Out of kilter: recalibrating commercials

truck and technicians

In this article: Advanced driver-assistance systems are taking commercial vehicles into a new, safer era, but recalibrating them correctly is a matter of life and death

For commercial vehicle operators, there’s nothing more frustrating than a chipped windscreen. Although it’s fairly easy to rectify, it’s often just enough to compromise safety and take a truck off the road. However, more and more commercial vehicles now rely on complex advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), meaning that the technicians servicing these vehicles need to be able to remount and recalibrate high-tech sensors to keep everything running safely.

So what should fleet owners, managers and users be looking to make sure the onboard safety systems and the sensors they use are calibrated and working correctly?

Do your homework

“ADAS needs to be part of the conversation when the truck is handed over,” says Volvo Trucks Product Manager John Comer. “Bear in mind that the camera should never be obscured. We’re concerned about the current trend of fitting painted aftermarket deep sun visors.” These can prevent the camera from seeing the road ahead, he warns.

Cameras can also be affected by windscreen repairs that involve injecting resin into a crack or chip. If the crack is in line with the camera, there is a risk that the repair will distort the image that the camera sees. “Like any camera, it mirrors your eyes,” Comer says. If the naked eye cannot see through a repair, then neither can an ADAS camera.

The major windscreen replacement companies have been aware of the importance of recalibration for some time and offer recalibration services for cars and light commercial vehicles. However, provision for trucks is less well-developed, according to some industry figures. In Grant’s view, any truck with ADAS that has had its windscreen replaced should go into a dealer’s workshop to have the entire system recalibrated.

That’s because the camera and radar that are fitted to monitor the road ahead for an impending emergency should work in conjunction with one another. If one is unable to function properly, the performance of the other is also going to be compromised, so the entire package requires a health check.

Typically mounted just above the front number plate, the radar can suffer damage if a rock hits it while the driver is heading down a rough road, for example. Like the camera, its functionality can also be impaired if it is obscured in some way.

“We don’t allow the radar cover to be painted, especially if metallic paint is used,” says Comer.

Invest in the best

Diagnostics equipment specialist Hickleys can supply a multi-make ADAS truck camera and radar calibration package from Texa. This includes a laser kit with guide carriage and scaled measuring target, along with a calibration frame, panel, target board and a mirror adaptor for the sensor system from Wabco. The package costs £7,500 plus VAT and must be used in conjunction with a Texa Truck diagnostics system, which has to be bought separately.

With all of the necessary equipment in the workshop, a haulier may be able to offer a recalibration service to third parties and offset some of the expenditure.

If the truck can’t be taken to a dealership and the haulage company doesn’t have the trained technicians or the equipment required for recalibration work, then it may be able to call on the help of a mobile service. Franchised truck dealers usually offer one, and portable calibration kits that can be stowed in the back of a van are also available.

Don’t panic

DAF Trucks Marketing Manager Phil Moon believes that some of the worries over recalibration after a windscreen replacement may be a little exaggerated.

“You shouldn’t have a problem if the camera is put back in the right position. In our experience, most of the windscreen replacement companies are aware of how important this is,” he says. “However, I would never dissuade operators from asking a dealer for recalibration if they are in doubt.”

No matter the type of truck, all drivers are obliged to carry out a daily walk-around check of their vehicle before they take it on the road, looking for anything from tyre damage to broken side lights. Grant believes that camera misalignment and any visible damage to the radar should be included on that checklist so that appropriate action can be taken. However, that may mean taking the truck off the road and into a workshop.

Although it may require recalibrating from time to time, ADAS does not need regular servicing. “There is no maintenance requirement so far as a Volvo’s ADAS system is concerned,” says Comer. “If the key sensors and the camera fail, then the driver receives a warning that the system is not working, and if there is a fault then these will need to be replaced.”

This is an edited extract from IMI's new MotorPro magazine, received free as part of IMI membership

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