Autotechnician recently spent the day with Hella at its HQ in Chipping Warden alongside other workshop owners and technicians keen to learn more about ADAS calibration…
Before performing a full calibration on an Audi TT, we spent a couple of hours in one of its classrooms with trainer Iain Molloy, who explained exactly what ADAS is, how repair work can affect these systems and the implications to workshops if calibration is not undertaken and they fail.
The upshot is, an increasing number of vehicles are now fitted with these safety systems as standard. They were once helpful gadgets on top-end cars and have quickly filtered down to the most popular cars on the road. Hella explained that even the simplest of maintenance and repair tasks can affect the radar and camera systems in place that control them – if you do not calibrate them after working on a vehicle fitted with ADAS, you cannot be sure they have not moved slightly… Worst case scenario: You’ve knocked the radar out of calibration, which is responsible for Adaptive Cruise Control and the emergency brake, the distance data it receives is now incorrect, causing a crash. The last workshop to work on that vehicle will be investigated and if the faulty system is shown to be the cause of the the incident and you didn’t perform an ADAS calibration after repair – you’re potentially liable.
Duty of care
Many of the vehicle’s safety systems run off the camera and radar technology. If you replace a bumper or windscreen, perform geometry adjustments or remove panels to undertake repairs, you may have affected the camera or radar and the slightest shift in position in relation to the geometric axle causes the system to fail, or more worryingly, deliver incorrect results.
Mercedes, BMW and Volkswagen have been building cars with camera technology for over three years and it also now features in other brands such as Mazda, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Renault, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Subaru, Jaguar/Land Rover and Lexus. Insurance companies will be looking to specialists to affect a quick, cost effective and safe repair backed up with documented evidence of a successful calibration and if independent workshops and bodyshops can’t deliver this service, the work will no doubt go to main dealers.
You may be lucky and have a warning come up on the dash or a fault code logged after you’ve completed the work, saying a system has been deactivated but sadly, there’s no way of communicating with the systems to check if the sensor calibration has been affected. Your work may have put them out of alignment but not pushed over the limit to flag up. The only way to be sure all is well, is to calibrate.
The equipment involved
Hella Gutmann Solutions has developed a CSC tool (Camera & Sensor Calibration), specifically for workshops, bodyshops and glass specialists, which covers 29 vehicle manufacturers. The CSC tool, in conjunction with the mega macs range of diagnostic devices, communicates with the vehicle’s system camera or radar – usually fitted on the vehicle’s windscreen and incorporated into the rear-view mirror or radar sensor near the front grill – to ensure the correct calibration of the vehicle’s axis. This calibration is critical to ensure that safety systems such as the adaptive cruise control, lane departure, autonomous emergency braking and ‘intelligent lighting’ technology are correctly aligned.
As a growing number of cars now have a rear-view camera fitted as standard and recalibration after a service or repair must be accurate. Hella Gutmann Solutions has recently introduced three new extension kits to provide the complete calibration solution of the rear view and all-round vision cameras, in addition to its existing forward-facing solution. The new additions, designated Rear Cam Kit I Basic, Rear Cam Kit I Addition and Rear Cam Kit II Side, must be properly aligned to the rear axle, using the CSC tool and a Hella Gutmann Solutions diagnostic device. Moreover, the Rear Cam Kit I Basic is a multi-brand solution, as it calibrates several models, including Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Seat, Skoda and VW, with further models to be added on future software updates.
Charging for calibration
Calibration has, up until now, been passed to main dealers but independents are now catching on, says Hella. Research shows the charge for calibration varies greatly, with an Audi dealership charging £1,200 for a camera calibration, a VW dealer £700 and an independent charging £150 for half an hour’s work.
What if customers don’t want to pay the extra for this check?
If you advise your customer calibration needs to be done to be certain the safety systems are functioning correctly and they refuse, what then? Perhaps get them to sign a disclaimer? Hella is unsure this would stand up in court. The safest course of action is to explain why the customer needs to have this done and make the decision whether you are happy to do undertake the work and be liable if anything goes wrong.
If you calibrate a vehicle and the alignment is altered by a workshop afterwards, or the customer kerbs it and throws it out – you have proof that it was fully functioning when it left your workshop. It’s increasingly going to be a case of cover yourself!
There have been test cases where vehicles have been involved in accidents because of faulty ADAS systems. They have not gone to court yet, but it is only a matter of time…
Knowledge is power!
The investment into calibration equipment is significant but ADAS systems are here to stay and will only become more numerous as the industry shifts towards autonomous vehicles. Preparing for this work will give you a competitive advantage over independents and dealers alike in your area. Hella says that a small independent in Tilbury purchased the equipment last July and had paid for it by the New Year, performing five calibrations a week, saying it’s the best bit of kit they’ve ever bought.
So, research who is offering calibration in your area and consider how you would market this service and decide for yourself if it’s worth the investment.
If you’d like to know more, you can email Hella on email@example.com, or call 01295 662 402.