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Vehicle health, safety is dependent upon proper diagnosis, repair of all systems

Thursday, June 1, 2017 - 07:00
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Scans, calibrations and new vehicle technologies have been THE hot topics for the last two years in the collision repair industry, although in many ways they still feel like relatively new issues, primarily because we are still far from having industry-accepted, uniform standard policies, procedures and compensation methodology.

I know from my own experiences and anecdotal information that far too many shops are not yet performing pre- and post-repair scans. Information providers have yet to establish definitions and pricing guidelines for scans and calibrations. Pricing is based on who is performing the procedure and who is paying for it. Most insurance companies lack clear and concise policies on when to scan and calibrate, as well as on payment. Some instruct staff to address scan and calibration authorization and pricing on a case-by-case basis, which adds to inconsistency and confusion. Some insurers concoct their own policy and pricing methodology, sometimes at local levels that can differ by region. Some insurers are critical of shops that perform scans and calibrations according to manufacturer directives, accusing them of being “uncompetitive” because they charge for them, and then rewarding shops that don’t perform the procedures because they are “competitive.”

This is the on board diagnostic port (OBDII) on the vehicle that you would plug the scan tool connector into. By U.S. law each 1996 and newer vehicle must be equipped with this specific style connector.

While many OE manufacturers have established definitive policies and procedures, there are still some manufacturers who have not provided clear and concise direction. Policies and procedures and required equipment vary from one manufacturer to another. And to complicate matters, many people — often insurers — question the motives of the manufacturers, implying they are self serving in protecting their own interests and passing liability issues on to repairers and indirectly to insurers in the form of potentially unnecessary procedures. We are in a state of confusion. How disappointing that our industry doesn’t evolve better in the face of change, especially as we are dealing with critical safety issues including accident avoidance and air bag deployment systems.

Yet we know we are making progress because there are so many discussions taking place, there are new training opportunities and equipment manufacturers are starting to develop collision-specific tools.

Of course the key to making progress is education. There are some excellent classes on the topic:

  • I-CAR, class #  VT210E01, “Introduction to Diagnostics and Scan Tools” is a great place to start; it’s an hour-long online course. They also have other classes on new technologies and calibrations.
  • Automotive Management Institute (AMI) offers “Management’s Guide to Scanning and New Technology.” This online class is closer to 90 minutes; some insurers are using this to educate their claims people.

“Shop owners, managers, estimators and insurers who are not making a concerted effort to understand the topics of scanning and calibrations are doing a disservice to their customers, their businesses and to themselves,” said AMi president Jeff Peevy. “The AMi online course, ‘Management’s Guide to Scanning and New Technology,’ was designed for those not necessarily doing the scans, but those needing to understand and manage the process. Regardless of your approach to becoming informed on the subject, it is important that you not be passive about it.”

This is the scan tool connector being plugged into the OBDII port.

I know from personal experience that the more information I seek the more I find. In addition to the obvious factory bulletins and repair information, there are many articles — such as those included in this special section — releases from I-CAR and many presentations at industry events such as NACE Automechanika, SEMA and the Collision Industry Conference. 

Getting started on scans
After becoming educated on the topic, most collision repairers conclude that scanning is a necessity. A significant concern is the potential exposure in a worst-case scenario of a safety system failure resulting in injury or loss of life that could have been avoided through appropriate diagnostic and calibration procedures. Most OE manufacturers have formal positions on the topic and many insist on pre- and post-repair scans on all of their brand vehicles after any collision. Today’s collision repair businesses have many choices regarding how to approach performing scans. The most simplistic approach is to simply sublet the work to a dealer or an independent contractor. The alternative is to start performing some or all scans in-house. A good starting point is with an analysis of the shop’s current mix of work by age and model; shop procedures and how to integrate scanning; staff competence and staffing needs; tool and equipment needs and options; budget; and shop IT infrastructure including WIFI or cable internet access and capacity, as well as adequate security features to prevent viruses and hacking.

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