Replacing or repairing windscreens used to be a relatively simple and quick process. However, the growing prevalence of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and their use of windscreen-mounted sensors means this may no longer always be the case.
Safety technologies such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and lane-keeping assist use radar, laser or camera sensors which are often located behind a car’s windscreen. The same applies to more convenience-oriented features such as adaptive cruise control.
Vehicle safety consultancy Thatcham Research says windscreen-mounted ADAS technology is currently fitted to approximately 6% of vehicles on UK roads, with this proportion likely to rise to 40% by 2020.
These figures are likely to be much higher for fleets as the age of their vehicles will be much less than the overall UK car parc. This means fleets have to be aware of the implications windscreen replacement or repair can have on vehicle safety, as well as ensuring the sensors are properly calibrated.
“The importance of being undertaken correctly cannot be underestimated,” says Frank Harvey, head of bodyshop operations at the National Association of Bodyshops (NAB).
“Without correct calibration, an ADAS will read and process wrong information meaning the vehicle safety system will not operate properly.”
This could create a significant and unnecessary risk for drivers: Euro NCAP research shows that a correctly working AEB system leads to a 38% reduction in rear-end collisions.
The prospect of a collision not being avoided because of incorrectly calibrated ADAS sensors means fleets should have an effective policy in place to avoid a “legal minefield”, says Phil Homer, operations director at Nationwide Windscreens.
“For example, a sales rep might leave a company and return their car on a Friday after replacing its windscreen earlier that week without bothering to have the ADAS recalibrated,” he says. “If another rep starts driving that car the following week and subsequently has an accident that could have been prevented by the ADAS, then there’s clearly a major problem.”
Auto Windscreens aims to schedule recalibration appointments at the same time as windscreen replacements, but “if recalibration is not carried out immediately, drivers are asked to sign a disclaimer advising them not to rely on any of their ADAS technology until recalibration has been completed”, says Rupert Armitage, managing director of Auto Windscreens.
“We decided to adopt this approach as it really is about duty of care when it comes to fleets.
“If the vehicle has been to an approved retailer for recalibration and there is then an issue with any ADAS components owing to this or the glass replacement, we have a robust, transparent trail to provide proof that we and the fleet have done everything possible to protect drivers.”
So when should the sensors be recalibrated? “At present, all vehicle manufacturers require the resetting – which is also known as recalibration – of the sensors following a collision or replaced windscreen,” says Andrew Miller, chief technology officer at Thatcham Research and chairman of Euro NCAP. “At Thatcham, we support this position.”
Manufacturers also advise recalibration should be performed after a wheel alignment and if a sensor has developed a fault, been disconnected or been partially removed.
Armitage adds: “ isn’t always necessary if the existing piece of glass is being repaired due to minor damage, such as a stone chip.”
There are two main forms of calibration – dynamic and static – and some ADAS technology requires a combination of each when being reset.
While static requires a controlled environment where the vehicle does not move, dynamic requires the vehicle to be driven with the recalibration equipment in place to complete the process.
Miller says that in the majority of cases, recalibration work means the vehicle must go into a workshop operated by trained technicians with access to appropriate equipment.
“Manufacturers are implementing ADAS technology in divergent ways – and they’re frequently implementing it differently within their own range of models,” he says.
“If a windscreen is replaced at the side of the road, it’s incumbent on the fitter to let the motorist know that they need to get the ADAS technology recalibrated.
“Furthermore, it’s necessary for fleets to check that in the event of the windscreen being replaced or a collision occurring, they’ve ensured that their organisation is protected.”
Miller says the resetting process typically takes between one and two hours, while Peter Marsden, managing director of National Windscreens, says it depends on the make and model of vehicle.
“There’s a time implication for our trained technicians when it comes to setting up the equipment they need to ensure each device is recalibrated appropriately and subsequently ensuring that all due processes and protocols have been followed,” Marsden says.
Harvey says manufacturer warranties should not be affected by recalibration work provided the parts used are original equipment and that the correct repair, replacement and recalibration processes have been followed.
“Due to the different systems in use and the different calibration processes required, together with the different costs of the equipment required for recalibration there is no set, single, definitive cost for recalibration,” he adds.
“But it’s not uncommon to see dealers charging anything from £400 to almost a £1,000 for undertaking recalibration.”
NAB is delivering ADAS awareness training to its members after working with companies that manufacture recalibration equipment.
“The vast majority of our members undertake repairs on many different marques and the equipment required to recalibrate these systems varies from one manufacturer to another,” says Harvey.
“But that equipment is usually very expensive. So while some of our larger members have invested in the equipment, others have agreements in place with dealerships to ensure that their customers can get equipment recalibrated quickly and conveniently.”
