Diagnosis Fees: What are our rights?

That could be a plus since there is probably an ongoing commercial relationship in play, not just a once off consumer problem.

Last year the shop called out irregular tyre wear and advised an alignment. Alignments were listed as one of their services so I asked how much. They said they don’t have the equipment and they take alignment jobs to a nearby Tyre shop and I should just go there, reference themselves, and this is how much it will cost. It was a win-win-win as my shop got my good will, the tyre shop got the alignment job, and I got the ‘shop price’ of $10 below discount rates.


Not every free diagnosis is free. It pays to read between the lines.

We have some very positive experiences with specialist repairers. And several not so good, deceptive might fit, with another, a tyre specialist which also provides mechanical services by employing a qualified mechanic.

No issues with the tyre part of the service. Twice now (and it will not happen again) we have been put in the position of having to decline additional work discovered while doing the tyres, steering alignment etc.

One for an observation the front suspension struts with their integrated shock absorbers were on the way out and should be replaced. Toyota parts are not cheap. Second source parts like these are difficult to source, unless you live in the USA where everything is half the Aussie price. We declined and crawled home wondering. We took the car to a suspension specialist full of concern. 45 minutes latter and no charge they could find no fault.

The second that there was a problem with uneven wear on the brake pads and one side only of the rears were down to the backing. Something they could fix that same day with new pads and machined rotors. There was no offer to locate or solve the problem of the uneven wear. Most interesting! Similar outcome as before with a creep home lest it all go wrong. We booked the car into a brake specialist we had used previously. They had actually replaced all the pads etc less than 5 years prior. It seemed unreasonable that their work prior had missed a fundamental fault. Great service, we had a phone call an hour after dropping the vehicle off. There were no issues, the brakes were good for at least another 50,000 km. The pads were not even half worn down. And once again, a big smile and no charge.

So it is possible to get diagnostics for free, and to also get the right answer 50% of the time.

How do I know who was being more reliable? That would be a whole new topic for Choice on how to read the lips of the business person on the other side of the counter. Or would it?


Depending on the age of the car/system, it may be the loudspeakers. I’ve owned quite a few older (10yrs+) cars, and the loudspeakers tend to be the first components to fail with age. Cones often part company with the frames, or simply disintegrate. I’ve seen speakers where a centre-mounted tweeter is all that’s left after the woofer cones have completely gone to bits inside the door. This can lead to intermittent crackling or loss of sound.

If you can simply pop off the speaker covers or door trims, you might be able to diagnose the fault yourself. If the speakers need replacing, you can DIY or visit a car audio shop.


Unlikely as they all experience the same issue at the exact same time


One of our neighbours is a retired motor mechanic who still dabbles in buying cheap vehicles which he fixes up and then sells.

He related his experience with a Cairns auto repair business who he contacted to obtain a roadworthy on a car he had owned for 2 years but wanted to sell.

The owner said that he could do it straight away and advised him to return in about 1 hour.

When he returned, the owner said that it had failed as it had an engine oil leak, and he showed the neighbour a photo of the claimed “oil leak” on his phone. He said that he would need to drop the transmission to replace the seal and it would cost around $400 to fix.

The neighbour expressed surprise as he had never had any oil spots on the concrete garage floor and he returned home and placed a sheet of paper under the engine.

He checked the paper the next morning and returned to the auto business and asked to have another look at the picture, to which he was told that it had been deleted.

He than asked for the vehicle to be put on the hoist so he could see the “oil leak”.

When no oil was visible, the business owner said that the leak must have fixed itself and signed off on the roadworthy.

There certainly are some rip-off merchants out there.


In that case, I doubt it is a wiring issue, unless it is due to intermittent power getting to the head unit. My next guess would be a cracked circuit board or trail in the head unit. Does the head unit have a physical volume control knob, or is the volume adjusted electronically ? Could it be that the volume control has become sticky/dirty ? Does the issue change if you alter the volume ?


Yeah there’s a physical volume knob, but it’s unrelated to me adjusting it. Thanks for the tip though.


@Peterchu, A few guesses have been offered all of which seem to have missed the mark. It would really be helpful if you could fill in some detail.


I mean if people want to try and solve it then sure. It’s a 2012 Nissan Micra with a stock system. It gets random static through the speaker system regardless of whether it’s turned on or not. The only pattern I’ve noticed is it seems to mainly happen when the engine is at low revs or I go over a bump.

