Beam Me Up!

by Keith Jones —

There is more to pre and post-repair scans than just a scan.

The latest lightning rod in the collision repair industry is not that new, but it is gaining attention and momentum — and rightfully so. It is the need to scan an accident-damaged vehicle — no matter how minor the damage — both before and after the repair. Frankly, I am surprised it has taken this long for this issue to percolate to the surface.

My first experience in diagnostic electronics was in the late 1980s. I remember sitting in the passenger seat of a 1988 Chevrolet IROC-Z28 with a Kent-Moore diagnostic tool (about the size of a four-slice toaster) sitting on my lap; someone else was driving, and I was hoping to “catch” a code that was not being stored. Beam me up to the 21st Century. Almost 30 years later, we have vehicles, systems, and diagnostic capabilities that are so advanced they require a new skill set, a different approach, new tools, and ongoing training.

Up for Discussion

At Canadian Collision Industry Forum (CCIF) 2016 in Toronto, the presentation by Mike Anderson from Collision Advice was one of the highlights. In his engaging style, Anderson addressed several topics, including the need to do pre-repair and post-repair vehicle scans. One of the panel discussions — Fast & Furious 2: Insurer Perspective — touched on the need for vehicle scans in-line with OEM (original equipment manufacturer) recommended repairs procedures. The insurer representatives indicated a willingness to look at the issue but first needed to know the “what” and the “why.”

During 2016, several vehicle manufacturers issued position statements on pre- and post-repair scans. Others have said that their official position is a work in progress. The following is an excerpt from the General Motors position statement:

General Motors takes the position that all vehicles being assessed for collision damage repairs must be tested for Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs) during the repair estimation in order to identify the required repairs. Additionally, the vehicle must be retested after all repairs are complete in order to verify that the faults have been repaired and new faults have not been introduced during the course of repairs.

Even minor body damage or glass replacement may result in damage to one or more safety-related systems on the vehicle. Any action that results in loss of battery-supplied voltage and disconnection of electrical circuits requires that the vehicle is subsequently tested to ensure proper electrical function. 

Many safety and security-related components, sensors and Electronic Control Units (ECUs) require calibration and/or learns when replaced. 

We have vehicles, systems, and diagnostic capabilities that are so advanced they require a new skill set, a different approach, new tools, and ongoing training.

At CCIF 2017 in Toronto, Mike Anderson was back talking about pre- and post-repair scans. This time, there was a dedicated panel discussion, with insurance, OEM, shop, and technology provider participation. It is unfortunate that some collision repair shops declined to participate for fear of retribution, and there was only one diagnostic technology representative. I am not going to rehash the presentations and comments from the panel, but, at the end of it all, except for some positive statements from a couple of the insurance company representatives, not much had changed.

After spending 40 years in the automotive industry, and almost 24 years at an insurance company, I have a deep understanding of physical damage management and the continually evolving relationship with the collision repair industry. I am disappointed that this issue has not been dealt with; however, I also understand that large companies move very slowly. I can only assume there are internal struggles going on between the risk management/legal departments and the people who are responsible for financial controls (claims, underwriting, etc.). I do think that the insurance companies believe that the pre- and post-repair scans are required, but they are struggling with the policies and cost implications. When to pay? What to pay? Is the damage pre-existing or claim-related?

“I do not think it is reasonable for an independent repair shop to have to purchase multiple OEM scan tools and pay for multiple subscriptions at a cost of thousands of dollars for each OEM brand.”

However, once you spend time examining the entire issue, it becomes much more complex. The pre-repair scan and post-repair scan are only two steps in the scanning process; the third is performing the repair-related calibrations. As many collision industry leaders have realized, these steps are now a necessary part of the repair plan.

I highly recommend a recent article by Chuck Olsen, director of diagnostic and technical support for AirPro Diagnostics, titled “Strategy Based Diagnostics in Collision Repairs.” The article translates to the collision repair process the General Motors best practice for diagnosing and resolving problems with automotive electronics systems. It clearly explains the proven processes used by the mechanical repair industry for years. Collision repairers can learn a lot from our mechanical repair brothers and sisters. They have developed best practices such as strategy-based diagnostics. The mechanical repair industry also understands that there is a need for constant training to keep current on new vehicle models and a need for the appropriate tools to complete these repairs.

Appropriate Tools

There was a lot said at CCIF 2017 in Toronto about the need for OEM repair information and the use of OEM scan tools. Access to OEM repair information is a must, and, for the most part, it is available to all collision repairers thanks to CASIS, the Canadian Automotive Service Information Standard agreement.

I question why this position is being pushed so hard upon the collision repair industry.

OEM scan tools are another story. We heard repeatedly at CCIF that OEM scan tools are the only tools that can do the job. Sorry, but this is where I disagree. I have nothing against OEM scan tools, but I do not think it is reasonable for an independent repair shop to have to purchase multiple OEM scan tools and pay for multiple subscriptions at a cost of thousands of dollars for each OEM brand. That is just not reasonable or practical for the majority of collision repair shops. I also question why this position is being pushed so hard upon the collision repair industry. Independent mechanical repair shops have been using non-OEM scan equipment for decades, and with great success. There are several non-OEM scan tool providers in the industry that are well established in the mechanical repair industry. There are new entrants directed squarely at the collision repair industry such as AirPro Diagnostics, which has introduced an OEM-compliant scan tool supported by Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certified technicians. It can provide pre- and post-repair scan analysis, diagnostic functions, system calibrations, and module programming covering more than 98 percent of vehicles for the years 1996–2017.

Advancements in telematics, driver assistance, and selfdriving vehicles are happening now, and the rate at which they show up at your shop door will only increase. Are you ready?

The Equipment and Tool Institute (ETI) also recently weighed in on this issue and released a statement on pre and post-repair scanning, which fully agrees with “the process of the pre- and post-systems scan position many in the industry are taking.” The statement also went on to say: “The need for affordable access to the tools that are essential to perform safe, complete, and accurate repairs is extremely important. It is unlikely most shops will be able to justify the purchase cost of multiple OEM scan tools for this procedure since independent body shops work on a great variety of OEMs’ vehicles… and know that many of the higher quality aftermarket tools provide the needed and necessary functions to complete a pre- and post-scan properly for a majority of the vehicles they currently service.”

As we look towards the future, the processes to complete pre- and post-repair scans, as well as diagnoses and resolutions, must become integral to the overall collision repair plan. I am glad to see many shops have already adopted these steps. Insurers need to develop their own policies and position statements in the best interest of their customers, who are also our customers. Automotive systems are only going to get more complex. I often think of Moore’s Law, which predicted the exponential growth in semiconductor capacity. This exponential growth is expanding across many industries and is especially relevant to the automotive sector. Advancements in telematics, driver assistance, and self-driving vehicles are happening now, and the rate at which they show up at your shop door will only increase. Are you ready?

Stay tuned for an article on recalibration by Rick Setter of Crash Space Appraisals Ltd.

Keith Jones is managing appraiser at Crash Space Appraisals Ltd., crashspace.ca.

 

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This article originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Collision Quarterly.

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