Apart from subtle design changes, balancers now have things like auto data entry to help reduce potential error. In addition, “some machines will issue a warning if there’s a loose hub nut or excess residual imbalance,” said Keefe.
Features that assist in training, such as a user interface, are huge; “especially with today’s technician turnover,” said Keefe. He said user interfaces and onboard animated training features communicate with the tech, prompt him to perform the process steps and walk him through the proper balancing process.
Onboard animated training programs provide techs with easy-to-follow instructional videos on an LCD screen. This not only teaches, but reinforces the steps towards a successful repair.
BATMAN AND ROBIN
Minimizing learning curves has led manufacturers to rethink how they offer tire service. High-end balancing equipment, for example, can cost more, but can also do more.
“Once you have a balancer that can identify eccentricity in the tire and the rim, then you need a tire changer that can actually turn the tire on the rim easily,” said Scribner. “Distributors now are selling and marketing high-end tire changers with balancers in packages. A high-end balancer can do more than balance.”
Scribner said the overall package that most shops need today has increased five-fold in cost over the past few years. When distributors market packagers, or ‘match-mounts,’ such as a tire changer with a balancer, it is so two high-end machines can work together.
“This started as the ‘dynamic duo,’ Batman and Robin,” said Scribner. “You need both in order to do a different type of job in the shop.
“They’re some of the most popular machines we offer,” said Scribner. “It’s not just because they need them to service fancy wheels; it’s because they need it to solve vibration problems and fix situations by turning the tire on the rim … it’s because techs had challenges that were not being addressed, and the cars were not being fixed properly.”
NO LONGER ONE-SIZE-FITS ALL
In terms of ROI, the expense pays off if shops market their services differently.
“The days of ‘free’ or ‘fixed price’ for every type of wheel balance, are quickly disappearing—unless the shop is willing to raise prices to do it right,” said Scribner. “You can’t spend $30,000 for a balancer and a tire changer and make money that way. And the shops that don’t realize that can’t afford to buy the equipment to do the job properly anymore.”
It starts with educating the customer.
“Customers should know today’s cars are different; that they require equipment, training and a whole different level of service. Even if you just want to have your tires rotated,” said Scribner.
With an ever-changing landscape of new vehicle technology, there’s always a new twist coming your way when it comes to tools and equipment. So, if you have anything on your mind in that regard...