ADAS code of practice
Thatcham Research has developed a code of practice for ADAS recalibration in conjunction with large companies active in the automotive glazing replacement sector.
The ADAS Glazing Code of Practice is intended to address concerns around the level of industry knowledge relating to the recalibration of the technology.
It provides a recommended set of guidelines for replacing or refitting windscreens on vehicles fitted with ADAS sensors, while ensuring that the safety of the vehicle owner remains uncompromised.
“This voluntary code of practice provides the added assurance of a best-practice approach,” says Andrew Miller, chief technology officer at Thatcham Research.
“This is intended to make certain that the car is returned to its owner with exactly the same level of safety protection as when it came in for repair and, where that’s not possible, that the customer is provided with guidance on what they need to do to have the systems recalibrated.”
The step-by-step approach to recalibration covered by the new code includes the initial identification of different ADAS technologies, best practice for ensuring full and transparent communication with the customer and a guide to calibration options, scheduling and pricing.
It stresses the need for glazing companies to ensure that customers are aware they should not rely on the operation of any ADAS after their windscreen is changed until the system is recalibrated.
How glass providers are tackling ADAS recalibration
Autoglass has so far invested more than £2 million in its ADAS recalibration service.
When a customer makes an appointment, the company subsequently informs them if there’s a need for recalibration which is then performed at an agreed time and location by one of its trained technicians.
Jeremy Rochfort, national sales manager at Autoglass, says: “We work closely with our suppliers to ensure that our equipment is fit for purpose and in line with new trends and technologies.
“Our dynamic calibration service is extremely convenient for the customer as we come to a location of the fleet driver’s choice to complete the replacement and the calibration, saving driver and vehicle downtime.
“When designing the customer experience, it was critical to us to be able to replace the windscreen and calibrate the system in just one appointment. The vehicle’s safety system will still function as intended on the spot thus supporting fleet managers in fulfilling their duty of care to keep drivers safe.”
Auto Windscreens is partnering with manufacturer-approved dealerships across Britain to supply ADAS recalibration services to its customers.
It has decided to adopt this approach – rather than investing in aftermarket equipment – as it maintains that it is “an expert in glass repair and replacement” while manufacturers are the “recalibration experts”.
Rupert Armitage, managing director of Auto Windscreens, says: “Recalibration varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, so for us to be confident our customers are driving away in a safe vehicle, we feel that partnering with the experts is the best approach.
“They deal with these technologies every day and are able to fully test and plug into the brain of the vehicle to investigate any issues.
“The manufacturers also have the equipment needed to fulfil every aspect of recalibration – including new-to-market models.”
Auto Windscreens offers its customers a glass replacement appointment at the approved dealership whenever possible.
Armitage adds: “We look to secure recalibration appointments at the same time as we schedule a windscreen replacement, while giving the customer the flexibility to delay the former until another suitable time.”
National Windscreens has created a one-stop service for windscreen replacement and ADAS recalibration.
In the past year, it has invested more than £1 million ensuring that each of its 108 fitting centres can also undertake recalibration work.
Pete Marsden, managing director of National Windscreens, says: “We provide manufacturer-standard glass and use approved recalibration equipment that maintains the vehicle warranty by utilising the vehicle’s in-built system to calibrate according to manufacturer recommendations.
“With more than 75% of manufacturers stating that calibration must be undertaken in workshop conditions we are only able to satisfy these customer requirements and manufacturers’ recommendations by having a national network of fitting and calibration centres providing a one-stop service.”
Marsden adds: “Our customers require calibration to be carried out at the same time as windscreen replacement.
“Creating a second appointment for calibration at another time and in a different location to where the windscreen replacement is carried out would cause fleet customers significant inconvenience. It will also mean cost penalties if fleets need to keep their vehicles off the road until calibration is successfully completed.”
Nationwide Windscreen Services has created a network of specialist centres to ensure fleets can get their windscreens replaced at the same time as having ADAS sensors recalibrated.
“We decided to put in place a programme that suited our customers’ requirements,” says Phil Homer, operations director at Nationwide Windscreen Services.
“We are totally committed to providing a number of strategically-placed ADAS centres with highly-skilled technicians throughout Britain.”
The company currently has 14 centres equipped with recalibration equipment and fully-trained technicians. It intends to expand this to 20 this year.
Homer adds: “Many vehicles requiring ADAS recalibration need to be worked on using equipment that cannot be easily transported.
“Every Nationwide Windscreen technician working at one of our centres is factory trained by the equipment provider.
“This was important to us as we feel we need to manage the whole process in order to give the fleet operator and insurer total peace of mind.”
Nationwide Windscreen’s standard charge for recalibration is £120 but any vehicle requiring dealer attention will be charged back at the invoice cost.