Choosing an ADAS System to Meet Your Shop’s Needs 

March 1, 2024
Before making investments, consider what your business is doing the most. 

At its most basic level, an investment in an ADAS calibration system comes with all the advantages of any new service or technology. It’s a new service you’re able to offer and helps keep your business up to date with the rapidly changing state of the industry. But unlike say, a new paint booth, offering ADAS calibration is quickly becoming less of an optional upgrade and more of a requirement. 

To embark on an ADAS journey is to be presented with myriad options and choices. What OEMs will be serviced? Is it better to purchase targets and then use a remote calibration service? Should a shop even purchase its own equipment? 

For Cody Rinaudo, who at the time of our interview was estimator at Frank’s Accurate Body Shop in Slidell, Louisiana, answering these questions wasn’t simple, per se, but he did have a guiding light. (His father, Frank, sold to Joe Hudson’s Collision Centers January 5.)

“Our facility is first, a customer-centric, and second, an OEM-centric facility,” Rinaudo says. “So, pretty much all of our decisions revolve around how those two are affected, because ultimately, those are really the only things that matter at the end of the day.” 

Identify your priorities 

Just like any business decision, it’s important to consider what your shop is really about and what it values. For Rinaudo, that means doing right by the customer. And moreover, it means doing right by the customer in giving them a repair that their car’s manufacturer would sign off on. 

“For us, that made it pretty clear there's really only one direction for ADAS equipment, and that will be what the manufacturer states,” Rinaudo says. “So if they sell their own equipment, then we buy that equipment. If they specify a certain aftermarket system that they approve, then that's what we would use if it made sense.” 

Rinaudo says Frank’s got into calibrations early, six or seven years ago. The shop was doing a lot of work on Hondas and Toyotas, which were requiring more calibrations in terms of front radar detection and blind spot monitors. The shop would often send that work to a dealer, but wanting to ensure that the calibrations were being done to the letter of what the manufacturer recommended, they began to look at what it would take to bring calibrations in-house. 

“We've always had the mantra of pulling things in house,” says Renaudo. “We do our own glasswork, wheels and tires, alignments, and calibrations. So we don't sublet pretty much anything. Our guys cross-train on pretty much every process that's needed. We invest into the training for them.” 

Make a blank space 

When thinking about investing in ADAS work, the focus is often on equipment. But doing calibrations also comes with significant requirements for space. And it’s not only the square footage, the room has to meet many other parameters as well to perform a proper calibration. Tim Paap, owner of Paap Auto Body in Mattoon, Illinois, was already pretty familiar with the growing importance of ADAS calibrations, but the room requirements still came as a surprise. 

“The room was the biggest shock to me,” Paap says. “When I started learning about ADAS, I found you cannot have any windows, any sunlight coming in, you have to have lights in there, you have to have lighting that does not cast shadows. And you have to have about a 1,500- to 2,000-square-foot room with nothing in it.” 

Paap is about to embark on building a new 15,000-square-foot space primarily to house EV vehicles, but calibrations will run out of there as well. The space will be built with drywall and not metal walls, another requirement for doing ADAS work. Rinaudo, too, noted that space is a major consideration in making this investment. 

“I think for an Accord, they need like 45 to 47 feet of space, of length, which is substantial,” Rinaudo says. “So the actual square footage needed is the most difficult to accommodate. ... A lot of people probably overlook how much space that can actually be.” 

Do, and keep doing, your research 

Paap’s own ADAS education began while using asTech for scans. After diving into the repair procedures himself, Paap observed that the current state of scanning technology might be missing things that the OEMs required. So he bought a scan tool for Toyota. That led to taking Toyota training. Then there was Nissan training. Long story short, Paap knows a thing or two about scanning and calibrations. 

“So I have seen the aftermarket scan tools, equipment,” says Papp. “And we've actually compared them, like the ABA test. I can tell you, the aftermarket scan tool equipment will ‘ghost-code’ a whole bunch of stuff compared to what the OEM will.” 

Like Rinaudo at Frank’s Auto Body, Paap’s shop is very OEM-centric, and so that helped inform their strategy when pursuing equipment. For shops that want to go the OEM route, there are choices they can make, such as owning OEM scan tools but using aftermarket targets to do the calibration. Paap, again through his own experimentation, advises against that. Or, at minimum, shops need to know what they’re getting into to complete calibrations safely. 

Paap shares an example of a vehicle he tested at his shop that would get a foot over the centerline before the lane departure assist would kick in. After redoing the calibration with the OEM target, the assist stepped in if the vehicle got within roughly six inches of the line.  

“That's why I'm such a proponent for OEM scan tools and OEM targets,” Paap says. 

There is also a greater sense of support that comes from being aligned with OEMs, Paap says. He speaks with his contacts at Toyota or Nissan once or twice a year, and also is able to learn from fellow shop owners through performance groups — Paap is a member of Mike Anderson’s Spartan group — who are talking to the OEMs as well.  

“We talk to them at least twice a year, if not more,” says Paap. “And then we actually have a group of about 180 of us that we're always talking at all times during the month. And we're always finding new things, repair procedures, owner's manuals, anything.” 

While both Rinaudo and Paap have found that OEM-based solutions were right for their shops, they aren’t necessarily the best choice for all shops. It can be an expensive outlay for equipment — though Rinaudo notes that at least in the case of Toyota and Honda, their tools work on multiple models, which spreads out some of the cost. Not every shop will be able to make the same level of investments, but it’s ultimately about making the smartest investment to benefit the business. 

“I would say the brands that you work on the most are the ones that you would want to get the OEM tooling for, the OEM scanning equipment for,” Paap says. “Then, I would work on the ones that are like the third and fourth tier that you don't work on as much.” 

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