Best Body Shops’ Tips: Jake Rodenroth of asTech Shares Insights on Collision Repair Diagnostics
Written by Stacey Phillips, Autobody News
Published June 8, 2021
Telematics, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and OEM repair procedures are all predicted to significantly impact the way vehicles are repaired in the future, according to Jake Rodenroth, director of OEM and industry technical relations for asTech.
During a virtual presentation co-sponsored by the Nebraska Auto Body Association (NABA) and the Kansas Auto Body Association (KABA), Rodenroth shared insight about several vehicle technologies and how they relate to collision repair diagnostics. He also discussed some of the future concerns technicians will likely face.
In the evolving landscape of vehicle diagnostics, Rodenroth said body shops must recognize the difference between collision diagnostics and mechanical diagnostics.
“Collision repair technicians and mechanical technicians will look at the same vehicle from a very different perspective,” said Rodenroth. Speaking from firsthand experience working as a master technician for a large OEM in his earlier career, he shared the difference between the two.
On the mechanical side, most of the repairs revolve around a concern or the vehicle’s maintenance schedule.
“The technician’s job is to identify the cause of that concern and then recommend the correction or repair on the vehicle,” said Rodrenroth.
Since many mechanical repairs are routine, he said the correction is usually predictable. Therefore, a variety of tools can be used to access the systems responsible for the cause. Ultimately, mechanical diagnostics comes down to first identifying the concern, and then the cause and correction.
In comparison, collision diagnostics involves having technicians first confirm the vehicle model and trim level and then determining the cause and correction. It also involves inspecting the severity of damage by confirming body specification and suspension geometry using pre-alignments and 3D measuring systems.
“The trim level designates how many features and control modules it has,” said Rodenroth. “All collisions are inheritably different and there is nothing routine about each vehicle repair.”
Often dealing with the newest vehicles in the worst shape, technicians need access to all vehicle control modules and features to ensure a safe and proper repair. Welding and painting operations, as well as vehicle disassembly, may impact the vehicle control systems. In addition, many labor operations require ADAS calibration.
“After a collision, we should be really focused on making sure we see all of the modules and identify all of the problems as proactively as possible,” said Rodenroth.
OEM Repair Procedures & Scan Tools
Although some collision repair technicians turn to YouTube when looking for information to repair a vehicle, Rodenroth highly advises checking the OEM repair procedures.
“I feel like we learn on every car,” he said. “We have to humble ourselves and research what is involved so you can get it right. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll find,” he said.
He recommends starting small and researching how to remove a bumper cover, disconnect a battery or perform a four-wheel alignment.
Increasingly, Rodenroth said, dealer groups, OEM certified repair shops and many independent facilities are committed to following OEM procedures.
Rodenroth encourages technicians to use the scan tools identified in the service manual to ensure the repair is completed correctly and can be defended if necessary.
Some shops use aftermarket tools to help keep costs down, but Rodenroth cautioned they might not capture everything regarding scanning and diagnostics.
“Scan tools aren’t magic wands,” he said. “They don’t just fix the problem for you. We need to figure it out. Only the combination of the correct tools, the OEM service manual and a trained technician can repair a vehicle effectively.”
When it comes to invoicing, Rodenroth recommends itemizing everything done with the vehicle, and says this is especially important with ADAS calibration.
He advises shops to research the marketplace and identify the price of scans being charged and the tooling used.
Rodenroth estimates the current market value of a scan is $50 while OEM diagnostics, whether done by a dealer, mobile vendor or another third-party, averages about $120.
New Customers, Telematics & Over the Air (OTA) Updates
Looking forward, Rodennoth said vehicle owners will increasingly become more connected to their vehicles, especially with a new generation of consumers, Generation Z. Often referred to as “Zoomers,” those included in this demographic were born middle to late 1990s to the early 2010s, and are what Rodenroth refers to as “digital natives.”
“They aren’t afraid to use mobile apps in everything they do, whether it’s ordering a coffee or checking the health of their car,” he said.
Over the next five years, Rodenroth predicts there will be a substantial increase in the number of communications going on in the connected car, including the use of telematics and OTA updates. The majority of OEMs now use telematics to update a vehicle’s infotainment system, consisting of radio and multimedia video capabilities.
Telematic connectivity to a vehicle will also help owners benchmark if they received a good repair.
“They are going to start asking probing questions, maybe those they didn’t ask in the past,” said Rodenroth. “We need to be aware if they are connected to dealer-type services."
This will allow the dealer or independent repair facility to predict the maintenance needed on the vehicle and whether the diagnostics were performed.
In terms of conducting an ADAS calibration, collision repair facilities are finding they have three options: sending vehicles to dealerships, having their own technicians do the calibrations in-house or arranging for a third-party company to come in. Regardless of the decision, Rodenroth said shops will need to audit that the calibrations were done correctly.
In the event of a failed calibration, Rodenroth reminded repairers to document it failed and then showed it passed.
“It’s important to document the corrective repairers you did to make it pass,” he said. “You don’t want it to come back and haunt you, so document accordingly.”
He also cautioned repairers to ensure the correct parts are used on vehicles and the procedures are followed.
“When you start changing the way a vehicle is designed, you create variables for yourself that could create calibration failures,” said Rodenroth. “Remember that service manuals are written on perfect vehicles, not vehicles that have been repaired or have non-OEM parts fitted to them.”
With automakers committed to an electric vehicle (EV) future, Rodenroth said OE factories and suppliers are expected to change dramatically. This includes new types of manufacturers, in particular technology companies, such as Rivian, Lucid, SF Motors, Mahindra and Faraday Future.
“Tech companies are winning the race to electrification,” he said.
Rodenroth estimated dealer service volume might decline by as much as 35%, while tire replacement, glass and visibility services, and length of ownership are all projected to increase.
“Collision repairers are also going to see a lot of parts, steering systems, braking systems and cooling systems that may require scan tools,” he said. “If a scan tool is involved in the repair, make sure you have the capability in-house or plan for it.”
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
Rodenroth said VR and AR are predicted to change how the industry is trained in the future. It will also impact how repair procedures are written and followed.
“Repair procedures can be challenging to follow, especially if you haven't been formally trained with that OEM,” said Rodenroth. “AR/VR offer an interactive way of dissecting the vehicle’s requirements and, best of all, explaining them.”
Details like fluid quantities, measurements and torques specs are often overlooked; however, Rodenroth said they are important to ensure a safe and documented repair.
“We, as an industry, need to slow down to have a chance at speeding up,” said Rodenroth. “Our consumers deserve better when it comes to whom they trust to repair their vehicles.”
He said the industry should be an institution of learning and specification.
“Every shop in America would hire at least one more technician if they could and with so many ‘tech jobs’ now available, it is even more important that we attract and retain as many young people as possible,” he said. “We need to find new ways of recruiting young people with different backgrounds and skill sets.”