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Technical

Technical: Looking Clearly Through the Glass Part III

The 2014 Subaru is on time for delivery. The tech does a great job on the windshield, but then asks, ”When is the recalibration going to be done?” Now, your stomach turns.

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Mitch Becker has been a collision industry trainer for 30 years and an I-CAR instructor for more than 25 years. Contact him at (763) 585-6411 or [email protected]

TECH_1The 2014 Subaru sitting in your shop is on time for delivery. Your morning shop meeting indicates all that’s left is to install the windshield – which is scheduled for the morning – and then off to detail. The customer is happy they’ll get there vehicle back, and you’re happy your cycle time is doing well. The car looks good and all is well. Or is it? The technician arrives to install the windshield and does a beautiful job. Then, he asks, “When is the recalibration being done?” As a shop manager, owner or estimator, your stomach just turned.

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Like many new models on today’s highways, the Subaru may be equipped with Eyesight. The Eyesight feature is the ADAS or Advanced Driver Assist System, also known as the crash avoidance package.

The ADAS is being offered as an option on some vehicle models, but it’s quickly becoming standard equipment on many others. It’s designed to assist drivers in helping prevent or lessen the severity of a crash. By using cameras, lasers and infrared beams being used through the windshield – combined with radar and sensors around the vehicle – the ADAS may either warn or physically assist the driver through steering, brakes or throttle.

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Like many auto manufacturers, Subaru requires a recalibration procedure to make sure the system can see through the glass correctly. The windshield is a lens for the system and, due to some differences in glass or installation, could be out of focus. The ADAS may or may not set a code if the recalibration is not completed. Just like airbags, just because there’s no light on the dash doesn’t mean it’s working correctly. Failure to recalibrate an ADAS could lead to some serious drivability issues.

If your people aren’t checking P-pages or vehicle manufacturer procedures for required procedures when the estimate is written, cycle time and customer satisfaction – not to mention work progress – can be seriously impacted. No matter how you look at it, no one likes surprises like this.

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Now, the scenario plays out like this:

1. You need to call a dealer or service that can recalibrate the ADAS.
2. You need to take the vehicle to a dealer. If there’s a mobile service by you, great. But can they get
there today?
3. If the dealer or service cannot complete the job today, the customer needs to be notified of a delay. The delay could be one to two days depending on the dealer or service.
4. The amount of time and manpower to take care of this problem is frustrating and expensive.

If you read parts one and two of this article series, you know what these systems are and desire to be better informed. If you’re reading this for the first time, I suggest you do some homework…soon! The number of vehicles where this recalibration will need to be done is extensive and growing. This could be a requirement for some vehicles even if you R&I a bumper cover or install a side rearview mirror. The windshield replacement is not the only auto body repair requiring a recalibration. The more you know, the more your shop can prepare. And preparation can limit your loss to cycle time and expense.

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Read owner’s manuals and vehicle manufacturer procedures to know what you’re dealing with. Many owner’s manuals state in bold that if windshields are replaced, the system must be taken to a dealer. Subaru’s owner’s manual states that if the windshield needs to be replaced, you must contact the dealer first. This could lead to many dealerships referring to their shops of choice instead of customers choosing the shops of their choice. I wonder how the steering laws apply to that part of this puzzle? Knowing what these statements are and why they’re made will help you explain to owners why these procedures need to be done. You’ll also help in informing them that your shop can complete the repairs as required. You’ll also help insurance adjustors learn why there’s expense in time and labor to do these procedures. Make sure all your people receive training on the ADAS to ensure all damage to sensors and the system is complete and recalibrate procedures are conducted.

What Can a Business Do?

TECH_2This is a perplexing question. As I mentioned in parts one and two of this series on windshield replacement, each vehicle manufacturer requires a different electronics package for the recalibration. In many vehicles, this is not as simple as turning on a control module or clearing a code. For many European cars, such as BMW and Audi, this is a complex system of a scanner, wheel sensors and a target board to aim lasers and sensors with the cameras. The time and expense – not to mention the cost of equipment – is more than you would expect. In Europe, where the ADAS is mandatory, the cost to recalibrate can be in the hundreds of dollars, where a Mercedes is a much faster and simpler procedure and may cost $200. To be blunt, some of these procedures could be more expensive than replacing the windshield.

Buying a scan tool for each and every manufacturer may not be cost effective as each vehicle manufacturer’s requirement for scan tools may cost several thousand dollars. And that’s without the training to use it.

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Where do they offer those classes? Driving to a dealer will cost you cycle time and labor. What if the dealer is 100 miles away? Mobile services such as Dick and Rick’s in Minneapolis are a great idea. The problem is that there are very few mobile service companies with the right tools.

