don’t think the OP’s idea is the solution to this problem, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an inherent conflict of interest.

I know you want the plumber, or the TV repairman to come in and solve your problem in one visit. I agree that if you trust your plumber or repairman, that is the way to go. That doesn’t, however, eliminate the inherent conflict of interest. For most people, if the TV repairman was able to fix the TV with a cheap part, but really charged you for a more expensive part, you would never know you had been cheated. The lack of a check on his honesty creates the conflict of interest. You can’t escape the reality of this unchecked conflict of interest.

I used a AAA service like that in Philadelphia in the 80s. I had a car stolen, totaled and recovered. I wanted to see if it was worth sinking a few hundred into making it roadworthy so I had it checked out. The customer ahead of me was having a used car for purchase checked out. The tech came back with a substantial list of serious problems. They ran the vehicles on dynos and looked them over. It was a really useful service. Yes, I did buy the RWD Corolla back from the insurance co., for scrap value, and had a lot of body work done on it. I got a lot more miles out of it.

I sure wish that service was available today.

Seek out a reputable independent and your “fears” will be alleviated. Life is too short to waste on diagnostics here and fixing there.

What motivation does the original shop have to make a proper diagnosis?

Do you have any idea how much you would have to pay a tech for this service? The man would be at the top of the field and his services would not come cheap. This man would be pulling 90 /100K a year to perform 100% accurate diagnosis 40/50 hrs a week.

My problem with this idea is from the ‘fixers’ side - so somebody gets it diagnosed at shop A, and drives over to shop B with a piece of paper that says ‘do this’? What if the diagnosis is wrong (opinions are a dime a dozen). Who’s at fault, A or B? No, the only way to do this is with a single shop you can hold responsible for fixing the car.

I see your perspective, but I suspect we just have different scales on our conflict-of-interest meters. As with most things, the area is “gray” rather than black and white.

Happy motoring.

…and fortunately we are both skeptical enough to ask the right questions.

Happy motoring to you too.