ADAS Vehicle Features, Calibrations and Wheel Alignments

Cars have never been safer. With smarter design and construction, more rigid and durable materials, as well as more reliable safety equipment, our cars are increasingly protecting as well as transporting us. But it’s not just rigid steel and related hardware that’s keeping us safe, but also high-tech wizardry and cutting-edge software. Many of these systems are what we now call ADAS features, and that’s what today’s article is all about.

After reading today’s piece, you’ll not only be fully up to speed on what ADAS features are, but where they are located on your vehicle, and how important it is to keep them properly calibrated, in particular after your car undergoes repairs or wheel realignment.

What are ADAS Features?

Just about every new car nowadays comes with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, or “ADAS” for short. These are systems that actively assist you while driving, usually in the interests of driver and passenger safety. They include (but are not limited to) systems such as:

  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Adaptive headlights
  • Blindspot monitoring
  • Lane keeping assist and lane departure warning
  • Proximity and rear cross-traffic alerts
  • Parking assist
  • Pedestrian detection
  • …and many more.

These systems work via a network of cameras and sensors that are strategically placed around the vehicle. These are then calibrated to perfectly monitor the road conditions ahead and behind in order that you can take advantage of their intelligence. How much ADAS equipment your car has depends entirely on your make, model, year and trim level of car. The general rule of thumb is that the higher the trim level you are driving, the richer the concentration of ADAS features there will be.

Where are ADAS Sensors Placed?

Once again, it does depend on your exact car model and trim level, but on the whole you’ll find ADAS sensors broken down into four categories: radars, cameras, ultrasonic sensors and steering angle sensors.

Radars are used to calculate distances and are typically located behind the front bumper or grille, as well as on the sides and possibly the rear bumper, too.

Cameras provide more detailed data than the radar sensors can, and will usually be mounted in the windshield, possibly as part of the rearview mirror, and also in the back of the vehicle if you have a reverse camera and parking assist. Further cameras could be placed all around the vehicle to create 360-degree coverage.

Ultrasonic transmitters are used for parking assistance and placed in the front and rear bumpers to detect obstacles.

Steering angle sensors, which measure the degree of steering wheel rotation. This is a necessary metric for determining if you’re about to depart your lane, or if your adaptive headlights need to move to follow the steering, and so on.

What is ADAS Calibration?

When you take delivery of your new car, the ADAS sensors should all be perfectly calibrated and you’ll have nothing to worry about. The way this is done is through the use of special car brand-specific panels and equipment which are set up a fixed distance away from the vehicle, the systems aboard which should then be able to detect and align all cameras and sensors with them.

Your ADAS calibration specialist will attach an approved O.E. scan tool to the car to confirm the VIN number and other model details. Following the car brand-specific service information the panel frames or equipment are placed at the correct distance from the car. Once all is set up, the correct panels for each brand are put in place at the specified height and the calibration work begins via the scan tool.

Do the ADAS Sensors Ever Need Recalibration?

If all this work is done before we even receive the car, then why is it that we have to conduct recalibration of these systems at certain times? More importantly, when are those times?

First of all, as we all know, accidents happen. Not every accident is serious, but even small collisions can have the unwanted side-effect of knocking carefully calibrated ADAS sensors from their proper place. If your bumper or windshield take on any significant damage and have to be replaced, then a recalibration of your ADAS sensors is an obligatory next step after the work is done. Attaching a new bumper or fitting a new windshield are both very disruptive to the harmony.

Second, based on these facts, we must also remember that any circumstances that compel us to remove or replace any part of the car that is housing an ADAS sensor --- front and rear bumpers, windshield, side mirrors, car body panels and more --- we are disrupting the harmony of our ADAS sensors. Recalibration therefore becomes a necessary task.

Another critical time at which you have to conduct ADAS recalibration is after suspension repair and/or wheel alignment. This is one that people frequently forget. Because checking on or adjusting alignment doesn’t always feel like a repair, you might forget that shifting the wheel alignment is also disturbing the balance of your ADAS calibration.

How Often Do Wheels/Axles Need Realignment?

Wheel alignment doesn’t usually appear in your car’s regular maintenance schedule, but it’s a more common requirement than you might think. If you ever get a suspension part replaced, then a realignment is more than likely needed. If you ever notice that the steering wheel is not lining up straight when you’re traveling in a straight line, then that’s another classic sign that your wheel alignment needs attention. Another time you might need to get realigned is whenever you get your tires replaced, or if you’ve recently had some bad collisions with a pothole or curb.

As you can see, the need for alignment can arise quite easily, and a wheel alignment will invariably also result in the need for an ADAS recalibration.

Is it Possible to Drive Without Calibration?

Technically, it is possible, but it is ill-advised at best. Unfortunately, cars can but will not always issue a warning if your ADAS sensors are not properly calibrated. It also does not always show up on a standard car diagnostic scan. That deters most people, but it doesn’t actually stop the car from physically driving. Just remember that driving without properly calibrated ADAS features is essentially driving without these features at all, and that makes the car less safe.

Why is ADAS Calibration Important?

As we touched on above, proper calibration of the ADAS systems equates to driving a safer vehicle. When the sensors are not properly calibrated, your vehicle is unable to take the key measurements that it needs to make these systems work, namely:

  • What the vehicle is currently doing, such as how fast its going, which it will detect from a properly calibrated wheel sensor, yaw sensor and others.
  • What is behind the vehicle, in front of the vehicle and all around the vehicle. It must be able to accurately detect these things.
  • What the driver’s intention is, which it can tell from properly calibrated steering wheel angle sensors, brake pedal position sensors and more.

To get this critical information, your ADAS sensors have to be fully and properly calibrated. Even a whisker of inaccuracy can spell terrible results.

The Best Calibrations are Done with OEM Equipment

As we mentioned further above, equipment for ADAS calibration is listed by each vehicle manufacturer to suit a particular vehicle. So, for example, BMW will specify panels and equipment designed specifically to calibrate their 7 Series models with panels and frames built to match the dimensions of that line of cars.

When there is so much at stake with each ADAS calibration, using equipment specifically designed for a particular vehicle by the maker of that vehicle is always the best option. Drivers should, therefore, trust this calibration work to those providers who can guarantee this level of equipment use. It gets the most reliable and accurate results, and therefore leaves cars safer to go back onto the roads backed up by the assistance of their properly calibrated ADAS features.

If you’re looking to get a calibration done, this should be among your first topics of questioning to a potential workshop: ‘Can you guarantee you are using all OEM approved equipment for the calibration?’ If they can’t answer that in the affirmative and without hesitation, then keep looking.

ADAS Recalibration in College Station – Look to Gladney

Based in College Station, Texas, Gladney Automotive Solutions is a proud provider of ADAS recalibration services using only the proper and certified OEM tools for every job. We also perform wheel alignment and other maintenance and repairs, too, so it’s a handy extra that your car can be returned repaired and recalibrated as required. We have all the right tools and know-how to get the job done right.

We service all types of cars and trucks, so if you’re in the College Station area and in need of repairs, realignment and/or ADAS recalibration, then look no further than Gladney.

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