Pre- and post scans are opportunity to ensure proper repair, keep work in-house
Littleton, Colo.—Vehicle pre- and post-scans are becoming increasingly recommended, if not required, by OEMs as documented in their numerous position statements released throughout the year and last. Shops have either embraced the process, have only just begun to dip their toes into the diagnostic waters, or are sticking their heads in the sand.
“Scanning is creating a lot of opportunity — and probably headaches — for the industry,” said Dan Stander, general manager of Fix Auto Highlands Ranch, in Littleton. “There are people who don’t understand it. For many years, scanning for the auto body industry has been a mental road block because there’s some perceived mystique to it and ingrained inhibition.
“But there’s opportunity for shops to assume scanning work in-house to deliver a better quality repair and increase sales.”
Fix Auto Highlands Ranch entered the scanning arena two years ago, though, at the time, vehicles were only scanned if there was a check-engine light on, which Standers says they now realize only represented 5-10 percent of diagnostic trouble codes.
“We hadn’t fully comprehended the need to scan until a customer called in saying that after a visit to their dealership for service, the dealer knew immediately the car had been involved in an accident and repaired. It wasn’t because the color didn’t match or a panel didn’t line up, it was because they found a myriad of trouble codes, likely related to a collision, after scanning the vehicle.”
It was a revelation, he said. Without diligent scanning, the shop was at risk of performing an incomplete repair, developing an unwanted reputation and, most of all, possibly endangering a customer’s safety.
“Our philosophy now is every vehicle needs to be scanned. While we don’t pre- scan everything, we post-scan all vehicles. If we get into a category II hit, we do both.”
Tooling up for scanning and calibrations
After initially investing in a higher-level code reader, which provided some information, but not enough, Stander said he considered various scan tool options, from OEM to aftermarket. “Factory scan tools are the silver bullet, but not everyone can afford them. In certain circumstances, an aftermarket tool is appropriate, but they can lag six to 36 months behind factory tools in OEM data.”
Ultimately, after conducting research and surveying local mechanical shops, Fix Auto Highlands Ranch settled on the Launch X-431 because it had the most coverage. “It’s been great and has saved us a few times by figuring out issues, from performing calibrations, such as on occupant calibration sensors, to diagnosing airbags and many collision-related concerns.”
When there are gaps in coverage and OE-level scanning is required, the shop uses asTech, he said. “We can schedule an appointment and within two hours they’re into the vehicle, scanning, calibrating and doing whatever is necessary.”
As a Honda-certified shop, Stander recently invested in Honda’s factory scan tool. “We repair enough Hondas to warrant to investment and I don’t have to ship the work to a dealership.”
Rather than spend time and administrative paper work bringing vehicles to dealerships for scans, the effort can be used to learn and train in-house to keep money from rolling out the door, as well as ensure quality of repair, he said. “There’s a lot to be gained.”
The same business philosophy also resulted in Fix Auto Highlands Ranch’s recent purchase of a Hunter Hawkeye Elite alignment machine for in-house alignments, and tool and equipment investments to perform glasswork.
The scanning — and compensation — learning curve
Training and education for repairing various vehicles and their electrical and electronic systems is acquired through multiple sources, such as I-CAR, AllData, local dealerships, CAD, YouTube and Google, among others.
“It’s been a big learning curve,” Stander said. “There have been several instances where we’ve scanned a car and have been fairly certain it’s been cleared, but had a dealership or CAD take a look for verification, just in case.”
In conversations with other shop owners, Stander is often asked how he is able to be compensated for all scans from insurance companies. The short answer is he’s not, though the shop gets paid for more than 90 percent of scans, which is higher than some other markets. But, he said, are those shops educating the insurer? What are they giving the insurance company for data to substantiate payment?
To some extent, Stander said the insurance industry “gets it,” but they don’t like the cost associated with scanning, such as tooling, training and information service subscriptions, that are required to resolve an issue that can’t be “seen,” but will increase severity. He added that the shop is considering whether or not to charge for the time-consuming process of accessing data.
“In our experience, if we provide enough documentation and scan reports, then they will pay. However, if an insurer or customer tells us they won’t pay for a scan, we’re going to do it anyway, because it’s the right thing to do and our policy is to scan every vehicle.”
Stander said more cars will be totaled as vehicle technology advances because costs to repair damaged systems and components will become prohibitive, which is all the more reason to conduct pre-scans.
“Would you rather determine a vehicle is totaled before repairs are begun or spend time and effort only to discover during a post-scan that there were undetected issues after the repair resulting in a total? It’s better to communicate everything wrong upfront — it’s better for the customer, insurance company and the shop. Otherwise, in the end, it’s a fight.
“Hopefully, we’re just creating a better opportunity for a vehicle to leave the shop and perform as designed and be safe for our customer. Shops and insurance companies are all learning about this together. It’s an opportunistic time for all of us.”