High-tech car accident? Make sure you get a high-tech repair

Technology has its foot on the gas when it comes to personal automobiles, and the pace is accelerating every year. Your new car can remind you to stay in your lane, help you park, and so much more. It’s exceedingly easy to get used to – after all, your phone already reminds you there’s a meeting on your calendar, and even the coffee shop on the corner can have your order ready before you even get to the store.

Today’s auto makers are always looking for new and innovative technology to protect drivers on the road – adding features like advanced pre-collision systems and blind spot monitoring to help prevent accidents. For example, take PRE-SAFE® braking, a feature on some Mercedes Benz models. PRE-SAFE uses a network of sensors to detect conditions (like extreme skidding) that indicate an accident is about to occur, and automatically responds with safety measures such as tightening the seatbelts, adjusting the head restraints, and closing the windows on the vehicle. It can also help you brake—or brake for you. If the system senses an impending collision, it initiates up to 40% braking power automatically and sounds an alert to the driver. When the driver brakes, the braking pressure applied goes instantly to 100%, and if the driver does not respond, the system itself can apply full braking to create an electronic “crumple zone” that can help reduce the intensity of a collision.1


Complexity of technology = complexity of repairs


Consumers are looking for high-tech features like these because they help make cars safer and cut down on the number of accidents. But they also add complexity – and costs – to repairs and maintenance, because many sensors and other components are located in collision-damage-prone areas of the vehicle.

It’s often difficult for technicians to tell whether sensors and other high-tech features have been damaged without diagnostic tools that are just as high-tech. There is a misconception with sensors that if there are no warning lights, everything is working properly. But not all systems are connected to warning lights. Some may not show a warning when they are damaged after an accident, or may simply get disconnected during the repair process, so they don’t show any indication to the technician. That’s why several vehicle manufacturers require shops to have specific diagnostic tools and to scan vehicles before releasing them back to the customer after repairs are completed—as well they should.

Post-scanning can help identify potential issues, such as sensors and radars that may have been replaced or disconnected when the vehicle is repaired after a collision, or even during typical maintenance. For example, if a bumper is damaged in an area where a radar sensor is mounted, the entire bumper cover may require replacement. Traditional repair techniques may block the radar sensor from functioning properly after repairs are completed. But it can be hard to know the system isn’t working if the indicator light isn’t triggered. Post-scanning can show the technician that the radar needs to be recalibrated, so the repair can be made properly and you can get your car back on the road.

As cars continue to become more complex, car manufacturers’ procedures will be an increasingly important part of a technician or estimator’s handbook, laying out the steps necessary to get the car completed to full specifications. Using an aftermarket tool can be helpful, too – while it may not have the full functionality of an OEM tool, it can help diagnose issues before repairs begin.

As a consumer, it’s frustrating to go through the repair process only to find that some of the features in your (supposedly) repaired vehicle are not operating properly. Identifying conditions early in the repair process and using new diagnostic tools and procedures can often reduce delays in the repair process and help avoid trips back to the shop for post-repair fixes—which often come at added costs.


How to be a discriminating auto repair consumer


Choosing a qualified repair facility upfront is the most important step in assuring a prompt and proper repair—and that means finding a shop with the tools and know-how to handle your modern car’s latest engineering and technology enhancements. Your insurance agent should be ready and able to help connect you quickly with a qualified repair team when you need it. A good agent should also be your liaison to specialists within your insurance company and look out for your interests throughout the process.

You should be able to expect your agent to guide you in selecting a qualified repair shop when you need one, keeping in mind these simple but important tips:

  • Don’t choose a shop just because it’s conveniently located. If you have to go a little farther to find the right repair facility, do it. It could save you effort, time, and money.
  • Ask whether the repair shop has certifications from your auto manufacturer.
  • Ask if they are certified by ASE (National Institute Automotive Service Excellence) and I-CAR (Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair).
  • Find out if they use the latest computer diagnostic tools (they should).
  • Ask if the shop provides a lifetime written warranty for repairs.

At Berkley One, we take a proactive approach to helping you select a repair shop when you have a claim. We make it our job to recognize and inform you of the considerations with new vehicle technology and of how the collision industry is responding. We know collision avoidance and safety systems have changed the game in repairs approach, and we’re consistently monitoring what that means for you in terms of repair cost, duration, and convenience. Being armed with the right information, and working with the right partners, can keep you at the top of your game when an accident happens, helping you make sure all the smart technology in your vehicle functions properly after repairs have been made.


Robert Young is Auto Claims Manager at Berkley One.