Quantum error correcting codes have been shown to have the ability of making quantum information resilient against noise. Here we show that we can use quantum error correcting codes as diagnostics to characterise noise. The experiment is based on a three-bit quantum error correcting code carried out on a three-qubit nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) quantum information processor. Utilizing both engineered and natural noise, the degree of correlations present in the noise affecting a two-qubit subsystem was determined. We measured a correlation factor of c=0.5+/-0.2 using the error correction protocol, and c=0.3+/-0.2 using a standard NMR technique based on coherence pathway selection. Although the error correction method demands precise control, the results demonstrate that the required precision is achievable in the liquid-state NMR setting.