A Guide to Automotive Diagnostic Tests for Students at Online Automotive School

Think that diagnostic tests only need to be done once the check engine light switches on? Think again. Regularly performing diagnostic tests on vehicles can help to quickly determine whether or not they will need repairs. Testing can also help drivers avoid any situations that could cause the vehicle to break down and leave them in no man’s land. 

With car diagnostics becoming increasingly computerized, it’s easier than ever to detect issues before any disasters can happen. Nonetheless, being proactive is the best policy here, and performing frequent diagnostic tests on cars can help clients catch problems early, keep maintenance costs down, and enjoy smoother, problem-free driving. Here’s what you need to know about automotive diagnostic tests.

Car Diagnostic Tests: What They Are, and How They Work

The purpose of diagnostic tests is to identify issues in various components that are causing a car not to function properly. These are performed using software that can detect the problems in a quick and efficient manner, looking at areas of the vehicle — such as the engine — to find problems. 

Modern diagnostic tests are usually done by connecting a computer system to the car, which can read information from various in-built microchips and processors. In a typical test, a scanner is plugged into the vehicle’s OBD-II (on-board diagnostics) outlet. This will produce data detailing any errors the car’s computer system has recorded, before a verification test is performed to test the state of the vehicle’s different systems.

An OBD-II scanner is often used to detect issues with vehicles

What Happens Next, and What Do Certain Codes Mean?

Once the test is done, the results will show what issues are present within the vehicle, and produce different codes relevant to certain issues. They can also draw on data points tagged by the computer in order to more clearly display the issues that need to be rectified. 

Diagnostic codes for OBD-II systems are often labelled with a letter at the beginning for different components — for example, a “C” for chassis (e.g. C0031: Left Front Wheel Speed Sensor), or “P” for powertrain (e.g. P0138: O2 Sensor Circuit High Voltage).

Of course, online automotive school students should remember that diagnostic tests don’t always give the full picture. Sometimes, an automotive technician may perform further inspection on the vehicle, such as conducting a road test, in order to find a problem the system has not been able to identify. 

The Benefits of Diagnostic Tests for Online Automotive School Students

One of the biggest rewards of diagnostic testing for both clients and auto workers is the breadth of problems they can find, which can include issues with a vehicle’s oil tank, brakes, exhaust system, combustion engine, transmission, ignition, and fuel injector. 

Diagnostic tests limit the need to perform manual inspections of a vehicle

Before diagnostic tests, those with auto careers would have to carefully examine cars manually to find issues, which was not cost-friendly, as well as being very labour-intensive. These tests can also provide auto technicians with information concerning the vehicle and its history, which can be helpful when determining the best course of action for repairs. 

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