If you’re here and asking questions about car diagnostics, we’re guessing you’re probably looking for more information about that weird noise or funky feeling your car just started making. We aren’t going to fill you with false-platitudes and tell you it’s nothing to worry about. Usually, if your car starts making a noise that it didn’t before, that’s a pretty good signal it’s having some issues and trying to warn you that things aren’t quite right. Of course, that noise doesn’t automatically mean you need to rush to your local Lexus service center—but it may mean you want to find a local mechanic to perform a car diagnostic and give you a better idea of what you’re working with.

What A Car Diagnostic Is

If your car is making odd noises or otherwise started doing something it previously didn’t, odds are good that the little check engine light also lit up on your dashboard. As you probably already know, that check engine light is intended to be a clear signal that something is going on with the inner workings of your car and it needs to be checked. While there are a couple of older vehicles that come with a delightful system glitch that means the check engine light stays on all the time, this isn’t the norm, so if your check engine light comes on, that’s about as clear a signal as you’ll get that your car needs a quick trip to your local mechanic or Audi/Nissan/Honda/Volvo service center. This is where the car diagnostic comes in. A car diagnostic is pretty much what it sounds like; it’s the steps a mechanic takes to check over your vehicle to find the problem that’s causing that odd smell, funny noise, or other issue. In most instances these days, a car diagnostic is specifically an electronic tool that connects to your vehicle’s internal computer system and reads the issue codes stored there.

Most vehicles made within the last few decades come with some form of internal computer system, so odds are good your car has one unless you drive a classic car. This system usually includes a computer and a bunch of sensors placed throughout the inner workings of your car. Those sensors are made to catch most (but not all) of the issues when your car malfunctions in some way—even if your car is still driveable after the malfunction. Those sensors essentially tell the computer system when something acted contrary to its purpose and the onboard computer system records which sensor or sensors triggered the issue. This way, when something goes wrong, that little check engine light is turned on and, more importantly, the information from the sensor is saved for when your mechanic checks out what’s going on. During a car diagnostic, your mechanic has a tool called the OBD II (On Board Diagnostic, version II) that they will connect to your car’s computer. The OBD II will read the code that triggered the check engine light and this will give your mechanic a general idea about where in your car’s inner working to look for the issue. While a car diagnostic can’t say exactly what the issue is, it can save hours of combing over every piece of your engine, which will generally save you money.

When To Get One

As we mentioned above, the check engine light’s illumination is a pretty surefire signal that it’s time to take your car in to get checked over. Of course, there are some other warning signs to pay attention to as well, including:

  • New noises – cars are all going to make a little noise no matter what, just as a function of all those mechanical components—that’s nothing to be concerned with. However, if your car starts screeching, whining, clunking, or otherwise making a noise it didn’t before, this is a bigger cause for concern.
  • Odd smells – some smells are worth being concerned with while others aren’t a big deal. For instance, your car may put out a musty smell when you start up the heater for the first time in the fall. This is only a cause for concern if the smell doesn’t go away. However, if your car starts emitting a sulphuric, eggy smell, this is generally a sign of bigger issues.
  • Smoke – a smattering of vapor in the winter isn’t a cause for concern. However, if your car starts belching black smoke from the tailpipe, well, you might want to worry a bit more.
  • Shaking or gears catching – as with the noise thing above, your car will always have a subtle vibration because of the mechanical functions. However, if you feel your car start to shudder in a pronounced manner or you can feel a catch when your car shifts gears, these are a bigger cause for concern.

If you’ve been experiencing issues like any of these, it’s time to get your car checked out. Contact Your Import Car Doctor for car diagnostic and service in Colorado Springs today!