On the first night of AASP/NJ’s NORTHEAST® automotive services show, Mike Anderson from Collision Advice debuted a new course, “Scanning Best Practices,” to a jam-packed room of eager pupils.
After having attendees introduce themselves and providing his own background information, Anderson explained that the evening’s presentation would be a condensed version of an eight-hour class he recently developed on scanning and how to overcome objections.
Based on information from his quarterly “Who Pays for What?” surveys, Anderson shared that, on average, when a vehicle system calibration requires the use of OEM targets or weights, shops say they obtain the necessary equipment to do calibrations in-house 27 percent of the time. Additionally, only 15 percent of shops perform a pre-scan on every vehicle, while 1 percent of shops never pre-scan vehicles. Twenty-one percent of shops reported they perform post-repair scans on every vehicle, and less than 1 percent reported they never perform a post-scan.
Anderson then explored how shops charge for scanning services, illustrating the lack of consistency across the industry.
“As you can see, labor times for what shops charge vary greatly,” he said. “This causes confusion and difficulty in getting reimbursement from third-party payers. What is ‘fair and reasonable?’ Most insurance companies don’t have a problem paying for scans, but they want it to be fair and reasonable. I want to give you clarity on how to overcome common objections from third-party payers, how to justify resources to provide it is ‘required,’ what should be included and/or not-included, and how to determine what is fair and reasonable for reimbursement.”
Anderson then explained that a high-end vehicle has 100 million lines of code, while an F-35 Fighter Jet has 24 million.
“This code controls everything from tire pressure to collision avoidance, braking, back-up, steering and other systems,” he said. “We are working on highly complex devices, and that’s what has led OEMs to come out with position statements on pre- and post-scans.”
Anderson emphasized the importance of understanding that there are multiple operations that require the use of a scan or diagnostic tool. He provided a list that includes, but is not limited to, pre-repair scans, post-repair scans, initializations, calibrations, relearns and resynchronizations.
He noted, “Scanning is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s these types of calibrations we need to be talking about. You need to research every single operation and understand there are a lot of operations that require a scan tool before the pre- and post-scans.
“It is absolutely impossible to write an accurate estimate if you don’t do a pre-repair scan. Any diagnostics done after the vehicle is in process are reactive. You must also do a post-repair scan to ensure all safety and comfort features are working properly. I encourage you to ask your customers what their favorite features are on their cars so you can ensure they’re working properly.”
Turning to overcoming objects to scanning, Anderson listed some common objections, such as claims that the OEM doesn’t have a position statement or that scans are recommended, not required. Anderson noted that 13 manufacturers have released position statements requiring scans, and those OEMs represent 95 percent of the U.S. market share.
“The industry talks about how weak OEM positions statements are, but most of them aren’t. You need to be reading these position statements, and you can find the latest and greatest at oem1stop.com,” he said.
In response to claims that some OEMs don’t have position statements on scanning, Anderson accessed a multitude of OEM websites to demonstrate that many of those OEMs’ repair procedures indicate a need for scans, or post-collision diagnostics, while performing a variety of operations.
He urged, “As an industry, we have to accept personal responsibility for the fact that we weren’t doing the right thing 10 years ago. Think about all the cars we didn’t do the right thing on---we need to accept personal responsibility that we screwed up.
“We are becoming lazy and too dependent on OEM position statements. Shops need to learn to use the OEM repair websites and then research them to learn how to make safe and proper repairs.”
Anderson urged attendees to be mindful of cultural differences when reading OEM manuals, as some vehicle manufacturers may only recommend scans and other procedures.
“Japanese values prevent their manuals from requiring something because the concept of ‘require’ is considered disrespectful,” he taught. “Their recommendation means that you need to do it; don’t question their authority on the vehicles they create.”
Another common objection that Anderson has heard is that no warning lights fired, but he pointed out that not every feature on a vehicle has an associated warning light. He also reminded attendees that all OEMs indicate that DTCs will be stored and suggested using the documentation to help overcome that objection.
