You know your car best. You drive it daily and know what it should look, sound and smell like.
But when something goes wrong, like your check engine light comes on or you hear an unusual sound from underneath the hood, you might not be the best person to pinpoint the issue.
That's where a car diagnostic test can come in handy.
Using your engine's computer system, the test — generally conducted by a mechanic — will simultaneously check each and every sensor and microchip in the vehicle to determine where the issue is. It will look for error codes, manufacturer notifications and more.
So, what will a car diagnostic test tell you?
A car diagnostic test can tell you a number of things.
It can determine if your vehicle has issues with its exhaust, transmission, ignition coils, oil tank, throttle and more.
Depending on what kind of scanner the mechanic is using, they will only be able to tell where the problem is by looking at different codes that appear on their diagnostic tool. They will then need to do some investigative work to get a more accurate picture of what is functioning incorrectly and how best to fix it.
How much does it cost for a diagnostic test?
The cost of a diagnostic test can vary greatly depending on your vehicle's model, make, and year. Experts say you can expect to pay anywhere between $40 and $400. And that's before any repairs are done.
You should call at least three different places to get a quote before making an appointment to get a diagnostic test. If you really want to save some cash, investing in a vehicle health monitor can help you determine what's wrong before heading into the mechanic's shop.
How long does a full car diagnostic test take?
A full car diagnostic test should only take a few minutes to complete. The mechanic will, however, need time to look further into any error codes that appear. And before visiting the auto shop, you should be prepared to wait a little bit before the test and stay afterward to discuss what issues were found and how they can be resolved.