Whom do you trust?
The majority most likely will say their mom or spouse. And for those older technicians — or M*A*S*H aficionados — the old radio/TV commercial phrase may cross your mind: "You can trust your car to the man who wears a star."
When it comes to advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) data, though, whom do you turn to for the correct calibration/recalibration information?
Recently, a seasoned technician and I were talking about the reliability of aftermarket service information when it came to ADAS data. We've all been there. We've checked electrical stability/connections, TSBs and alignment and sensor/housing integrity — followed the directions step-by-step.
The targets are from a qualified company. The problem? The tablet won't allow us to "pass go."
This situation is not uncommon. This is an evolving sub-technology, which soon will guide our vehicles into autonomy. Meanwhile, there is a lot of correction, regulation fine-tuning: distances that once were 505mm — per the tablet — have been course-corrected by the manufacturer to 690mm, for example. The dependability of our aftermarket devices relies upon the auto maker's information release.
Part two: What's installed on cars and trucks since the chip shortage that ramped up in 2020. Those of us who have been embedded in the ADAS information train know that all you see on cars and light trucks may not be true.
European rally mirrors that have the obstacle warning symbol etched on the glass may not have that function. Technicians might find domestic trucks that show rear-corner radar brackets empty. It's just not a matter of plugging in the scanner, printing out a pre-check, performing your calibrations/recalibrations and closing with a post report.
At the heart of those IC-semiconductors is the eight-inch wafer, which predominantly is manufactured in Taiwan. That country has been in drought recovery since 2020 with a subsequent downfall in factory production and wafer distribution. Automotive electronics has taken a backseat to many other types of product manufacturing.
What other options are available to help us in the bay and to move forward in ADAS calibration/recalibration?
• The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA): There are two valuable links for every tech — ADAS or not — when it comes to identifying what's on the car or light truck.
• VIN decoder: Breaks down the VIN up to 140 different build components on the vehicle. Of course, you need to verify that the component exists post-2019 production.
• Recall/TSB: Manufacturers are required by law to report recalls. As for trouble service bulletins, they have been included within the VIN-specific detail.
• OEM1Stop.com: A great link between your laptop via J2534 pass-through to the ALDL/OBD2 connector to most of the major, original equipment manufacturers. Click on your desired OEM, and the link quickly transports the tech to the factory website for up-to-date information. There are a few items that are fee free, but for most information there is a charge (a pass-through fee to the customer).
• National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF): This time-tested, industry-to-tech information highway is another great link to the manufacturers information, tool data and subsequent data.
Now that you have verified information, there are some other items in the automotive ADAS world that technicians need to verify before calibration/recalibration:
• There have been reports by dealer technicians that the OE badges — yes, those same badges that are the base of our ADAS triangulation — have not been, for lack of a better phrase, "dead-centered" at the factory install. That could mean the difference between a successful reset or chasing your tail. Therefore, I would recommend verifying — just like we do post-body work repair — the centerline of the car or light truck. It could make the difference between a successful calibration/recalibration to post report.
• We're hearing more and more horror stories regarding technicians' not having their tablets updated and failing calibration/recalibration procedures — again and again. A good practice is to perform your data updates while you are waiting for your coffee to brew, take a moment to wake up your scanner and perform any updates.
I would recommend doing this daily as automotive is an every-changing technology. Some days you may have 10 downloads; other days will have no action.
• And one more thing: It's all about training. No matter if you are an ADAS calibration/recalibration tech or a multi-faceted, automotive professional, you need to keep up with the new technology.
Any qualified training venue regarding steering gear/suspension, electrical, CAN-Ethernet communication or HVAC/heat-pump — take every class that is available. Your future is dependent upon your education actions, today.