What is Car Diagnostics?

05 October 2020 / raj@smarter-media.co.uk

As a car owner, it is frustrating to see a dashboard gauge light up without a clear indication as to what the problem might be. Sometimes, the engine light may illuminate, prompting you to check the engine. Since there are lots of things to check in your engine, you have no idea where to begin because there are many reasons as to why your engine would malfunction.

These things tend to appear over time and may lead to unnecessary worrying on your part, which is why it is a good idea to call on a trusted and reliable car repair shop to run diagnostics on your car. By taking your car to the repair shop, the mechanic can hook up your vehicle with their machine and find out what issues could be going on. 

Imagine your car as a big and lean machine which controls various functions through a computer. To determine what’s malfunctioning within your car’s computer system, the mechanic will run the diagnostics by using a specialised software. The software will show the list of all errors and faults within your car. This simple test can help the mechanic diagnose any problem and fix it as soon as possible.

What do I need to know about car diagnostics?

Most of the vehicles that run on our streets nowadays are powered by fuel-injection. They have internal functions like ignition systems, fuel injection systems, and automatic transmission systems that are regulated by computers. The computers receive several data from various sensors and use that data to enhance the combustion process. 

If, for instance, a sensor in your car would report a certain problem, a light on your dashboard will illuminate and urge you to get run a diagnostic test. Reliable car diagnostics will be able to tell you how long the malfunction has been happening and how many times it has been happening. It will also tell you if the malfunction is a chance occurrence or a problem that needs to be addressed at the soonest possible time. 

Not all car problems will be indicated on your dashboard as an illuminating light. So it is advisable to have your car regularly checked.

What are the benefits of car diagnostics?

Imagine that you are driving a car on your way back home and your engine starts to misfire. Moments later, you have noticed that the ‘check engine light’ is on. If you are an experienced driver, you would probably think about changing your spark plugs. Conventional drivers may not be aware of it and that is why car diagnostics is important.

Aside from allowing the mechanic to determine the exact problems of your car, this will eliminate guessing on their end and your end. It will also help you save money because you can address minor issues before they can go worse. It can also help you save time because car diagnostics can be completed in about an hour, but in case some extra work needs to be done, it would take more than an hour to fix all issues in your car. 

Although an illuminated trouble light may vaguely indicate an engine problem, figuring out the exact problem is the best way to fix your car. This is mainly the reason why diagnostic testing should be regularly done. 

Once your car engine is hooked up on the diagnostic software of your mechanic, data from all sensors will be collected and analysed. As soon as the exact problems are determined, the mechanic can go ahead and repair the issue. 

Running car diagnostics on your vehicle will give you peace of mind because after the issues have been solved, you do not have to think about anything else except enjoying your ride! Managing car problems may not be a piece of cake, especially if you are not an experienced driver, but as long as you will religiously have your car checked from time to time, small issues can be dealt within a few minutes or hours. 

What are the tests involved in car diagnostics?

The first thing that mechanics do is plug their scanning tool into your car’s OBD-II or on-board diagnostics II port. Once connected, the scanning tool will collect the following data:

  • A handful of computer codes

  • Critical data 

  • Freeze frame data

  • Sensor reports

  • Various numbers from the computer software

It is not enough to run the tests and collect data. The next feasible thing to do is run several verification tests. This is the part of the diagnostics that will check the overall operation of your engine vacuum, emission system, ignition system and back pressure. 

If the verification tests will determine any type of malfunctioning within these systems, it will cause the ‘check engine’ light to illuminate on your dashboard. This will give you a warning that something is wrong with your engine. 

Car manufacturers expect the completion of verification testing before any diagnosis is determined. This means the mechanic is required to do these steps:

  • Carry out electrical or mechanical tests

  • Carry out bi-directional control tests

  • Visually inspect problem areas

  • Work through the wiring diagrams

As soon as the mechanic will be able to collect all data and carry out manual checking on your car’s engine, the specific issue on hard will be researched and checked if it is a regular occurrence on your car’s make and model: If your car is experiencing a reported issue, more information could be disclosed with regards to what contributes to the problems you are currently having. 

As soon as all data is analysed and interpreted, the mechanic will begin to address the issue by repairing it. The mechanic would either: 

  • Change your oil or oil filter

  • Update your car’s computer

  • Check your wheel alignment or balancing

  • Tune-up your engine

  • Replace your wiper blades

  • Clean the car parts that are under the hood

  • Replace your air filter

  • Add antifreeze