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Recently, some auto parts stores have started retrieving check engine light codes as a “free” service. It’s more a sales tactic, if you ask me. Here’s why…
A parts salesman will hook up a generic, handheld scan tool to your vehicle right in their parking lot. While this may be impressive and appears to be saving you a diagnostic charge, a code number simply references a diagnostic path or series of tests laid out by the manufacturer. If that diagnostic path or testing isn’t followed, you’re guessing about what the root problem really is. Many of these scan tools are very limited in the information they provide and the parts counter salesperson cannot accurately assess what is wrong with your vehicle.
You see, the parts store may not really care if a part fixes the problem or not. They’re not charging for any diagnostic and, instead, are just selling you a part that may or may not fix the issue. Of course the part is generally NOT returnable. Simply viewing a check engine light code doesn’t diagnose anything.
One of the most technical things we do here at Creech is diagnose check engine lights. It not only requires the most expensive, high-tech equipment, but it requires years and years of experience and continual training of our shop technicians. Our auto repair shop in Raleigh has 9 scanners worth tens of thousands of dollars – all of which require continual, perodic updating. When we diagnose a check engine light issue, we guarantee our test results and repairs, unlike auto parts stores.
The bottom line is you always get what you pay for. Free usually equals “nothing” and, think about it, will cost you money in parts that you may not even need.