There are a few different companies that offer free “Diagnostics” or “Scans” of your vehicle to let you know why your engine light is on. In fact recently more businesses have been jumping on the bandwagon in order to bring customers into their stores.  I won’t mention any names for obvious reasons, but I am sure you have seen, heard or even worse been a victim of these companies, who are heavily advertising on both TV and radio.Free Check Engine Diagnosis

These companies would not be throwing plenty of advertising dollars towards something if they knew it wouldn’t generate a generous amount of revenue.  The free check engine light service may seem like a fantastic deal in the beginning, but it could lead to complications and an even larger auto repair bill if you aren’t careful.

Free check engine diagnosis?

Let me explain in detail what these companies are doing, so you understand the reasoning why you should NOT have a non-certified technician pulling codes for your check engine light.

A customer’s vehicle pops up a check engine light, and trying to conserve money, he/she heads to an auto parts store to get a free diagnosis. When he walks into the parts store, a young man behind the counter offered to scan his vehicle for free.

The customer took the sales clerk up on the scan. The young man hooks the scanner up to his vehicle, which pulled a code for an O2 sensor voltage low code specifically for bank one sensor 2 from the cars computer memory. Now, our customer not knowing anything about vehicles gets a little bit of anxiety not knowing what that really means.

The parts counterman said, “Don’t worry, all you need to do is replace that sensor and reset the check engine light.”  The customer’s car was just out of warranty, as it had rolled slightly over 36,000 miles. He bought the oxygen sensor and a special tool to replace it.

The customer replaced the oxygen sensor and returned to the parts store to have the code cleared. On his return trip home within 5 miles the check engine light came back on.

He then went back to the parts store and they pulled the same code for bank one sensor 2.

To make a long story short, the customer then took their vehicle to a certified auto repair shop, where the vehicle was properly tested, showing that the vehicle had a bad catalytic converter.  This was covered under the emissions warranty.

The repairs were completed at no charge. He asked for a refund at the local parts store, but was denied because oxygen sensors and electronic components are not returnable as per store policy.

Free check engine light service warning

My mother use to say that nothing in life is free. In my opinion this statement also applies to the free check engine light diagnostic services.

Let’s be realistic, no company that I know of will spend millions of dollars on advertising that does not return anything for their investments.  The parts company may pull codes and then sell you those parts, without further diagnosis of the system.

As in the above example, if you set an oxygen sensor code this does not necessarily mean that you need to replace an oxygen sensor. The set trouble code means that you need to diagnose that particular system to find out what the real problem is.

This is just one of multiple examples that I have encountered throughout the years. That’s why it is so important to start educating yourself and understand the issue behind this free check engine light problem. It only takes one false part recommendation, and your vehicle could cost thousands in mistakes or even your life. Know the facts before it’s too late.

If you would like more information about this or any other vehicle related issue, please call Silverdale Autoworks @ 360-692-5201