December 5, 2023

During the 1970s, relatively large cabinets and consoles characterized the high-end engine analyzers. I was fortunate to accrue hands-on experience with several of these costly machines.

One of the neatest features about these big-buck testers was the printer. I daresay that the console-style engine analyzers popularized the idea of printing diagnostic results onto paper.

Recently, I found bundles of printouts from various diagnostic projects back in 1979. For one thing, these examples reminded me how impressive the printouts looked more than 40 years ago.

For another, the printouts reminded me of a timeless comment I heard from the sharpest service managers: In the hands of capable people, paper (printouts) sells!

Selling is the art of persuasion; a diagnostic printout could be the key to convincing a skeptical consumer that a technician performed an accurate — not to mention impartial — analysis of the car’s engine.

Simply put, the tech tested instead of guessed at the cause of the car’s symptoms.

Today, a laptop computer fitted with the proper software can perform more checks — as well as more-detailed tests — than the old cabinet-size analyzers did.

Better yet, modern analyzers based on laptops and tablets provide more options for handling diagnostic results from various systems on the vehicle.

First, a tech can print the test results and keep a copy at a workstation in the service department.

Second, a tech can print one copy for the vehicle owner and another for the shop’s customer files. That way, every person involved in this transaction has the same information handy.

In modern jargon, your tire dealership or service shop provides transparency via printed test results.

Third, modern technology enables a tech to save diagnostic test results to a computer at a service department workstation.

What’s more, service sales pros can share test results with customers via email or text messages; they can add the information to the customer’s in-house electronic file.

Fourth, many diagnostic reports — including graphs and oscilloscope patterns — are meaningful teaching tools for the entire service staff. Where necessary, techs can share test data with co-workers in other bays.

To me, it’s difficult to put a dollar value on the ability to share diagnostic test results in this manner because it’s a cheap, practical way for techs to build their own database of real-world, firsthand troubleshooting information.

Fifth, capturing test data both before and after a repair is an impressive way to demonstrate that a tech identified a fault and then repaired it correctly.

In case you are not aware of it, doctors use transducers to convert a patient’s cardiac activity into patterns on oscilloscopes. This is the essence of a common EKG.

So, the data-gathering and data-displaying I discuss here is hardly the stuff of grease monkeys or mindless parts-swappers.

Instead, it rivals routine diagnostic methods at the local hospital. And as I have emphasized in previous columns, hospitals don’t test for free, and auto repair facilities should not give away diagnosis, either.

Years of experience indicate that some customers could care less about test results of any kind. They only want to know the cost of the job.

But motorists who grew up with computers — likely, the bulk of your clientèle — are much more likely to appreciate test results than to dismiss the information. It’s a sign of the times.


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