Wheel Alignment’s Technology Transformation

Techs can deliver a smooth ride at the touch of a button


Wheel alignment is all about accuracy.

Years ago, achieving that accuracy fell on the shoulders of a well-trained technician. Today, while these techs still need to be well-versed and sharp-sighted, technology advancements in many alignment systems are helping shoulder the load.

Within the past year, the alignment industry has been adding and fine-tuning features such as robotics, vehicle-specific software and hi-definition camera targets to their product lines.

And all of these features serve one purpose—to keep alignment service smooth.

ACCURACY, AUTOMATION AND SUCCESS

“Alignment is a segment that bases its technology on accuracy,” said Oscar Ferreyra, vice president at Cartek Group. “Accuracy, speed and repeatability; those are the three basic components of a successful alignment job.”

When equipment utilizes robotics, it helps ensure seamless accuracy and limits the mundane activities techs must complete during the service.

According to Ferreyra, robotics is “a proven technology coming to this industry, to this segment of products. Up to this point, robotic technology in wheel alignment has only been … by vehicle manufacturers.”

Ferreyra said robotic technology is now available at the shop level at an affordable price.

The high-volume, high-accuracy products based on robots “perform measurement routines automatically and on their own, without the need of clamps that get attached to the rims, and without the need for an operator to attach any sensors or clamps, eliminating human error while saving time,” said Ferreyra.

SAVING FOOTWORK

Often, simplification starts with changes made to the processes leading up to the service itself.

“What we’ve done is added a number of enhancements over the years to take away some of the manual operations that the tech had to do, and to automate them,” said Pete Liebetreu, product manager of Hunter Engineering.

One new feature locks and unlocks vehicle lift slip plates so that when a tech makes adjustments, everything moves freely.

“We’ve made those operate with the touch of a button, and they allow free movement at the appropriate times during the process,” said Liebetreu. “So we’ve actually taken a step that the tech has to remember, and it’s not an easy step to do, and made it automatic. And it happens without the tech’s direct intervention; it happens at the right point in the procedure.”

In addition, before doing alignment services, it’s good practice to inflate the tires to the appropriate pressure to avoid setting the vehicle incorrectly.

The automated component that aids in this process consists of four hoses connected to each wheel position on the lift, “and when you connect those hoses it automatically … starts to fill one or all four tires to the appropriate pressure,” said Liebetreu.

Techs can even store before and after measurements and give a printout to their customers.
“All of these things are documented,” said Liebetreu, “which is important for many shop owners because they can show they did responsible work on the vehicles.”

SMART SOFTWARE AND COMMUNICATION

Hardware functions like the ones mentioned above can make the job go much faster. Improved software has also made significant improvements in alignment service.

High-definition cameras, software and console-to-console communication are a few of these additions.

“We’ve introduced a new camera sensor that uses a high-definition target, which means quicker target acquisition,” said Denny Bowen, division product manager of Hunter Engineering. “It really makes a big difference when the technician’s making adjustments because it’s much easier and smaller to work around.”

And automated alignment console and alignment rack console communication helps eliminate unnecessary trips around the car, so that “typical procedures and functions are performed automatically during the course of alignment,” said Bowen.

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