Body Shop Car Diagnostic Scans

Who Is Doing Your Diagnostic Scans?

The person who is performing your diagnostic work is as critical as the person welding the frame rail on a vehicle.

How many times has the following scenario happened? The vehicle is completed for repairs, painted and all ready to go. Then, the “appointed” person is set to do the post-repair scan, typically in the wash bay. It should be easy – hook it up and clear all the codes. It’s ready to go. Simple, right?

The next day, the customer calls up and says a light is on in his dash cluster, or his window does not roll up and down correctly, or – heaven help us – his car keeps slamming on the brakes when he gets to 40 miles per hour on a busy freeway. This, along with thousands of other issues, would not have happened if the repair had been blueprinted properly.

Guess what? I’ve seen and dealt with all of these problems over and over. As the use of computers and sensors increases in vehicles, these issues will become everyday occurrences.

I will be polite and simply say that our industry’s lack of knowledge and understanding of what we are dealing with has caused some problems and concerns. The flip side is people basing whether or not they’re going to perform an operation or procedure recommended or required by the vehicle manufacturer on whether or not a third party is going to pay for it. This is a concern that just screams liability.

My personal opinion is that it is only a matter of time before someone claims the collision is not their fault. They will say that their vehicle either steered or braked when it should not have. How will you protect your shop from a liability claim? Did you follow all the guidelines as to servicing or repairing all components? Did you document your procedures? Was your technician trained to research and know what codes were present and what they mean? Or did you just clear the codes and let it go? I am really concerned with shops that use the detailer or anyone else who “has the time” to perform the diagnostic work on a vehicle – regardless of the fact that they have limited or no experience reading diagnostics on vehicles.

The person who is performing your diagnostic work is as critical as the person welding the frame rail on a vehicle. You must know “what it is, where it is and how it operates” to make any kind of decision on how to proceed.

After the post-repair scan, an experienced person who knows how the ADAS and other systems operate must verify that all is working. This is not just a simple drive around the block. Throughout the entire repair process, you have to have all the information on the vehicle to make an intelligent decision on how to repair it correctly. Just throwing parts at a problem and hoping to get the right one is a lesson in futility and an expensive learning process. Using common sense is a good start when it comes to properly repairing today’s vehicles. Even a simple battery disconnect can trigger a whole series of events required to be performed.

A Personal Experience

My daughter recently needed some work on her vehicle, so I recommended her to a mechanical shop. One thing she needed was a weld on her exhaust. No scan was done on her vehicle and no lights were present on her dash. The welds were performed.

One day after the work was finished, her car lit up like a Christmas tree. First it was the ABS light, then the airbag, followed by the check engine light. Once the check engine light came on, the vehicle ran extremely erratically and would surge once the brake was released. A reasonable deduction was that the welding damaged something. The problem for the shop is that they did not scan her vehicle prior to the repair to see if any of this was evident before the work was done. So now, who is fixing the problem? How many times do shops perform a pre-repair scan and ignore what it is saying? Or just don’t do the scan? This makes it easy to blame the shop as it wasn’t like that before. Pre-repair scans can be a great defense against preexisting issues in vehicles.

Another Experience

A friend, Rick, hit a deer with his personal vehicle and received a rental from his insurance company. Rick is the president of Smart Express mobile diagnostic company in Minnesota, so he is more than familiar with ADAS and electronics in vehicles. He was using the cruise control in the rental vehicle and the system failed to disengage when a vehicle in front of him slowed down. Fortunately, he was able to avoid a collision, but he started to wonder why the system failed.

He inspected the vehicle and found that it had been repaired. The radar mount was off, as were the gaps in the hood and lights. Think about this scenario: would there have been an argument for who was at fault? I know the driver has the ultimate responsibility, but remember what I’ve said before: this will be decided by 12 people who could not get out of jury duty.

Following OE Requirements

Looking at the two real-life incidents I just mentioned, how many of you can see the value of pre- and post-repair scans, not to mention diagnostics on electrical systems? But it’s not just about performing them; it’s also about reading them and documenting the issues found. This will require a person who has knowledge of electronics and electronic features in vehicles as well as tools that can properly access components in a vehicle.

Pre-Repair Scan

A pre-repair scan will show preexisting and current issues in the vehicle. This we all know. The other important fact to know is that the pre-repair scan will also tell you what features are in the vehicle. Depending on the tool used and if it’s updated, merely scanning does not tell you what’s there; for this information, you may have to access the modules. This takes training on the scan tool and knowledge of what to look for.

During the pre-repair scan, you need to know what is going to be removed or disconnected. Electronic blueprinting is key to getting procedures on an estimate for approval before work begins. This also keeps the shop on track to do electronic procedures. Finding issues in the wash bay will become a problem for any shop. This takes discipline, training and experience to keep the flow of the shop running as smooth as possible. A person must be able to see what will be disassembled and replaced. Wire connectors and harnesses should be inspected and evaluated for damage prior to the vehicle moving into the repair stage.

Position statements on parts and procedures will need to be looked up in order to do proper repairs. These will need to be passed on to the technician so they will be followed according to OE requirements. This is necessary for shops to estimate and research all aspects of repairs. If shops do not perform these steps, how many procedures will be missed? How will you protect your shop from liability if you don’t document what you did?

All this is based on just the pre-repair scan. What happens if you need to recalibrate, program or replace the MCM? What happens if you forget to recalibrate the passenger front seat? Many of us assume it’s just hooking up a scan tool and that’s it, but there is way more to it. And, in the future, it’s going to get even more involved. How you approach the subject is just as important as who approaches the subject. Ask yourself this question: How many procedures has my shop missed?

Outside Sources

Many shops are using outside sources to do their scans. I have great respect for these shops. It is so hard to keep up with all aspects of repairs that it is a good choice to have an expert keep up on electronics for you. It saves on training and the cost of equipment. It’s like having an employee you don’t have to train or pay for. However, you should check to make sure they have the proper equipment and training. Also, are they following OE specs when doing procedures? Correct targets and environment are a must. Updates on tools and software must be maintained. You are as liable for their work as
your own.

So, whether you do procedures yourself in-house or farm them out, who’s doing your scans?

Mitch Becker has been a collision industry trainer for 30 years. He can be reached at (612) 865-6229 or [email protected].

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