Axalta

Something struck me in the past few weeks. ADAS. Is it just a bunch of sensors that we need to ensure are always calibrated correctly? Or is this just the tip of the iceberg?

When a vehicle is built, the body passes from jig to jig as each panel is welded. Those jigs hold the panels in the correct position, and when painted, the body – which is known to be true – is fitted with the glass, powertrain, suspension, steering, brakes, and the interior. The body is true, the suspension was assembled on jigs and then the whole thing was put together on jigs. The end of assembly line vehicle has suspension geometry within limits, body build tolerances within limits and when it rolls in a straight line, it’s true.

Now we leave the manufacturing plant and all those special jigs. The very first thing is to call at our favourite café and pick up something… nowhere to park…. That’s better, on the pavement. And again. And again. Ouch. A bump/pothole from one of South Africa’s famous roads. All of these small events gradually knock the suspension out of true. Then there’s the big smash. 

Alignment

Regardless of a collision repair or simply correcting the suspension alignment, the ADAS needs to know where the longitudinal centre line is and to know the vehicle is aligned to that very same axis. Since the ADAS sensors need help, we do this in some sort of sequence:

  1. Is the body perhaps bent? If not, we can….
  2. Check the four-wheel alignment and adjust if it’s not correct.
  3. Now, and only now can we adjust the ADAS.

If we don’t follow these three logical steps, or simply just calibrate the ADAS, it may well complete the process in principle but not necessarily work. For the whole system to work the above process needs to be followed.

Cash

Here is the big stumbling block. On the one hand a tiny number of vehicles have any form of ADAS, yet on the other hand the fitment rates on brand new vehicles have sky-rocketed. So, ADAS is a storm set to arrive in numbers across Africa in the very near future. 

Looking at the three steps above, specialists and body shops have known for a long time that four-wheel alignment gear is a profit centre in its own right. Possibly less fashionable but equally valuable is some sort of jig to ensure if the body is bent, or relatively undamaged. In both cases operation of the equipment is not free, and requires skills to get the best from them. Completion of stage 1 and 2 is important, leaving step 3. 

Investment in ADAS calibration equipment requires a cool head and some money. Could it be the type of vehicle landing in the body shop over the next year are similar to last year, and so ADAS is something best off-loaded to the dealership? Or is the volume significant and so well worth the investment?

With or without ADAS calibration equipment, take these three steps and you will have become part of the future. 

By Andrew Marsh