Absolute Alignment says it can help workshops increase your income from this rapidly-growing market. It’s not just wheel alignment – with the latest vehicles using sensors for Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Changing Systems, Self-Parking Systems, which rely on knowing the position of the wheels for correct calibration.
AA Research has shown that something like 40% of all vehicles on the road will suffer damage from potholes and as council budgets are squeezed harder, the situation is likely to get worse. The average bill for repairs is nearly £110, and in many cases much more, so tyre dealers not offering alignment checks and repairs are clearly missing out on a big business opportunity.
Vehicle alignment is so much more than ‘doing the tracking’, which ensures the front wheels are parallel, using old-fashioned optical equipment. While they may indeed be parallel, they may not necessarily be pointing the same way as the rest of the car. Four-wheel alignment takes into account the position of all the wheels relative to the body – after all, with today’s multi-link suspension why should pothole damage be confined to the front axle? It can highlight potentially devastating problems with any part of the suspension and serves as a general health check for the underside of a vehicle. Why is that wheel out of alignment – bent track rod? Rubber bush failing? Bent mounting point? Because the actual readings of the vehicle being inspected are compared with the manufacturer specifications, it’s easy to check on discrepancies.
Space and time-saving features
Absolute Alignment makes sure any workshop can profit from four-wheel alignment with machines that allow single-, 2- or 4- post lifts to carry out alignment work. Where necessary, they can supply wheel alignment stands that support the car off the ground, to give a perfectly safe working environment without the inconvenience of a dedicated ramp. The latest Bluetooth wheel aligners are incredibly versatile and can be moved around the workshop to any ramp or even used in a mobile unit. No need for ‘line of sight’ any more, the power of Bluetooth ensures perfect connection between the measuring heads and the base unit. The very latest 3D wheel aligners, Absolute Alignment’s ‘Techno 6’ for example, spells freedom from the usual 3D tower and takes much less space than traditional 3D machines.
The humble clamp that attaches the measuring head to the wheel is the next point of Absolute Alignment’s attention to detail. Pro Wheel Clamps are fast to use so a speculative check takes just a couple of minutes. Their use eliminates rolling run-out as they do not rely purely on the accuracy of the wheel rim for alignment – this can be a great advantage on heavy cars with large wheels. For those garages servicing cars fitted with high-end alloy wheels, a magnetic wheel clamp that attaches to the wheel studs with no rim contact makes a great deal of sense.
The working procedures of the latest wheel alignment equipment are also designed to speed up work flow and increase productivity. Gone are the days of squinting at charts or deciphering figures, as software is built in, to show pictorially on a large monitor what adjustments have to be made. With over 20,000 vehicles stored in the memory of every base unit, and the chance to add 20,000 more, there is no time lost wading through thick specification books. A simple ‘Green – OK/Red – Adjust’ diagram makes understanding what has to be done very simple. The latest development is for the information to be replicated via a tablet computer or smart phone app so the technician doesn’t have to keep leaving the vehicle to check progress.
What’s to come?
It will be necessary to scan every car when the customer wants you to ‘check the tracking’ to see what Adaptive Cruise Control or Lane Changing Radar is fitted to it first of all. It’s not a case of asking the customer as they are unlikely to know. If you bring the car’s suspension back to manufacturer specification, what impact will that have on the sensors and radar systems? Consider the following scenarios:
- Customer has a new windscreen fitted, affecting the ACC sensor. But the windscreen company re-calibrates the sensors to the existing set up without checking wheel alignment, which is faulty – and when you re-align the car, the sensors are now inaccurate. You will need to re-calibrate the ACC once again, but what if the customer won’t pay for it? Make sure you have them sign to say it’s their decision – and it’s going to take a special kind of waiver!
- Even if there were no discrepancies in the ACC, how can you sign off on full wheel alignment without knowing that you’ve checked the sensors are in manufacturer specifications? The potential liability is frightening.
- On the positive side, VW now insist that before any ACC alignment work is undertaken, wheel alignment takes place. There is a huge business opportunity here, linking with windscreen companies, bodyshops and more to give an approved service.
Absolute Alignment’s OEM-approved Bluetooth Pro system already carries the software that allows you to link position the Adaptive Cruise Control calibration bar correctly to move on to the ACC sensors, and the hardware required to undertake the vehicle scan. Absolute Alignment will help you plan your new alignment area to make the best use of your space to offer this important and profitable new service.
A campaign of public awareness of the importance of alignment is vital and modern alignment equipment helps workshops with that. Even the most basic professional machines now have a print-out facility showing before and after readings, so customers can be made aware of the problem and be reassured that it has been repaired. In addition, the same wireless app that lets technicians work without reference to the base unit means that repeater screens can be placed in customer areas so they can see what is being done.
It’s time to move vehicle alignment away from being a dark art and for it to be seen as an essential part of a car’s safety. Just as drivers don’t drive with worn tyres, the dangers and added costs of driving with poorly aligned cars should be highlighted. Instead of an expense to be avoided, a regular 4-wheel alignment check could be as essential as an MOT test in saving money and promoting road safety.
A professional body such as the NTDA can encourage its members to move into 4-wheel and full vehicle alignment and not just ‘do the tracking’. Comprehensive, certificated staff-training schemes from the equipment suppliers will increase the skill level of the workshop technicians and give re-assurance to customers, just the kind of professionalism required to move the industry forwards. All this is available through the Absolute Alignment Workshop Planning Service.
Alignment services need no longer be seen as a small add-on that is easiest farmed out to the bodyshop down the road, they are a profit centre that will repay investment.