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IATN and Identifix hurt Diagnostic skills?

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I had lunch the other day with a fellow shop owner. Like me, he’s been in the auto industry for decades. Everything we needed to know back then was contained in one manual. Any diagnostic skills were learned and remembered as needed, from memory.


When computers came about in the early 80s we all learned about trouble charts, pin point diagnostics, lab scopes, multi meters and following a logical approach to solving problems.


My friend asked me if having the resources as we do today, like IATN and Identifix hurt our diagnostic skills. It’s no secret that many problems that would have taken hours to solve are now revealed to us with a few strokes of a key board. But I don’t think you can compare today’s sophistication with technology from 30 years ago. It is different today, but I don’t think IATN or Identifix can take the place of a skilled technician. I do think having these online resources greatly helps us.


For me, I think that IATN and Identifix are worth every penny.


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Im a newbie so I started after the revolution of the industry. I will say there extremely valuable information available on forums and services such as these. Many times its not just whats wrong it includes information to prevent reoccurrence or discussions that open the door for manufacturer dialog and solutions. These are conversations that would have gone unheard 10-15 years ago. I also see that it can be a tremendous problem if not handled by shop managment. Iatn somewhat governs itself a bit, I feel that post with inadequate test results or the "tell me what it is, I'm to lazy to look " dialog gets less response and a poor score. If the tech cant troubleshoot he or she will provide less than satisfactory results when it comes to fixing it right the first time. A company that would produce independently written troubleshooting charts in checklist form (available from sources like alldata) would give managment some form of verification. If the sheet isn't completed with specs retreived from the diagnosis, the supervisor can look into it. I think if we're going to continue to moving towards information services like this there must be some accountability on the techs part.

After saying all that, services like this will eventually be required. With all the new models and new technology and lower book hours, technician abilities will soon be maxed out Imo.

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I got rid of my IATN and went only with Identifix. The best month I spend every month. There is no way to keep up on all the changes and if you have any questions someone a lot of times has already solved the problem. Example, had a GM car with the pass side seat air bag code. A bunch of responses said to check the plug under the seat for something specific. Solved problem. Would have taken me hours to figure that one out. Identifix is one of the first steps in our diagnostic tree and to have access to the actual factory wiring diagrams and factory manuals is worth every penny.

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It should be noted that Identifix started decades ago as a dial-in number on a charge-per-call basis. Then, they slowly moved over to the online arena, using their years of compiled phone call database as a launchpad. They still offer the phone service; I have never used it.


Techs have always needed more than what's in their own personal brains. Even the best, most highly capable techs will still be caught saying, "Hold on, let me call my buddy ... he works at the VW dealership" or "Let's call my friend that runs that tranny shop down the road." Those phone calls are an informal version of what Identifix has made a business doing.


Does this dumb down the techs? Maybe. However, I would much rather my tech be "dumb" and get a weird wire short solved in ten minutes over an "intelligent" tech that spent four hours chasing wiring diagrams and relays. When your tech is able to do both, you have an all star.

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We currently are signed up for IATN but not Identifix. How different is Identifix compared to IATN?


Here is a summary of both:


IATN: Great for posting a question and getting quick answers. Not so great for searching for problems that have been solved already.


Identifix: Great for searching for already solved issues, with a probability number next to each possible solution. Not so great at looking up a very specific problem that nobody has encountered before. Although, they do offer a help line for this ... I think it's $25 a call.

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I have to disagree with you Wes. I don't think IATN nor Identifix "dumbs" down our techs. In the independent market, techs are expected to understand the systems of multiple cars and mutiple car lines. We have to be the master of everything. I think IATN and Identifix are a wonderful ADDITION, to our already wonderful knowledge and expertise. Where a technician falls short, he has a resource on hand to use for additional diagnostic tree steps. I do feel if you don't know where to even begin with a code, there is an experience/training issue. You should atleast be able to check the basics before checking your resources. Anyone ever had a tech come back after hours and say he found the problem? A blown fuse.........

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I have to disagree with you Wes. I don't think IATN nor Identifix "dumbs" down our techs.


Sorry, I did not explain this very well. A sharp tech will make GREAT use out of IATN / Identifix and use it to expand on his/her skills and knowledge. A lazier tech will simply use these systems as a crutch and never really critically think through the issue. Did IATN / Identifix make the lazy? No, it is simply a tool.

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Sorry, I did not explain this very well. A sharp tech will make GREAT use out of IATN / Identifix and use it to expand on his/her skills and knowledge. A lazier tech will simply use these systems as a crutch and never really critically think through the issue. Did IATN / Identifix make the lazy? No, it is simply a tool.


I can agree to that and it's already difficult enough to find expert technicians.

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  • 7 months later...

I use both, identifix is used on every diagnostic job we do. It fills us in on the whole picture and points us in the right direction. It's worth the money. Iatn is the backup plan, not a very good one. If I ever get stuck and post on there I get responses like "do a voltage drop test" or "use a factory part only", and some criticism, but no real useful info. Identifix can lend itself to ignoring the service manual which is a lazy bad habit that can lead to empty wallet syndrome. Reason being if 200 people had the same problem and fixed it the same way it makes sense in a time restricted environment to try that before going through all the tests. Works until it doesn't. We don't charge for wrong guesses so I pay the price for the OOPS moments. Mostly I use my brain.

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