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Scanning and Recalibration: Have a Plan

What’s the best way to handle scanning, purchasing a scan tool or subletting your scanning or recalibration? Unfortunately, there is not one plan or program that fits all.


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]

In a perfect world, we would plan for everything, right? Because having a plan makes sense. But sometimes life throws you a curveball. You didn’t exactly see that tornado coming, so you couldn’t have planned for it.

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Well, there is a tornado coming to your collision repair facility. Actually, it’s here already. It has been here for some time. And it may already be wreaking havoc at your shop. It’s called scanning and recalibration.

What’s the best way to handle scanning, purchasing a scan tool or subletting your scanning or recalibration? Unfortunately, there is not one plan or program that fits all.

Knowing the Difference

A pre-scan tells us what was damaged or what codes were set prior to or during a collision. A post-scan tells us the same as a pre-scan if it was not cleared. The post-scan will also tell us what was set as codes during the repair of the vehicle. Shops working with all the new electronics will set codes on tasks as simple as disconnecting the battery. 


Recalibrations determine if cameras or sensors are aimed and performing as required. A scan can tell you a sensor works, whereas a recalibration can indicate that the bracket the sensor is mounted to is bent. 


Why is there so much focus on scanning and recalibration? Because more and more vehicles are featuring advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) that offer collision avoidance options.

One-Stop Shop

If you want to do it all, you will need to buy the vehicle manufacturers’ systems individually. That is a considerable expense, and these systems would need to be updated every year. Even the scan tool services that offer to scan remotely using manufacturer software are limited when it comes to scans and recalibrations. Verifying all aspects required for a scan or recalibration may require someone who knows how to perform the procedure or is present to make sure all parameters are correct.


What You Need

Not properly repairing and verifying that systems are operational can lead to a disaster for the vehicle driver or owner. 

You first need to find information on what needs to be done during scanning or recalibrating. If your estimating software doesn’t have any information and you don’t have ALLDATA, the I-CAR RTS site is a good resource.

Just because there isn’t a light on the dash doesn’t mean all codes have been cleared. Do you know what these lights mean? Do you know their recalibration or scanning requirements?


Keep in mind that recalibrations require a little more of a learning curve, as these may require a static test that can be done in-shop using targets and external points. They may also require a dynamic test, which involves one to two people taking a vehicle for a drive. 

Once you know you need to be able to scan and/or recalibrate, what do you do? Before you buy a scan tool, ask yourself:

n What percentage of my business do newer vehicles comprise? What percentage are brand-new or within 12 months of their release date?

n Is there a predominance of one manufacturer or another? For example, do GM vehicles comprise 40 percent of my shop’s work?

  • Is my shop located near dealerships?
  • Is there a mobile service in my area?
  • Do I have a person who can do these procedures?
  • Do I repair windshields?
  • Do I perform plastic repair?
  • Do I perform suspension and alignments?
  • How much space do I have?
  • How do I staff for this?

Scan Tool Capabilities


If you decide to purchase a scan tool, let’s look at some capabilities. 

The first capability is the person running the tool. Who will it be? You’ll be doing a lot of scans, so ask yourself if you can you afford to have a technician spending all his time doing scans. Technicians are hard to find as is, and to re-task one to scans may be financially taxing to any shop. Training must also be considered here. No tool is completely user-friendly, and some of us are just not computer-savvy.

What if you R&I or repair a bumper cover? Does the tool have the ability to recalibrate? It’s one thing to see codes and clear them, but communicating with the computers to start other processes is completely different. What if you replace the roof and have to recalibrate the camera from the windshield R&I? Does your scan tool or company you’re using have that capability? This is an aiming of sensors, not just checking to see if they work. Do you have the level floor or the lighting needed to use the target? These same recalibrations may be required when doing suspension and alignments that change or affect the vehicle’s ride height, as the sensors are critical to angles functioning correctly.


And now the factor most do not even know to consider: As recalibrations will become more prevalent, how much space do you need? For the recalibration of cameras, you may need up to 27 feet of linear space in a well-lit area void of sunlight and human traffic. The area will need to be somewhat flat and not have objects on the walls that would confuse the sensors. How much space can you afford to give to this? Who gets to do this time-consuming task?

Needs vs. Wants

You want to have it all and be simple. The fact is you can have it all, but simple may not be the term I would use. Getting an aftermarket scan tool and having a plan for vehicles not covered by that tool may be a great idea. If you use an outside service, you’ll need to plan for situations that call for recalibrations.


No matter which way you choose to go, communicate beforehand what is needed. Look up all procedures before the repair starts and schedule with resources needed. This will not always be simple and will add a lot to your employees’ list of stuff to do. Staffing for these processes may be an issue too no matter what.

Developing a plan is the best thing to do now and get in practice. Waiting will add a lot of stress to the workplace. If you have a high volume of a particular vehicle line, maybe a combination of in-house scanning and using an outside service will be better for your shop. What you want might change, but it will adjust as you actually learn and see what you need. Just know what you need. In time, better tools will become available as that is the American way. As those tools become available, your wants may change or be the same but more attainable.


This is just a simple look at what we need to do and what you need to plan for. It would be nice if all of this was simple for everyone. That won’t be possible for a while, but people need to recognize what they need to do and be sure it’s done. B

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