Weaver’s Auto Center adapts to paradigm shift in collision repairs
Shawnee, Kan.—Just as a technician can no longer approach a repair without first consulting OEM repair information to see what type of steel it is or how the OEM recommends sectioning it, every vehicle must now be scanned, regardless of how minor the damage may appear to the trained eye, said Tony Adams, owner of Weaver’s Auto Center. For many seemingly minor incidents, diagnostic trouble codes are often present, even without warning lights lit up in the instrument cluster.
“Shops have to look at things from a different perspective, that it’s no longer just a bumper cover, it’s no longer just a mirror,” Adams said. “Our contract and our obligation are to make sure the customer gets their car back correctly repaired. We are the experts, and that’s been proven over and over in court cases. We have an obligation to make sure we restore vehicles back correctly, and we don’t have any way to know without scanning it.”
Although the shop has taken that tack for the past 18 months or so, one of its “aha” moments was when it tested a theory on a 2016 Chevrolet Silverado: would there be no issue in unplugging the collision avoidance sensors and removing the bumper, as long as the key was never cycled? Upon a scan, the shop was surprised to find 27 codes that had to be cleared, Manager Chris Norris said.
Another example involved the replacement of a driver’s door mirror on a Dodge pickup. The customer later returned complaining that his ambient temperature sensor was providing a false reading, and instead of it being located behind the grille, it was in the mirror, which required it to be reprogrammed. Another involved a Toyota Corolla, which needed the headliner dropped to replace the windshield after a hailstorm. Each time, the shop found that even a parked vehicle can introduce codes when electrical components are unplugged.
“The struggle with this is it’s just like sectioning body panels,” Norris said. “No longer can you allow the skilled technician to say, ‘OK, I can put this panel on; I’ve done five of these.’ They change the repair processes on a daily basis. Scanning kind of falls in that same category, where each time you get a car, you can’t just assume ‘It’s just a bumper cover,’ because it’s not that way anymore.”
Too often, insurance companies seek to apply a blanket judgment for repairs, such as assuming the replacement of a bumper cover would not require a scan, just because it doesn’t have sensors installed.
Insurers too often try to apply the same logic that served them well in the past, such as deciding whether, say, a transmission leak was part of the front-end collision, or if it a had telltale signs of being a chronic problem before the incident.
The shop is about 75 percent collision and 25 percent mechanical repair, doing more than $4.5 million per year in 21,000 square feet, with 25 employees. Although it has an on-staff diagnostician skilled in using several OEM scan tools and solving driveability problems, most scans are handled by a collision technician cross-trained in performing more basic functions, such as retrieving and clearing codes.
For many scans, including on vehicles older than the current model year, the shop uses its Snap-on Verus scan tool. For newer vehicles not yet supported by the aftermarket or that for some reason will not communicate with the scan tool, the shop uses the asTech device and service, to which Jay Elliot, from Weaver’s PPG paint supplier, ColorVision, helped guide the shop. It uses a device that functions as a long-distance modem, connected to a vehicle’s OBDII port, and transmits data back and forth to an OEM scan tool and a trained technician at asTech headquarters.
Zero-point calibrations, required by Honda and Toyota after every collision for proper passenger airbag deployment force, are done at the shop, while more complicated calibrations involving ADAS are done at the dealership.
Although Weaver is successful in being reimbursed for scans about 95 percent of the time, the shop performs the scans first and is concerned with being paid for them later, as there is risk of liability.
Providing an example, such as a printout showing the codes present, can help educate an adjuster, Adams said.
“When you actually spend the time to start communicating and educating adjusters why a scan needs to be done, I think that helps get you reimbursed instead of just taking a stance that says, ‘Pay me, because the OEMs say we have to do it.’”