Dealing With Automotive Intermittent Problems

These problems are by far the most difficult  for the automotive technician to diagnose and repair.   

Because these types of malfunctions occur randomly, an intermittent problem may not occur while operating a particular system or even during a road test. This presents an extremely difficult situation for the technician working on the vehicle.  He must have some point of reference to know where to begin  his testing process.

Regardless of the type of problem or system at fault, certain aspects of diagnosis remain the same.  In order to diagnose the source of any problem the technician needs the fault to occur at least twice.  This is because the first observance provides the technician with some insight needed to plan a focused testing strategy.  A Focused Testing Strategy saves you money by decreasing the amount of diagnostic time needed to locate the problem.  The problem must occur a second time while the technician has special on-board testing equipment, attached to your vehicle, monitoring the system or components that may be at fault.  Although the technician is prepared to attempt to recreate whatever operating conditions are necessary to make the problem occur, if the problem does not surface, a focused strategy can not be planned.  The Focused Testing Strategy is the best to make an accurate repair at the lowest cost.

If you are experiencing  an intermittent problem with your car pay particular attention to when the problem occurs.  Write down such things as how fast you were going, what were the conditions when this problem occurred, what was the ambient temperature, was the A/C, Heat, lights and radio on.   These can all be  important clues.  keeping a log may lead you to predict  when the problem may occur, or maybe even learn how to make it happen. This information will go a long way toward saving you time, money, and most of all getting it Repaired Correctly The First Time.

If the  Focused Testing Strategy Method can not be used, another strategy is often used by repair shops called the All-Inclusive Systematic Method.  This is where the technician tests all the systems with the ability to cause the symptom, until the fault is found.  This All-Inclusive Systematic Method requires more time, and is more expensive.  plus there is no guarantee that a defect discovered in this manner will resolve the problem.  

The worse repair of all is the Educated Guess.  This can be risky business, because in most cases, if the guess does not repair the vehicle, the part can not be returned, and the labor for the installation is nonrefundable if a shop does it.  I am extremely happy to say we do not use this method at Kool Kar Auto Repair.

Diagnosing Intermittent Problems can be very time consuming and sometimes requires the customers patience, cooperation, and understanding for a shop to be successful  repairing this type of problem.  It may take more diagnostic time than originally estimated to recreate, or find the cause of a symptom.  It may also take extensive road testing of the vehicle, and leaving the vehicle for several days to observe the symptom, or judge the results of the diagnosis, and or repair.  This will insure the problem is repaired properly and the customer will be satisfied with the results.  Remember this, a repair can not be estimated until the diagnosis is completed. The most important part of automotive repair is being able to diagnose a problem correctly. 

Now that you are aware of some of the challenges that can surface while repairing intermittent problems, it's time to call or come by KOOL KAR AUTO REPAIR,  Azle Texas, to afford  us the honor and  opportunity to repair your car or light truck.


  1. I definitely know exactly what you mean about intermittent problems being hard to take care of. My car doesn't like to start sometimes. We can't figure out exactly what is wrong with it, but some days it works completely fine. The problem is that every time that we take it to a mechanic they can't find anything wrong with it because it starts working just fine.

  2. Emily, I can understand what you are saying. Sometimes it seems cars have a mind of their own, but hang in there, I am sure it will act up at the proper time and will be found. Thanks for your comment.