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New Vehicle Electronics: Scanning, Recalibration and ADAS

When it comes to repairing or replacing ADAS components, it’s not just what you know but when you know.

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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]

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You’ve been hearing about new electronics and how they’re changing the automotive repair world – not just body shops but mechanical service shops, too. It’s amazing what cars can today: drive themselves, park themselves, stop when needed. The list is boggling to the mind.

Do you know what all these new advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) do? Do you know how they work? If you don’t, how are you going to repair them? I’ve seen some shops repair the vehicle and, if there is no light present on the dash, let the vehicle go. I know many drivers who have come to rely on these devices, even though the instructions say not to. Many have become accustomed to these new safety enhancements. Letting a vehicle go just because there is no light on the dash could be a scary situation for everyone.

Not Just Knowing

It is not just good enough knowing how the systems and sensors function. We need to know how to repair or replace these systems and also when to recalibrate them. Replacing a sensor or component does not mean you’ve completed the repair, nor does a post-repair scan complete the repair process when a recalibration is required. Another issue is identifying what is needed to be done.

Now I bring you the dilemma facing the industry: How do you do all this and still maintain excellent cycle time? That involves communication between everyone in the shop, along with training.

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Let’s take a look at what you need to know. Here’s a quiz to identify what you need to know about ADAS. I’m only going to cover a few things so as not to turn this article into a novel:

  • What is ADAS? What does it actually mean in the driver/vehicle relationship?
  • What is FCW?
  • What is AEB?
  • What is blind spot detection?
  • What is lane departure?

ADAS

Most road accidents occurred due to human error. ADAS was developed to automate, adapt and enhance vehicle systems for safety and better driving. The automated system provided by ADAS has been proven to reduce road fatalities by minimizing human error. Safety features are designed to help drivers avoid collisions and accidents by offering technologies that alert them to potential problems or implementing safeguards and taking over control of the vehicle. Adaptive features may automate lighting, provide adaptive cruise control, incorporate satellite navigation/traffic warnings, connect to smartphones, alert drivers to other cars or dangers, lane departure systems, automatic lane centering or show what’s in blind spots.

FCW

Forward-collision warning systems are active safety features that warn drivers of imminent frontal collisions. Designed to alert drivers via passive systems of sight, audible or vibrations, they may actually take control or assist the driver to avoid or minimize the impact of a crash. They’re known by many different names, depending on the vehicle manufacturer.

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AEB

This is a part of FCW. If a car equipped with automatic emergency braking (AEB) senses a potential collision and you don’t react in time, it starts braking for you. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety data shows that rear-end collisions have been cut by 50 percent on vehicles with AEB and FCW.

Blind Spot Detection

Blind-spot warning (BSW) is a technology that detects and warns of vehicles you can’t see alongside your car. It gives a visual, audible and/or tactile alert to indicate that it’s unsafe to merge or change lanes. The system may provide an additional warning if you use your turn signal when there is a car in the lane next to you.

Lane Departure

Lane-departure warning alerts you that your car is about to veer out of the lane and warns you to get back into the lane. That’s the basic idea, but there are several versions of the technology available now, including ones that react and steer away from the lane edge and even proactively keep the car centered.

How They Work

These technologies use cameras, radar or laser (or some combination of these) to scan the vehicle’s surroundings. When an obstacle or event is detected, the computer provides an appropriate response to the situation. This sounds simple, but it is a complex process of the sensors and the computer working together. As long as the sensors are working correctly or the input is correct and valid, then the response will be too. If not, then the phrase “Garbage in equals garbage out” from my friendly IT guy comes to mind.

To get proper inputs, sensors and computers must be replaced or repaired according to manufacturer guidelines. So if we repair or replace components, how do we know the repair is correct or complete?

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Scan Tools

A scan tool is a great tool if it’s programmed to read all the electronics of the vehicle being serviced. However, there is currently no scan tool that can read all vehicles. All have a degree of error due to vehicle manufacturers using different systems and security measures.

