VEHICLE DIAGNOSTICS – AN INVESTMENT THAT PAYS OFF
It has been said that becoming a vehicle owner solves dozens of problems while creating dozens of new ones. Nothing is as unpleasant as an unexpected repair. What should be done to avoid such situations? One of the most reliable ways to ensure your vehicle is in optimal condition is to keep up with daily maintenance and perform regular diagnostics. Just like people need blood tests and medical checkups from time to time, cars also require regular maintenance and care.
What is vehicle diagnostics?
The word “diagnosis” is derived from Ancient Greek and means “to discern, distinguish”. A skilled workshop technician is like a doctor who establishes a medical diagnosis. The process includes two steps: visual inspection and computer diagnostics. The visual inspection checks for any visual defects of the vehicle – running gear, brakes, steering, corrosion, etc. This, however, is not enough for modern cars mostly running on electronics.
Vehicles also speak – you just need the right tools to understand them. Vehicle computer diagnostics allows one to obtain information on the technical and consumption parameters of any brand of car. During this process, the vehicle is connected to a computer and a technician inspects the technical condition of the vehicle and sees errors represented by codes in real time. The technician then uses these codes to trace and resolve the problem. There are faults that can be solved immediately, such as problems with airbags. TavasRiepas.lv recommends performing vehicle diagnostics at least once a year.
Why is computer diagnostics necessary?
Firstly, this type of diagnostics allows one to pinpoint vehicle faults and defects with speed and accuracy, permitting one to carry out the necessary maintenance and repair work in due time.
Secondly, it may reduce fuel consumption.
Thirdly, the running time and costs can be planned ahead.
Finally, it is a great way of examining the condition of the car and determining its real value when buying or insuring a vehicle.
It is also recommended to check the car before longer trips to avoid unpleasant surprises abroad.
Timely maintenance is the magic key to ensuring the longevity of the car and avoiding staggering and unexpected repair costs. Pay attention to all aspects of the car – engine noise, electronics, battery, tyres – on a daily basis. If all small issues can be fixed immediately, this will mean lower bills in the future. Timely repair means lower costs, a longer service life and shorter downtime during repair. Vehicle diagnostics is very affordable – starting from EUR 15, therefore it is definitely worth investing to reduce the cost of potential repairs in the long term.
Signs that suggest that vehicle diagnostics is required urgently.
Various sounds and noises from the vehicle, from below it or from the engine – rattles, creaks, howls, whines. Even if it may seem like an innocent rattle, it is always safer to perform vehicle diagnostics. Other risk symptoms are poor road-holding, lack of power, brake issues. Damage and the need for diagnostics is usually indicated by an indicator in the dash – for diesel engines it will be the glow plug light and for petrol-engine vehicles the Check Engine, EPC or, less frequently, traction control light.
The official roadworthiness test is not the same as vehicle diagnostics!
There is a misconception that the official state roadworthiness test assesses the overall condition of the vehicle and separate diagnostics is not required. It is not true at all! The purpose of the official state roadworthiness test is to check specific characteristics of the vehicle to make sure it is safe to drive it in traffic, rather than to assess its technical condition. Firstly, the car is not connected to a computer during the diagnostics. Secondly, with only a visual inspection, the technicians may leave important issues with the vehicle unnoticed or unreported.
Types of vehicle diagnostics
There is the overall diagnostics and inspection of individual parts. Computer vehicle diagnostics can be carried out for all vehicles equipped with the so-called onboard computer.
Wheel alignment diagnostics is required if the car pulls to one side while driving on a straight road, tyres show uneven wear or the vehicle has hit an obstacle or kerb at a higher speed. A key process is the brake system diagnostics, which should be especially considered if the brakes do not function as they should – poor braking performance, sticking brakes. Diagnostics of electronic systems includes checks of the anti-lock brake system (ABS), the dash, aircon, immobiliser, airbags and seatbelts.
Diagnostics of petrol and diesel engines is essential if there is increased fuel consumption, difficulties starting the vehicle, rough idle or unnatural noise. Gearbox diagnostics is required if the automatic transmission does not shift or there is an abnormal noise while shifting.
Air conditioners are also exposed to constant vibration, temperature fluctuations and liquid evaporation during the operation of the vehicle. All these factors affect the performance and connections of the aircon system. Rubber seals used in threaded joints reduce the pressure tightness of the system in the long term and may lead to gas leaks. Diagnostics of the aircon and climate control system is required once every 2-3 years for new vehicles and once a year for vehicles older than 7-10 years.
Visual vehicle diagnostics
One of the key purposes of visual vehicle diagnostics is to detect rust or corrosion. Otherwise the drivers only become aware of rust problems during the official roadworthiness test, as we tend not to look at the underside of the car during daily use. Taking the Latvian climate into account, it is very important to check the vehicle for rust as it can become very detrimental to the car. The salt that the Latvian roads are so extensively sprayed with is the main contributor to corrosion. Salt corrosion forms more intensively and quicker if the vehicle already has scratches, therefore the only way to avoid and limit salt corrosion is to prevent it reaching exposed parts.
To avoid rust, the car should be regularly washed in the winter using special treatment products. They should be used to coat all accessible metal parts of the vehicle, including door wells, door sills, insides of the doors, wheels, cables. For parts exposed to a higher risk of corrosion, such as wheel arches without rubber protectors, anti-corrosion coating should be applied every three months. To prevent rust, the car should not only be washed, but also waxed. Since roads are often sprayed not only with salt, but also sand, the wax layer can protect against microscopic paintwork scratches. Vehicle diagnostics will help control the corrosion.
Taking care of your car is a worthwhile investment
Professional vehicle diagnostics at least once a year and keeping an eye on the condition of the vehicle on a daily basis actually saves you money and provides peace of mind. Enjoy your drive!