What Is a Multipoint Inspection?

When you take your vehicle in for service of any kind, chances are that the mechanic (or technician) who works on it also will perform a stem-to-stern inspection to identify other maintenance or repair items you need.

Related: The Mechanics of Finding a Good Auto Shop

This is a multipoint inspection, or MPI, and it’s become standard operating procedure at dealership service departments and other repair shops. It can also be a double-edged sword. 

MPIs can alert the owner that some parts are worn out, such as wiper blades or brake pads, or that it’s time for normal preventive maintenance, such as replacing the transmission fluid.  Such services can help keep a vehicle in good operating condition.

Some shops, though, look for every possible item that needs replacement and even stretch the truth on whether service is necessary. A vehicle manufacturer may recommend that engine coolant be changed at 100,000 miles, for example, but the repair shop may say it should occur at 50,000 or 60,000 miles. 

Some shops are more aggressive than others in pushing fluid exchanges and other services. Even if your vehicle is running great and you brought it in for just an oil change and tire rotation, you might get a laundry list of maintenance and repair items that add up to $1,000.

Many shops perform a thorough MPI that covers brakes, tires, belts and hoses, air filters, lights, the suspension and other components. Some give customers a report card that marks items with color codes: green for good to go, yellow to note that repairs or maintenance may be needed soon, or red to mean service  is needed pronto. Regular customers often find such MPIs helpful because they alert them that they’ll probably need, say, new brake rotors or tires in the next six months or so.

MPIs aren’t just to help the customer. They also generate more business for the shops by identifying and documenting necessary maintenance, and shop employees often use the MPIs as selling tools.

Many shops pay technicians by how much work they perform, not by an hourly wage. An experienced technician who works quickly might cram 12 billable labor hours into an eight-hour day, and that’s what they’ll get paid for. The more maintenance and repairs they identify during the multipoint inspection, the more opportunity they’ll have to bill more hours.

Likewise, the service adviser — the person who greets customers and conveys what was found in the MPI — is often paid in part based on how many maintenance and repair items he or she convinces customers to pay for. The technician’s job is to find those items; the service adviser’s job is to sell them.

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MPIs are often helpful for customers, many of whom don’t have a clue about what routine maintenance or repairs they need. Before agreeing to a long list of items, however, it’s a good idea to find out what the vehicle manufacturer recommends. That information is in the owner’s manual. Many items, though, such as brake pads and air filters, wear out based on how a vehicle is driven, not by the odometer.

When in doubt, it also pays to get a second opinion.

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