As the economy and employment continue in stagnation, the customer service folks keep being asked for guidance and help from people looking for ways to add a little income. The enquiries go something like “Can I make money doing diagnostic work for others?”, “What should I have to start?”, “How do I promote my services?”, and “How much should I charge?”
YES, you can make money. If you read the want ads on CraigsList you will see many shops and used car dealers are constantly advertising for diagnostic people. There simply are not enough good diagnostic people for the demand.
A part time diagnostic business is rather easy to start as we have had quite a few people around the world already get involved. This discussion is from our experiences helping them get started correctly.
If you are going to be in business think forward about costs, benefits and capabilities you want your business to have. By that I mean do you want to offer diagnostic services on OBD I cars as well as OBD II? Or do you want to only service one or the other?
The reason this decision is so important is because there are more and more old cars (OBD I and previous) being placed in service again. Just watch the traffic around you and you will see these cars. It is a sign of the economy problems and it does not appear anything will change for the near future.
Let us discuss the items you will need to start:
You already know you will need a scan tool. Any obd2 scan tool will do whether it is handheld or pc based so long as it does not have issues. The issues I am referring to are connection to the vehicles, data retrieval speed, and provide capabilities to view the data correctly (nice graphic interface, and size to view subtle nuances).
One very large problem is data retrieval speed. This has been a problem since the first OBD car in 1980. Most scan tools are designed to simply get the data, speed of the data retrieval is rarely ever considered by the manufacturers.
Consider this scenario as it relates to a P0171 code;
You are watching the Oxygen Sensor for voltages changes while testing for vacuum leaks using propane. As you direct the propane at a suspected vacuum leak, you would expect the Oxygen Sensor to show a richer condition. The sensor may be picking up the changes, but the speed the scan tool retrieves the data may show no change. Example of this type data retrieval;
.2vdc .2vdc .2vdc .2vdc
Unfortunately, this scenario happens lots more than most people realize. Not only does the scan tool not get the data, but also the cars computer can be sluggish in providing the data. Here is another dataset using a scan tool like the 2X80S designed for faster data retrieval
.2vdc .8vdc .8vdc.2vdc .2vdc .8vdc .8vdc .8vdc .2vdc.2vdc
This second dataset shows clearly that a vacuum leak exists where propane was added, that the Oxygen Sensor recognizes the extra fuel, the computer reacted to it by reducing fuel and the Oxygen Sensor was switching.
The 2X80S series has proven itself as many professionals reach for it first as it connects to so many vehicles easily, provides fast data retrieval and depending on the software it can graph different sensors or switches for easy diagnostics.
You will need software for the scan tool, and there are many free and open source software packages available. In fact, we include the best of these free programs with a 2X80S scan tool. Nevertheless, we really recommend that you consider a licensed software program like Scan Master. It truly is a great program, and offers many excellent capabilities and tweaks. It also provides you the ability to give your customer a printable report.
If you are new to this, you will want to do it right including the prep work. This is where the OBD2 Baseline Procedures guide (free with 2x80s purchase) comes in handy. This guide walks you through the prep testing so that you can be certain that the problems are within the cars computer system and not being caused by outside forces.
After you get a trouble code, now what? Yes, the better quality software programs do provide you descriptions of what the trouble code means and some even provide freeze frame data. However if you do not know how to test the sensor or switch you are in trouble. Shop Foreman Diagnostics is a software program written by practicing professional diagnostic techs that provides guidance in how sensors and switches work and how to test them. It includes mini wiring diagrams for the sensors and switches.
One of the most important sensors on the vehicle is the Oxygen Sensor, it is like that “tattle tale” neighbor that told your parents about you misbehaving. Except in this case, it tells on what is happening in the engine. The data set explanation above is only a piece of what you need to know that is why a book like the Chrysler Oxygen Sensor PST book is imperative as it provides the understanding that you will need to use the information properly.
You will need a good Digital Multimeter (DMM) specifically designed for automotive use. It must be capable of measuring voltages, resistances, temperatures and most importantly, frequencies. This last part, frequencies is needed to check map sensors, and MAF sensors properly. A great DMM for this is the CenTech 37772. It has all these capabilities and has the required 10M Ohm impedance, but it is not expensive especially for the quality.
For testing those OBD I cars, you will need several additional items. Like the OBD I test procedures from our website, a GM OBD I adapter cable and some GM OBD I software. All these things are available on our site as well.
The last item you will need is some marketing help. Like some really well written templates that can be used for classified advertising, and as your business grows you should consider a website to send people to for more info and add respectability to your part time business.
Comparing our 2X80S to competitors
|Controls Data Corruption|
|Improved Data Speed|
|Enhanced Software Included|
|Phone Tablet PDA Capable|
|Multiple PC Applications|
|Multiple Phone Tablet PDA Applications|
|2 Wheel Vehicle Applications|
|Legacy OS Support|
Yes or Included No or not included Some or limited
|All above information is based on published information as of 01/2015 or products purchsed to confirm|