Offering the key to reimbursement, Anderson insisted that repairers research every vehicle, determine what is fair and reasonable, determine what is included and not-included in labor time, understand that it’s about more than just scanning, search key terms in OEM repair procedures, and build a defendable repair plan.
“If you want to get paid for scans, you can’t rely on position statements,” he said. “You need to research the specific operations in the OEM procedures to find that information showing it requires a scan. It’s all about building a bulletproof estimate and examining OEM repair procedures in advance to demonstrate why scans are required for specific line items. Remember, you are the repair professional; you are the expert!”
Moving on to terminology, Anderson provided a list of words to search to prove why a scan is necessary. He provided examples of procedures that require checks that can only be completed using a scan tool and pointed out the importance of thoroughly reading procedures because many operations require test drives at various distances and speeds. He also encouraged shops to review the vehicle owner’s manual with their customers to get the customer on board with vehicle scans.
Anderson then emphasized the importance of accuracy during calibrations.
“When you do a calibration, if it’s off by just one degree, it will impact the vehicle’s ability to stop by 10 feet,” he said. “The calibration game is a very serious game. You need to start thinking about calibration and investing in the space needed to do it properly. A lot of people are overwhelmed by calibration, but I see it as an opportunity, along with scanning, to widen the gap between good and bad shops.”
Anderson recommended that shops subletting their calibrations print the OEM repair procedures and explain their expectations because the consumer signed the authorization with the shop, not the business that receives the sublet. When writing an estimate, it is critical to use good line notes, and Anderson suggested copying line notes directly out of the OEM repair procedures.
Challenging attendees to list the steps required to perform a proper diagnostic scan, Anderson listed his 13 steps. First, pull in the vehicle, and then access the battery. After hooking up the battery support, allow the vehicle to reach operating temperature, and once the scan tool is hooked up, perform an output or functionality test based on build data. Record the freeze frame data, record the DTCs, and research the DTCs on the OEM website. Next, navigate the flowchart in the OEM procedures, and then fix the vehicle’s problem. A test drive may be necessary to ensure the DTC doesn’t recur, and the vehicle may need to be rescanned.
“What you charge depends on all you do to perform the scan,” Anderson observed. “Some functions should be line items while others should be included in the scan itself. I would record line items for accessing the battery, hooking up battery support, recording freeze frame data and DTCs, researching the DTCs (which is diagnostic time), navigating the flowchart, fixing the problem and test-driving the vehicle. I want to encourage you to think about the different steps in the process and which should be included in scan time compared to which ones should be considered separate line items.
“Remember, the time should reflect how long it takes the average technician to gather up their tools, equipment and supplies, and perform the task in a safe and proper manner. Then, return all their tools, equipment and supplies to the proper storage place. An average technician is someone with five to seven years of experience.”
Noting that data ownership is an emerging concern, Anderson recommended that shops obtain written authorization to scan the vehicle and share the data with the insurer to avoid violating the consumer’s privacy act and protect themselves from liability. He also discussed the difference between OEM and aftermarket scan tools, expressing his firm belief that aftermarket tools cannot compete with the OEM tool, which offers the latest and greatest information available.
“You couldn’t pay me enough to use an aftermarket scan tool, not even on my ex-wife’s car,” Anderson quipped, growing serious as he added, “Based on my personal experience, I would not want the liability of using an aftermarket scan tool.”
Lastly, Anderson talked a little bit about telematics.
“By 2022, 87 percent of all vehicles sold in the U.S. will have the ability to be connected to the internet, and in the next couple years, we are going to see a generational shift with younger folks who want their cars connected to the internet, but it has to be affordable,” he said. “Some of these processes will become easier, but we need to figure out how the car is connected and disable that connection, or you’ll have a lot of unhappy customers.
“It takes time to research procedures, and it’s important to get past the scanning piece and start looking at calibrations. Review OEM position statements carefully, and understand the value of research and diagnostics when it comes to performing a safe, quality repair. It’s important that we all get educated and accept personal responsibility.”