A scan tool may be able to tell you whether or not all the components are correctly talking to each. When they’re not, fault codes are set.

A pre-repair scan can tell you what systems have been damaged due to disruption in communication between computers and sensors. Fault codes or a lack of them identify whether this is collision damage related to the current crash or a pre-existing problem. The scan does not tell me if a sensor is giving correct data, though.

A post-repair scan after replacement does the same as the pre-repair scan with one difference: we know the replaced or repaired parts are communicating that weren’t before. But the scan still does not tell me if the data is correct.

Recalibration is used to verify that sensors are “seeing” correctly and giving correct input. This only happens if they’re set to manufacturer specs as to the angle and placement on the vehicle. A scan can tell me if it’s communicating but cannot alert me that the bracket the sensor is mounted to is bent. A recalibration may help identify that the alignment is correct or is designed to set alignment. Some blind-spot recalibrations require targets to align the doppler radar system, or a target board for cameras. A recalibration may also be just a test drive to verify that a camera can “see” its surroundings correctly.

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Identify Repair Needs of ADAS

First, take what has been discussed so far and quiz your staff. What do they know? Do they know systems? Do they know sensors? Do they know the difference between a scan and a recalibration? If the answer is yes, then it’s a good start. If not, then some training could prove invaluable for the staff. Having everyone understand these technologies and be on the same page as to the processes required to repair these vehicles is vital to successful repairs.

Quiz employees on what the shop is capable of and what it is not. What is the plan if the shop does not have the capability to scan and recalibrate? Note: Just because a tech has a scan tool does not mean you can do or complete repairs. Verify what the scan tool is capable of prior to starting repairs. It is not just about clearing codes anymore.

Once you’ve established the shop’s capabilities, what’s your plan for repairing these systems? If you do not establish a plan and communicate what is to be done, you’ll end up spinning your wheels, costing time and money, not to mention stress and morale.

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When a technician completes repairs and notifies the shop that a recalibration is needed, you already have a problem that will cost you. The recalibration should have been found out about before repairs even began. A simple plan to help keep vehicle repairs flowing has some basic principles:

  • All processes required for completing repairs must be established during estimating, pre-op or disassembly, whichever your shop uses. Find this out any later in the repair process is too late.
  • Repairs and electronic requirements for verifying repairs must
    be done.
  • Knowing who is going to complete the repair and how must be communicated and coordinated to complete the repair in a timely fashion. This includes in-house vs. sublet.

Following these simple steps will help keep everyone on track. All these procedures and needs must be identified ASAP to prepare and/or schedule any outside services with vendors. This will also provide you time to get approvals from insurers or consumers on added procedures. This is important as there could be significant cost.

Which Vehicle Has Which System?

Using resources such as Mitchell, CCC One, ALLDATA and vehicle manufacturer websites will help you learn how to identify and use proper procedures for repair and replacement of ADAS components. Do not just go by statements. Look through the repair procedure to identify what needs to be done. Then, look into inspections required for specific procedures such as bumper R&I, windshield replacement or paint requirements for sensors.

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Establish which types of repairs might require added procedures for electronics. Establish what your shop is capable of or needs to be capable of. Either purchase equipment (which can be very expensive), hire a subletter to do the procedure in your shop or send the vehicle to a dealer. Whatever you choose, make sure to communicate and train everyone on the procedure.

Summary

I’ve found that a lot of estimators or adjusters are all over the board when it comes to finishing repairs on electronics or ADAS components. I cannot stress the importance of training and learning these systems. I-CAR has many great courses to explain and identify all aspects of these repairs. The classes are very informational and really show how our industry is changing. The classes truly are priceless to a shop and to customers trusting us to do the repairs correctly.

Although this is only a brief look into a complex process that I could devote pages and hours to, I hope this encourages you to seek more information and knowledge.

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