Vehicle Safety Features Linked To Problems After Car Accident Repairs: Report

Car crash safety features often need repairs and recalibrations after an accident, which many owners consider too much of a hassle and too expensive.

A new report indicates life-saving crash avoidance technologies commonly found in newer vehicles may experience problems following car accident repairs, even after work is performed by professionals at licensed dealers.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released the results of a new survey this week, which found that half of all vehicle owners report experiencing problems with the safety features following car repairs, such as front crash prevention, blind spot detection or rearview or other visibility-enhancing cameras.

The report highlights potential problems that may result from the technologies. While largely beneficial and improving auto safety overall, car crash safety feature repairs may increase problems for vehicle owners, and potentially deter drivers from pursuing the features in their next purchase.

Car Crash Avoidance Technologies Complicate Repairs

The IIHS surveyed nearly 500 vehicle owners that possessed cars or trucks equipped with front crash prevention, blind spot detection, and other visibility-enhancing cameras, and asked about their most recent experiences with the technologies. While a smaller portion of survey respondents reported the reason for scheduling a safety feature repair was due to a recall letter or illuminated warning signal, the majority of service repairs followed a car crash or vehicle damage.

According to the responses, approximately two-thirds of those surveyed reported needing a repair to the features following a windshield replacement. The IIHS found that nearly three-quarters of feature repairs were required due to crash damage which caused functionality issues with the technologies.

Of those who had windshield damage or crash damage, many of the post-repair problems with the technology involved calibration issues. For most of the sensors and cameras on crash avoidance systems, automakers require the systems to be recalibrated any time a component of the feature is removed, replaced or reinstalled. Survey responses indicated that roughly two-thirds of participants with repairs performed reported a higher rate of feature disruption or malfunction following the repair.

“Some calibrations are complicated and require large spaces, specialized training and expensive equipment. Calibration software is subject to frequent updates, making it difficult for shops to keep their tools up to date,” the report states. “This is further complicated by a lack of standardization of calibration processes.”

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The survey further identified customers were not pleased with the multiple follow-up appointments required at repair shops to properly calibrate the systems. According to the findings, a little more than five percent of the owners said they would not buy another vehicle with the feature they’d had repaired. However, researchers warned in the report the added hassles of scheduling appointments to repair damaged features may result in owners just turning them off, and never officially fixing the problem.

The IIHS is recommending automobile manufactures simplify and standardize the calibration process to ensure repair shops can restore the functionality of the safety features that have been proven to save thousands of lives annually. Specifically, the IIHS is calling on an affordable, centralized database of repair and calibration specifications with detailed instructions to be available to all technicians.

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