Assisted driving systems often need assistance

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As has been mentioned before, you don’t have to be driving a bank-breaking top of the line technological marvel to benefit from driver assistance features. Automakers from almost every corner have been equipping mid-line models with things like lane departure warning and lane keeping assist systems as well as collision mitigation, surround and rearview cameras, and even pedestrian recognition. They’re finding eager markets for these options and are using expanded demand to help reduce pricing of these safety tech packages. While their value in improving road safety is well documented through reduced collision statistics, they don’t come without some downsides.

Driver assistance systems of every type use an array of sensors to feed information to onboard processors. Those details are used to determine if a collision risk is present and to allow various vehicle systems to react to avoid impacts. Calibration of these sensors is critical for their operation and it doesn’t take much to set them off kilter. Small fender benders, slight body impacts, and even routine wheel alignments can bring about the need for recalibration of various sensors.

The key sensor that can cause the biggest need for recalibration is the steering wheel angle sensor. Mounted on the steering column (just behind the wheel) it lets a variety of onboard computers know exactly what position the steering wheel is in. During a wheel alignment it can easily get out of sync. All automaker authorized dealerships are equipped to perform this reset and many larger specialty stores (such as tire retailers and collision shops) have invested in the required equipment. If a shop is recommending an alignment on your ride, it’s worth asking if they can recalibrate this sensor if required. If they can’t and you end up having to take your ride into the dealership, they will charge for this service and the prices start at around $100. If your alignment specialist can do this reset, ask up front what they charge in order to avoid some sticker shock.

Another common reset is any collision mitigation camera or sensor mounted behind the windshield. When the glass is replaced this camera/sensor often requires a reset and most qualified glass shops have the equipment to handle this.

In the auto-body repair world, shops are becoming quite familiar with the myriad of radar and lidar sensors, as well as park assist sensors and cameras. In cases of collision repair, your repair shop is responsible for any recalibration of these units as part of the job. Fortunately every vehicle equipped with driver assist systems have instrument panel warning lights/messages to let drivers know if something is out of kilter. So if your ride needs some body work or wheel alignment servicing, make sure you check your dash icons when taking it for a test spin from the shop. If any warning lights or messages are present that were not there before the work was done, immediately return to the garage and report it.  

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