Office Manager Sam Long uses the Mitchell Diagnostics MD350 scan tool to run a pre-scan, saving the shop cycle time.Olson’s Body & Paint bought the Mitchell Diagnostics MD350 scan tool about a year ago for its ease of use, including linking to Mitchell Estimating.

In-house scanning aids Olson’s cycle time and dials into more advanced system repair

Mitchell Diagnostics scan tool links to estimating system, on-screen menu aids in tracking down problems

Waukee, Iowa—The adage, “Time is money,” is never more true than in the collision repair world. Olson’s Body & Paint strives to provide “timely services that keep you on the road,” so its addition about a year ago of the Mitchell Diagnostics MD350 scan tool has improved cycle time by keeping more vehicles from going to the dealer.

“We got it right when it was first offered,” said Office Manager Sam Long, who performs the shop’s pre- and post-repair scanning. She noted it stood out from other offerings with its intuitive, user-friendly design and how it links the scan data with the Mitchell Estimating system. It also simplifies the diagnostic process.

“Other devices we have used would show a code and we’d have to research what it meant,” she said. The on-screen menu aids a technician’s diagnosis of what part may have been damaged in the collision, such as a pinched wire.

Although the Des Moines-area shop has nearby dealerships able to accommodate most nameplates, it is at their mercy to schedule them.

“It’s just more of a hassle to have to take it there and back when it takes two drivers,” she said. “And dealers have their own priorities, so it’s a lot better when we can do things in-house.”

Long said she and the shop’s three body repair technicians are still learning the capabilities of the tool, attending webinars and watching video training from Mitchell and Bosch (the manufacturer of the tool). And pre- and post-repair scanning are just part of what it takes to get the vehicle’s electronic systems back to pre-loss condition.

“Even with the tool, there are some, like blind-spot detection and other more advanced systems, that have to be recalibrated as a dealer-only situation,” Long said. “It’s so dependent on the model with the level of the option codes that are on it, such as a Honda Accord we just repaired. It had a lot of extras on it, and we were unable to do it in-shop. We were able to read it and know what it needed to have done, so we could communicate that to the dealership, and I think that helped them schedule it.”

To work with the scan tool, Mitchell also offers the ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) calibration kit, which includes a universal framework designed to operate with vehicle-specific targets to calibrate ADAS. The shop has not yet purchased that kit.

“But there are a lot of other vehicle calibrations that can be done,” she said. “The airbag system, parking sensors, a lot of the adaptive speed controls on some of the newer vehicles — those are all able to be calibrated with the device without additional products.”

And simple operations, such as installing a new electronic module, such as a power window switch, now require registering the new part with the vehicle’s network, can now be done quickly in-house.

“What we’re doing right now are for the most part are the pre- and post-repair scans, identifying the systems that can be re-identified within the system, like if you unplug a door, it needs to re-recognize the sensor that’s in the door in order to make the airbag system whole again,” Long said.

Shops should be aware that a fault often doesn’t trigger a warning light on the instrument panel and will only be uncovered with a scan.

“It’s always interesting how many additional errors are in the system when we’re hooking it up primarily because of an airbag light, and there are 14 other things going on with it,” she said.

Although she doesn’t yet have an idea of her return on investment, Long said for now she’s happy to break even on the cost of the tool, updates, and licensing, because of the ease in scheduling by keeping scans and some other operations in-house.

Procedure pages within Mitchell that point to the OEM requirements for scanning, along with the Mitchell PDF scan report showing the findings of the scan, aid in getting an insurance company to pay, she said.

“I think it’s a learning experience for body shops and for the insurance industry that this is more and more necessary and required. And the body shop needs to be paid for it, not just for their time, but the device itself is very costly. And if it’s a requirement, then it needs to be reimbursed. It’s still a struggle, but it’s getting easier.”

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.