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Perform Calibrations While Preserving Your Bottom Line

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Aug. 17, 2020—Technological innovation is simultaneously the worst and best thing to happen to the automotive industry. Advanced driver assistance systems like cruise control and automatic braking are convenient, and in some cases, lifesaving measures. But ensuring these systems work properly is no small task.

Few repair shops have the resources to perform the calibrations necessary to keep today’s autonomous vehicles up to snuff. Services like remote calibrations are becoming more affordable and more accessible as third-party companies like asTech and AirPro Diagnostics have filled an industry niche. 

ADAPT talked with these companies to learn how to stay up to date on calibration trends and bring your customers the highest precision technology. 

 

Assess the Calibration Type

When talking about calibration types, the most common distinction is drawn between static and dynamic calibrations.

Static calibration refers to the use of stationary targets surrounding an idle vehicle, whereas dynamic calibration occurs while the vehicle is in motion and being monitored by one or two vehicle operators.

Chuck Olsen of AirPro Diagnostics says his technicians begin with an initial “baseline” calibration.

“We inspect the liftgate, window positions, seat weight, steering angle, and the tire pressure monitoring systems before the ADAS calibration starts,” he says.

The baseline calibration is done first and foremost because on the off chance that any of the specifications are askew, it could throw off the rest of the calibration procedures and result in a potentially dangerous vehicle. 

 

In-house Hurdles

While the procedures for calibrations vary exponentially from OE to OE, there are spatial standards that are essential across the board. In order to perform accurate ADAS calibrations, your shop needs to have a designated space with ample room to set up targets. The vehicle’s sensors calibrate themselves based on the distance, angle, and positioning of the targets.

Jake Rodenroth, director of OEM and industry technical relations for asTech, says few shops have enough square footage lying around to perform accurate calibrations. Even expert technicians at asTech have stumbled into unforeseen roadblocks. 

Roderoth says his team found out the hard way that the flooring in the calibration station needs to be a neutral color. 

“We had a finish on the floors, to protect them, and later learned that it was a reflective finish,” he says. The vehicle and its targets were positioned properly, but the degree of shine coming off the shop floor confused the sensors and as a result, they were not able to get a precise calibration. 

Each automaker also has its own list of repair procedures that can only be accessed via subscription. The repair manual subscriptions are available in a variety of options from Honda’s $10 a day subscription to Tesla’s $3,000 year-long subscription. 

Tools for calibration procedures also vary from automaker to automaker, with some tools costing as much as $10,000 says Rodenroth. As if those numbers aren’t staggering enough, each year the repair manuals, tools, and other equipment parts are improved and therefore need to be replaced, usually at an increased price. 

 

Subletting Calibrations

Thankfully, there is another option for repair shops that want to provide calibration services but lack the resources. This is where third-party calibration specialists do their work.

Rodenroth says asTech offers remote scanning and remote calibrations for all vehicle models except Tesla. The initial scan, which identifies the diagnostic trouble codes, costs $119.95 with each additional scan costing $50. At asTech, each calibration procedure has an itemized pricing attached to it, which he says helps to leave a paper trail for insurers. 

AirPro Diagnostics charges, on average, $89 for the initial scan, but Olsen says the price can climb up to $129 for high-end luxury vehicles. Similar to asTech, AirPro has additional prices for any scans, modifications, or calibrations they conduct after the first fee. 

Both companies supply their clients with the appropriate technology to get the repair completed. In some cases, a training course is required for the technicians to learn the software program, ORION, which is widely used by remote automotive services. Whether the procedures are carried out on a tablet or a PC, they provide all necessary add-ons to the technicians and even handle software updates. 

 

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Paying $100 per vehicle scan may seem like quite the investment, but it is cheaper than performing it all independently. If your shop chooses to do in-house calibrations, the expenses can seem endless. 

Calibrations are a relatively new hurdle in the automotive industry, but Olsen says there is no time to waste. Shops who do not have a way to perform calibrations could quickly fall behind as each newly released model becomes more technologically complex.

“If you can’t bring it in house, partner with a good company who can,” he advises.

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