Why Pay to Diagnose a Check Engine Light?

Why Pay to Diagnose a Check Engine Light?

Have you ever noticed that on advertisements, the word “free” is usually presented in all caps, in red, or otherwise designed to catch your eye? There’s no question that this is a deliberate, psychological tactic meant to draw you in and trick you into spending money. It’s just as true for “FREE gift with purchase” as it is for “FREE check engine light diagnosis.” But, in the case of the latter, it makes sense to think that if you’re going to have the check engine light looked at anyway, you may as well get it done for free, right? 


While your check engine light won’t necessarily point to a serious problem every time it illuminates, you’ll want to know exactly what the issue is so you can address it correctly. Anything less than a thorough, proper, and reliable diagnosis will leave you (and your wallet) vulnerable.

Take a look at these five reasons why you should bypass the freebies and pay to diagnose your check engine light

#1. Free diagnosis isn’t diagnosis at all

A “free diagnosis” is usually nothing more than hooking your car up to a machine that scans for “trouble codes” in your car’s computer system. You then receive a printout that tells you what each code means.  Nothing more. Most likely, no one has even tinkered around under the hood or verified the accuracy of the codes. Merely pulling the codes is not a proper diagnosis. 

#2. A recommendation is not the same thing as a diagnosis

Once the codes have been pulled and you’ve received your printout, the shop will offer “recommendations” for service based on this information. But if you hand over your wallet now, you may end up paying for trial and error car repair. 

#3. Machines don’t tell the whole story

There’s no doubt that cars have become more technologically advanced in the past decades. Every year it seems their computer systems become more complex.  So, yes, having the right equipment for diagnosis is important. At the same time, a shop that relies only on a machine reading to determine what’s wrong with your car is missing a crucial part of the diagnostic process: human expertise. 

#4. An experienced technician is not as easy to find as you may think

We hate to break it to you but your “free check engine light diagnosis” will likely be done by a less-than-highly-qualified technician. It takes a significant amount of time and effort to become an expert auto technician, particularly if you’re going to work with a wide range of car makes and models. And, frankly, the shops that offer “free diagnosis” won’t usually pay for that expertise. 

#5. You might end up paying more for the parts and labor in the end

When you receive a free diagnosis, not only are you taking a risk with trial-and-error car repair, but you’re also likely pay more for parts and labor.  Companies that offer free service to draw you in have to make up for it in the long run. And they do, through inflated pricing elsewhere. So your free diagnosis might actually result in more money out of your wallet in the end. In other words, not exactly free. 

Trust your check engine light diagnosis to General Auto Repair in Downtown San Diego

At General Auto Repair, we use the latest diagnostic equipment plus the expertise of our highly qualified auto technicians and service professionals, all of who are certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). When you come to us for your check engine light diagnosis, you can rest easy knowing that you’re getting a thorough, accurate, and proper diagnosis, as well as professional results and excellent customer service. We even offer a nationwide warranty on our services for 1 year or 12,000 miles. 

Give us a call at (619) 237-1043 or drop by our location in downtown San Diego today.