Making better collision repair decisions benefits both your business and customers by restoring the vehicle to its pre-accident condition and helping to ensure its safety as designed by the manufacturer.
However, this becomes increasingly challenging as the technology in vehicles and materials used to manufacture them change at what seems like lightning speed.
|(Photo courtesy of I-CAR) Scan tools and collision repair diagnostics are becoming a required part of the collision repair process, creating new opportunities for technicians and a more extensive knowledge base.|
For many years, vehicles’ structures regularly changed, but it wasn’t overly significant to the collision repair industry. Starting in the 1990s and since, collision repairers have had to begin dealing with repairing vehicles built with unique structural elements such as hyrdoforms along with different materials such as high-strength steel (HSS), ultra-high-strength steel (UHSS), some composites and other mixed materials.
Now, the vehicles technicians are charged with repairing are vastly different than just a few years ago. The Inter-Industry Council on Auto Repair (more commonly known as simply I-CAR) calls it the “Technical Tsunami,” which refers to the current and continued rapid evolution of vehicle technologies – i.e. advanced safety systems – and materials like aluminum, magnesium, carbon fiber and advanced HSS.
“This means a rapidly accelerating repair complexity and the need for new levels of information, knowledge, and skills," says Jason Bartanen, director of industry technical relations for I-CAR Technical Center based in Appleton, Wis. "All the advanced driver-assistance systems such as collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitoring add another layer of intricacy to the collision repair process. Many of the sensors for these are in areas on the exterior of a vehicle prone to being in a collision.”
If a vehicle mirror is ripped off or damaged in a collision, technicians need to be familiar with the technology to identify which parts of the system needs to be replaced and how to recalibrate it, Bartanen explains.
New (potentially lucrative) opportunities for collision repair technicians
With this growing number of advanced safety systems on vehicles, collision repairers need to know more than just how to physically replace their components but also the interworkings of how they operate.
All the sophisticated electronics of which these systems are composed are creating the opportunity for a specialized type of technician that will be in high demand, says I-CAR’s Bartanen.
Each system needs to be diagnosed and then, oftentimes, recalibrated after repair, he says, which creates the need for someone savvy with computers but also familiar with autobody repair. Technicians are essentially repairing “computer systems on wheels.”
|Tips for deciding the best approach to repair|
It is important to note that the procedures provided by the vehicle maker are service specifications, not recommendations. These procedures should be thought of no differently than service information for transmission or engine repair, where specific procedures must be followed in the proper order.
Following the OEM procedures is the best way to achieve complete, safe, quality repairs. This could include vehicle specific repair information, or general vehicle maker information. Deciding on the best approach, however, may have a few steps, including the following:
“If you’re a young technician, get trained in collision repair diagnostics,” Bartanen says. “This is a huge opportunity for young adults that like cars but also like computers and blending them together.”
It’s an ideal position for someone interested in automotive service but who doesn’t want to just do tire and oil changes while waiting to move into a higher role. “We can hire them and build them right into our business process,” Bartanen points out.