Texas Shops Learn How to Make Money with ADAS Calibrations 

by Chasidy Rae Sisk

What’s more exciting than an educational opportunity to learn more about profiting from ADAS calibrations? Winning an IA800 LDW30T ADAS Package from Autel!

ABAT recently held the first in a series of three webinars as the association helps members “Finish Strong in 2023.”  

“Making Money with ADAS Calibrations” featured Autel’s Richard Zenteno along with Gary Machiros of Angie’s Service Center (Newbury, MA) who shared some tips on setting up a separate ADAS calibrations repair center. 

Zenteno began by providing some collision facts: Over one million car accidents occur in the US every year, more than 90 people die in car accidents every day, and three million people in the US are injured in car accidents each year. “It takes an average of 4.6 seconds to send a text; that’s the equivalent of driving a whole football stadium blind,” he pointed out, noting that “94 percent of accidents are caused by distracted driving and poor judgment. And ADAS is here to decrease that number of accidents by 30 to 40 percent.”

Although ADAS strives to decrease the number of accidents, the complexity of repairs is increasing, according to Zenteno, who spent a bit of time offering insights and clarification into some common ADAS myths and misconceptions. First, he asked what’s calibrated – the ADAS technology or the sensor – and explained, “The answer is the sensor. When you calibrate the sensor, all the software that uses the sensor as an input is calibrated at the same time.” 

Another myth is that there’s no need to calibrate if the camera or radar sensor is unplugged. Calibrations are also necessary even when there are no warning lights on the dash. If a DTC is present, it’s clear that a calibration is needed “because these systems and sensors are not smart enough to know that you’ve removed it from each bracket,” he said. 

When it comes to ADAS, shops are dealing with different types of calibrations: static and dynamic. “The biggest issue here is the environment when you’re dealing with dynamic,” Zenteno said. “It’s not that the system is not working. It’s that it’s just too slow to react and so when we are calibrating, what we’re doing is we’re giving this sensor a reference point. That reference point is going to be used by the software to actually make the calculations. The pitch, the yaw and the roll are basically the variables that this camera and, in the case of radar, pitch and yaw that we have.”

Looking at what happens when shops fail to calibrate, Zenteno turned to a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), where they tested multiple vehicles equipped with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking as they drove toward another vehicle at 25 miles per hour. A slight rotation of the camera reduced the average collision warning from 3.38 seconds to 2.78 seconds, and it reduced the automatic emergency braking time from 1.47 seconds to 0.89 seconds. 

Pre-collision systems are the number one ADAS that shops are likely to see on vehicles in coming years. Earlier this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed adopting new standards that would require new vehicles to be equipped with automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning systems. Projections indicate that by 2030, 75 percent of all vehicles will have ADAS…and the ADAS calibrations industry is anticipated to grow from $27.2 billion to $75 billion in the same timeframe, so “there’s a lot of profit, a lot of money to be made,” Zenteno stressed the potential, indicating that a center could earn around $378,000 in a year by performing just five calibrations daily for 252 days out of the year. 

Yet, more than half of shops are not working on vehicles with ADAS, according to an industry survey that Zenteno cited. “There’s a lack of training, so we definitely have to talk to our personnel and train them on how to identify the ADAS sensors on these vehicles because it’s very important.”

Machiros assumed control of the presentation to provide some information on how shops can make money through ADAS calibrations, stressing that the most important components are investing in the correct equipment and proper invoicing. When it comes to purchasing ADAS equipment, he advised shops to steer away from equipment that they never own and are required to pay royalties on every time they use it. 

Who currently does calibrations, what the cost is and if the shop wants to do ADAS calibrations and alignments are some of the things shops should consider before deciding to bring calibrations inhouse. They also need to determine where they will perform the ADAS calibrations. Tooling is another important factor, and in addition to determining what type of scan tool to use, Machiros stressed that shops need access to service information and recommended shops utilize adasThink to “generate a report that shows you the vehicle information, a summary of what’s required for the vehicle and a list of the ADAS features that could be equipped on that car.

“What’s great is they’ll tell you what’s required,” he added. “It will say on the report that this radar is required to be calibrated by the OEM, and then the OEM procedure is right here through a link from OEM1Stop. It links the actual repair order to the adasThink report and calls out by line why it has to be done and also references a way to look up the OEM procedure. When you do ADAS inhouse, everything is in your control.” 

When asked how he comes up with his pricing index, Machiros explained that he bills by the procedure, not by labor hour. And if a vehicle needs three separate calibrations, “that’s three different charges. I’d charge for a front radar calibration, a front camera calibration and a blind spot calibration if all three are needed.” 

Machiros recommended that any shop interested in getting into ADAS calibrations begin by starting another company to maximize their profit. He stressed the importance of consulting an accountant and an attorney to properly establish that separate business entity.

From there, calibration centers can choose to perform calibrations only for their own shops, or they may elect to expand and service other local shops. 

In terms of a checklist of items a shop should consider before bringing calibrations inhouse, Machiros suggested shops should determine if they have enough space and proper lighting, in addition to setting up the right business entity, determining how to invoice correctly and investing in tools that offer good training and support. 

Of course, it’s also necessary to hire someone to perform the calibration, but a calibration technician “doesn’t have to have automotive experience,” according to Machiros, who suggests shops want to hire someone in their late 20s who is “pretty good with computers and can read, comprehend and execute.”

Shops should also consider the software and what it’s going to do. “How is it going to interface with your system, and will you be able to calibrate pretty much everything on that market that comes through your door?” Machiros asked, sharing his belief that “Autel’s software is awesome.”

In addition to walking away with tons of valuable (literally!) information, webinar attendees had a chance to win an IA800 LDW30T ADAS Package from Autel. On November 1, ABAT Executive Jill Tuggle and Zenteno did a drawing via Facebook Live from Autel’s booth at SEMA 2023. Out of nearly 80 entries, the winner was new ABAT member McCarley’s Hail & Collision LLC (Pampa), allowing Tuggle to quip, “Their membership is already paying off!” 

ABAT’s final webinar of 2023 is scheduled for December 13 and features Rachel James (Torque Financial Group) and her presentation on “Financial Planning for the Whole Shop: Technician to Owner.” Register at abat.us/2023/09/webinars.

Want more? Check out the December 2023 issue of Texas Automotive!