It’s been just over a year since I wrote about the inconsistency in how shops are billing for scanning, and it’s still an issue that concerns me.
The results of our “Who Pays for What?” survey this last October related to scanning charges are similar to those from a year earlier. In 2019, among the more than 800 shops responding to the survey, about 1-in-4 of those who perform scans in-house charge a flat fee. Nearly 50 percent charge up to 1.0 labor hour at a mechanical labor rate; but, the remaining 25 percent of shops scanning in-house were all over the map. There was similar variety in how shops bill when they use a remote scanning service.
The real problem, I believe, is the inconsistency in what shops are including in that scanning charge. Shops need to separate scanning time from their diagnostic time.
Scanning involves performing the output or functionality test on the vehicle to gather the diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs).
The diagnostic time begins once the scanning is complete. For example, say I scan a vehicle and it has seven DTCs. For each of those codes, I have to search for that code in the OEM repair procedures. I have to find out what it means. In some cases, it may be simple and clear, an indication that a certain part needs to be replaced.
Oftentimes, the diagnosis is more complicated. The OEM information may site four to six or eight potential causes for that DTC, and I must go back to the vehicle and go through that list, one-by-one, to see which is the cause on that vehicle. The OEMs sometimes offer a flow-chart for this process and navigating that takes some time.
So, that vehicle with seven DTCs will require ‘x’ amount of diagnostic time, far more than the vehicle where the scan finds no DTCs, but less than the vehicle where the scan finds 50 DTCs, each of which needs to be researched. It’s that variation in research or diagnostic time that I think many shops are missing.