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"To scan or not to scan" is becoming less of a question

Sunday, January 1, 2017 - 09:00
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If you’ve attended any industry meetings this past year, you know one of the main topics of discussion has been pre- and post-repair scanning of vehicles. An increasing number of high-volume automakers (including GM, Nissan, Toyota, Fiat Chrysler and Honda) have issued very clear position statements on the need to scan vehicles that have been in a collision (you can find all the statements at That has the industry – shops, insurers, scan tool makers and third-party scanning service providers – scrambling to figure out what this means for our businesses.

I can tell you what we’re doing. Unlike some of my friends in the industry, we are not to the point of scanning every single vehicle that comes into the shop. But we are scanning lots and lots of them.

In addition to (or in the absence of) OEM procedures, we base scanning decisions on the degree of damage and the type of equipment the vehicle has. If a vehicle comes in on a tow truck and has a lot of crash-avoidance technology on it, you bet that one is getting scanned. If it’s relatively minor damage but it impacts parts of the vehicle – a bumper, for example – that has blind spot or other sensors, that one is getting scanned.

But we’re also not in a high-end market where every vehicle is brand new and top of the line. So I’m not to the point of scanning every single car yet. But notice I said “yet.” The day is not far off when we will need to scan every vehicle prior to repairs to know what’s wrong with it, and then again post-repair to make sure everything is back to how it needs to be.

We primarily use an asTech, one of the tools that enables you to hook the vehicle up and have the scan read remotely. But we also have a Snap-On scan tool, and occasionally we have to send a vehicle to a dealer for the scan.

Obviously one of the sticky issues for the industry related to scanning is the cost. I certainly understand what this can mean for insurers. But we’re not just trying to add expense to the repair. And in our experience, if we can justify the need for a scan of a particular vehicle, rather than just scanning every vehicle, the insurers we work with are generally good about it. Some fight it a little harder than others. But as with almost any repair procedure, they just want to know why they owe for it on that particular vehicle.

One of the key issues I think the industry needs to figure out is what is it worth. Part of it is that the time required varies by vehicle. Some cars take 10 minutes to scan. Others take an hour to scan. And if it takes an hour, are we charging for an hour of labor, or just charging for the remote scanning service? As an industry, we don’t yet have an exact value yet on what it’s worth as we do for, say, removing a broken headlight and reinstalling a new one.

I don’t have all the answers to the issues we face related to vehicle scanning. One thing I do know is that if you’re not set up to scan vehicles – either in house or using a mobile or remote scanning service ­– you’re already behind. Thinking you will rely on subletting this to dealerships isn’t realistic.

And if you think your customer doesn’t expect you to have fully repaired their vehicle – including resetting fault codes and ensuring all the electronics are fully functioning – guess again. I’m not just talking about the owners of high-end European vehicle models. In case you missed it, Hyundai this past fall began offering a mobile phone app that allows drivers to remotely start their vehicle, schedule service at the dealership – and even view vehicle diagnostics and trouble codes on their vehicle.

No way do I want a customer picking up a vehicle that we did not scan, only to have the app on their phone tell them they have a trouble code we didn’t find.

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