Pro-Align: Wheel alignment – Have you read the instructions?

Paul Beaurain from Top Technician and Top Garage 2018 sponsors Pro-Align look at the importance of following motor manufacturer guidelines

 

As a proud sponsor of this year’s Top Technician and Top Garage competitions, Pro-Align believes that no matter what job you’re doing on a car, it’s important to do it properly, as the motor manufacturer intended. This is certainly the case when it comes to wheel alignment. Different cars do have different requirements so it’s essential that you don’t cut any corners and adhere to any special instructions or requirements as laid out by the OEM. After all, if you don’t, not only could the quality of your work and ultimately your reputation be at risk, but also you may be failing to deliver the customer the proper service that they are paying for.

 

Performing an alignment

First and foremost, you should always perform the pre-alignment check. You need to check that all of the steering and suspension components are sound and not in need of further attention or replacement. You should also check that tyres are not badly worn and tyre pressures are correct for that vehicle, as all of these factors can affect the readings and therefore accuracy of the alignment measurement.

Once this is completed, it’s then time to move onto conducting a full four wheel alignment. All cars have four wheels and modern vehicle handling relies on all four being measured and adjusted in relation to one another. Simply doing the front axle, a ‘Toe and Go’, is only half a job. The rears could still be out of alignment and because the thrust line is still out, the front tyres will continue to scrub and wear.

On most alignment checks, you’ll need to ensure you use the proper tools for the job which includes items such as steering wheel clamps, brake depressors, free moving and well maintained turnplates and slip plates. Depending upon the make of vehicle being worked upon, you may need to use some additional accessories. For example, when performing an alignment checks on certain BMWs, Jaguars and Vauxhalls, they need to be properly weighted. The placement of weight within the vehicle represents it being loaded with passengers, luggage and fuel. Not doing this results in false readings and the car continuing to show signs of misalignment. Similarly, with other vehicle makes, you may be required to take a ride height reading. Again, this is important and shouldn’t be ignored as it could lead to inaccuracies and potential comebacks.

 

Advanced tools

As cars become increasingly complex in their technologies, there are other advanced tools and operations that may be specified by the motor manufacturer. For example, how many workshop are currently offering a Safety System alignment? Safety System alignment addresses the relationship between the alignment and the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Electric Power Steering (EPS). These are common features on today’s vehicles. The vital component to both of these systems is the Steering Angle Sensor (SAS), as it tells the vehicles computer which way the front wheels are steered. So after the alignment and adjustment the SAS can be reset using a scan tool procedure or Hunters CodeLink.

Using the main screen of Hunter alignment system to display instructions to technicians, CodeLink automatically identifies which vehicles require a safety system alignment reset and incorporates the relevant reset steps into the alignment procedure. Furthermore, the alignment results printout also show that CodeLink has been used to reset the SAS, giving further confidence to the customer.

The other, and currently most talked about is, ADAS sensor calibration. This may initially seem unrelated to wheel alignment, but it’s important that these steps are included if needed. Many new ADAS rely on the vehicle being set to the ‘straight ahead’, hence the need for correct four wheel alignment with all of the system sensors correctly calibrated to this position. Any errors in the re-set process could result in these systems not working with a potential vehicle safety knock-on effect. It’s important to recognise that there is no industry standard or common practice on the reset and calibration of ADAS so it’s important to check and follow the instructions for each individual make and model you are working on.

 

Step-by-step

With the vast number of possible vehicles you may be expected to align, it’s obviously impossible to remember every step required for each car. Thankfully though, alignment systems from Hunter have been developed (in direct conjunction with most of the world’s leading vehicle manufacturers), to provide step by step instructions, guiding you through the alignment process, in line with the motor manufacturers approved process.

By carefully following these processes, both you and your customers will benefit. Drivers will have the peace of mind that their car has been set up as the vehicle manufacturer intended it, returning it to how it felt when it left the factory with optimised levels of ride, handling and comfort. They’ll also achieve maximum tyre life and reduced fuel consumption. For the workshop, there’s the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve delivered the best possible job for your customer, enhancing your reputation and reducing any possible comebacks.

So, next time you or your colleagues perform a wheel alignment check, make sure you don’t cut any corners and follow the advice from the motor manufacturer.