Being a ‘Parts Replacer’ Wastes Time
and Spends Money Needlessly
Forums and how-to YouTube videos can be helpful information. At times, however, consumers wind up with a long list of parts that might possibly contribute to a symptom. Episode 7 of Road Ready shares why the right diagnostic tools and troubleshooting methods can save considerable expense and time when chasing down a symptom’s cause.
Becoming a journey level mechanic in the late ‘sixties and early ‘seventies, I learned the definition of “parts replacer”. This derogatory term haunts ‘DIY’ and professional technicians to this day. The seasoned professional knows that installing “test parts” wastes time and is always more costly.
When parts that might solve a problem become your shopping list for the local parts house, that’s a crapshoot and not diagnostics. Some or all of the parts on your list may still be functional; replacing them may not cure the symptom. In addition to the needless parts expense, labor time gets wasted when removing and replacing good parts.
From a consumer standpoint, if you sublet your repair work to a shop, this can sometimes get worse. A troubleshooting symptom may have several possible causes. To save time under the flat rate system, a number of parts may get replaced to cover all possibilities. The symptom disappears, but which replacement part was the actual cause of the problem? How many parts were needlessly replaced? The repair bill is for all of the parts plus their installation labor.
Modern scan tools, an automotive oscilloscope and the tests outlined in a factory workshop manual can help eliminate needless parts replacing. There is less likelihood of replacing fully functional parts when you test parts before removing them. A scan tool can often test parts in place, streaming live, real time data from the vehicle’s PCM, ECU or ECM. Some less expensive scan tools and cell phone apps can also stream basic live data from the onboard computer.
I highly recommend the Autel MS906TS as a cost-effective, professional grade diagnostics tool. You own the tool and its currently loaded software . While annual subscriptions are available for shops that want the latest coverage, the software initially provided by Autel does not “disappear” after the first year’s subscription. A costly industry practice is cloud service fees with cloud tech centers and databases. These come with very expensive, ongoing subscriptions. Autel offers the small to medium size independent shop or serious DIY consumer an affordable, professional alternative. The Autel tools are an excellent value and well engineered.
At the 4WD Mechanix ‘Tech and Travel’ Forums, there are many topics and posts by ‘DIY’ consumers who went down the “parts replacer” path without curing the problem. Make sure you know which part is defective before heading to the parts house. In-depth troubleshooting saves time and considerable expense. Be a diagnostician and not just a parts replacer. Forthcoming episodes of Road Ready will devote considerable time to diagnostics and troubleshooting.