Modern automotive safety systems are truly a wonder. Features like self-driving, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, rear cross-traffic detection and even drowsy driver detection are becoming a common sight on more vehicles. But these safety features aren’t like backup cameras or seat belts that hit the industry decades ago.
Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) rely on highly sophisticated input collection devices placed throughout the vehicle. Automotive components like video cameras, radar and even LiDAR collect a huge amount of data about the environment surrounding the vehicle. It is up to the onboard computers to decipher that data and decide if action needs taken. But, in order for ADAS to work right, it needs calibrated to the individual vehicle. Let’s take a deeper look at the importance of ADAS calibration and learn a little about the driver assistance system that keeps you safe.
What Is ADAS?
ADAS refers to a collection of driver safety systems developed by automotive manufacturers throughout the years. Common systems like anti-lock brakes all the way to advanced autonomous driving—like the capability found in the Ford BlueCruise—are considered ADAS. The main goal of ADAS is to help the driver operate the vehicle in the safest manner possible. But that only works if the ADAS is functioning properly.
You are probably familiar with the idea of having your vehicle aligned. The front wheels (and in some instances rear wheels) need set to a precise angle for the vehicle to drive straight. For ADAS system calibration, the various sensors need aligned and calibrated in order for the system to work correctly.
To perform a stationary ADAS calibration, ensure the vehicle is parked in a special area designed for the job. Usually the area is devoid of any objects other than special ADAS calibration targets designed for ADAS calibrations. Calibration targets are placed in precise locations specified by the manufacturer to use as reference points. Using a special ADAS calibration tool, the technician connects to the onboard ADAS computer and calibrates each component.
Some systems require a dynamic calibration, which is done while driving the vehicle. Dynamic calibration is based on a precise set of driving instructions from the manufacturer while the special diagnostic tool is connected to the vehicle. As the vehicle is driven, the ADAS components will self-calibrate.
Why Is ADAS Calibration Important?
Having a known reference point is how we find our way in the world. Having a map is no good if you can’t locate where your vehicle is on it. Similarly, the different safety systems on a vehicle can’t work correctly if they don’t know where they are in the world.
When Is ADAS Calibration Necessary?
For the most part, your vehicle’s ADAS is a “set it and forget it” operation. Only when something happens to interrupt or disturb an ADAS component does it need attention.
If your vehicle is equipped with a forward-facing camera system, it is likely mounted behind the upper part of the windshield. When replacing a windshield, the camera usually needs removed, disturbing the calibration of the camera. There is also potential differences in the windshield glass that change how the camera sees through the new windshield.
On any modern vehicle with a forward-facing camera, it is becoming commonplace to perform a camera calibration after a windshield replacement. When in doubt, perform ADAS windshield calibration any time the forward-facing camera is disturbed.
If a vehicle is wrecked, then it is likely that the various ADAS sensors were disturbed. Even if the damage looks minor, modern bumper covers can hide serious damage underneath. When crumple zones do their job, anything mounted to them will have moved. Because these sensors rely on knowing their exact location on the vehicle as designated by the vehicle engineers, having a sensor move can throw off a myriad of calculations.
When collision repair experts evaluate a repair, they take into consideration the ADAS components that are possibly affected. Once the damage is repaired, an ADAS calibration is then performed.
ADAS sensors are tucked all over the place on a modern vehicle. Rear cross traffic sensors are mounted in taillights, forward looking cameras are tucked under grille emblems and even side mirrors have cameras. Cracking a taillight on a parking lot post is possibly more than just ugly, it might impair your ADAS. If you want your parking sensors and blind spot warnings to work right, it is wise to have the system checked whenever you notice damage to any of the sensors.
Recently the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) announced it was investigating the effects of aftermarket modifications on factory ADAS. Changes like lift kits, lowering kits, even different wheel sizes can affect how ADAS reacts. So far, SEMA found that some modifications are tolerated by the factory ADAS, as long as a recalibration is performed. But, as with all aftermarket vehicle modifications, there are no guarantees that a modified vehicle will perform exactly like a factory stock vehicle.
What Does ADAS Calibration Cost?
ADAS calibration cost varies by vehicle and by circumstances. If your vehicle was repaired by insurance due to a wreck, the cost gets wrapped into the overall repair. In that case, it should cost you only a deductible (if you have one). The typical cost of ADAS calibration runs between $300 and $600. The fancier the system, the more expensive the cost due to technician time and ADAS calibration equipment overhead.
Due to the special equipment, training and space necessary, it is common for body shops to set up their own ADAS calibration center apart from the rest of the repair shop. There are even ADAS calibration centers that only specialize in ADAS calibration services. Due to the growing number of ADAS equipped vehicles on the road, the demand for these services will only increase with time.
Check out all the diagnostic tools available on NAPAonline or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA Auto Care locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on ADAS calibration, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA Auto Parts store.
Photo courtesy of TOPDON.
With an automotive writing career spanning over two decades, Brian has a passion for sharing the automotive lifestyle. An avid DIYer he can usually be found working on one of his many project cars. His current collection includes a 1969 Olds Delta 88 convertible, BMW E46 sedan, and a slant-6 powered 1975 Plymouth Duster.