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Vehicle Electronics: Time to Get Serious

Do you have processes and procedures for dealing with ADAS yet? It’s time for all of us to get serious about doing it right.

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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]

I recently read Honda’s May 2019 statement on scanning and recalibration, which provides some clarity on the equipment required to do scans or recalibrations. It says that scans and recalibrations must be done using i-HDS software with a Denso DST-1 vehicle communication interface. Honda does not test or certify any other scan tools or diagnostic services for capability or accuracy.

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This is an incredibly important statement to us all. With advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) proliferating in not just Honda vehicles but all other automakers’ vehicles, we need to take much more seriously the dangers of not following vehicle manufacturers’ requirements. The liability to all of us in the repair industry is escalating. As the sensors and computers become more complex and intertwined, we need to be certain that all facets of the ADAS are working correctly. As more shops become OE certified, proper equipment and training must be considered. Automakers are also emphasizing that the light on the dash is not a key indicator of problems in systems.

Following the Guidelines

Using Honda’s statement, if you’re a ProFirst shop and are using a company or service that is not using this software, are you following the guidelines set forth by Honda? This is an interesting issue. Many shops and sublet companies are out there using tools not validated by Honda. What can you do? Buy the proper equipment? That could be very expensive, to say the least. There are companies who do use Honda i-HDS software through the internet with a different interface. The issue is that the only interface tool validated by Honda is the Denso DST-1.

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What are your other options? There are companies such as Smart Express in Minnesota that have made significant efforts to purchase or subscribe to OE manufacturers’ software such as Honda’s i-HDS and use a Denso DST interface to provide mobile services to shops using the correct tools and software. This involves multiple computers to meet the software requirements for a variety of manufacturers’ systems. This adds a great deal of cost for any company. Many vehicle manufacturers use different software and a vast array of OE targeting boards that must be used during recalibrations, which are also needed to do the job correctly.

So, what is your shop’s liability if you don’t follow the OE’s guidelines or recommendations? If you’re an OE-certified shop, are you using the correct software on customers’ vehicles? Are your technicians following the proper procedures? All vehicle manufacturers have statements defining equipment and proper procedures for their vehicles. The critical factor to all of this is that if it’s improperly done, it can and will put people in danger. It’s time for all of us to get serious about doing it right.

Scanning vs. Recalibration

Honda’s statement is setting the tone for how important it is to not only have the correct software but also a properly trained technician to use the tools correctly. The recommended tools are only as good as the hands using them. Just because you have a scan tool does not mean you have the ability to do the job correctly. I’ve seen where scan tools not using OE software have missed communicating with vehicle control modules, either because they weren’t updated or weren’t capable of reading them all. A scan tool can’t tell you if something is wrong on what it can’t see.

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Recalibration or aiming requirements are a whole different consideration. When using a scan tool in recalibration mode, there are two results possible: success or failure. Where there is a failed recalibration, it’s obvious there is a problem. The final result desired is a successful recalibration on the screen. The issue at hand is the OE requirements on vehicle and target placement. The OE assumes that the technician did the procedure correctly. If the targets or sensors are off, you’ll have a vehicle successfully recalibrated to the wrong parameters. The recalibration is only as good as the technician doing the job. There will be no light or DTCs to tell you the procedure was wrong. What I’ve seen and heard in the past year on this issue gives me chills down my spine.

Many do not realize how much danger they’re exposing the customer to – and how much liability they’re exposing themselves to. Many ADAS vehicles have active controls that may steer the vehicle or apply brakes when danger is detected. All of this relies on proper alignment of the sensors. Faulty alignment could cause a crash when the emergency automatic braking or EAB kicks in from faulty sensor alignment – or worse, fails to apply. Not having the correct tool or training as well as a tool that can provide correct documentation must be a consideration on all repairs moving forward.

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What Can Go Wrong?

You don’t need to look very far to find situations where procedures not followed correctly created problems. This is true of pre-repair scans and post-repair scans as well as recalibrations. Many shops think that the post-repair scan takes care of the recalibration issues. With this thought, vehicles are released with sensors all over the place and vehicles reacting to faulty input.

In one case I witnessed, a post-repair scan was completed on a vehicle after repairs. There were codes or DTCs noted in the post-repair scan signaling that there were issues. Instead of checking the problems, the scan tech just cleared the codes and released the vehicle. The thought was that if something comes back up, they would fix it later. In this case, a faulty ABS module was ignored and the vehicle did return for more repairs. In this scenario, not only did the shop lose the confidence of their customer, the braking system was shown to be compromised when the vehicle was released. Think about the cause-and-effect of brakes not working correctly – all because a shop thought clearing the codes was all that needed to be done.

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A recent news article on a windshield replacement in Canada emphasizes the concern about windshield recalibrations required after windshield replacement or any removal of the camera from its mount on the glass or roof of a vehicle. Whether wires are disconnected or not, the camera angle must be recalibrated and verified that it is correctly operational through new glass or from remounting the camera. There are at least a thousand instances in the auto glass repair industry where a recalibration was not possible after windshield replacement. Many times, aftermarket glass mounting brackets were to blame. In the Canada incident, the owner complained that the vehicle was steering into traffic on its own after the windshield was replaced. Incidents such as these have created concern with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In testing, they’ve shown how much a one-degree variance in the camera can make a huge difference in a motor vehicle’s stopping ability.

