Make car problems easier to diagnose: take photos, video, or write notes

In Diagnostics, Girl in a Mechanics World by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

When you have car problems, it can be a real bummer. And sometimes, depending on what problem you’re having, it can be a mystery too.

Recently in my own car, I noticed that the ABS light and traction control light would come on when I hit the brakes, and I couldn’t figure out why. Over time, even very light taps on the brakes would make the lights come on, and they would stay on until I turned off the vehicle. After a few days of this, I had had enough – and I snapped a photo of the lights, and brought it to our guys in the shop.

That photo really came in handy – but I’ll talk more about that in a minute.

A few weeks back we also had a customer that ran into the shop, telling us that she had left the car running, so our service writers could see the problem firsthand, because the problem would only happen when the car was running.

And another one of our Girl in Mechanic’s World bloggers, Jasmine, had a problem where her car was misfiring, and because there was no audio or video recording of it, it took several days to diagnose and get the problem to replicate itself.

Taking a photo, a video, or showing the problem when it’s happening in your vehicle is actually more important than you know, and can save hassle and time, so the guys can get you back out on the road.

When a customer comes in with a car issue, but hasn’t documented the problem, it’s up to the technicians to inspect the vehicle and take it out on a test run, in an effort to identify the problem, so it can be fixed. But the way we drive our cars is going to be different than the technicians, and in many cases, it can be very difficult for them to replicate the problem. And the harder it is to replicate the problem, the harder it is to find the problem and fix it.

In my own case, one of our technicians wasn’t able to replicate the problem, but with the photo I took, an inspection, and some testing, they were able to determine that it was a sensor behind the tire that was malfunctioning, and they were able to fix my vehicle and get it back to normal.

While some problems can’t always be captured – and I strongly suggest against taking photos or video when you’re behind the wheel, driving – if you can safely snap a quick photo, video, or write down the specifics on the problem, including where you were, what time it was, and what was happening when the problem was occurring, it will make it much easier to diagnose and fix your vehicle.