Should Shops Be Threatened by Diagnostics and Calibrations?

This month, we “ASK MIKE” for his thoughts on the industry’s perspective of diagnostics and calibrations – and why they are necessary procedures not to be feared or overlooked.

We at Hammer & Dolly hope you find the following exchange useful, and we encourage you to reach out to us if you have a question for Mike on this or any industry-related matter that he can answer in a future issue.

Hammer & Dolly: Diagnostics and calibrations are nothing new, but some shops still view them as these insurmountable obstacles in their businesses. How can shops think more positively about diagnostics and calibrations and embrace performing them, instead of viewing them as a threat?

Mike Anderson: The first thing you have to look at is that when you sublet out your scans or your calibrations, you’re still liable. The contract is between you and the vehicle owner. If you choose to sublet that out, the liability still falls on you. When it comes to scanning a vehicle, we talk about pre-scans and post-scans, but a scan tool is used for so many things. It can be used for placing a vehicle that’s connected to telematics – like Toyota’s Safety Connect – into service mode. A scan tool can be utilized for inspecting a seatbelt pretensioner. It can be used to initialize a headlight or a steering gear assembly…or determine if something on a vehicle is inoperable. We have to understand that a scan tool is used for a variety of functions or procedures in regard to vehicle repair.

As vehicles become more complex, it’s important to scan them and to use scan tools properly to ensure a safe and proper repair. When we’re using a scanning and diagnostic tool, it’s also part of our quality control to ensure all of the safety and comfort features are working properly. Safety would be something like a blind-spot monitor or adaptive cruise control. Comfort features would be things like Bluetooth. If a customer is accustomed to using their Bluetooth in their vehicle, and that doesn’t work when they pick the vehicle up, the customer is going to be upset. Utilitizing a scan tool – whether you’re subletting out your scans or doing them in-house – is non-negotiable; it’s just as important as making sure you follow the OEM guidelines for welding or if a special component needs to be replaced versus repaired.

The troubling thing is that you can go back to vehicles that were manufactured in the 1990s or early 2000s and find supporting documentation within the OEM repair procedures that stated scanning needed to be done. It’s not like this is something that’s just occurred; many collision repairers simply didn’t have the mindset to research OEM repair procedures to understand why a scan tool was needed. Also, a lot of the procedures that need to be done in order to do a proper diagnostic scan aren’t just about hooking up a scan tool. It really upsets me when people dumb it down and say, ‘I just have my wash rack person do it.’ That’s not right.

You need to understand the importance of allowing the vehicle to get to operating temperature. You have to hook up battery support – and that’s not a jump box or a battery charger. You need constant battery support or what some people refer to as a ‘battery maintainer.’ It’s also about understanding that before you do a post-scan, you need to test drive the vehicle to achieve the set conditions so that certain vehicle features
activate. This is all more complex than some people make it out to be.

H&D: From your experience, are you seeing more shops sublet or more shops taking the steps to incorporate this within their own four walls?

MA: There is data on that in the “Who Pays for What?” surveys through Collision Advice []. Some shops use a remote provider, like AirPro Diagnostics or asTech, and other shops have purchased their own scan tools – whether it’s aftermarket or OEM. Another percentage of shops just sublet it out. If you’re using AirPro or asTech, that’s still kind of subletting, but I separate those two and consider subletting to be a mobile provider or a dealership. The caveat to shops purchasing their own scan tool is that they’re purchasing aftermarket tools in most cases. Anybody who knows me knows that I’m a huge proponent of OEM scan tools. I’ve seen aftermarket scan tools fail more times than I care to remember. The challenge right now is that because of the chip shortage, it’s difficult to actually buy scan tools directly from the OEMs.

H&D: It’s not a stretch to suggest that there are more shops not doing proper calibrations than we care to admit.

MA: I agree 1,000 percent.

H&D: What do you think is driving that? What is it going to take for more shops to understand how important this is?

MA: People use insurance companies as an excuse. They say, ‘Well, the insurance company won’t pay for it.’ That’s just wrong on multiple levels. Honestly, I think some of it is due to a lack of education; I’ll give some shops the benefit of the doubt. Also, some people aren’t doing it based on the nature of the vehicle or the type of accident it was in. They’ll think, ‘That’s an older vehicle; it doesn’t have the technology that requires me to do it.’ They may say, ‘The accident wasn’t that bad; I don’t need to do that.’

I can’t believe the industry is still having this discussion. Get over it; it needs to be done. Nobody would question whether they needed a cat scan or an MRI. Imagine you went to the hospital because your leg was hurting you because you fell down. You wouldn’t be asked, ‘Well, did you fall down mildly? Was it a moderate fall? Was it severe?’ You wouldn’t be told, ‘Well, if it was a moderate or severe fall, we’ll pay that for your leg. Did you only fall one step? If so, we won’t x-ray your leg.’ That’s just ludicrous.  


Want more? Check out the September 2022 issue of Hammer & Dolly!