Advanced Approaches

Aug. 12, 2022

New vehicle technologies mean extra steps and considerations in the repair process.

In many ways, working to repair an electric vehicle or a vehicle equipped with ADAS (or both) is business as usual for collision repairers. The same traditional rules apply as far as following OEM procedures and steps, taking safe approaches, and running through a final checklist before returning the vehicle to the customer.

But these new technologies also present new challenges, especially in the repair process. After all, how many older vehicles are at risk of catching fire just by sitting there, engine off?

Jason Zeise, mechanical operations manager at Minnesota MSO LaMettry’s, is a leading expert in these processes. The company has outfitted an ADAS calibration center in Bloomington, Minnesota, and follows strict guidelines in the repair of electric and ADAS-equipped vehicles.

What follows isn’t a complete list of procedures. Rather, Zeise provides insights on what makes these repairs different from previous generations.

1: EVs can have unseen dangers.

All repairers know how important it is to thoroughly assess the damage when a vehicle comes in. But electric vehicles can hide certain damages inside a battery pack after a collision. A crash can cause shorts in the battery or other problems, leading to a fire.

Zeise says that precautions should be made until a shop is completely sure of the extent of damage.

“If the vehicle’s been in a collision, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be significant damage that you would view from the outside of the car, but how are we going to ensure battery integrity?” he says. “And if we can’t do that, we’re going to need to make sure that when the vehicle gets towed in, that it’s towed into a safe spot.”

That safe spot is away from structures, people, and other cars, and it’s there until the battery pack integrity is ensured.

2: Follow disable procedures in EVs.

While beginning work on an electric vehicle, make sure that there is no chance of electrical current.

“Follow your procedures and use your scan tool to check for any faults. And before you work on that vehicle, you want to make sure you follow the disable procedures,” he says.

Disable procedures in an EV ensure that the vehicle is completely off and not generating any electrical current that could harm a technician. Even turning the wheels with the vehicle “off” can potentially generate a current. Zeise says that a proper disable procedure means putting the vehicle on four-wheel dollies to move it.

Always be checking high-voltage components as well, because crashes can affect components in unpredictable ways.

“High voltage components that should have de-energized, but because of whatever the scenario might be, they did not de-energize the way they should have with the vehicle shutdown,” he says.

3: Diagnostic scans are just the beginning.

An initial diagnostic scan is important, of course, but that may not tell the whole story.

“We have seen that numerous times. But it’s not necessarily going to trigger a fault code,” Zeise says. “We still want to run that diagnostic scan, and that’s our first step. The second step would be to follow procedures and verify the integrity of all those components.”

A rear-end collision might snap a retaining bracket on a sensor in the front of the vehicle, Zeise says. The sensor is still operational and sending signals, but it might be askew. This needs to be checked even though it isn’t the site of direct damage.

4: Bring in technical experts.

Zeise says that LaMettry’s has specialized technicians who review repair plans with knowledge of how ADAS components might be interconnected. This goes for even the most basic jobs, like removing a bumper fascia, he says.

“We have these electronic mechanical technicians who are going to look at the repair plan that we’ve written,” Zeise says. “And we’re going to go through and look at every single one of those procedures and look up the actual repair information.”

That’s because looking up procedures might not be as straightforward as it seems. Specific information about a sensor embedded in a part might be found in a different procedure. A specialist will know how and where to look.

5: Perform a tech-forward test drive.

Once all systems are calibrated toward the end of the repair, Zeise says the LaMettry’s team has taken the traditional test drive a bit further. It’s called the DSV, or dynamic system verification.

“The DSV incorporates that basic test drive, but now you’re going to have a skilled person,” he says. “Someone who understands the vehicle, understands how these systems should behave, how they operate.”

That test drive includes the engagement of all ADAS systems, whether they’re related to the collision repair or not. This ensures the overall safety and working order of the vehicle to factory specifications.

At the end of the process, they let the customer know what took place.

“We’re going to inform the customer that we have repaired them, we've verified they’re working and have engaged all the systems,” he says.

If the customer prefers to have a certain ADAS feature disengaged, they will need to do that themselves after it’s back in their possession.

About the Author

FenderBender Staff Reporters

The FenderBender staff reporters have a combined two-plus decades of journalism and collision repair experience.

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