Tool Q&A: What to look for in tire service and alignment equipment

This monthly PTEN column covers some of your most pressing questions related to tools and equipment in a shop environment. With a never-ending barrage of new vehicle technology headed your way, it creates a continuously changing set of requirements...


This monthly PTEN column covers some of your most pressing questions related to tools and equipment in a shop environment. With a never-ending barrage of new vehicle technology headed your way, it creates a continuously changing set of requirements for tool and equipment applications. Staying on top of all this can be a daunting task, so PTEN offer this column because we're on your side when it comes to waging the war of equipment versus vehicle technology. With that said, please send along your questions to PTEN so we can consider them for an upcoming issue.

This month, we’ll follow-up on some of your questions submitted on the topic of tire and wheel service. While some may regard this area of service as one that's none too challenging with respect to technology, nothing could be further from the truth. Read on.

Q. We're a volume tire shop that relies on speed in everything we do. When a car has a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) it really slows us down if we have to reset or perform a relearn on the system. Is there a way we can get around this?

A. Every new technology challenges the way we do things because of the changes it brings. Albeit true that having to perform a reset or relearn takes time, try to look at this as an opportunity rather than an impediment. The reality is that going forward, tire and wheel service will never be the same. From here on, it will require consideration of the TPMS so that you ensure customer satisfaction. To maintain efficiency with your technicians, develop a plan to help maximize their time. Maybe this means developing a workflow so that some employees specialize in tire and wheel operations, while others focus on the various service aspects of TPMS. One thing's for sure; TPMS isn't going away, so work with the resources you have to make them most effective.

Q. I've had a few customers ask if their TPMS requires periodic maintenance. Other than a reset or relearn after a tire rotation or repair, that's all there is, right?

A. Although there are no moving parts to essentially wear out with TPMS, it may require a reset or relearn procedure. Furthermore, over time, the integral battery of the sensors used inside each wheel of a direct TPMS may weaken, requiring sensor replacement. It's estimated that sensor batteries should last 7-10 years. We'll just have to wait and see if that holds true in the real world.

Q. We're looking for a TPMS tool for our shop. What do I look for?

A. Like most tools, there's a variety of TPMS tools on the market, so compare them thoroughly and patiently. Ensure that the tool's manufacturer claims conformance with the full lineup of cars you service. While you're at it, check into the manufacturer's update policy to make sure your tool will keep pace with vehicle technology. If possible, get your hands on the actual tools you're considering for a trial. It's likely that you'll discover both things you like and don't like during your trials with different vehicles. As another item to look for on your checklist of compatibility, check to see if each of the tools you're considering can communicate with the new, universal sensors that are emerging into the marketplace. Although sensor manufacturers strive to ensure communication with existing tools, make sure the tool itself is capable of “conversing” with the sensor. As a footnote, some car makes such as Toyota require a scan tool to performs a system reset. Finally, compare notes with fellow techs and shop owners for their insight on TPMS tool selection.

Q. We have an ancient tire changer in our shop that needs replacing. I know there are numerous brands out there, but how do I begin the selection process for a new machine?

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