Dissecting Diagnostics: Mitchell says diagnostic scanning is becoming routine

By Max Reid

Mitchell International’s Q3 Trends Report continues to point toward a complex electronic workspace for automotive repairers across the industry.

In its latest trend report, Mitchell found that the increased prominence of electronic vehicle systems such as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) scanning poses the potential to create additional challenges in the repair process if not properly addressed.

“Overall vehicle technology and vehicle construction are getting more and more complex,” Jack Rozint, senior vice president of repair sales told Collision Repair. “Every new model year there’s a new wave of technology and complexity. You may know how one particular camera system works, but technicians also need to understand how that system interacts with the larger complex network.”

The study shows that diagnostic scanning is quickly becoming a routine aspect of the repair process with numbers indicating that the frequency of such scans has risen to 50 percent in the second quarter of 2020, up from 10 percent recorded two years ago.

Mitchell discovered luxury vehicles from several manufacturers present more fault codes–also known as diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs)–than Asian automakers Honda, Mazda and Hyundai, which produce the least. Mitchell infers that the level of interconnectedness and electrical system complexity is greater in vehicles that produce the most codes, and says those vehicles typically come from the higher end of the automotive spectrum.

It was also found that the frequency of fault codes increased in certain higher-end models of the luxury brands, suggesting that more complex vehicle systems correlate with more fault codes. Mercedes Benz, for example, saw 13.59 trouble codes in the lower-cost C-Class, yet saw 20.8 codes in the higher end S-Class.

Mitchell also found that new vehicles don’t necessarily produce more codes. While the overall average number of fault codes is greater for the 2018-20 model years (8.27), several manufacturers have experienced a decline in their newest vehicles. This finding was somewhat surprising, said Mitchell, given newer vehicles, are more likely to come equipped with ADAS and other advanced technology.

The report also noted the prominence of ADAS systems in vehicles, which can currently be found in almost 93 percent of new cars in the U.S., as well as the fact that proper maintenance on these systems “will be necessary for a complete and safe repair”, according to Rozint.

Mitchell’s data shows that 2018-20 model year vehicles receive calibrations at more than double the rate of 2015-17 vehicles (8.51 percent compared to 4.01 percent). Newer vehicles are also taking longer to repair with the average keys-to-keys cycle time for the 2018-20 driveable vehicles averaging at 11.15 days, compared to 10.67 days for 2015-17 repairable vehicles.

Emphasis must be placed not only on training employees to work with ADAS, but also ensuring that the shops themselves are properly equipped to make safe repairs on these systems, the report explains.

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