In today’s marketplace of hurry up and get it done, cut every corner you can and rely upon your equipment to replace common-sense thinking, it is fairly common for an alignment technician to put a vehicle on the rack, hook up the wheel clamps, do the very small rollback necessary, take readings and then possibly make some adjustments. The “old-days” practice of doing a dry-park check is often skipped. The fact is that you can’t align looseness, you can’t align slop and you can’t align anything but a vehicle that has a chassis, steering and suspension system that is 100% operating correctly. Otherwise, what part of the looseness range do you want to do your readings through your settings? It should be mandatory on every vehicle being aligned to raise it up and do a dry-park inspection. Technicians don’t like to do this and they know that their equipment has been designed to speed up or be easily used to do compensation, so they question why they should bother to raise it? The fact is that if you don’t, you’re just guessing.

Other actions in wheel alignment and suspension that often are not done include talking to the customer about what the possible situation is. Many times, a customer gets so used to a condition that he doesn’t even think to state it when he comes in to have the vehicle repaired. When you find a condition in your shop that warrants alerting a customer, don’t just say that XYZ part is worn out. Ask the customer if he has noticed any excessive steering-wheel movement, any wandering or lane drift of his vehicle or other conditions. This is not prying or being sneaky. It is an effort on your part to help the customer realize that there is a condition that he may not be totally aware of because he’s gotten used to it.

There are a wide variety of tools in the marketplace that by this time most people performing professional wheel-alignment or chassis service own. One tool that falls into the helpful alignment-suspension-tips area is a heat-induction tool. It is essentially a rod like the rod in the bottom of an electric oven that extends out from the tool for about six inches, makes two or three turns and then goes back into the tool. This is a heating element. When you place this induction-heating element over a frozen nut, bolt or other fastener and turn it on it heats the head or the bolt area without being an open flame or applying heat where you don’t want it. These tools are a great aid in freeing up frozen steering, suspension and chassis parts. If you have ever changed a rear spring-shackle-bushing system, you know the problems with using an open flame. The rubber of the shackle usually catches fire and literally spews hot, flaming rubber all over the place, usually in your face, in the process. These induction-heating tools help loosen the shackle fastening bolt or nuts and are much better than using an open flame.

Tips on alignment and suspension include, above all else, common sense. Second, since you can’t align looseness, check for it. A third tip would be to survey what your technicians have tool-wise and what they might need. An induction-heating tool is something that could easily qualify as a shop tool as it can be used in a wide range of vehicle repairs. What does replacing the head gasket of some late-model front-wheel-drive cars and alignment suspension tips have in common? To replace some head gaskets today you must drop the vehicle’s engine down out of the car. To do this you must drop the cradle. To drop the cradle, you must loosen some bolts and nuts that are often frozen. Loosening them or having them come loose can be eased with the use of an induction-heating tool. Also, whenever you drop the cradle on a vehicle, even if it is not an adjustable cradle per se, you really should check the wheel alignment.

Vehicle systems today interact with each other. Nothing stands alone or is isolated from other parts of the car. The best thing to do alignment and suspension tips-wise is to not rush the job. Look at being thorough on the job and use a large dose of common sense and up-to-date industry knowledge. It’s not always easy to explain to a customer why you must do certain things, but if you understand the systems and perform procedures in a professional manner you’ll be much more professional in your repairs.