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Tackling vehicle calibration requires a team effort

Monday, April 1, 2019 - 06:00
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The need for scanning continues to grow, and fortunately, the collision repair industry is accepting the need and requirement to perform scans. Scans at the beginning of the repair help improve estimating and decrease liability; of course, more importantly, after all the work has been completed, the completion scan is performed. The completion scan has become the final quality inspection point for many repairers. Identifying that all parts and pieces are equipped and functioning correctly, all codes are cleared, and the virtual road map of the repairs has been deleted. As great as it is that the industry is checking the scanning box, the electronic portion of the repair may not be complete after the completion scan.

(Image courtesy of asTech) Vehicle manufacturers, dealerships, insurance companies and body shops have a tremendous hurdle on our hands with the challenges of proper calibration of ADAS systems.

Consider it this way. You’ve broken a major bone. The first step the doctor is going to take is an X-ray. This will help them assess the damage and develop a plan to correct the break. Once the plan is established, verified with specialists, you will be wheeled off to the operating room. Depending on the procedure, a few hours later you’ll be out and in a cast. After weeks of healing the cast will be removed and you’ll be ready for the next step. Eventually you will be back to normal but first there will be one more x-ray to determine that everything has structurally healed. Once the doctor has given the thumbs up on the structural healing a physical therapist will help in the painful process of regaining mobility, retraining your body how to move and regaining your strength. Once you’re back to fighting strength it is quite possible a final x-ray will be required before a clean bill of health is issued. Scan, repair, scan, rehabilitate and another scan. Repairing a vehicle has become very similar. Scan at the time of the estimate, repair the vehicle, scan to ensure the repairs are correct, calibrations and a final scan. After those final scans and calibration only then can a final clean bill of health be issued.

Performing a scan is relatively straight forward. Aftermarket tools provide quick, inexpensive solution to reading codes and looking at live data. Having a trained mechanic review the data is critical so that nothing is overlooked. Using a sublet vendor to perform the scan can allow for less experienced technicians to oversee the scans. The sublet vendor knows what data to review and can be a better guide through the multiple streams of data. The best sublet vendors also utilize OEM tools to ensure that every module is properly scanned with the most recent software from the specific vehicle manufacture for that specific model. Calibration can be tricky. Much like an X-ray doesn’t tell you what your brain and muscles have forgotten, a scan doesn’t necessarily reveal what the computer and sensors have forgotten or have had misaligned during the repairs. Just like the trained professionals who aid in physical therapy and rehabilitation, collision repairers must know when and what calibration is required. Again, scanning helps tell what is obviously wrong and has very easy clear-cut need but calibration is not as easy.

How do you know when calibration is required? The saying “you don’t know what you don’t know” has never been truer in vehicle repair. There is only one way to know and that is research. Research what systems are on the vehicle and what systems were/will be disturbed during the repair. The key to this is that touching or working with the physical components is not the only reason why those components may need calibrating. Removing a bumper, replacing a windshield, disconnecting a battery, performing a wheel alignment, and even the collision itself are all grounds for calibration. Reviewing position statements and repair procedures is the only way to know when calibrations may be required. Most calibration requirements cannot be identified with a scan or seen by a malfunction light on the dash. There is simply not a code generated with a misaligned sensor or camera.

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