What is Calibration?

The word calibration is thrown around a lot in the collision industry today, but what does it actually mean to calibrate something? How does "calibrate" fit into other words that we use to describe similar processes, and what are some of the differences?

In a simple way of saying it, to calibrate something means to teach it. The concept is similar to how your parents taught you right from wrong, or where you were and were not allowed to go. Not to be confused with programming, which is more along the lines of giving a computer or sensor the ability to think or learn. When calibrating something such as a radar sensor, you are telling the sensor where it is in relation to the vehicle and where to look.

There are two main types of calibration, static and dynamic. You can think of them similar to the way that people learn. Some people are able to learn by reading a book or being told, whereas others learn better by doing. Static is an in-shop setting where the vehicle is not moving. Dynamic is on the road, driving the vehicle.

In OEM repair information, other words are sometimes used instead of calibration, like initialization or relearn. When going through repair manuals, you may see many of these words used. But to determine what you are actually doing, you have to read the procedure. If you are just hooking a scan tool to the vehicle and clearing DTCs or transferring memory from an old module to the new one, it would not be considered calibration.

The RTS OEM Calibration Requirements Search follows the same definition of calibration as this article. Things like programming, clearing codes, and transferring memory are not included in the search. It should be noted that many electronic components require some type of programming when replaced. If you don’t see anything listed for calibration, it doesn’t mean you can just plug it in and deliver the vehicle. Additional repair information research may be required.

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