Wheel Alignment’s Technology Transformation

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


Some alignment software features offer adjustments and measurements above and beyond typical passenger alignment, and cater to vehicles that “have modified suspension or special wheel and tire packages,” a recent trend that Bowen said is “more expensive and more difficult to service.”

Improved database features also meet very specific needs.

“For years we’ve been accumulating a database that has all the information required to properly align the vehicle, and not just caster, camber and tow specs,” said Bowen. “We measure and photograph every new model [in the database], including control arms, and whether aftermarket correction kits are available. This information is specific to the vehicle being aligned.

“This knowledge allows us to design procedures and software tools that take the tech step-by-step through the alignment,” said Bowen.

All of these features are not just stand-alone features, but can be if a shop owner desires.

Whether a customer chooses to upgrade or buy new with a number of features, he is sure to reap the rewards of a faster, more streamlined process.

“He [the technician] had to carry a hose around to inflate the pressures; he was doing one at a time with the gauge,” said Liebetreu. “That’s now kind of gone by the wayside. Walking around the rack to pull and replace pins has gone by the wayside.

“We’re really trying to get the technician down to making the adjustment portion of the tests … we’re trying to make it as seamless and error-proof as possible.”

WHAT LEARNING CURVE?

Because this equipment is all about simplification, training for the machines themselves is fairly straightforward. Most companies have training reps who will install the equipment and train techs onsite. In many cases, there is also video training onboard the aligner for quick reference.

“[This equipment] usually gives [technicians] a sense of relief,” said Liebetreu. “He doesn’t have to worry about dragging a hose around the car and looking for a tire gauge that may or may not be accurate.

“You’re still doing the same sequences; you’ve just dropped one out.” Liebetreu likens the addition of automated features to adding power windows on a car.

Alignment equipment is similar in that the price range of the equipment generally depends on the level of automation and training features.

“If a tech purchases [one model over another], he has access to most of the adjustment features we discussed, but there is no communication between the alignment console and rack console,” said Bowen. “The tech can go release the slip plates with the touch of a button, but he does have to touch the button. With the higher line equipment, everything is automatic.

“And of course, we still offer the equipment that doesn’t have any buttons to touch at all … you have to do it all manually.”

Where lower line equipment still uses a larger target for the camera, without the high definition, this equipment will still have “all the benefits of camera technology, image-based alignment,” said Bowen.

Whether a shop is looking to buy new, or better educate itself to update older equipment, the alignment industry will certainly comply.

With a minimum life cycle of anywhere from eight to 10 years, according to Ferreyra, many alignment companies “continue to service machines that have been in the market for years, [and] therefore continue to provide updates and parts to those machines as well, so they can remain active and profitable for their owners.”

Ferreyra said that this equipment typically sees a significant return on investment, paying for itself in 24 to 36 months in high-volume shops.

Today with alignment equipment, technicians can choose among many high-tech features. So, aside from having a slow day, why would anyone still choose to take a long walk around a troubled car?

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