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Your symptom could be covered in this page.

A cheap and easy first go would be to add a 3 mfd filter capacitor to the radio power wire, and that can be done at the fuse box. If that resolves it, the problem could be the corresponding capacitor on the alternator; if it does not the problem is more likely in the radio or wiring.

Getting static through the speakers with the radio turned off is curious though. Is it through one or all when it happens? Going over a bump suggests it is a wiring issue - corrosion, pinched, or just a lose plug might do it. Alternatively the unit itself may have developed an internal problem.


Another left field item to consider.

We have a Sony clock/radio/CD player which is around 20 years old. It is always set to radio for the alarm but the volume is turned right down unless we actually want to be awakened early.

If I place my mobile on the bedside table beside it, then early in the morning there will be short bursts of static like noises from the radio despite the volume being turned right down.

The mobile is obviously communicating with a base station and the transmissions upset the analogue radio.

Could your mobile be the cause of your problem?

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No it definitely doesn’t sound like mobile interference. I used to own speakers with poor magnetic shielding so I know all about that.


The same thing happened to me last year with a electrical fault, I asked the RAC garage to check it out when I had it in for a service, they said they could not do it and would send it to a Auto electrician to be fixed. the Auto electrician sent it back to RAC after 3 hours of Diagnostics?? saying they could not find the problem and a bill for me of $350. I then took it to another mechanic who said they could not find the problem with out diagnostics again wanted to change $200.
eventually I found through searching online a Auto electrician in Welshpool that looked good so I phoned them and told them the problem the guy said yes this model is well know for this problem. Bring it in, the cost for fixing is $175 I brought it in and he had it back to me that afternoon all fixed for $175. He did not need any diagnostics as he knew his stuff. So I strongly suggest that you phone around as not all mechanics or Auto electricians
have the same knowledge.


I’ve had this happen in one of my cars. An auto electrician found its was nothing to do with the audio system but a bad “earth” or “ground” to one of my tail lights.


Yeah I was looking at the place in Welshpool. Thanks for the tip


Here’s an update on what wound up happening for anyone still interested.

It seems finding someone who knows what they’re doing is the more important than price/hour when it comes to diagnosis fees. The place I wound up picking located the issue in less than an hour, removed the faulty part but didn’t install a new part to ensure I had time to test it before they added any additional charges to my bill. In fact they gave me such good instructions I can probably do the replacement myself.

It wound up being the Bluetooth phone module. It was turning itself on sporadically causing the rest of the audio system to cut out and play static.


Great work.

Perhaps you could advise the name of the service business which really delivered so as to help fellow Choice Community members in your area.

As you commented, the competence is more important than the hourly rate.


I wound up picking Chamberlain Auto Electrics. And yeah I can definitely recommend them for anyone living in Perth.


Thanks for the update @Peterchu :+1:


It is possibly similar in some ways to the medical profession, where one pays for diagnosis (e.g. scans, tests etc). When the results of these scan is known, then the course of action or treatment, if any, can be determined and therefore costed.

In the electronics/appliance service industry, in the past labour and service/repair costs were cheap compared to the replacement costs. More recently, labour costs and service is expensive and comparable (if not more) to replacement costs.

I expect many businesses have had someone bring in something which did not work properly, say a car audio system, to only find out after spending time identifying the fault that the audio system owner decides it is better to buy a replacement system through someone else, rather than have a repair done by the company which did the diagnosis. As it would have taken time (for a business time = dollars) to diagnose the problem, not charging means the business loses money or is unable to make money doing something else as time is taken up with the diagnosis.

In the past many businesses took the diagnosis costs off the service/repair costs as a good gesture and also to possibly encourage the decision for a repair to be made. More recently I have noticed that businesses are now charging for diagnosis and then charging/quoting separating for a repair. I expect that this is because many consumers decide for a replacement (because it may be cheaper) rather than a repair. It should be noted that it can take some time to diagnose, prepare quotes (which may include contacting suppliers for part availabilitiy and costs) and follow up customers with reports/information on the problem. If a business doesn’t charge, this is lost time.

Unfortunately we have become a throw-away or disposal society where preference is given to replacing rather than repairing, mainly to keep up with the latest model (or Jone’s) or the cost to repair exceeds the cost to replace.

I am pleased you were able to find possibly an older style business which would find the fault quickly with an option/advice on how to repair. These are few and far in between and helps prevent the mounting e-waste that is generated in Australia and around the world.