These days, it seems like nearly every mechanic offers a free inspection when you go in for repairs or even an oil change. Of course, a car diagnostic when you’re already in for repairs is just a good starting point, but it can feel superfluous if you’re just in for a routine tune up. However, those free inspections are done for a reason—and that reason isn’t always even upsells. Whether you’re visiting your local mechanic because of that awful clunking noise your car just started making or you’re preparing for a road trip, it’s a good idea to accept the offered car diagnostic, and here’s why:

Car Diagnostic System Basics

A car diagnostic does what the name says. It’s a tool that connects to the computer system in your vehicle. Most modern vehicles have a collection of sensors placed in various places throughout its inner workings as a way to monitor all those important working parts. When something goes wrong, the connected sensor will send an “abnormal” reading, which your car’s diagnostic system then takes and uses as the impetus to switch on the check engine light. Of course, your check engine light is just that, a light; it can’t actually tell you what’s wrong. This is where a professional car diagnostic system comes in. Modern car diagnostic systems are designed to connect to a vehicle’s computer, where it can read the stored information from the sensors. While it can’t give an exact cause of the issue, the car diagnostic can direct your mechanic to the point of failure or error, which gives them a starting point for determining what’s going on with your car.

How It Works

Once connected, a car diagnostic tool gets the data stored in your car’s computer and translates that into usable information. In this case, it gives an alphanumeric code that your mechanic can use to pinpoint where in your car the error originated from. With the more advanced systems, it can even give a decent indication of not only where the problem is, but also give an idea of what the error is. Generally, the more sophisticated the system, the more specific an answer you’ll get. From there, your mechanic can figure out what caused the abnormal reading from the sensor and trace it back to the issue or failure. Without a car diagnostic system, all your mechanic has to work from is your description of the sounds and sensations, as well as what they can figure out by running your vehicle. While a car diagnostic doesn’t provide a definitive answer about what’s wrong, it can get a knowledgeable mechanic close enough that he or she can find the issue quickly. A car diagnostic system can save hours of searching, which can save you money if your mechanic charges based on time.

When To Get Your Car Checked

If Something Is Wrong

When something is obviously wrong with your car—it’s making a strange noise, smoking, or just won’t start—that’s a pretty clear sign that it’s time to have your car checked out. Just because your car is still driveable doesn’t mean that the odd screech or the weird shaking sensation is okay. Generally, it means something is wrong, but not horrible. When you don’t get your car checked, you’re basically asking for things to get worse (and, generally, more expensive). When your car starts doing something it never has before, a car diagnostic is a good way to check whether anything is wrong or not.

Routinely

Just as our doctors recommend an annual physical, your car is much more likely to perform better and last longer if you keep up with regular service and maintenance. When you bring your vehicle in for an oil change, tire rotation, or any other routine car service, many mechanics will offer a car diagnostic for free. Accept it, because this is a great way to just do a quick double-check to ensure your car is still in good working order. However, some of the less-scrupulous mechanics will use their customers’ car ignorance and that diagnostic to upsell you, so be sure to ask as many questions as you can think of—and one of those questions can absolutely be, “Is this necessary?”

Long Trips

An important time many people don’t think about getting their car checked is before any long drive. Whether you’re planning a cross-country road trip or you’re getting ready to move, if you’ll be making your car do a lot of work, you’ll want to make sure it’s prepared to take on the job. This way, you’ll reduce the risk that something goes wrong and you end up stuck on the side of the road, miles away from anywhere.

When Storing It

Job changes and a multitude of other life situations can mean that sometimes, you need to store your car for months on end. For example, many military servicemen or women will store their care somewhere safe for the duration of their deployment. Before you store your car, get it checked over and have a car diagnostic run so you won’t be surprised by a slow leak when you go to get your car again.

A car diagnostic may sound simple, but it can save you a lot of heartache. If you’re looking for a car diagnostic in Colorado Springs, trust your vehicle to the team that’s been serving the area for decades. Contact Your Import Car Doctor today to schedule your service!