The cost of equipment and training is daunting. A body shop needs to prepare for this now and plan what’s best. There are some scan tool equipment manufacturers that can handle multiple vehicle manufacturer ADAS systems. There is no one company currently providing a scan tool that does it all. These recalibrations are mostly advanced scanning capability systems beyond the capabilities of many shop scanners being used.

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You may have read in my previous articles on this subject that Honda dealers may not scan if original Honda glass isn’t used. This forces the purchase of a Honda dealer windshield for many cars equipped with ADAS. The windshield replacement expense to the insured just went up dramatically.

Rental cars may be needed for just a windshield replacement due to the time needed to recalibrate and transport the vehicle to the dealer if needed. Some feel this is a drive to push more auto glass sales to dealers. Although this may be true, can you imagine not recalibrating the system or the system being improperly calibrated? The liability is huge. With vehicle manufacturers being sued for ignitions and airbags, I can see why they might be a little more cautious with electronics directly linked to steering and brakes, not to mention throttle systems. This liability issue may be the reason Honda requires dealer glass. In some cases, the camera mounting hardware is only available on dealer windshields. The mounting hardware being placed in the wrong location would have a serious effect on camera or laser positioning.

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Mobile Glass

What about mobile glass? That presents a huge dilemma.

Just like a body shop, a shop doing a mobile glass replacement must be sure the system is working properly before returning the vehicle to the customer. Will the auto glass technicians have scan tools and target boards with them? This is truly a game changer for the auto glass industry. The days of replacing a windshield in a Subaru with an Eyesight package in a driveway just ended – as did the days of doing this with many other vehicles with the ADAS package. Until a mobile system is found or a series of systems are found, there could be trouble for many auto glass companies. The answer could be drive-in centers, but again, time and money come into play. What about people in rural areas? I don’t have an answer yet and am studying what they did in Europe to solve this problem. When someone has an idea that works, we’ll see some changes.

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Let me also add that the areas of the windshield where cameras or lasers are located are not to have rock chip repairs done as they’ll interfere with systems. Owner’s manuals state that chips or cracks require replacement for systems to function properly. How will this affect chip repair companies? The same goes for companies that claim to be able to fix cracks in windshields.

In the back of my mind, I ask myself, “Who’s going to pay?” Does insurance cover recalibrations under glass claims? This could end up going to collision claims instead of auto glass claims due to the necessary scan tool requirements. This could also trigger deductibles in states where there’s full glass coverage. Proving to insurers or third-party administrators that the recalibration is needed or required is critical to repair centers’ ability to get paid. Sending information from the owner’s manual and the instructions from ALLDATA are a critical step to getting paid. Keep in mind that if you’re hearing this for the first time, so are they.

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Game Changer

All of this changes the game for the auto body repair industry, too. Who’s going to do your recalibrations? How much are you going to charge? What if the auto glass industry sets up drive-in locations for replacements? Do you take your car to a competitor to have it calibrated? What if they’re competing on price with the dealers? You could lose that part of the collision repair, or even a claim to the glass company because they’re doing it cheaper.

Picture this: You have a collision claim that includes a windshield. Instead of your shop replacing the glass, they’re sending the job to an auto glass company that can install and calibrate the glass. Your loss of revenue for not having a plan of action might be small if it’s one or two replacements, but what if this becomes the norm? How much do you stand to lose?

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Here’s a plan to prepare your shop:

1. Educate you employees. Know what must be done before the vehicle enters the repair stream. This is true of any sublet procedure.
2. Prepare for the procedure. Plan and know when that vehicle will be gone to have the procedure completed. Make sure to discuss in morning meetings to alleviate surprises.
3. Contact you dealers. Establish time and cost so as to better prepare and be accurate on estimates.
4. Have the facts. Look up manufacturer procedures and send them with the estimate. This helps you and educates them. It also lets them know your shop can complete all repairs necessary including scan tool procedures.
5. Research equipment. Is it feasible for you to purchase? If not, have a plan of where and how to send a vehicle to a location that’s doing recalibration.
6. Make sure your sublet providers know what to do – even dealers as some may not have received training yet.

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We’ll Get Through It

As the title of this series says, I hope through these articles you’re seeing clearly how windshield replacements in the auto repair industry have changed dramatically. The time and costs associated have made for more training and awareness. Like the restraint systems, it took time for everyone to start calibrating passenger front seats and clearing codes. We as an industry will get through this change too.


More information:

Looking Clearly Through the Glass Part I

Looking Clearly Through the Glass Part II

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