From the Desk of Mike Anderson: Understanding and Performing the Needed Seat Calibrations

From the Desk of Mike Anderson: Understanding and Performing the Needed Seat Calibrations

The need for vehicle seat calibrations isn’t new. Many years ago, Will Latuff of Latuff Brothers Auto Body in Minnesota forwarded me information pertaining to a seat calibration needed on a Honda.

I started looking into it and found there are several vehicles that require these seat calibrations after a collision.

Despite this information, last year’s “Who Pays for What?” survey found that 20% of shops have never asked to be paid for such a calibration. (Hopefully that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing them). I think there are a number of things that shops aren’t always considering when it comes to seat calibrations.

First, you need to understand why resetting or calibrating the seat sensors is so critical. The system tells the vehicle about the person driving the vehicle as well as the passenger (if there is one). This is important because in the event of an accident, how the airbag deploys may vary depending on whether I’m the one driving the vehicle – at 180 pounds – versus my sister driving the vehicle at 102 pounds. In some cases, the system tells the vehicle not to deploy some of the airbags, such if there’s no passenger in the vehicle, or if the passenger is a small child.

Second, you have to research the OEM repair procedures related to them every time because they vary by automaker and from vehicle model to model. Some Toyotas, for example, require a seat calibration after any accident, no matter what, even if the vehicle was parked and unoccupied when it was hit. However, on other Toyota models, a calibration is required only if a diagnostic trouble code (DTC) related to the system has been set – yet another reason that performing a vehicle diagnostic scan is so critical. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Some of the systems may even reset themselves after a test drive; so, you have to check the procedures to know what the particular requirements are for the specific vehicle you are repairing.

Automakers use different terminology for various systems, which presents another challenge. 

It might be called an occupant classification sensor (OCS), an occupant detection sensor (ODS), a weight calibration sensor (WCS), or a “passenger sensing system.” Many automakers refer to the process as a “zero-point calibration” of the system.

I find one of the best ways to start researching seat calibration requirements is by checking the vehicle owner’s manual. It will tell you what the automaker calls the system, and can help you explain the importance to the customer. In the owner’s manual for a particular Nissan model, for example, it clearly states, “If there’s any impact to your vehicle from any direction, then your occupant classification sensor (OCS) should be checked.” It goes on to say: “Failure to verify proper OCS function may result in an improper airbag deployment resulting in injury or death.”

This is serious stuff.

Knowing what the automaker calls their system will help you locate the information you need in the OEM repair procedures, often under the “safety restraint system” section; but, it can be tricky. Nissan often refers to the “occupant classification sensor” (OCS), but the information in Nissan’s TechInfo website may be under “zero-point reset.”

Using the vehicle owner’s manual and the OEM repair procedures every time will help you understand and perform any needed seat calibrations, and help justify the need and importance of the procedure to your customer or any bill-payer.

Mike Anderson

Mike Anderson is a columnist for Autobody News and president of Collision Advice, a consulting company for the auto body/collision repair industry.

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