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Episode 5: Is the Dipstick Dead? The New School on Car Diagnostic Tools

July 2019 | By Laura Wood, Consumer Insights Manager

The cost of a new diagnostic scanner, plus old-school tools like a car lift, can make the dream of running your own auto shop seem too expensive. Here’s how to overcome it.



It gets comical sometimes. Even Ralph Parente, who has more than 40 years’ experience working on cars, says he once spent 20 minutes looking for a dipstick before realizing the car didn’t have one: There was an internal oil monitor. The lesson? The tools are changing. Plus, the cost of buying diagnostic tools is getting crazy expensive—making it a pricey road block to running a profitable repair shop.

But there are workarounds.

Share tools with other mechanics. Our Shop Goals mechanics say they rely on good relationships with other shop owners who have access to the tools they don’t own. When possible, they swap and share resources.

Do a cost analysis if you’re considering a new equipment purchase. If you’re looking to buy a new piece of equipment, such as a high-dollar alignment rack or a diagnostic scanner (don’t forget the cost of the monthly subscription), crunch the numbers to see how long it will take to pay it off. Will it be three years? Five years? Seven years? Then decide if it’s an investment you can afford to make.

Partner with a local mobile mechanic. Some mobile mechanics — techs who bring their tools and expertise to the customer — specialize in mobile diagnosis and programming. They’ll come to your shop, and you can use their tools for a fee. You can learn more about mobile mechanics in Episode 6.

Up next: Watch Shop Goals Episode 6 about mobile mechanics and learn about the repair trend that’s here to stay. 


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