One might say the most challenging part of our job is diagnosing a problem before it can be fixed. Cars are made up of a bunch of complex systems. There usually could be a number of reasons for any given symptom. So it’s challenging to track down the actual cause of the problem. And it can be frustrating for the vehicle owner because it can take time and money to get to the bottom of a problem. If it’s not something obvious, it’s easy for the customer to focus on the fixing and not the diagnosing.

Let us introduce you to something we’ll call Customer Detective Work – that is helping us find clues to what’s wrong. We start with the detective basics: What, Where and When. Play along with me. You come in and your car is making a funny sound. Where’s the sound? Around the right front wheel. What kind of sound?  Kind of a clunk, clunk sound. When do you hear the sound? When I turn and accelerate. Right and left? Forwards and back? You see where we’re going. You’re gathering additional information to help the technician know where to start. Based on your car and your service advisor’s experience, they’ll know where to look and can start with the obvious suspects. You can see how that would be more helpful than dropping the car off at our shop with a note that says “making a funny noise”.

This is kind of what our brains look like as you’re describing your starter issue.

When you think you need to bring a vehicle in, make some notes about the problem. Rather than just saying “it’s leaking” tell the service advisor the colour of the fluid, and approximately where under the car you see the puddle. Things like the car is stalling or sputtering are often very hard to diagnose because they’re intermittent. They may not happen every time you drive and may not be happening when you actually bring the car in to your auto service centre. So, it is a big help for you to describe what’s happening in as much detail as possible.

We need to be able to duplicate the problem if possible so we need to know details, like “It stalls after it’s been driven for about 20 minutes and I go over 80 kilometres an hour”. If we can experience the problem personally, we’re better able to make an auto diagnosis and repair.

A little bit of information can go a long way to quick, efficient, and cost-effective repairs!