Salas, 46, has been working in the airbag industry since 2000, and in 2003 he started Airbag Tech in Downey, CA, servicing all of Los Angeles County. It’s a small company with two vans and several on-call part-time employees, including his son Rod Jr., 20, but the company is busy even in a recession, he told Autobody News.
Half of Airbag Tech’s clients are collision repair companies and most of the time the body shops Salas works for require either troubleshooting or diagnostics to re-set airbag lights before they can complete the repair and return the vehicle to the customer, he said. Car dealers and individuals who find him on the Internet make up the remainder of his business, Salas said.
In the beginning, body shops in L.A. weren’t getting involved with installing airbag systems, Salas said. “They would call me and say can we do an installation or come in to see what this vehicle needs. We would give them a list and they would buy the parts, so they could make some money. And then we’d come back and do the work. Now, to make more money, body shops are doing their own installations themselves, but sometimes they make mistakes. That’s when they call me and I’ll either service the airbag, perform troubleshooting and/or do the diagnostics to find the problem and clear the light.”
It’s always about the light, Salas explained.” 99% of the time the light is on and they don’t know why. Most of the time it’s the last thing they’ve done and they’re in a rush to get the vehicle ready for the customer. So, I get down there as fast as possible, half-hour to 45 minutes most of the time, to check those codes and do whatever I need to do to get the job done. That’s why I have the Autoland scanners, because they work well for almost all of the cars we encounter.”
Salas was initially introduced to Autoland’s scanners a decade ago, he said. “When I started working for an airbag company ten years ago, I began to use one of Autoland’s scanners and I learned how to use it very quickly. The technology was a lot different back then and it was a little black scanner that would just read the codes. We had to look up the codes and figure out what the problem was.
“So, when I started my own business, I invested in all Autoland scanners,” Salas said “First I had the iSCAN and then later I got the iSCAN II. Ease-of-use and great coverage—those are probably the best things about these scanners. I have some other companies’ scanners, but they’re only for backup purposes. I use the iSCAN II for pretty much all the cars I diagnose. When it comes to Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Volvo and BMW, the iSCAN II is the only one I will bring with me to the customer’s shop.”
Was his investment in his Autoland scanners a good one, we asked Salas. “They’ve paid for themselves many times over by now, definitely. It cost us roughly $6,000 for the iSCAN and the package that comes with it, but it also includes a great warranty and software updates as long as we have the device.”
Salas is obviously enamored with his iSCAN scanner, a tool that he can use to make money on a daily basis, but he also values the thorough support that Autoland offers him, so that he can make sure his device will work well even under heavy usage, he said.
“They can train you how to use these scanners over the phone. One of my part-time guys learned how to operate the scanners in less than one day. It was a very simple step-by-step process and they make it very easy to understand. Also, I can get my iSCAN II updates downloaded directly over the phone every 3-4 months free for three years. The support offered by Autoland is very good and we’re never worried about getting stuck out in the field without one.
Richard Zenteno, the Marketing Director for the Americas for Autoland Scientech U.S.A., said he has recently seen a movement throughout the country in which body shops are using companies such as Airbag Tech to clearing codes and servicing their airbags. And many shops are also buying Autoland scanners themselves to do all their diagnostics in-house, he said, to retain more control of the repair and capture more revenue in the process.
Autoland Scientech was founded 20 years ago, developing engine analyzers initially, Zenteno said. “We’ve been doing something right in this business for two decades to be around this long. We’re leaders in this area and our excellent reputation is the result of hard work.”
Zenteno has seen body shops thrive in the world of diagnostics by embracing his company’s line of scanners, he said. “The iSCAN II is a multi make scan tool that offers comprehensive coverage ranging from engine, transmission, ABS and most importantly airbags. In the body shop, it is essential to have a low cycle time and this tool helps lower the cycle time plus keep the profits in house. With our tool you’ll be able to read the current fault codes on many systems allowing you to quickly understand the problems the vehicle.”
Autoland’s scanners are designed for ease-of-use and to be easily understood, Zenteno said. “The iSCAN II is a very intuitive scan tool that is fast and easy to learn. We have online step-by-step instructions to perform certain procedures and various visual guides to enable the customer to quickly get up to speed with how to connect. I believe this is one of the most feared obstacles to overcome however scanning and erasing a vehicle is very easy. You simply must connect to the vehicle, select the make and model and the system that you want to diagnose the select the function like reading or clearing codes and you are on to the next vehicle. This can be done in less than five minutes and you can charge one hour for diagnosis and save the time to send two people to the dealer and wait for the vehicle to be ready.”
Buy a iSCAN II and you can forget about your scanners for a long time, Zenteno said. “Autoland designs products that are very durable and most of our customers have had our tools for 10-15 years. When you invest in a machine of any type in a body shop, you don’t want to have to questions as to whether it will perform each time you use it and that’s why we’ve built these scanners to hold up in any environment.”
By using Autoland scanners, can body shops build their business and improve their reputation for doing everything in-house, including diagnostics? “Like I mentioned before, cycle times is a critical component of the operation if you want to keep a good a stable relationship with the insurance carriers,” Zenteno said. “The other critical component for the business is profitability. With our scanning equipment you are attacking both subjects simultaneously.”
Does Salas think he’ll be using the Autoland scanners in 10-15 years? “The technology will change, but diagnostics and airbags will be around for a long time,” he said. “I am sold on the quality, support and coverage of my ISCAN II, so I will be using these products as long as I can.
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