Mobile service provider sees opportunity in ADAS complexities
Peoria, Ill.—A recent example illustrated what Eric Ziegler, owner of EZ Diagnostic Solutions, calls “The Wild West” of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), in which simple repairs now sometimes create new difficulties. His technician, Bryan Henry, was having trouble recalibrating the forward camera on a 2018 Acura SUV.
“We’ve done the static Honda target, we’ve done the dynamic adjustment, my tech has been on this car 45 minutes, and it still has not completed the calibration,” Ziegler said. A Honda position statement pointed to the likely culprit: the aftermarket windshield that had been installed at the time of the repair.
“Installing anything other than an original equipment replacement windshield may cause these systems to work abnormally. Specifically, the camera will not be able to aim properly,” the June 2018 position statement reads.
Although the insurer was not happy paying for an OEM windshield at more than double the cost, its installation fixed the problem with only a few more minutes needed for a passing calibration.
“There is something different in the lamination of them. Subaru is the same way,” Ziegler said. It’s also not enough to simply leave the forward camera plugged into the wiring and reattach it to the bracket on the windshield or roof; a calibration is still required.
“The light never came on because it never saw an open circuit on the camera, but the camera is not positioned back in the exact spot it was when it was calibrated at the factory.”
It’s all in a day’s work for Ziegler, who left his job as a line technician more than 12 years ago to focus on his specialty of diagnostics, reprogramming modules, and replacing wiring terminals and connectors throughout central Illinois. Collision repair work has grown from only 16 percent of his business four years ago to more than two-thirds last year.
Ziegler’s company uses only OEM service information, OEM scan tools, and OEM targets. Shops that have turned to aftermarket scan tools for pre- and post-repair scans won’t get full functionality from them, he said.
“They’re kind of in the game, but it’s not OE. Ignorance is bliss, and the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. They have the scan report and everything, but they missed something crucial: ‘We had the bumper removed, and yet we didn’t do the calibration. There was no light, there was no code that told me I needed to do this.’”
Ideally, Ziegler said, a mobile service provider such as himself would perform pre- and post-repair scans using an OEM scan tool, generate a report of all codes found, and based on the codes found and inspection of the type of collision repair damage the vehicle suffered, recommend what parts should be inspected or replaced prior to ADAS calibration.
“We put that into a nice packaged form so the collision center can be armed with the correct information it needs so it’s not making 15 different supplements for those ‘gotcha’ surprises.”
What each vehicle needs will vary from one make, or one make and model, to the other, he said, noting that, as an example, the 2017 Mazda CX5 he worked on the other day required its blind spot monitor to be recalibrated simply because the bumper cover was removed. That is a detail found in the OEM service information, not something that will necessarily trigger a diagnostic trouble code.
Targets used for ADAS calibration range from simple paper targets with a pattern printed at the shop, using online OEM repair information. Ziegler performed his first Honda LaneWatch (outside rearview camera) calibration using the spotted target and a stepladder, but found it to be imprecise.
“I measured it, and even though it passed, it was still off. You could move it around enough to still get it to pass. I went home that night and invested thousands of dollars in factory targets.”
In just targets, tripods, string lines, lasers, and odds and ends such as metric tape measures, Ziegler figures his investment is about $15,000, with $4,000 of that alone for Nissan’s adaptive cruise control calibration equipment.
Most calibrations take 90 minutes to two hours, although for some, such as Ford’s Side Object Detection (SOD, pronounced “sod,”) there’s no test target or driving required, only a programmable module installation (PMI).
“Each one is a little bit different,” he said, “but almost all require finding the centerline of the vehicle and then making your ‘box’ off of there, triangulate both sides, and set the target up.”
But for technicians unaccustomed to the daily requirements, Ziegler notes it can be impractical and expensive — in the tens of thousands of dollars — to have what’s needed for ADAS calibration.
“And you’re going to have to get someone who’s detail-oriented. Sometimes, a body guy who can rock out 70, 80, 90 hours a week doing things such as re-skinning doors and putting bumper covers on, may think, ‘This is taking too long. What if I move the target just a little?’ And bing! — it passed. I’m not slighting them, but a mobile service provider is your boots on the ground who sees this stuff regularly.”