sion shop is the automotive scan tool. Body shops are using scan
tools for such things as air bag systems, programming modules,
sensor initialization and diagnostic scanning to identify and
clear trouble codes.
“Instructors at Toyota’s CR&R training centers recommend
performing one vehicle diagnostic scan during the estimation
process and another during the vehicle’s final quality check,” ex-
plains Eric Mendoza of Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. “Identi-
fying a DTC before repairs begin may eliminate a supplement,
while identifying a DTC before handing the keys to the customer
will help assure customer satisfaction.”
Paired with vehicle teardown, pre-repair scanning offers tre-
mendous benefits. By discovering hidden electrical system dam-
age at the beginning, supplements and cycle time can be signifi-
cantly reduced, and loss reserve accuracy is improved. Costly
mistakes such as fixing a vehicle that should be a total loss can be
avoided. Another benefit is the ability to determine whether an is-
sue is loss-related, which can shut down an argument beforehand.
Post-repair scanning is important to check the electronic health
of vehicle systems and clear any lingering fault codes before the
customer picks up the vehicle. This proactive approach is not only
prudent, it helps fulfill the “good faith” of safe and proper repairs
inherent in most insurance policies and regulated by many state
insurance departments. Post-repair scanning helps avoid rental
vehicle extensions due to last-minute dashboard lights.
The proliferation of automotive technology should support an
ongoing shift to in-house (at the body shop) diagnostics and related tasks. The OEM dealership and local mechanic will not be
completely precluded in this shift. Overall collision scanning volume should continue to grow to the benefit of all players. Vehicle
technologies that are too new or specialized to handle with non-dealership options will likely become a dealer sublet, as should
any procedure that cannot be performed to OEM standards.
As diagnostic scanning becomes standard operating proce-
dure in the collision repair process, in-house and what I like to
call “in-house outsourcing” solutions, are destined to become
standard as well. There can be better transparency and control
in-house. New products and services significantly mitigate costs
to the insurer. Tow fees are saved by eliminating the need to flat-
bed the vehicle to an outside shop. Reduced cycle times of in-
house options serve to reduce rental vehicle charges. Ultimately,
the mutually beneficial nature of in-house solutions should lower
the wall of resistance that typically ensues with new and non-
In-house VehIcle DIagnostIcs: The auto body shop
acquires and operates its own scan tools. The full in-house operator has a respectable array of equipment and software to service a
comprehensive range of vehicles and applications. A skilled technician performs the work.
Benefits: On-demand, cost effective, reduced cycle time, no
need to transport vehicle
Drawbacks: There is no universal scan tool for all vehicles.
Proprietary systems, technological change and obsolescence play
a role. A new model year may necessitate purchase of a new OEM
factory level scan tool and/or software. A full in-house program
is a major monetary commitment to many shops. Consequently,
some shops opt for cheaper aftermarket (A/M) tools or generic
code readers with limited capability operated by an employee
with little understanding of vehicle electronics. This can lead to
Bottom line: In-house solutions can prove challenging to
qualify each shop in terms of skill set and capability. Congrats
to the shop that has made the full in-house commitment. It is
the most efficient solution with an almost seamless integration
into the claims process. Full in-house shops may be an anomaly.
Shops offering cheap solutions may offer no solution at all. In the
midst of those extremes lies the mid-range solution shop that has
an advanced A/M scan tool(s) and a good mechanic. This can be
a viable solution providing the shop knows when to sublet those
repairs it cannot handle.
MobIle VehIcle DIagnostIcs: An example of in-house outsourcing where the mobile technician performs all
diagnostics and related work on the shop’s premises. Quality
technicians are specialists who handle a broad scope of vehicle
electrical system repairs. The good technician’s van is a treasure
trove of wiring, connectors, manuals, multi-meters, laptops and
scan tools (advanced A/M and OE factory level.) Serious technicians carry such tools as a power graphing meter, digital oscilloscope and special aiming/calibration targets.
Benefits: Cost effective, turn-key, no vested interest in replacing parts, hands-on problem solving, specialized knowledge, no
need to transport vehicle
Drawbacks: Good technicians are in demand. It may take the
technician several days to get to the shop. Technicians can vary
greatly in terms of experience, equipment, software and skill sets.
Costs a bit more as the technician must travel to the shop.
Bottom line: While the mobile technician can cost more, it
may be money well spent. A skilled technician applies advanced
troubleshooting and problem-solving to address the root cause
of an issue versus a shop that throws unnecessary parts at the
problem. Involving a quality mobile tech in the process can solve