Toronto, Ontario — June 28, 2018 —  As the technical complexity of vehicles has blossomed in the era of driver-assist functions pre-and post-repair scanning has become a hot topic. OEMs have come out with official guidelines about the need to run diagnostic checks, though, not every manufacturer has done so, and that has might have some wondering—what is the real state of the scan debate?

A week and a half ago Kia became the latest OEM to issue official guidance on scans. Recognizing that ADAS features laden modern cars with all kinds of sensors, cameras, and computers that were not part of the industry even five years ago, Kia is another manufacturer that felt the need to release an official statement on scanning.

According to the statement Kia considers pre and post-diagnostic checks an “essential task.” Or, as the press release put it, “After a collision has occurred, it is imperative to perform both pre-repair and post-repair scan procedures within all the systems to test for potential diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs)…

The Kia notice is in line with other OEM statements that have been released over the last two years. This past winter Honda Canada also released a statement unequivocal in its demand that all Honda and Acura vehicles involved in a collision must be scanned and calibrated, regardless of age.

At the time the company noted that as the number of digital functions in a modern vehicle has exploded (the new Pacifica minivan has 200 computers) not all internal Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs) are funneled up to a warning light on the dash. The dashboard warning lights, obviously, are for functions important to the driver only. Today, the only way to discover whether all DTCs have been addressed is through a proper scan of the cars OBD-II port. As the Honda Canada position statement puts it, “The scanning procedure should not be considered an option, but rather as an essential task both during the pre-repair collision estimating phase and after the repairs are completed.”

Here in the era driver-assist a majority of the other OEMs have released similar statements, among them Subaru, Nissan, General Motors, FCA, Mercedes, and Toyota. But even companies that have not released an official position statement on scanning recommend it as a procedure. OEMs such as Audi and Ford have had representatives attend industry events where they express a need to run diagnostic scans. The MSO Symposium at NACE 2017 featured an address from the collision marketing manager of Ford who said that while Ford hadn’t released an official position statement on scanning, “it’s very clearly” a part of the company’s published repair procedures. “It absolutely should be done,” said the Ford exec.

Where these position statements differ is in the model year that needs to be scanned. Subaru, for example, suggests scanning should be done on everything dating back to 2004. Other OEMs indicate a need to scan back to the 1990s. In the case of Honda, the company said that every model back to 1996 needs to be scanned.

So it seems today that scanning is an expected part of the repair procedure, at least from the perspective of OEMs. But how many shops are actually doing scans on every repair? This is an interesting question.

Shops are able to bill for the process, and so this isn’t an added expense. That said, the investment in the equipment needed to do the scans is an expense, and that may be one of the reasons that it seems many shops (at least in the U.S.) have yet to get up to speed on this issue.

CCC Information Services carried out a survey on this question. According to the collision repair service provider, some 70 percent of vehicles on the road are from an OEM that has released an official statement requiring scans. So the vast majority of cars on the road are from a manufacturer that demands scanning as policy. Even so, according to a survey of data submitted through shop-based software, only 9 percent of shops had filled out the line item for scans when submitting job estimates to an insurance carrier.

Of course, in many shops, the scan may be performed (and charged for) without being broken out into its own line item. And so that number is likely lower than the reality. But as a statement from CCC suggests, “… the disparity does underscore how the industry is grappling with the when and why and how much for vehicle scans – something we can expect to hear more about as more vehicles are equipped with technology that requires this type of repair.”

That said, the CCC statement also notes that “… the number of scans has grown each quarter, however, and scans are being performed most on newer model year vehicles.” So it does seem the practice is becoming more common. Which it must if the industry is to keep up with the rapid pace of technological advances taking place in the modern auto industry.

It is common today to hear car industry executives say that more advances in vehicle technology have taken place in the last five years than in the eighty years previous. But as vehicle complexity continues to skyrocket, so to is the task of repairing those that have been in a collision–proper handling of diagnostics is going to be a part of the remarkable evolution in auto tech happening today.

Reflecting the new and emerging nature of the modern collision repair industry, this past April, at the spring CIC meeting, the Emerging Technologies Committee of the CIC, proposed a fascinating definition for a new role that may emerge in the collision repair shop of the very near future: Advanced Driver-Assist and Safety-Systems Tech.

According to the committee, this new position would be, “an automotive technician skilled in computer functions, advanced diagnostic equipment, and new vehicle technologies.” This “future tech” would also be knowledgeable, “… in OEM repair procedures, having mechanical aptitude and qualifications, with a primary focus on (SRS) supplemental restraint system and (ADAS) advanced driver-assistance systems.”

As the auto world evolves at breakneck speed, there is a new and more sophisticated collision repair industry coming into view—proper scanning policies are an early first step into this bright and shiny future.

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