Procedures and Requirements

The other day, I saw a video on YouTube. I know, it’s a lousy place to watch stuff. But the video showed a guy who was doing a recalibration in a parking lot and demonstrating how he’s the best at doing recalibrations in his metro market. Who knows if the parking lot was level? Who knows if the wind or lighting was affecting his recalibration or aiming? The point is that vehicle manufacturers have procedures and requirements in place to do these processes correctly. This includes the environment the vehicle is being recalibrated in. These environmental conditions are set in place to duplicate the settings used by the vehicle manufacturer and are designed to be repeatable. It doesn’t matter if you think the procedures are archaic or ridiculous – you must follow them. Creating or performing procedures different than the ones recommended can put people in serious harm. This is the new liability that many shops do not see coming. Not doing pre-repair scans or any service because they’re only recommended and not required has me wondering when the shoe will drop.

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Awhile back, there was an attempt by lesser-trained individuals to find a way to put a picture of the target on the screen of their phone. By placing the picture on the phone in front of the vehicle cameras, they were trying to fool the cameras into thinking the targets were in the right spots. What the technicians didn’t know was that you could get a successful recalibration entirely wrong. This is only one of many things I’ve experienced that makes me cringe. The point: The tool is only as good as the technician using it. The vehicle can’t tell you it’s wrong; only the reconstructionist at the trial will tell you that. Then 12 people who could not get out of jury duty will decide your fate. You may feel that this is an overreaction. I wish it was.

Ignorance

I can pull up and find thousands of these issues. I know many repairers reading this have had problems, too. The liability is increasing due to shops not knowing what to do or where to go.

One of the most disturbing issues is dealerships not being well-informed or trained on these issues. I’ve personally experienced many dealerships ignoring their own statements and requirements by saying that recalibrations are not needed if there are no problems driving or no lights on the dash.

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An insurance company is asking a shop to recalibrate a vehicle and a dealer is saying it’s not necessary. Who do you believe? I’m sorry, but ignorance on this issue is rampant in our industry.

Basing a decision on price can be devastating to a policyholder/customer. Everybody wants to call and compare pricing for scans and recalibrations. A lot of times, you call a dealer for a recalibration and a quote for a scan is given. Many of the mobile companies that have purchased the OE equipment have spent a great deal of money in equipment and training to service a variety of vehicles. Offering a service to the shop using factory-validated tools and saving the transportation to and time at the dealer can result in an incredible savings of time and money.

Trying to control pricing is obviously a necessity, but I want to make sure everyone understands that there is no one tool that does it all. A Honda dealer only needs their tool, but their tool can’t do a Toyota. An aftermarket tool may be able to do a variety of cars. What about new cars? Many times, updates take months or years to catch up – if they can. Now, we factor in the validated tools argument I mentioned earlier in the article. Do you trust your shop’s future to who is doing your services? Factory equipment obviously costs more but provides the validated tool for liability protection and just to do the job right. I am not saying aftermarket tools are not good. They have strengths that OE tools do not have. Used within their capabilities, they are invaluable to the industry. I am stating no tool does it all. A shop needs to plan and know what the tool is capable of doing.

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What Needs to Be Done

Pre-repair scan. Getting the proper codes from all control modules is a critical step to see what is damaged or not functioning correctly on the vehicle. Some DTCs will put a light on the dash to warn of system issues; not all but some, depending on the vehicle manufacturer. That’s where scanning procedures are needed to find these DTCs or other problems. We need to know if the issues are collision-related or pre-existing. Factory-recommended tools or scan tools may be required to read all control modules, as aftermarket tools may have a problem seeing all modules and safety systems in the vehicle. Pre-repair scans will tell you what is wrong before repairs are started. Keep in mind that many repairs and procedures will put DTCs in vehicles. The comparison of pre- and post-repair scans can tell us what issues may have been caused or what still needs to be repaired. A post-repair scan only will not tell us if the problem was pre-existing prior to repairs and disassembly. A proper pre-repair scan will also identify what safety systems are in the vehicles. Looking up the VIN does not always tell us what safety systems are in the vehicle or active.

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Post-repair scan. This is used to document that all systems are functional and repaired correctly. Just clearing codes is a dangerous situation for the vehicle owner and the shop. A post-repair scan allows documentation of proper repairs to electronics and safety systems. If any codes are still active, a shop can investigate why.

Recalibrations. There is no indicator such as a DTC or dash light that will come on and tell you if the system is not calibrated or the sensors are not aimed correctly. There are many homemade targets and people using procedures that may look good but are not approved. Simply put, there is no indicator the recalibration is incorrect or that you did it wrong. You may have a successful recalibration to a blind spot sensor that is aimed completely wrong. The recalibration is successful to the wrong angle. The recalibration assumes you set targets correctly and the sensors and brackets are also correct in their mounting. Recalibrations take training and the purchase of correct targets. This aiming of the sensors is a critical step for the system to operate.

Summary

I could go on and on. The point is that we need to get serious and understand that doing recalibrations is not to be taken lightly. People bet their lives on us doing our jobs correctly.

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