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Safety tech adds complexity to windscreen replacement

A broken windscreen could create major safety problems for a growing number of new cars.

As the latest active safety equipment relies more heavily on forward-facing radar, laser and camera tech, replacing a damaged windscreen becomes more than just a simple switch of glass.

Major makers are now warning that recalibration of the safety optics by factory-trained staff is essential to ensure their correct operation. That can cost at least $100 to get right.

It's vital they are operating correctly and the optics are calibrated

Even switching to a non-genuine replacement screen could create major problems.

"These systems are very sensitive. It's vital they are operating correctly and the optics are calibrated," says Mercedes-Benz spokesman David McCarthy.

Every brand contacted by CarsGuide confirms the importance of doing a screen change properly in 2015.

"If a windscreen is replaced, the camera on our cars will need to be recalibrated. This can only be done by a trained technician," says Hyundai spokesman Bill Thomas.

"Currently, our Genesis, i40, Santa Fe and Tucson have model grades fitted with a camera positioned in the windscreen. They control the lane-keeping assist and lane-departure warning."

The range of brands using cameras runs from top to bottom in showrooms, with Honda and Hyundai, Subaru, Nissan, Infiniti, Audi, BMW and Mercedes among the earlier adopters of forward-facing cameras.

"A growing number of our vehicles are fitted with the Eyesight system. I can see a day when it will be fitted to everything," says David Rowley of Subaru Australia.

It will need an industry-wide approach

There is now a call for an industry-wide approach to windscreen substitutions and camera calibrations.

"It's something that we probably need to look at through the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries. It will need an industry-wide approach," says Nissan Australia CEO Richard Emery.

"Technology is accelerating quicker than some regulations, guidelines and policies can keep up with. Everything will eventually have cameras."

Apart from the windscreen replacement cost, which some comprehensive insurance policies cover, calibration can be costly and difficult to organise.

Owners have told CarsGuide of days of delays and calibration quotes up to $400. Hyundai says the work needs to be done at one of its dealerships.

"An auto-calibration method is used, where the technician will drive the car for approximately half an hour and the camera adjusts itself. Once checked, it's good to go — the cost is about $80 to $100," Thomas says.

As car companies push harder for the use of genuine replacement parts in Australia, McCarthy says: "This is a safety issue. The camera systems need to work properly and that can only be guaranteed with a genuine replacement screen."