Critical need for collision repairers to check OEM procedures every time
Las Vegas—A Collision Industry Conference (CIC) committee in Las Vegas in late October offered clear examples of the necessity for collision repairers to always review and follow OEM repair procedures.
As part of the CIC “Emerging Technologies Committee,” Jake Rodenroth, of asTech, said checking those repair procedures and understanding advanced driver assistant system (ADAS) calibration processes is critical, even for shops that sublet such calibrations.
He pointed to a seemingly simple headlight replacement for a 2006 Toyota Avalon as an example of a procedure many shops may not take the time to look up. But Rodenroth showed that a two-page procedure for a 12-year-old vehicle had been updated by Toyota in April.
“So you can see they are constantly changing these repair manuals,” he said. “Don’t try to memorize this. Don’t print this and put it in a [binder] at the shop. Go back and get really good at looking it up. You’ll find they change them and don’t send you a memo.”
The headlamp replacement for the 2019 Avalon is now a five-page procedure, Rodenroth said, including the necessary calibrations.
“The bill-payer and the customer need to understand, for example, that there’s going to be miles put on the vehicle because of the drive test,” he said. “All that needs to be discussed up front.”
He said the OEM procedure for just disconnecting and reconnecting the battery on a 2013 Chevrolet Cruze is seven pages long, and calls for “volatile memory programming,” which initializes the mirrors and sunroof. If a shop doesn’t read that procedure, they won’t see the note that indicates the vehicle’s start/stop feature also won’t function “until the vehicle is allowed to sit for at least three hours undisturbed.” If the customer isn’t told that, they’re likely to come right back after they leave the shop to say that system isn’t working at stop lights.
Some vehicles even require a full tank of gas for proper system calibrations, Rodenroth noted. His company conducted calibration measurements on one such vehicle when it had a quarter-tank of gas, and then again when the tank was filled.
“We saw a full degree difference in pitch at the radar sensor on the front of that vehicle,” he said. “So what does that equate to 10 feet or 20 feet in front on that vehicle?”
Rodenroth’s company has established its own facility in Dallas to conduct ADAS calibrations. He said seemingly simple repairs, such as the replacement of a stolen tailgate from a Ford F-150, become more complex because of the necessary calibration of the vehicle’s 360-degree camera. That process involves laying out specially designed mats from Ford around the vehicle that the camera “reads” to calibrate the system.
“Our technicians actually have to do this in their socks,” Rodenroth said. “They have to take their shoes off so they don’t put markings on the pattern, otherwise you confuse the camera.”
Ranch-Hand bumpers are a popular truck accessory in Texas, he said, and when the technician couldn’t get the 360-degree camera calibrated, he discovered that bumper accessory was right in the field of view of the camera, blocking part of the target. The Ranch-Hand bumper had to be removed in order to calibrate the system.
If a shop is subletting ADAS calibrations to a dealer or a facility such as the one his company is developing, it is important that the sublet provider knows all the operations a shop performed on the vehicle.
“Even if the labor time for an operation is included in another operation, make sure there’s a line item that we see,” Rodenroth suggested. “If you change out a core support, and there’s a radar mounted to that core support, and that was included within the core support time, make sure the line for the radar is there so when it comes into the calibration center, we can see all the operations performed so we know, in that situation, we need to do a radar calibration.”
Many of those types of calibrations are new to dealers as well, so he recommends that even shops that sublet calibrations know to look for things such as whether the vehicle returns with a full tank of gas if needed to be calibrated properly.
“There are lots of times those calibration targets are still in the wrapper at the dealership and it’s ‘Technician Joe’s’ first time doing it. You need to understand the requirements so you can audit the dealer, as scary as that sounds.”
Jack Rozint of Mitchell International, who chairs the CIC Emerging Technology Committee, said it’s also important for shops to check and follow OEM repair procedures regarding calibrations because a post-repair scan alone is insufficient to know the systems will function properly.
“You can do a post-repair scan on a vehicle and it can show all green lights, but that doesn’t mean the systems are calibrated,” Rozint said. “That’s why accessing the repair procedures, understanding how the car is equipped, and what options are installed, is so important so you know that what you’ve done during the repair may require a calibration. The car doesn’t raise its hand and say you forgot to recalibrate X, Y and Z. A clear post scan does not mean the systems are calibrated.”
Some key differences between collision and mechanical shops
Given the mechanical repair industry’s long-standing experience with vehicle scanning, is there anything the collision repair industry can learn from that side of the industry? That was a question posed by an insurance industry representative to the “Emerging Technologies Committee.” Committee members pointed to some key differences between the two sides of the industry.
“The roles within the two types of shops are completely different,” said Rodenroth, who started his career on the mechanical side of the industry. “In mechanical, the technician builds the repair plan. They are looking up the labor operations. Then the service advisor just goes and sells it. In collision, it’s the estimator most likely building the plan, or a back-office estimator. That person may not be technical. They may be more consumer- and customer-service focused. So it’s two different worlds.”
Chuck Olsen, of AirPro Diagnostics, agreed that the situations faced by the two types of shops differ.
“On the mechanical side, they are addressing a problem based on a symptom or a customer complaint,” Olson said. “So that symptom directs them. Once a vehicle has been in a collision, it’s up to the collision center to check the vehicle and find all these problems that the customer may not even be aware of before the customer finds them.”