Menefee: The ADAS Calibration Decision 

June 3, 2024
You may not need to spend tens of thousands of dollars to perform safe and quality repairs. 

As the owner of a smaller shop, I get overwhelmed with the discussion on ADAS and all the calibrations vehicles need nowadays. It seems every few months, something new is rolled out that we have to know about and learn. What seems daunting for me is deciding on what equipment I invest in for ADAS and all the vehicle calibrations. Once you start looking at equipment, the costs start shooting up into the tens of thousands of dollars, and you don’t know how long that equipment will be valid before having to upgrade it to accommodate new features coming out. Then add in all the space that is required to store the equipment and then perform the calibrations. 

When all the ADAS calibrations really started to pop up, we utilized our local dealerships to reprogram and calibrate everything. At that time, there were not any mobile ADAS diagnostic companies in town. It wasn’t ideal and the dealerships were always terribly slow. It also ended up costing us more in the long run because we weren’t getting paid to run the vehicles back and forth to the dealerships for calibrations.  

Mobile Solutions 

Once mobile diagnostic companies started appearing, we started using them to do the calibrations in-house, and we started watching what scanners and equipment they used on a regular basis. We used mobile companies for about two years before we started investing in new scanners and ADAS equipment. We noticed a trend with the service providers in our area. The smaller companies were bought out or were going under because they couldn’t keep up with the price tag for all the equipment and licensing fees they needed to purchase to access the manufacturers’ software. So, I knew I couldn’t afford all the overhead cost to do full ADAS calibrations, so I wanted to be strategic with what I invested in.  

Moving In-house 

We started off by upgrading our scanner to one of the more advanced Autel Maxi scanners that could scan, clear codes, and do dynamic and static calibrations without the need for other equipment. The scanner could also do more advanced scans, but we would still need to invest in equipment. We used the new scanner for about a year, and for anything it could not do we continued to rely on the mobile diagnostic companies. After about a year of tracking what the mobile diagnostic companies were doing for us, we found that the primary calibrations they were performing for us were distance sensors and blind spot monitor calibrations. The piece of equipment they always brought out was the radar corner reflector target and stand. We went ahead and purchased the stand, which was less than $1,000, and learned how to use it. With just the new scanner and the corner reflector, we were then able to keep about 90% of our calibrations in house, helping us make more of a profit. 

Remote Assistance 

We still needed the mobile diagnostic companies to program new modules and mechanical parts like transmissions and electronic steering gear assemblies. Now, though, most of the companies that produce the scan tools have a remote option for the scan tools in which a remote technician can log into the scan tool and hook up with their OEM licensing and program the modules or parts for you. We really like this option, because generally once you put in the request, a mobile technician has taken the work order and within less than an hour the service has been completed. Also, the cost is much cheaper than the mobile diagnostic companies or the dealership. I’ve found that the cost of the remote technicians through the scan tool costs me about 50% to 60% less than mobile diagnostic companies. I can then turn around and mark up the invoicing to what I generally would pay the mobile diagnostic company and make a better profit on the service.  

My small shop averages between $2.5 to 3 million a year in sales, depending on the economy. I do not have the space for all the equipment and targets or the overhead to be able to invest tens of thousands of dollars in ADAS equipment and to continue to invest in it as things change. So, we made a strategic decision to invest about $9,000 in the scanner that could calibrate most things and has access to remote technicians along with a corner reflector. That small investment covers about 98% of all ADAS calibrations and programming we need to do in our shop, and we sublet the other 2% to the dealership or mobile diagnostic companies. 

Find What Works for Your Shop 

In the last year, we’ve had to use the services of the dealership only twice and the mobile diagnostic companies once. ADAS and all the calibrations now required can be really overwhelming for smaller or independent shops. You just have to remember to find what is specifically going to work for your shop to do the best quality repair while still hitting the profit margin you are looking for. What fits in one shop may not work in another shop. Don’t let all the information that comes out about ADAS overwhelm you, because you may not need to spend tens of thousands of dollars to still do safe and quality repairs and still make a good profit. We didn’t. We just had to find what worked for our shop.  

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