In a recent column, I talked about why I believe shops need to separate out their charge for vehicle scanning from their diagnostic labor to address the results from those scans.
Another key item I feel a lot of shops are overlooking is conducting, documenting and potentially invoicing for is the increasingly complex process of performing required test drives.
Our “Who Pays for What?” survey last summer, for example, found that while almost one-third (31%) of shops that bill for necessary test drives they conduct post-repair say they are paid for that procedure “most” or “all the time,” about 2 in 5 shops (38%) say they have never sought to be paid such test drives. The statistics are even worse for test drives that are done diagnostically prior to repairs; 1 in 5 shops (19%) said they are paid regularly for such test drives, but two-thirds of shops have never billed for those.
I want to emphasize that my concern here is not whether shops are billing for test drives. My concern is that they are performing them as a required step to safe and proper repairs.
“Test drives” aren’t what they used to be. In the past, you took a repaired vehicle out for a brief drive to check for wind noise, pulling conditions or vibrations. Now you’re doing that but also doing the drives to calibrate and confirm the function of advanced vehicle features and systems like adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors lane departure warning systems, satellite navigation and traction control. That’s why a Collision Industry Committee has adopted a new definition for this type of test drive that they are calling a “dynamic systems verification road test.”
The automakers vary somewhat in what the terms they use for what we generally call “test drives.” Some use that term, but others talk about “road tests,” or “actions tests.” Some automakers reference it by saying vehicles must be “brought up to operating temperature.”
Despite terminology differences, it’s important to understand what specific requirements an automaker has for the vehicle you are test driving. Does the OEM procedure, for example, specify: