As industry grapples with protocols for scans, asTech offers remote OEM diagnostics
Plano, Texas—The collision repair industry is abuzz about the need for pre- and post-repair scans following the recent release of position statements from five OEMs, either recommending or requiring that they be done, and using only their scan tools.
Their reason is simple: as vehicles include more complex electronics, there are more sensors and components that can be affected by a collision or during the repair process (such as from disconnecting wires and driving it around the shop).
But besides taking the vehicle to the local dealership to scan it before and after the repair, there’s another option that gives access to OEM scan tool diagnostics and an expert technician. Collision Diagnostic Services’ (CDS) asTech device is a communication interface that allows its technicians to remotely use OEM scan tools to “see what can’t be seen,” provide a complete scan report, and diagnose trouble codes without needing to move the vehicle from the shop.
“What we are is a conduit — a connection — to factory scan tools,” said Doug Kelly, CEO of CDS. “What you get with us is more of a service than a product. The asTech connects to the car similarly to a scan tool and, using the internet, which acts like a really long extension cord, connects to our OEM factory scan tool located in either our Plano or Jacksonville offices. Our revenue model is you pay for each scan, because it’s done by a professional technician who basically does what a tech can do locally; they’re just doing it remotely.”
The service provides much more than just clearing a code, Kelly pointed out, which may give the false appearance that it fixed the problem, when it may reappear down the road.
“We’re doing the actual troubleshooting, the mechanical work that would be done by a proper technician at either a dealership, mobile tech, or an independent shop,” he said.
Position statements ‘shine light’ on need for scans
There was already information pointing to the need to perform scans to uncover hidden diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs), but it was buried deep in OEM repair manuals and was often unclear, Kelly said.
“I think these position statements shined a light on the subject and forced people to deal with what should have been dealt with for perhaps some time now,” he said. “And that’s caused a lot of stress, as you can imagine. People are upset about ‘Why now?’ ‘Why didn't we know about this before?’
“So we’re trying to help tone down the rhetoric and have people focus on the issue at hand, which is how do you make the determination of how and when to scan, and what are the consequences if you don’t?”
Kelly said his company’s long-term strategy is not to capitalize on fear and ignorance and promote only its asTech product, but instead to educate the industry by attending collision repair association meetings, conference presentations, and through articles published on its website, www.astech.com. Those articles cover not only topics such as the latest OEM position statements, but also technical topics including “Malfunction Indicator Lamp myths” and ensuring that a vehicle’s anti-pinch power window feature works properly.
Dan Young joined CDS in July as vice president of sales and marketing. Kelly said Young’s established relationships with insurance companies from his tenures at CARSTAR (13 years) and Allstate (20 years) will help in discussing with them the importance of diagnostics.
“We’re helping educate folks about what our technology is, what service we provide, and why the broader issue of diagnostics is important for them to understand and support,” Kelly said.
Kelly said whether or not insurance companies pay for diagnostic scans, consumers should be informed of their need and given a choice. CDS offers a customizable pre- and post-repair authorization form that shops can take to their attorney to use for their business.
Documentation, education essential for shops to get paid
Beginning repairs before a pre-repair diagnostic scan, Kelly said, is akin to a “surgeon deciding he’s going to remove your appendix before he actually does any blood work.” Shops are improving at repair planning and writing a more complete sheet, but they’ve been slower to integrate scanning into their workflow processes, he said. With proper documentation, shops are able to mark up the asTech service and charge from between .3 and .5 hours each of mechanical time for the pre- and post-repair scans for actions such as cycling the key, turning the steering wheel, or other operations needed to allow the vehicle to respond and interact with CDS’ scan tool.
“If you do the work up front, and you have the documentation to warrant why you’re doing things, we’ve seen very little insurance pushback,” he said. “In most cases, one of two things happens: Either the shop hasn’t properly built a business case as to why they should be reimbursed, or they’re in a market that’s yet to understand the issue.
“We had a major carrier talking about a shop in New Mexico — ‘Your shop is only one out of 50 that’s doing this work.’ And by the end of our three-hour discussion with them, it was, ‘I'm not worried about the one out of 50, I'm worried about the 49 out of 50 who are not doing this work.’”