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By Bob Holland, President of ETI Board of Directors, Chief Automotive Technologies

Just in the last 4 months numerous OEMs have come forward stating the importance – dare I say requirement – for a Pre and Post OBDII scan for collision damaged vehicles.  This opens the door for repair facilities to perform this service and get paid by the insurance company for the time they spend performing the diagnostics on the vehicles.

Only a small number of Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs) will cause a light on the instrument panel to illuminate resulting in many vehicles with trouble codes to be returned to their owners without all the collision related electronic problems corrected.   With the increased use of electronic driver safety systems such as lane departure warning systems, blind spot detection, and forward looking cameras for crash avoidance, and automatic cruise control not only is a pre and post scan needed to make sure they are operational and communicating properly, but also recalibration and/or aiming and reinitializing these systems are critical to an effective and safe repair.

This leaves collision repair shops wondering how to tackle the issue.  Some shops have outsourced this service to either a mobile repair technician or one of the local dealerships in the area.  This worked when a post repair scan was done on vehicles with a trouble light.  However, it will not be a practical solution moving forward if every vehicle must receive a pre and post scan.

The options available to a shop today are as follows:

  1. The OEM Software and Hardware Solution. This is a viable option if the repair facility specializes in just a few brands of vehicles, investing in OEM software and hardware to perform the scans and keeping current on software license agreements, however most collision repair shops are not dealer affiliated and work on many brands of vehicles.  Additionally, utilizing OEM software can be complicated and require training because each OEM tool is different from one another and can be confusing to a non-specialist.  The big advantage is OEM Software and Hardware is the only solution that is up to date with all the vehicles an independent collision shop will see, assuming they have an up to date license and the proper hardware for that OEM.
  1. The Aftermarket Scan Tool Solution. This is a popular solution and is prevalent in the aftermarket mechanical shops.   The platforms are usually very user friendly and follow a similar path for all vehicles that are covered by the tool.  The disadvantage is these tools  are designed for aftermarket mechanical repair shops that usually see work only after the normal 2 or 3-year vehicle warranty period is complete.  OEM tools utilized by new car dealers make most mechanical repairs to cars during the warranty period.    Therefore, the data in these aftermarket tools will rarely be current enough to scan a brand new car that is involved in a collision and delivered to an independent collision repair shop.  Today the collision industry is made up of about 70% independent shops and less than 30% of car dealerships even have an onsite body shop.
  1. Remote, Web Enabled Pay-Per-Use Devices. One provider has come forward to supply a gateway for a remote technician to utilize a factory tool on a vehicle from anywhere.  The most popular device of this type is marketed by ASTech.  It connects to a remote factory scan tool through the internet.

This potentially solves several problems for the shop.

  1. They can have access to multiple factory tools for a low cost and only pay when they use them.
  2. It provides an invoice for the sublet work that can be tacked onto the bill for the insurance company that is clearly defined.
  3. It includes a qualified remote technician to run the scan tool and interpret the data and make recommendations.

It causes several concerns as well.

  1. The disadvantage is the technician is remote and might miss an obvious problem or misdiagnose an issue because he/she can’t physically inspect the vehicle.
  2. Insurance companies might disagree with the cost of this service and not cover 100% of the expense it creates for the shop.
  3. Scanning is one thing, but actual reprogramming and recalibration would be very difficult to do over a remote line and could cause additional problems that would need to be corrected due to poor connection speed.
  4. Do these companies actually have the right to use their software license to utilize OEM tools remotely for multiple sites? Once the OEMs realize this is happening they might create more restrictive licenses which could make this method no longer financially viable.

For now, OBDII Scanning is the big topic discussed at all the collision industry events and there have been numerous panels of OEM’s, Insurers, and Repair Facilities all trying to find the best path forward.   It has replaced the repair of aluminum and exotic materials as the “Hot Topic” in collision.   It will be interesting to see how our industry evolves to support this growing need.