Don't play 'parts darts'

James Dillon encourages garages to use oscillospopes wherever possible

Published:  27 April, 2012

Following on

Wide scope

"Scopes are difficult to use" is a comment I'll agree with if you've not had relevant training or you've had training but haven't put in the time to practice what you've learnt on good vehicles. In these difficult trading conditions, differentiating yourself from the competition is a smart thing to do. Every man and his dog now claim to 'do' diagnostics, when in fact what they may be doing is pulling diagnostic trouble codes and throwing 'parts darts' at the fault until the problem is solved, or the customer runs out of confidence or money.

Doing diagnostics properly (which is very different from owning a scan tool and putting 'we do diagnostics' on your website or leaflets), can set your business apart from the crowd. In my locality, the low end of the market "do diagnostics" (a code read) for £20. The Fast Fits charge around £40+vat for the same service. We sometimes get people phoning up asking 'do you do diagnostics?' I'll respond by asking what are they actually looking for? "Well, I've got this problem xyz...", and they go into the detail of the symptom of the vehicle. "Sure" I say.  "I can take a look". "I then explain our approach to charging and the value of a proper diagnostic process and the response is "Well Fred only charges £35, and the rapid fit charge only £40".

Too soon

My response to this is "You've come to me too soon in the process". "What do you mean?" they say. "The process goes a little like this; the garage offering cheap diagnostics will put their code reader on your car and pull a fault code, and then fit a part which most closely relates to that fault code," "right" the customer responds pensively. "When that part fails to cure your problem, they'll then tell you that this is what their machine told them to replace." "After several replacement component guesses, your bill will be far more expensive than if you'd brought it to me in the first place. You'll have spent a few hundred pounds and may be no closer to the fix, however, on the up side, you'll be in the right part of the process to appreciate that what initially cheap diagnostics rapidly becomes very poor value." At this point the phone goes silent for a moment or two whilst the potential customer absorbs the implications of the scenario. Some customers will then book it in with me, others will take their chances with the throwers of parts darts.

How is this relevant to oscilloscopes I hear you ask? Well, what often makes the difference in the diagnostic process is the oscilloscopes ability to allow you to verify the root cause of the customer's symptoms. It can also process a wide variety of data much faster than a scan tool and can, therefore, detect problems that the scan tool cannot. It's the old story that the scan tool works in a virtual world within the bounds and limitations of the ECU's processed data, whereas the scope has a free reign to sample lots of data from everywhere.

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