Auto Diagnostics - What Are They & When To Consider?

Auto Diagnostics - What Are They & When To Consider? | Dickerson Automotive

Vehicles are more than just a means of transportation; they are complex machines equipped with advanced technology designed to make our journeys safer, more efficient, and enjoyable. With this complexity comes the need for a sophisticated approach to maintenance and repair, known as auto diagnostics. 

Understanding Auto Diagnostics

Auto diagnostics involve using specialized tools and software to communicate with a vehicle's computer system, which monitors and controls operations such as engine performance, transmission, brakes, and more. When a potential issue arises, the system generates a specific error code, stored until diagnostics are run. This process allows mechanics to quickly identify and address problems, often before they lead to more significant damage or safety concerns.

The Role of the Onboard Diagnostic System (OBD)

Central to auto diagnostics is the Onboard Diagnostic (OBD) system, present in vehicles manufactured after 1996. The OBD system continuously checks the performance of various vehicle components and logs any detected anomalies as diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs). Accessing these codes through an OBD scanner provides a snapshot of the vehicle's health and guides technicians in troubleshooting.

Benefits of Regular Diagnostic Checks

Preventative Maintenance

Preventative maintenance is arguably the most significant advantage of regular diagnostic checks. By identifying issues in their infancy, you can address them before they evolve into major problems that require extensive and expensive repairs. For instance, a diagnostic check might reveal a minor exhaust system leak that, if left unattended, could lead to more severe damage, affecting the engine's performance and potentially leading to costly engine repairs.


The safety benefits of regular diagnostic checks cannot be overstated. A vehicle's operational and safety systems, such as the anti-lock braking system (ABS), airbags, and electronic stability control, are all monitored by the vehicle's onboard computer. A diagnostic check can reveal faults within these systems that might not yet be evident to the driver. For example, an issue with the ABS could lead to decreased braking efficiency in slippery conditions, posing a significant risk.

Cost Savings

While some may view the cost of regular diagnostic checks as an unnecessary expense, the reality is quite the contrary. Early detection and repair of potential issues can lead to substantial cost savings over the vehicle's life. For example, diagnosing and fixing a minor transmission fluid leak is considerably less expensive than rebuilding a transmission that has been damaged due to low fluid levels.


Lastly, the impact of regular diagnostic checks on a vehicle's longevity is profound. Diagnostics can significantly extend the life of your vehicle by ensuring that all systems are functioning correctly and that issues are addressed promptly. This is particularly important for those who wish to maximize their investment in their vehicle or plan to keep it for many years.

Common Signs Your Vehicle Needs Diagnostic Testing

Several indicators suggest it might be time for a diagnostic check. These include:

Check Engine Light
The most obvious sign that your vehicle requires attention. While it could indicate anything from a loose gas cap to a more serious engine issue, diagnostics can pinpoint the exact cause.

Unusual Noises or Smells
Strange sounds or odors emanating from your vehicle could signal underlying issues, necessitating a closer look through diagnostics.

Performance Issues
Experiencing decreased fuel efficiency, loss of power, or irregular shifting? Diagnostic tests can help identify the culprit.

Routine Maintenance
Even in the absence of noticeable issues, incorporating diagnostics into regular maintenance schedules ensures your vehicle remains in top condition.

Choosing the Right Diagnostic Service

Not all diagnostic services are created equal. When selecting a service, consider:

  • Certified Technicians: Ensure the technicians are certified to work with your vehicle's specific make and model.
  • Advanced Equipment: Verify that the service uses up-to-date diagnostic tools and software capable of accurately assessing your vehicle.
  • Comprehensive Services: Choose a service that offers a thorough diagnostic check, covering all major systems and components.

Looking for a repair shop you can trust with your car? Contact Dickerson Automotive, and our team will be happy to help and take care of your vehicle!