As recently as twenty years ago, tackling the problem yourself was a viable option if you knew your way around a car. Unfortunately, the downside to this option was that it took time. More often than not, it was a case of trial and error, checking and re-checking. Then there was the waiting for the replacement parts, followed by their installation.
Nowadays however, most cars have complex electronic control systems installed, sometimes with as many as 10 units in the one car! Checking these complicated systems yourself could prove dangerous or in the case of airbags, even fatal, should you not know exactly what you are doing.
The car diagnostic system is usually situated near the dashboard area or around the central console and is accessed by a port, known as a European On Board Diagnostics or EOBD, port. It is designed to reduce the emissions released into the atmosphere in an attempt to make vehicle fuel consumption more efficient and therefore more economical.
The design of the EOBD means that a car diagnostics technician can plug in specialist equipment to an EOBD port, and locate the problem in a matter of minutes for the majority of problems. Although the EOBD tool does not cover every single car on the market, its model range is fairly impressive covering a wide selection of cars from Europe and Japan. It also covers a few models from America.
For those of you who are unsure what constitutes a Car diagnostic problem, they are listed here and can include the systems of Engine Management, Airbag / SRS, ABS / Traction Control, Air Conditioning, Automatic Transmission, Chassis Network, Diesel Management, Immobiliser, Key encode, and Service Light Resetting. and CANbus Systems.
CANbus is a fairly new system and internationally standardised: ISO 11898. Originally developed by Bosch, it consists of only two cables, making the likelihood of error very remote. In order to read the data, which is transferred at speeds of up to 1MB per second, an adaptor is required. Experienced car diagnostic technicians carry one of these on them. It is not advised for car owners not experienced in car diagnostics to attempt to access this system in any other way.
Even if there is no problem with your car, you might still need the services of a car diagnostic technician if, for example, you want to turn off the airbag facility, due to small babies, elderly or sick people being put at risk by travelling in a seat where a front-facing airbag is active. A car diagnostic technician can help you do this.
In some countries where extreme weather conditions prevail, it is worthwhile having a car diagnostic technician check over your car on a regular basis. In this way you can prevent potentially life-threatening problems from occurring.
Probably the greatest difference between car diagnostics twenty years ago and car diagnostics today is that there are diagnostic technicians who are completely mobile now, saving the consumer, time, money and inconvenience