Calibrate Correctly or Don’t Even Bother!

by Kevin Gallerani, AASP/MA President

Recently, I had an interesting interaction with a customer, who we’ll call Ms. H. She drives a 2022 Hyundai SUV, which she brought into the shop after – surprise! – she was in an accident. Her vehicle is fairly new, so it’s equipped with all the bells and whistles that newer vehicles seem to have, including a front crash avoidance system. Yet, she managed to rear-end another vehicle. 

Ms. H admits that she’s had a few close calls in the year she’s been driving the SUV, but relying on the car’s ADAS has proven effective…until now. Surprisingly, this situation has not made her question the effectiveness of the system. In fact, when she brought the car in, she told us that she had her windshield replaced one week before the collision; she indicated that her camera and possibly her radar were recalibrated, and she suggested that perhaps the big glass company that performed the reinstall did something incorrectly.

As of the moment, I cannot confirm that’s true (and I may never be able to verify whether that company calibrated the systems correctly or not since the vehicle was involved in a crash), but I’m well aware of quite a few companies that perform windshield repairs and replacements offering calibrations in a parking lot. They make it seem like they’re doing the right thing because they’re performing the calibration, but they aren’t following procedures. I think it’s just a money grab.

Back in 2019, we built a clean room for calibrations. The floor was laser-measured and re-poured. We painted the walls a special matte gray and installed special LED lights with controls. We removed the windows. We invested in the targets and equipment to perform calibrations correctly. We built our clean room the right way, and we’ve been calibrating vehicles the right way for several years now. But insurance companies want to push back and refuse to pay for calibrations to be done properly in a clean room. 

Instead, they want to direct us to a mobile calibration company that will perform the “same job” in a parking lot for half the price. You cannot perform a static calibration outside where you’re unable to control the environment! It’s just not possible. There are even dealerships that have purchased the targets but have not constructed a clean room where they can perform calibrations correctly. Trying to calibrate a system next to lifts and other equipment does not meet the standards that OEMs have set; these systems are not being calibrated accurately, and they may not perform as intended. And when a customer like Ms. H is counting on her system to prevent her from crashing into a guardrail – or the family of four in the next lane – lives are at stake! And so is your livelihood.

Let me make something very clear: If you’re incorrectly performing a calibration, you are doing a disservice to everyone, especially the customer. But you’re also performing a disservice to yourself and to other shops! Because we are liable when something goes wrong, even if the calibration is being sublet out. The body shop has the contract with the customer, and if they smash into someone or something because that system doesn’t perform as it was designed because the calibration is off by a fraction of a centimeter, we’re still the ones on the hook. The liability falls on us. But it’s about more than just money and protecting our own behinds; it’s also about morality and doing the right thing. If you’re unwilling to calibrate the vehicle correctly (or sublet to a company that does the right thing), there’s no point in calibrating it at all. And I’m not saying, “Don’t calibrate the vehicle.” I’m telling you to pass the job onto a shop that IS willing to do what’s right. The government isn’t going to do anything to mandate this unless so many people die that they have no choice. And I don’t know about you, but I can’t live with that. So, it’s up to us to do the right thing for our customers and for all drivers in Massachusetts. It is your independent business decision…but the decision seems clear.

Want more? Check out the June 2024 issue of New England Automotive Report!