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Cameras, Radar and Other Sensors Require Careful Calibration

| March 1, 2019
Janet Bigelow

To work properly, sensitive new systems in today’s vehicles should be recalibrated by techs with specific training and expertise, Advises Veteran Technician

Finely calibrated sensors help drivers avoid collisions, stay in their lanes, monitor their blind spots, and much more. However, these new technologies also complicate auto maintenance and collision repairs in ways that many motorists have never considered, advises Janet Bigelow of Advanced Tire & Auto Center on Highway 35 in Aberdeen.

“In the old days when a car got in a fender-bender, the repair was simple,” Bigelow said. “Today, that fender may contain sensors that require expert recalibration, down to the last millimeter.”

As Bigelow sees it, so-called Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are changing auto repair and maintenance. Systems in this broad category can prevent brakes from locking; automatically adjust cruise-control speeds; dim or brighten lights as needed, or allow cars to park themselves, to name a few common applications. These technologies rely on everything from small backup cameras to LIDAR sensors (essentially, radar with lasers).

The introduction of all of this sophisticated sensory technology—much of it developed as part of the push for autonomous vehicles—creates new auto-maintenance considerations for drivers, Bigelow noted.

Some of the tech is so sensitive that even a misplaced bumper sticker could lead to misalignment of a sensor. “Certain blind-spot-detection sensors, for example, go behind the bumper,” she said. “Manufacturers warn that a sticker in the wrong place can interfere with these sensitive instruments.”

Today’s auto technicians need additional training to learn how to calibrate sensitive cameras, radar systems and other ADAS, advised Bigelow, who has 18 years’ experience as an auto technician.

“Even a minor collision can knock sensors off-kilter in ways that lead to faulty readings, often leading the system itself to automatically shut down to preserve driver safety,” she said. “However, if you bring a new-model car in for a routine alignment or even to replace your windshield wiper, the techs might need to recalibrate various ADAS as well.”

Category: Connected Fleet News, Featured, Fleet Maintenance, General Update, News

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