A picture is not always worth 1,000 words

This week, Trail mechanic Ron Nutini tackles ‘Digital Vehicle Inspection.’

Digital inspection… ? Medical procedure or something to do with getting your vehicle maintained? Both?

I am just returning from VisionKC (High Tech Training and Exhibition). The KC stands for Kansas City. Exciting for auto maintenance and repair junkies like me. Not so exciting for auto repair junkie wives.

Going to these events sort of gives a picture of what is up in my industry on the high tech side. There were a lot of technical courses I wanted to take. Learned a lot. Excited to get home and apply some new techniques. Diagnostic techniques that is.

Inevitably there are many business management courses as well. It got me thinking about some new business sales techniques I have been seeing lately. Of particular interest to me is the ‘Digital Vehicle Inspection’.

You may have already had your vehicle serviced or repaired at a facility that does this. Essentially these shops provide a picture of everything they inspect on your vehicle and provide an online website for you to see ‘what they are seeing’. The shop will make recommendations as to what needs maintenance, what needs repair now, what you might need to have repaired or replaced in the future. The picture from your actual vehicle will likely have a link beside it that explains maybe what that item does and why you need to repair and/or replace it.

What does that picture do for you? I think the goal is trust. Trust that there is an issue with your vehicle that needs some attention. Immediate attention as in ‘fix it now’ or future attention ‘fix it later.’

Do photos of something most people have never seen before inspire trust? Maybe? Inspire a gut reaction? Very likely. Do you know how to evaluate what you are seeing? The link beside might explain it.

What do those photos do for the shop? They do keep a good record of what your vehicle looks like before and after repair.

What does a dirty air filter look like? All the air going into the engine goes through the air filter. Believe me that is a lot of air. The surface of that air filter will look dirty early in its useful life. It needs to be replaced when it starts to significantly restrict airflow into the engine. Can a picture show that? Not really.

The vehicle manufacturer designed that air filter to filter typical outside air for XX thousand kilometres. The maintenance manual will suggest an inspection or replacement interval. Under dusty conditions (severe conditions for air filters) that interval will be shorter. Your owner’s manual will recommend that a professional evaluate that. Does your professional have to send you a picture to trust their recommendation?

Presented with a picture of a rusty braking system component from under your vehicle and a recommendation to replace is bound to inspire the gut response; yes by all means replace that safety system component. Many components under your vehicle gain a coating of rust almost the day they were installed at the factory. In my role as a mechanic I evaluate the degree of rust on a regular basis. Regular inspection will determine my recommendation to replace that component.

Yes, there is a place for pictures and video in the automotive repair world. They are excellent for show and tell. There are so many places to find excellent information on how your vehicle works and how it needs to be taken care of. Don’t put your trust in pictures alone.

Ron Nutini is a licensed automotive technician in Trail and a graduate of mechanical engineering from UBC.

Email: nutechauto@telus.net

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